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Merry Christmas. What are you doing New Year’s Eve?

Eugene Drucker and the Berkshire Bach Ensemble take the final bow at Bach at New Year’s at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, January 1, 2020."
Paul Johansen
Courtesy of Berkshire Bach
Eugene Drucker and the Berkshire Bach Ensemble take the final bow at Bach at New Year’s at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, January 1, 2020."

It’s inevitable that sometime on Christmas Day, or soon after, thoughts will turn to how to celebrate New Year’s Eve. It’s not called the holiday season for nothing.

Times have changed when it comes to going out on New Year’s Eve. The trend is now moderation- which is for the better. The more I speak to people about their plans to celebrate, the more I hear the uniform for watching the Times Square Ball fall at midnight is pajamas.

Nonetheless, there is a desire to do something to celebrate the new year.

Tommy Nicchi runs the Comedy Club in Saratoga Springs, among a vast number of comedy enterprises under the umbrella name - Stand-Up Global Comedy. For 15-years he has offered a unique New Year’s Eve experience at several local venues.

This year Nicchi has reduced the number of First Night of Comedy venues from six to three. He says that when booking, the concerns of COVID indicated it best to be cautious. The three are Proctors, Cohoes Music Hall and the Wood Theatre in Glens Falls.

His format is to offer four national touring professional comics at each location. In a recent interview he says, he tells the comics to “give me your best 20-minutes.”

The result is a night of laughs that starts early and gets the audience home in a good mood in time to celebrate the New Year - or get to bed early.

He added that the comics are all made aware of the make-up of their audience so the material is likely not to offend the average person.

This year the stay-ups also have their moment. The two smaller venues have sold so well Nicchi has added a second show at both the Cohoes Music Hall with performances at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. and the Wood Theatre where the schedule is 7 and 9 p.m. There is only one show at the 2700 seat Proctors in Schenectady; it starts at 7:30 p.m.

New Year’s Day also has its traditions. For many, it has been to attend a performance of the Berkshire Bach Society, who since 1993 has been offering concerts by its ensemble.

It started with the performance of the Brandenburg Concertos, which is noted for the opportunity to offer each instrumental family a solo opportunity – mostly in unique combinations. Several years ago they switched to a more varied program featuring several composers. The Brandenburgs do return regularly.

Though the New Year’s Eve weekend performances were cancelled the last couple of years because of COVID, it returns to the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall at 3 p.m. New Year’s Day.

It is also offered on December 31 (New Year’s Eve) at 6 p.m. at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington, MA. On Monday, January 2, 2023 it is performed at 3 p.m. at the Academy of Music in Northampton, MA.

The concert will not be the Brandenburgs but rather pieces by Bach, along with other noted composers of the Baroque era. There are six pieces by Bach, 3 by G.P. Telemann and one each by Vivaldi and J.P. Remeau.

In an interview with Interim Executive Director Terrill Mcdade, she explained that the pieces were selected because they too offered unique opportunities for individual musicians to shine in “single, double and even triple concertos. It’s virtuosity showcasing,” she says.

Indeed, the organization’s press release lists the viola, cello, flute, oboe, trumpet and harpsichord as instruments which will be featured.

Mcdade says that the concert was designed to be a quality, relaxing and pleasant way to start a new year. She says the pieces selected are familiar enough that they make for a comforting experience.

It is her opinion that lovers of classical music will be impressed by the talent of the 16-piece ensemble and challenged by the difficulty of the pieces.

Too, Mcdade expresses a subliminal benefit as the selection as a whole gives a historical perspective to the musical tastes of the time. As an example, she points out that while Bach was a struggling artist, Telemann was the rock star of the era.

However, she also seems to be very proud of the fact that it is an afternoon that can be enjoyed by anyone seeking a musically sensual afternoon.

Mcdade points out each piece is short to moderate in length and will be familiar to the casual concertgoer.

It is her belief the quality of the performances, the uniqueness of the solo moments and the soothing programming makes the concert something almost anyone can enjoy.

“It’s an afternoon that is good for the soul,” she says.

Bob Goepfert is theater reviewer for the Troy Record.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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