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The Melodies of Miracles
Isabella Bruno is a Living Result of Giving and Caring
SARATOGA SPRINGS – For 34 years, the Melodies of Christmas programming has delighted Capital Region audiences, whether you attend the shows live (see sidebar) at Proctors Theatre or watch on the CBS6 group of television stations to brighten your holiday with friends and loved ones.
It is a labor of love, but a labor in the sense of planning, time, volunteerism and effort on the part of many caring people, nonetheless.
But when you have a middle name like miracle, as in the Children’s Miracle Network, you have set quite a standard to live up to.
And so they deliver. Again and again.
In 33 seasons, the CBS6 Melodies of Christmas, sponsored by Price Chopper and Friehofer’s, has raised $6.8 million for The Melodies Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders at the Children’s Hospital at Albany Medical Center. According to CBS6’s News Director Lisa Jackson, they expect to top the $7 million mark with this year’s shows.
Jerry Golub: “How are you today, Isabella?”
Isabella Bruno: “I’m Great!”
- 2013 Melodies of Christmas/Price Chopper PSA
Yes, she is. And Isabella is great as a direct result of the giving that occurs each year. Even miracles sometimes require the proper infrastructure to happen.
Isabella’s story begins before she was even born. During a routine ultrasound, doctors discovered a mass near her right kidney. Her twin brother, Zachary was unaffected, but ironically it was the fact that mothers carrying twins often receive special scrutiny that Isabella’s condition was detected. Within two weeks, she was delivered by C-section.
Only hours after her birth in California, baby Isabella was diagnosed with Stage 4s Neuroblastoma, a rare form of cancer that strikes infants. Three weeks later, at little more than five pounds, she underwent major surgery to remove the tumor. Fortunately, the operation was a success, but Isabella still had a long road ahead.
Once she recovered from the surgery, her family moved from their California home to Queensbury, to be closer to family. Her doctor in San Francisco highly recommended the Melodies Center at Albany Medical Center for Isabella’s critical follow-up treatment. Without this type of facility, Anthony and Maura Bruno would never contemplate relocation During their very first visit; Isabella’s parents knew that she was in great hands. They found the hope and healing at the Melodies Center.
Today, seven-year-old Isabella is cancer-free. She loves spending time with her family, especially Zachary, her older sister Maya and their dog Lilly, and exactly 56 stuffed koalas.
Her recovery not only allows her the ability to play with Barbie’s and Jetpack Joyride, her favorite video game, but also to ride her bike and enjoy skiing.
Thanks to support from Melodies of Christmas, Isabella’s family will proudly watch her take the stage again this year. For this is Isabella’s second time on stage. She will perform with other Melodies Center patients and take the stage alongside the Empire State Youth Orchestra and Chorale to sing “Silent Night.” Their joyful faces show the miracles made possible every day at the Melodies Center.
And that’s what you get for your contributions.
A happy ending — nothing less than a miracle, over and over again.
Performance Dates are Thursday, December 12- Saturday December 14 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, December 15 at 3 p.m.
Tickets are $15 and $25 and are on sale now at Proctor’s Box Office, Call (518) 346-6204 or visit proctors.org
The Empire State Youth Orchestra and Youth Chorale is again the centerpiece of the production. Special Guests in 2013 include: Everest Rising (first time in Melodies), Amy Platt and Randy Crafton (who are perennial favorites – both musicians were in Empire State Youth Orchestra and performed in Melodies as teens), Northeast Ballet and, new this year, an Insiders Special that will only be seen by theatre-goers.
Broadcast dates and times:
Christmas Eve: 5:30 and 10 p.m. on CBS6;
6:30 p.m. on THIS-TV.
Christmas Day: 11 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. on CBS6;
9 a.m., 10:30 a.m. on CW15
The Bah Humbug Club
SARATOGA SPRINGS – I knew when I walked in that this was going to be fun.
Saratoga Children’s Theatre (SCT) is in the midst of prepping for its production of A Christmas Carol, and a cross-section of their rich talent pool made a pit-stop for some refreshments. We came upon them on Black Friday, which curiously never existed in Mr. Marley’s day.
We got to meet Scrooge, played by Conan Madigan, Belle Cucinella is Scrooge’s tenant Mrs. Smythe, Sarah Bolles, a fourth grade acolyte and Egan Mills who is Scrooge’s girlfriend, Emily. The cast was serious as they noted how much of the script had yet to be touched, but also exhibited a calm that only comes from the confidence of having talent.
No one seemed worried at all, not even Meg Kelly, SCT executive director who is in charge of worrying about such things. Nope, all seemed in control, which gave us a chance to get to know some cool young adults. Except for Sarah, they all happen to be in ninth grade.
When talking to them, that was often easy to forget. Because they are growing, but at the age where they don’t have to decide what they are going “to be when they grow up,” and yields a humorous, carefree attitude that is amusing.
Belle Cucinella is making her SCT debut, having moved from Northville with her family two years ago. She can be regarded as akin to a major free-agent pickup. She was Annie for the adult troupe “Hand in Glove” that holds down the historic Glove Theater in Gloversville, plays both sax and flute — the latter in the Saratoga Springs High School band for “Godspell.”
Egan Mills has a rich SCT resume, but wait a minute, how does Scrooge get a girlfriend? “Our Chrismas Carol is the musical version, like the movie with Kelsey Grammar,” she explains. And so we see “Emily” as a vision in Scrooge’s past, they were engaged, but alas, Emily gives the ring back to Scrooge, losing his one lifelong love.
I’m not sure whether Conan Madigan believes it is better to have loved and lost, but I am sure that the moody Scrooge is a seminal role for his development. Conan is versatile enough to be Daddy Warbucks in middle school, yet “I always enjoy playing the bad guy,” he said, which led to fellow cast members nodding in agreement about his skill set.
I mentioned to him that had Scrooge not ended up happily ever after, but stayed miserly to the end, he would seem to enjoy gauging his performance by the robust booing he might receive, in the manner of the wicked witch of the west in Oz and it was as if a light came on, he agreed so readily. He’s someone to watch as he delves further into his inner Darth-ness in future roles.
Sarah Bolles, though a fourth grader at Geyser Elementary is a seasoned SCT veteran who averages three SCT roles each year “since 2011,” she said. Viola is her instrument of choice for the school orchestra and she had absolutely no doubt that her favorite role was that of Penny in Honk, the Ugly Duckling story.
What is most interesting is how Sarah came to life when discussing her artistic side. Even though she has accompanied dad Mark to countless photo shoots for Saratoga TODAY before, I really felt I was meeting her for the first time.
And that’s the essence of what this theater company provides. Let’s face facts; we’re talking some pretty bright young adults here. But talent must have the proper outlet to maximize itself and so this is a reason to say: God bless them all, everyone.
Saratoga Children’s Theatre
Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol
Directed by Jim Charles
Friday, December 13 at 7 p.m.
Saturday, December 14 at 2 and 7p.m.
The Saratoga Music Hall
474 Broadway, Saratoga Springs
City Hall, 3rd Floor
$10 Adults, $5 Children
(BOGO coupon available)
Michelle Lewis adds her own Spice to the Salsa
SARATOGA SPRINGS — When contemplating attending a festival of the magnitude of the 27th Annual Victorian Streetwalk with the idea of maximizing your experience, a little planning is in order.
Once you walk down the center line on Broadway, check in with the reindeer and that white-haired couple that always gets a crowd, you may come to the realization that hey, it’s cold! And there’s a lot of cider, cookies and other indulgences to sample.
Our guide to the Victorian Streetwalk appears on the following pages (14 and 15) and they are chock-full of entertainment choices.
Whether you go for the elegance of choral harmony epitomized by the Racing City Chorus at Adirondack Trust, the irony of reggae-master Lyl Harper reminding us at Mimosa (489 Broadway) that there are holidays in the Caribbean too, or the vamping 60s girl-group Betsy and the ByeGons take on Rudolph and other issues of the day, you really can’t go wrong as long as you know where you are going.
This brings us to Ms. Michelle Lewis, who clearly knows where she is going.
The Boston-based songwriter will be making her sixth Victorian Streetwalk appearance at Saratoga Salsa & Spice Company (398 Broadway) from 6:15-8:15 p.m. and it says here that you should mark your dance card to pay a visit.
“We think of Michelle as family at this point,” said SS&S owner John Knotek, “what I admire is that, frankly, she works her butt off and yet stays true to her music.”
Michelle is consistently engaging, yet not necessarily for the reasons that appear apparent. She’s got the girly-girl exterior with a side of TV news look befitting the girl next door and yet her bio says it all:
"She quotes Homer Simpson before Paul Simon. She prefers Mardi Gras to Earth Day. She drives fast. She throws snowballs. She talks loud, she eats meat, and if you leave the mayonnaise off her sandwich she might try to fight you.”
With a second full-length CD set for release last year, plus two EP’s out, Michelle’s been tilling her soil without necessarily stopping to hug the trees.
There have been new highlights recently. From shows as far away as Budapest, Hungary to playing the iconic Club Passim in Boston, to “Getting married,” Michelle says. “I surprised my husband on our wedding day by singing him a new song that I started writing for him the week after we got engaged (I also secretly recorded it just before the wedding. It will be on the new album.”
Even though she delivers her tunes with songbird sweetness, Michelle has been an example of Boston Strong before it became a slogan. The best thing I can say is that she needs to play here more often, and you need to see her when she does.
Take a Meal with S. Claus... and Help a Great Cause!
SARATOGA SPRINGS – By now, having chronicled the man in the red and white suit for a few Saratoga Christmas magazines, I’ve become a bit of a connoisseur. And so, speaking from that expertise—let me give you a hint.
There is no better way to see Santa at his mirth-iest, good cheer-iest, indeed at the apex of his ho-ho-ho-iest than when you feed him.
Coupled with the fact that our crack research department has learned that Santa’s favorite meal is breakfast (the only thing he likes better is ice cream) you can see why we are encouraging you good parents to call early to ensure a seating reservation for the popular Festival of Trees’ Family Day events - Breakfast with Santa and Sundaes with Santa on Saturday, December 7.
This is a day that Santa looks forward to immensely as he fuels up for the long night making the world’s children happy. There are three Breakfast with Santa seating’s, scheduled at 8, 9:30 and 11:00 a.m.
But Santa always saves room for dessert and there is also a Sundaes with Santa seating at 12:30 p.m. All four seating’s require prior reservations (adults must accompany children). Tickets are $8 per person and include admission to Breakfast or Sundaes, a tour of the trees and a photo with Santa.
“The 9:30 Breakfast with Santa seating always goes first,” reports Sister Charla Commins, Director of Catholic Charities, “and we are filling up quickly on the other available time slots as well.”
Another favorite part of Family Day is Santa’s Workshop where children can enjoy Santa and Mrs. Claus, Frosty, Rudolph and other costumed characters as well as a variety of holiday craft activities and goodies. Tickets to craft activity booths are $1 each. Santa’s Workshop is open 8 a.m. – 2 p.m.
To make a reservation for Breakfast/Sundaes with Santa or to volunteer for the Saratoga Festival of Trees, please call Catholic Charities at (518) 587-5000. For more information, visit www.saratogafestivaloftrees.com.
A Grand Reopening for Broadway Salon
Benefit for Franklin and Mechanicville Community Centers on December 1
SARATOGA SPRINGS — When you are in the heart of Broadway, it’s a good idea to put your best foot forward for the window shoppers, impulse buyers and assorted cognoscenti.
With new ownership, attitude and style sense, Frank DeCrescenzo and his staff have redone The Broadway Salon, in an anchor position at 445 Broadway, from top to bottom and the result is stunning to see. A Brick wall is now more prominent, but that just the beginning. Fixtures, lighting and overall ambience are other categories that were transfixed.
The pictures go a long way to tell the tale, but the overall effect is, in a word, inviting. In fact, I invite you to invite yourself over for a visit.
“We’re a boutique salon with a select staff, and we wanted hand-selected elements in our décor,” DeCrescenzo said. He is also the owner of Salon Above, Inc., on the upper west side of Manhattan. A native of Mechanicville, he came upon this opportunity by happenstance while visiting family friends. He assumed ownership in June, and set to work, the result being the grand reopening celebration which is scheduled for Sunday, December 1.
When you are in the heart of Broadway, it’s a good idea to show how big your heart is.
In that spirit, the entire staff of Broadway Salon will be donating their time and income for the cause of benefitting both the Franklin Community Center and its companion center in Mechanicville.
All, repeat all, of the reduced to $25 that you will spend on a haircut that day (regular price ranges from $55-65) will be donated to those two organizations.
When you are in the heart of Broadway, it’s a good idea to endow your people as well as the facilities.
“We believe in training classes to constantly remain current with runway and other trends,” DeCrescenzo noted. “Right after the grand re-open here the staff will go down to New York City for a day.”
This investment in your staff is in keeping with the fact that DeCrescenzo is viewing his role as a mentor, noting that he wants to help manager Taryn Burgess and the stylists “develop a business together that they will be excited about and come to view as theirs. I’m excited about that prospect.”
Advance appointments for a December 1 haircut are recommended. Call (518) 583-1427.
Becoming Homeless in Saratoga Springs
By Barry Potoker
For Saratoga Today
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Barry Potoker, Executive Director of Saratoga Builders Association, was a participant in “A Day Without A Home” on Wednesday, November 20 sponsored by the Saratoga County Housing Committee which commemorated Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week. He was given the profile of “Eric” and went through the intake process at the Shelters of Saratoga (SOS). This is his account:
I never thought that it could ever happen to me, but it did. It was a surreal experience and happened so fast. My girlfriend of several years kicked me out of her house with just the clothes on my back. I had no where to go or live. I had officially become homeless.
My name is Eric and I’m 27. I do have a decent job at a restaurant working for minimum wage and unfortunately I have been battling chronic bronchitis for many years. Needless to say, I have no health insurance. My situation felt desperate and I had nowhere to turn. Embarrassed and ashamed, I showed up at the Shelters of Saratoga for help.
I was welcomed by a reassuring woman at the front desk and immediately turned over to a case worker. His name was Graham. In my uneasy state, he was encouraging, knowledgeable and supportive. We spent about a half hour reviewing the rules of the Shelter, filling out some paperwork, and most importantly talking about all the resources at my disposal to help get me back on my feet in 60 days or less. A sense of hope and relief came over me as I was accepted into this temporary home.
Because I came to the Shelter, many services from other organizations and agencies were now available to me. I was eligible to have my bronchitis treated at the Saratoga Community Health Center run by Saratoga Hospital. I received a complimentary three-month membership to the YMCA. In addition, I was given a $50 certificate to obtain some more clothes at Treasures. If I had been a veteran, the Saratoga County RPC was ready to assist me. The critical element would be the ongoing work with my case worker to help me find an affordable apartment and look for a better job if I so desired. Graham showed me around the house, the community computer, living room, and the kitchen where all the folks staying at the Shelter cook for themselves. He then took me to my small, but comfortable room with bunk beds, which I will share with three others in transition situations similar to mine. This will be my place to begin anew. On the way however, we did make a stop at a closet brimming with clothes, for me to pick out some extra things to wear. I was so very fortunate to be in a caring, safe place to help me get through this difficult and scary time in my life.
My time taking part in “A Day Without A Home” was both enlightening and worthwhile. Not only did I feel the despair and helplessness of being alone without a home, but I was introduced to a world of unknowns and possibilities for those in need. Yes, my awareness of this unfamiliar topic (to me) was truly enriched.
There was an evening wrap-up event at the Saratoga Arts Center focused on those who volunteered to participate in this special day. They each spoke of their personal “homeless” experiences and provided some meaningful insights of the various agencies. The Skidmore College Dance Improvisation class even performed a demonstration of abstract emotions, thoughts and ideas relative to homelessness and the associated challenges. It was excellent and moving to say the least. And to top it off, we had a homeless couple right from the street join us during the event. They sat in the crowd listening to us talk about the subject matter, jumping in from time to time. It was an incredibly sad yet sobering night for us all.
On a final note, as I was leaving the Shelters of Saratoga, something happened that was quite profound for me. I passed a man that attended high school with me entering the Shelter. He did not look well, but I still recognized him. He not only appeared homeless but the receptionist had already called 911 to get an ambulance for him. The day certainly had a personal impact on me.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – What makes this occasion special is not that Mr. Frank Wakefield is releasing his new CD – but that he is doing it for the first time here, in his adopted hometown, and bringing up some band mates from Maryland and Virginia to seal the deal.
The CD is entitled Frank Wakefield, Taylor Baker & Friends and shows off the merry, mischievous mandolin master at his instrumental finest. But you know come Saturday, it wouldn’t be a Frank Wakefield show without some crack vocals and repartee. “Oh, we’ll be singin’,” says the pride of Emory Gap, TN, “we don’t want them to throw us out or nothing.”
Joining Frank are Taylor Baker (mandolin, vocals), Brendan Ernst (guitar, banjo and vocals), Tom Mindte (mandolin, guitar and vocals) and Nick Barr (acoustic bass).
I asked Frank what he wanted to be when he grew up and he said “be just like me.” That’s pretty much why you should go.
Frank Wakefield and Friends
CD Release Party
Saturday, November 23 at 8 p.m.
The Parting Glass
40-42 Lake Avenue
66 Franklin Down
SARATOGA SPRINGS – After a long history including years of litigation, the historic Winnans-Crippen House, located at 66 Franklin Street was demolished. All that remained by Tuesday was the foundation, and by the time you read this, you won’t see that either. So we thought that we should chronicle the structure’s end.
Regardless as to how you felt about this issue, I am reminded of the bittersweet irony of this building’s demise so soon after Kyle York’s untimely death, for he was relentless in his fervor to see 66 Franklin down. It’s hard not to imagine him smirking somewhere.
- Arthur Gonick
A Snapshot in Time — 1963:
Fifty years ago, on November 22, 1963 The Beatles released their second album, With the Beatles, in the UK. This unfortunate timing did not go unnoticed by the people putting on the annual Beatlemore Skidmania 13 this weekend (see 11/15 Saratoga TODAY, page 25). Other things going on (and NOT going on like cell phones, internet or debit cards):
•The Coca-Cola Company introduces its first diet drink, Tab on May 1.
•A hot new movie Cleopatra was released June 12 but Tom Jones wins Best Picture.
•On July 1, Saratoga Springs became identified as 12866 when Zip Codes made their debut.
•“Da Bears” nosed out the NY Giants 14-10 for the NFL Championship at Wrigley Field—that is not a typo. Navy’s Roger Staubach wins the Heisman Trophy, Sandy Koufax mows down the Yankees twice as the
•Dodgers sweep, 4-0 and Chateaugay won The Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes (held at Aqueduct that year, BTW) but was ‘grave yarded’ in The Travers, finishing third to Crewman.
•On TV, we saw the debuts of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, The Fugitive, Petticoat Junction and The Outer Limits. On April 1, long-standing soap operas General Hospital and The Doctors both began long runs, but it was As the World Turns (transmitted live at the time) which got interrupted by Walter Cronkite of CBS News with the bulletin from Dallas. ATWT actually aired another scene before Cronkite pre-empted again, this time to begin marathon coverage that kept going for three days until JFK’s funeral procession and burial on November 25.
•From the “no wonder we look back in this as a nostalgic, idyllic time department”: Three things we didn’t have: email, Facebook and texting.
- Arthur Gonick
JFK: 50 Years — Like Yesterday
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Before 9/11 there was 11/22. And 50 years later, the passage of time dulls none of our memory of that day.
We may forget what we had for breakfast this morning, but no one old enough who was asked where they were on that day replied “I don’t remember.”
Despite the lack of mega-mass media, we learned of events rather rapidly. A neighbor, teacher, toll-taker told us to put on the radio, something had happened in Dallas and our President was slain. It didn’t matter where we were; it was a national, indeed worldwide shared experience.
We asked people at our farmers’ markets and the Wesley community, a cross-section of residents of our region, to share their stories about that signpost day. All live locally now, though most were in other places on November 22, 1963.
I’ll bat leadoff. It is one of my oldest memories altogether.
Second grade. P.S. 49, the pride of New York City public schools in Middle Village, Queens. Mrs. Broadhurst was our teacher, and she told us to be quiet because Principal Burson was going to make an announcement over the loudspeaker.
This happened nearly every day, but in the morning – never in the afternoon. After the announcement, we were sent home early.
It was my first experience with death of anyone close to me and for many in my age group, JFK was like our friend. It was a simpler time and we wanted to believe. His family was our family.
On November 22, 1963 John Fitzgerald Kennedy was also the only President I ever knew. And he was gone.
“I was in my final year as a Yale undergraduate in November 1963,” noted former Saratoga Springs mayor Kenneth Klotz. “The first word of the shooting of the President began circulating on campus in the early afternoon, about ten minutes before an advanced Russian class on my schedule.”
“The teacher was a native, elderly and somewhat pedantic, who conducted the class in Russian. We told him excitedly, in Russian of course, that the President had been shot. He looked puzzled and uncertain, and said “Oh, is that so?” I don’t think he believed us, because he delivered his planned 50-minute lecture on early 19th century Russian literary history. Just as the class was finally over we heard the Branford chapel bell beginning to toll and realized with horror that the President was dead.” Klotz said.
“I was on my honeymoon in the Poconos!” noted Bronx native Barbara Garrasi. “My husband John and I came back from lunch. I was in the bathroom while John had the TV on when the bulletin came through. He called out to me… we spent the entire afternoon inside, holding hands, glued to the TV and crying.”
Our own Cindy Durfey remembers the great sadness. “I was in second grade in Loudonville. I remember coming home from school and my mom was watching television and crying. It was a very solemn time.” She said.
“Shock!” said Phyllis Marks from White Plains. “The kids were in their early teens and so upset. We spent a lot of time trying to explain this, to help each other understand.”
“I was in Albany,” said Alfred O’Brien. “I turned on the car radio and there it was…shock and disbelief.”
Johnstown’s Carolyn McClain was at her art class at Russell Sage College. “I couldn’t believe what I had heard. Within short order, the college was completely shut down.”
“We were driving a truck of apples from our farm in Schaghticoke,” noted Leonard and Phyllis Borden. “At the Thruway stop the toll-booth employee asked if we had a radio and to put it on — something had happened to the President.”
“I was in the Grand Union supermarket in Ballston Spa,” said Betty McCanty. “Someone turned off the music and the word spread like wildfire through the store.”
“I left my cart in the aisle and went right home. Life as we know it was suspended,” Ms. McCanty said. “I knew that my four children (spread through grade 2 – 6) would be sent home from school and all I thought about is to be able to get there when they arrived.”
“I was at work at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. in the rare book room,” remembers Roger Trienens. “The Chief stood up and made an announcement that the President had been assassinated and the closed the library.”
“It was a Friday; the beginning of a grim, depressing weekend.” Trienens said.
“My husband was a Marine and it hit him so hard to hear the news,” said Esther Badgley, who was in Minerva at the time.
Doris Lamont heard the news in the little town of Cochecton thanks to a relatively new innovation, the TV news bulletin. “I was lying down and settling into my favorite soap, As the World Turns when the bulletin came on. I remember being annoyed because they had already interrupted ATWT a few times that week because of a plane crash.”
“After Cronkite, I turned to David Brinkley’s newscast on NBC. I remember how he was so upset that they had to take him off the air for a while.” Lamont said.
“I was a substitute nurse at the A. L. Kellogg School in Treadwell,” said Joyce Hoven. “The teachers came out of an adjoining room and told me.”
Saratoga Springs native Marion Poukish was working in a Pediatric office on Lake Avenue when she heard. “It was very emotionally upsetting to realize someone would want to kill our President.”
"I remember our prayers were especially made for Jackie, Caroline and young John.” She said.
50 years. Like yesterday.