by Karen Rubin,
Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine welcomed in the New Year and a new decade as it has since 1984, with a concert devoted to Peace. The people who fill this enormous space, coming in many cases year after year, come for the solace the concert always brings, the re-commitment to a world of tolerance, acceptance, that comes together in peace and good will to resolve conflicts.
The Cathedral Choirs joined forces under the leadership of Kent Tritle, Director of Cathedral Music and one of America’s leading choral conductors. This signature event is one of many comprising the 2019–2020 season of Great Music in a Great Space.
When the first concert for peace was offered, in 1973 at its
sister cathedral in Washington DC, America was at war, an election had been
decided, but Leonard Bernstein inaugurated the New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace
in 1984, years after the Vietnam War was concluded, because in the world, there
has never been a time without conflict.
Even though technically, America is not at war, there is war raging in the land. “Americans are our own enemy, one against another,” Reverend Canon Patrick Malloy said. But every culture has the means to bring light out of darkness. “The world is varied and venerable ways, strikes fire, refuses to surrender to the dark.”
This year, the Cathedral Choir and Orchestra performed music
ranging from Baroque works of Handel and Bach to contemporary works of artist-in-residence,
organist David Briggs and Lee Hoiby’s poignant setting of ”Last Letter Home.”
This work is based on a letter sent by Jesse Givens, Private First Class, U.S.
Army, who drowned in the Euphrates River on May 1, 2003 in the service of his
country. His letter to his wife Melissa was sent with the directions, “Please,
only read if I don’t come home.”
The Cathedral Choir’s own Jamet Pittman again led the
audience in “This Little Light of Mine” as the assembled in the sanctuary lit
candles to welcome the new year with hope, joy, and affirmation.
The night also featured special guest appearances and
performances by Judy Collins, who sang her iconic “Both Sides Now,” and “Amazing
Grace” her voice ringing through this soaring space; saxophonist and artist-in-residence Paul
Winter performed Paul Halley’s “Winter’s Dream”; artist-in-residence Jason Robert Brown, performed
with his wife and daughters, “Sanctuary,” a song which Brown wrote especially
for this concert; and host Harry Smith, the renowned journalist, who has hosted
the Peace concert for some 30 years.
Reflecting on recent events, Smith said, “two-thirds of
millennials don’t know what Auschwitz was; four out of 10 adults don’t know. So
when things happen like what happened last weekend in a suburb of New York, we
With that in mind, the Cathedral Choir offered an addition
to its program, singing “Oseh Shalom”.
“The real news is terrible – also known as fake news. Mass
shootings…Despair of an economy that works really well for a few. Wars
without end, conflicts without resolution. It’s why so many of us show up here
for New Year’s Eve…
“’We are the ones we have been waiting for. We are the
change we seek,’ said Barack Obama,” Smith said to applause.
The atmosphere in the Cathedral Church of St. John the
Divine (not to mention the acoustics) is spectacular. You think you have been
plunked down in Europe in a building 1000 years old – this grand Gothic stone
structure with soaring arches 177 feet high. The original design, in the Byzantine Revival and Romanesque Revival
styles, was begun in 1892, but after the opening of the crossing in 1909,
the overall plan was changed to a Gothic Revival design. Actually,
the building was never finished – it is still only two-thirds complete. After a
fire damaged part of the cathedral in 2001, it was renovated and rededicated in
2008. Even without being fully built, it is the fifth largest church in the
world, based on area (121,000 sq. ft.)
The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine is the Cathedral of the Episcopal Diocese of New York. It is chartered as a house of prayer for all people and a unifying center of intellectual light and leadership. People from many faiths and communities worship together in services held more than 30 times a week; the soup kitchen serves roughly 25,000 meals annually; social service outreach has an increasingly varied roster of programs; the distinguished Cathedral School prepares young students to be future leaders; Adults and Children in Trust, the renowned preschool, after-school and summer program, offers diverse educational and nurturing experiences; the outstanding Textile Conservation Lab preserves world treasures; concerts, exhibitions, performances and civic gatherings allow conversation, celebration, reflection and remembrance—such is the joyfully busy life of this beloved and venerated Cathedral.
The Cathedral is open daily from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Visit stjohndivine.org for more information and a schedule of public programs including concerts, among them the Cathedral Choir and Orchestra performing J.S. Bach’s monumental “St. John Passion,” on March 31, 2020 at 7:30 pm.
Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
Philadelphia, a city
proud of being where the United States was invented, where history, culture and
art and entertainment ring out everywhere, a city which boasts being the “City
of Brotherly Love,” is particularly warm, welcoming and filled with good cheer
during the winter holidays.
During the course of a holiday
weekend in Philadelphia I devoted one day to reveling in the special events and
festivities – all within a 15 minute walk of my hotel, the newly opened
apartment hotel, The Roost East Market.
set out at 3 pm from The Roost, walking through City Hall – this most
magnificent of structures which becomes Holiday Central, with a carousel in the
center, Christmas markets, street musicians playing in each of the four
corridors. Outside, in Dilworth Park, is an outdoor skating rink, snack bars,
more markets. And each night, beginning at 5:30 pm, every hour on the half
hour, there is a light show in which the entire building façade becomes
head to Comcast Center (17th & JFK), which features an
extraordinary 20-minute Holiday Spectacular light show in the lobby (you just
walk in, no tickets needed), that happens on the hour, from 10 am to 8 pm.
I’m about 30 minutes
early and the guard suggests I go over to the Universal Sphere at the Comcast
Tech Center. You have to register for a time and I sign up for 4:30 pm. With
time still before the light show, I go to Comcast’s lower level where families
(and others) are lining up for a kindly
photographer to take photos (free) you can use for your Christmas card photo (I
can’t resist: I get to take a holiday
photo with E.T.), take in the pop-up Christmas market, and go back to the
Comcast Center for the holiday show.
A Philly holiday tradition, the Comcast Center’s annual Holiday Spectaculartransforms otherwise innocuous walls transform into a super high-res LED, 27-million pixel display so detailed that the figures – an orchestra
conductor, dancers – almost seem three-dimensional, that is to say, real. There
are delightful scenes: the Pennsylvania Ballet’s The Nutcracker,
scenes that are reminiscent of Disney’s Fantasia or Dumbo, a magical sleigh
ride over the city (with a bird’s-eye view of the new Comcast Technology
Center) and a sing-along. More than 2 million people have seen the show since
its debut in 2008. The 15- minute show (free) runs daily through New Year’s
Day, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. (every hour on the hour except 5 p.m. on weekdays;
Comcast Center, 1701 John F. Kennedy Boulevard.)
return to the Comcast Tech Center just in time for my “trip” in the Universal Sphere – this is a permanent
installation that was introduced last spring. You enter a sphere (it looks like
a giant golf ball), that becomes a space capsule (like in “Contact”, you
actually move and feel like you are traveling, but thankfully, it doesn’t make
you motion sick) to explore where ideas come from. In just 7 minutes, this
multi-media work of genius produced by Steven Spielberg and DreamWorks is an inspirational,
heart-warming, optimistic exploration
into what is an idea, where ideas come from, and where the next idea will come
(it doesn’t have to be a big idea; even small ideas can change lives.). “Ideas
start with nothing, become an intuition, a
notion, a thought, a concept. Ideas build upon each other, evolving and
changing to make new ideas.” The essential message is this: “Ideas are our
superpower, the very thing that makes us human.” Spielberg said of the project. “I want
everybody who experiences this to feel that they matter, that they count,” The
experience is enlightening, inspirational, absolutely fantastic and free and
You can reserve a time online and get a ticket; same day reservations open at 9 am. (Extended holiday hours, Nov 29-Dec. 31, daily 10 am-8 pm; Christmas Day & New Year’s noon-5 pm, 1800 Arch Street, Comcast Technology Center, Upper Lobby) More background info: https://comcastcentercampus.com/universal-sphere/. (Comcast Center Campus, 1701 John F. Kennedy Blvd., www.comcastcentercampus.com)
I still have time before my next holiday stop, so even though it is foggy, I ride up 57 stories (883 feet) to the One Liberty Observation, the highest point in Philadelphia, that normally provides a 360-view of the entire city. (1650 Market Street, PhillyFromTheTop.com, 215-561-3325.)
I’m back at Dilworth Park, in front of City Hall, in time for the Deck the Hall Light Show, featuring. technicolor projections synchronized to holiday music that animate the western façade of City Hall over Dilworth Park. Created by Klip Collective, a new feature for 2019 is that visitors can deck the hall themselves on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings using an interactive keyboard that projects lights onto City Hall. (Nightly every hour on the half hour from 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm, see dilworthpark.org)
Skating on the Rothman Orthopaedics Ice Rink set underneath City Hall’s lights at City Hall while
listening to a mix of holiday tunes and bouncing beats, creates its own festive
vibe and also affords perfect views of the Deck The Hall Light Show from the
ice. ($5/skate, $1-0/rental, thru Feb. 23, Dilworth Park, 1S 15th
In the new Wawa Holiday Plaza at City Hall’s
North Apron (a first for Philly this year), is a 65-foot tall Christmas Village Ferris Wheel and a Holiday Train and holiday shops. ($4 to
ride the ferris wheel, $3 to ride the holiday train. (Thru Dec. 24, 1400 John
F. Kennedy Blvd.)
Wawa holiday plaza also hosts the Visit Philadelphia Holiday Tree— a 50-foot-tall white fir covered in
4,000 feet of multi-color LED lights, ornaments and a base that reflects
Philly’s 22 diverse neighborhoods around the city.
I walk back through City Hall’s beautiful courtyard featuring ACME Winter Memories, Christmas Village vendors and a fanciful
carousel ($3 a ride, but free on ACME Family Wednesdays, when each visitor also
gets a complimentary Santa hat).
A few steps away, at LOVE Park, is a mega-popular Christmas
Village in Philadelphia, featuring a traditional German Christmas
market with more than 80 vendors to check out.
timed my next stop at Macy’s, housed
in the former, historic Wanamaker’s Department Store – grand doesn’t even begin
to describe the interior. For the holidays, there is a giant light show
displayed three-stories high in the appropriately named Grand Court, an atrium
that soars four-stories, with balconies around, preceded by an organ recital on
what is called “The King of Organs.” At the center is a famous brass eagle.
The Macy’s Christmas Light Show, starring the 40-foot tall “Magic Christmas tree,” is a traditional favorite that generations have enjoyed since 1956. Narrated by Julie Andrews, it features “The Sugar Plum Fairy” and “Frosty the Snowman” with an enchanting nod to Julie Andrews’ “Sound of Music” and the wistful “good bye, good bye.” (Through Dec. 31; every two hours, from 10 am to 8 pm). Macy’s also hosts Santa visits through Dec 24, and there is a Dickens Village open until Dec. 31, where you watch as a Christmas Carol comes to life (photos with Santa packages start at $18.99, macys.com/santaland). (See macys.com/events.)
organ is actually a notable attraction. It boasts being the “world’s largest
pipe organ” and was first played in the Wanamaker soaring atrium at the exact moment
King George V was crowned in Westminster Abbey.
the crowd clears out (the store is open for holiday shopping until 11 pm), it’s
also an opportunity to become familiarized with the enormous Grand Court Eagle, which was created for the
1904 St Louis World’s Fair by sculptor August Gaul. Wanamaker purchased the
brass eagle for his flagship store and it became a catchphrase for shoppers,
“Meet me at the eagle.” The floor beneath is reinforced with extra girders to
accommodate its 2500 pounds; its 5,000 feathers (including 1600 on the head)
were wrought by hand.
A historic marker (one
of Philly’s many fascinating markers) outside Macy’s notes that John
Wanamaker (1838-1922) was a Philadelphia merchant famed for the department
stores that bore his name. He opened his first store in 1861, and built his
“new kind of store” in Philly in 1876, implementing new concepts including
one-price system and money-back guarantee. He also built schools and churches
and as US Postmaster General (1889-93), he fostered rural free delivery and
introduced the commemorative stamp.
I’m not done! I find out that one of Philly’s newest holiday festivals, East Market Snow Walk, happens in the plaza next door to The Roost East Market hotel, a nightly light show featuring the giant Christmas tree throughout December (6:30, 7:30, 8:30 pm) with live entertainment on Saturday nights (tonight’s is a sensational 1920s-style swing band, Parlour Noir) (get schedule, EastMarket.com).
There are more holiday happenings through the city that
I couldn’t fit in during my all-too-brief stay:
The annual Franklin Square Holiday Festival features a free Electrical Spectacle Holiday Light Show
presented by PECO that makes this historic square twinkle with more than 80,000 LED lights dancing to a
soundtrack of seasonal tunes from The Philly POPS. A 12-foot-tall kite serves
as an ode to Philadelphia’s favorite son, Benjamin Franklin’s famous
kite-and-lightning experiment, hovering 20 feet above the square’s centerpiece
fountain. Light shows begin every day of the week at 4:30 p.m. and light up
every 30 minutes until 8 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, and 9 p.m. on Fridays
and Saturdays. Other festivities include
Saturdays with Santa; rides on the holiday train and carousel; comfort foods,
local beer and hot beverages at Ben’s Sweets & Treats and holiday fare at
SquareBurger; and mini-golf. (Through Dec. 31, Franklin Square, 200 N. 6th
Deck the District – Fashion District Philadelphia, the retail and entertainment space which opened in September in the city’s Market East neighborhood, celebrates its first holiday season with an inaugural light show. The destination boasts a 45-foot-tall floating tree with giant stainless steel mirror ornaments and a light show timed to music by The Philly POPS. The five-minute show, by designer Matthew Schwam, known for putting big, bright red bows and dazzling lit-up snowflakes on significant city buildings, is best viewed from in front of Candytopia, located near the entrance at 9th Street and Market Street. The show runs every 30 minutes from 4 p.m. until closing. (Thru Dec. 31, 901 Market Street, 215-925-7162, fashiondistrictphiladelphia.com)
LumiNature at Philadelphia Zoo – Two years in the making, a new, immersive
display transforms the zoo’s day-scape into a nighttime multimedia light and
music spectacle. Dancing lights, sounds (even talking trees) throughout furnish
illusions of animals coming to life. A flock of flamingos forms a 25-foot-tall
tree; an enormous polar bear broadcasts the magnificence of our planet; all
four seasons host their very own party. Seasonal fare, live performers, hot
chocolate and adult beverages promise to spark the winter spirit. (Timed
tickets through Jan.5. 3400 W. Girard Avenue, 215-243-1100, philadelphiazoo.org.
Photo Pop Philly: Winter Wonderland – The ultimate selfie station, located inside
the historic Bourse building (now a modern food hall), invites ticketed guests
through a series of artist-envisioned, purposefully Instagram-able rooms
featuring virtual reality, a photo booth and lots of snow-filled
backdrops. (Select days through Jan. 5. 111 S. Independence Mall East,
Staying at The Roost
East Market apartment hotel really enabled us to be part of the city. It’s
not hyperbole to say the comfort of a fully-equipped, gorgeously furnished
apartment meets luxury amenities of a boutique hotel. All of the apartments
feature full-size kitchens with cookware and utensils (I especially love not
having to go out for breakfast) and king size beds. A
third-floor is devoted to guest amenities including a well-equipped 24-hour
fitness center, magnificent and comfortable lounge areas and library, a huge
demo kitchen, a private screening room, an outside, 20-meter heated lap pool,
barbecue area, landscaped terrace, community vegetable garden; and bike-share program. There is also 24-hour
front desk and concierge, security (you need your card to access the elevator
and public areas); and direct access to a parking garage. They even arrange dog-walking and grocery
The Roost East Market is
wonderfully situated on the edge of Philadelphia’s Midtown Village neighborhood
(aka Gayborhood), a short walk away from City Hall, Reading Terminal Market,
the Pennsylvania Convention Center and the shopping destination Fashion
District Philadelphia. It is a 15-minute walk to Independence Hall and all the
attractions in that area. (The Roost East Market, 1199 Ludlow
Street Philadelphia, PA 19107, 844-697-6678, https://myroost.com/philadelphia/east-market/).
This is the third location of the Philadelphia-based extended-stay brand (though there is no minimum length of stay). The others are the ROOST Rittenhouse (1831 Chestnut St. Philadelphia) and ROOST Midtown (111 S. 15th St. Philadelphia). The brand is also expanding to other cities including Washington DC, which will also have a restaurant; Charleston, and Tampa.
My holiday happenings are bookended by visits to several of Philadelphia’s incomparable sites and attractions: Barnes Museum (2025 Ben Franklin Pkwy, barnesfoundation.org); Independence Hall (you need to get a timed ticket, either walk up for free or in advance online for $1 fee, www.nps.gov/inde/planyourvisit/independencehalltickets.htm); a fabulous exhibit devoted to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Notorious RBG) at the National Museum of American Jewish History, located within the Independence Hall area (thru Jan. 12, at 5th & Market, mnajh.org, 215-923-3811); Philadelphia Magic Gardens (doesn’t need any holiday embellishments, 1020 South St., 215-733-0390, phillymagicgardens.org);and Franklin Institute (222 North 20th St., 215-448-1200, www.fi.edu), before having to pull myself away from Philadelphia. (See story)
A Visit Philly Overnight Hotel Package includes
overnight free parking and perks, and is bookable at Greater
Philadelphia’s official visitor website, visitphilly.com, 800-537-7676 where you can explore things to do, upcoming
events, themed itineraries and hotel packages.
Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
From the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to the Christmas Tree Lighting at Rockefeller Center and the New Year’s Eve ball drop in Times Square, New York City offers unparalleled ways to celebrate the holidays with vibrant performances, tours, lightings, special events taking place from early November into January.
“New York City’s celebratory spirit and excitement are palpable during the annual holiday season. From iconic attractions and events to hidden-gem activities in all five boroughs, there’s an endless roster of memorable programming to enjoy from November to January,” said NYC & Company president and CEO Fred Dixon. NYC & Company, New York City’s official destination marketing organization, is forecasting seven million visitors will visit the City during the 2019–2020 holiday season.
Here are some of the festive events, performances and activities across the boroughs to celebrate the holiday season in New York City.
Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, November 28, Manhattan The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a classic New York City celebration of the holidays, featuring larger-than-life helium balloons, fantasy floats, clowns, performance groups, Broadway’s best musicals, celebrity appearances and more. The 93rd Annual spectacle will feature new balloons including Astronaut Snoopy, Netflix’s Green Eggs and Ham, SpongeBob SquarePants & Gary, Smokey Bear and Yayoi Kusama’s Love Flies Up to the Sky. New floats include Nickelodeon’s Blue’s Clues & You!, The Brick-changer by The Lego Group, Home Sweet Home by Cracker Barrel Old Country Store®, Rexy in the City by COACH® and Toy House of Marvelous Milestones by New York Life. The parade begins at 9 am on 77th Street and Central Park West, snakes around Central Park South and heads down Sixth Avenue before concluding at Macy’s Herald Square at 34th Street and Seventh Avenue.
Balloon Inflation, November 27, 1-8 pm: Head up to the American Museum of Natural History on November 27 from 1 to 8 pm to watch the balloon inflation at West 79th Street and Columbus Avenue but be prepared for long lines (entrance at 73rd and Columbus.)
Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, December 4, Midtown, Manhattan: The Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center has been a tradition for more than eight decades. Lighting up Rockefeller Plaza, the tree lighting ceremony features performances and classic Christmas songs. The tree will arrive on November 9, light up on December 4 and be on view through early to mid-January.
New Year’s Eve Times Square Ball Drop, December 31–January 1, Times Square, Manhattan: Each year, millions of viewers watch the Times Square Ball Drop from New York City and around the globe. The Waterford Crystal Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball sparkles in Times Square for visitors to see all season, but its descent is a spectacular, once-in-a-lifetime way to ring in the New Year.
New Year’s Eve Fireworks at Prospect Park, December 31–January 1, Prospect Park, Brooklyn: The Grand Army Plaza’s iconic New Year’s Eve Fireworks at Prospect Park offer an alternative to the frenzy of Times Square. This spectacular celebration includes live music, followed by a fireworks show at midnight.
Shine On at Hudson Yards, November 29-January 5. A new tradition being introduced at Manhattan’s newest neighborhood. Kicks off the day after Thanksgiving with full day of live performances featuring award-winning New York musicians, dangers and entertainers, plus Only at Hudson Yards offers. Then, every Tuesday through December 24, music and dance performances throughout Hudson Yards, and Saturdays children’s activities and family events. Immersive Light and Music Shows: the New York premiere of artist Christopher Schardt’s light sculpture Lyra, 5 pm daily at multiple locations throughout Hudson Yards. Visit Wells Fargo Lodge for hot chocolate tastings and 360-degree photo ops, plus interactive Star Stations with gift wrapping. Unlock holiday offers from SAP with shine ON LED bracelet available at Hudson Yards retailers.
Holiday Lights at the Bronx Zoo, November 21–January 5, Fordham, the Bronx: Returning for the first time since 2007, the stunning light displays at the Bronx Zoo will cover several acres in a walk-through experience with wildlife-themed LED displays, custom lanterns and animated light shows.
LuminoCity Festival, November 23-January 5, Randall’s Island Park, Manhattan: Sixteen acres of lights will illuminate themed worlds during this inaugural festival, creating an immersive journey for visitors that includes a castle, skating unicorn and enchanted forest.
Brookfield Place Light Up Luminaries, December 3-January 4, Battery Park City, Manhattan: This spectacular light installation kicks off December 3 with an evening of free ice skating, snacks and live performances.
Festival at Citi
Field, December 6–January 26,
Flushing, Queens: The debut of this international lantern, food and art
festival will include 60 global cuisine vendors, arts experiences, live
performances and a holiday market.
NYC Winter Lantern Festival, November 20–January 12, Randall Manor, Staten Island: The NYC Winter Lantern Festival is returning for a second year to Staten Island. Sponsored by Empire Outlets and venue partner Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden, eight acres will be lit up by more than 50 LED installations, accompanied by live performances of traditional Chinese dance and art.
New-York Historical Society, (November 1, 2019 – February 23, 2020: A holiday favorite returns this season, reimagined to celebrate the 100th birthday of Busytown series author and illustrator Richard Scarry. Holiday Express: All Aboard to Richard Scarry’s Busytown showcases artwork and graphics of Scarry’s characters like Huckle Cat and Lowly Worm from publisher Random House Children’s Books alongside more than 300 objects from the Jerni Collection’s antique toy trains, stations, and accessories. Using Busytown stories and characters, dynamic displays explore the workings of the railroad, the services it provides, and the jobs required to keep people and goods moving. Fun, train-related activities for kids of all ages take place through the exhibition’s run―all free with museum admission. These include: Celebrating Richard Scarry and Busytown! (Saturday, December 14 and Sunday, December 15; 1–3 pm); December School Vacation Week (Thursday, December 26 – Wednesday, January 1) (170 Central Park West (77th St), New York, NY 10024, www.nyhistory.org)
Gingerbread Lane at New York Hall of Science, November 23–January 12, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens: Gingerbread Lane at the New York Hall of Science invites visitors to witness the vast collection of gingerbread structures embellished with candy canes, chocolate and frosting.
New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show, November 23–January 26, Fordham, the Bronx: Conveniently accessible via the Metro-North Railroad from Grand Central Terminal, head to the New York Botanical Garden to be enchanted by model trains zipping through a display of more than 175 NYC landmarks, each re-created with natural materials.
Belmont BID Arthur Avenue Tree Lighting Ceremony, November 30, Belmont, the Bronx: Experience Christmas in the Bronx’s Little Italy at the Belmont BID Arthur Avenue Tree Lighting. The annual event features a visit from Santa, cookies and hot chocolate among the twinkling lights.
Seaport District NYC Celebrations, Seaport District NYC, Manhattan: Festivities in this neighborhood include the Winterland Holiday Tree Lighting on December 2, Menorah Lighting on December 22, a pop-up tree farm, ice skating and a light display at Pier 17.
Holiday Workshop Weekend at Wave Hill, December 7–8, Riverdale, the Bronx: Create one-of-a-kind holiday decorations by the gorgeous gardens and galleries at Wave Hill during their interactive Holiday Workshop Weekend.
Historic Richmond Town Candlelight Tours, December 14–21, Staten Island: This Christmas season, experience the tastes and scents of centuries past at Historic Richmond Town. Step back in time while touring the unique New York City which is illuminated by candles and oil lamps.
11th Annual Latke Festival at the Brooklyn Museum, December 16, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn: One of New York City’s most unique and delicious holiday tasting events, the Latke Festival is a charity event that celebrates the best and most creative potato pancakes.
Melrose Holiday Parranda, December 21, Melrose, the Bronx: The Melrose Holiday Parranda follows in the footsteps of Puerto Rican holiday caroling with a procession based on plena music and holiday songs. Cheer-Filled Performances:
Radio City Christmas Spectacular Starring the Rockettes, November 8–January 5, Midtown, Manhattan: The Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes returns to Radio City Music Hall, dazzling audiences of all ages with incredible costumes, festive songs and synchronized high kicks.
Four Renditions of
the Holiday Classic A Christmas Carol
Holiday Performances at the World
Famous Apollo Theater, Harlem,
Manhattan: The Apollo Theater, celebrating its 85th anniversary in 2019, hosts
holiday events including a Harlem gospel choir performance at Coca-Cola
Winter Wonderland on December 14, followed by the Amateur
Night Holiday Special. Gospel legends Yolanda Adams and Donald
Lawrence headline annual concert Holiday Joy: A Gospel Celebration on
December 21. As a grand finale, the annual Kwanzaa Celebration on
December 28 features Abdel Salaam’s Forces of Nature Dance Theatre and guest
Year’s Eve Concert for Peace, Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, (1047 Amsterdam Ave. at 112th St., New York 10025,
212-316-7540,email@example.com, www.stjohndivine.org), Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019,
7-8:30 pm,: Founded by Leonard Bernstein in 1984, the
annual New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace is a signature Cathedral event with performances
by the Cathedral Choir and Orchestra led by Director of Music Kent Tritle.
Harry Smith, host; special guests Paul Winter, Jamet Pittman,
Jason Robert Brown, and David Briggs. General admission seats are free and open
to the public on the night of the show. Reserved seats are available now.
Holiday markets: New York City is full of incredible holiday markets, with must-buy gifts, sweets, drinks and winter activities. This year, the Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park opened earlier than ever on October 31. Other popular markets include the Union Square Holiday Market, Columbus Circle Holiday Market, Brooklyn Flea and Astoria Market.
Iconic Holiday Windows: Awe-inspiring window displays at stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s Herald Square and the new Nordstrom Women’s Store sparkle, inviting visitors to explore the magic of New York City shopping.
Empire Outlets, St. George, Staten Island: New York City’s first-ever outlet destination, Empire Outlets, will ring in the holiday season with a special Black Friday sale and their first annual tree lighting ceremony. Easily accessible by the free Staten Island Ferry from Lower Manhattan, the outlets will be adorned with thousands of lights, garland wraps and a 40-foot tree.
23 Days of Flatiron Cheer,
December 1-23, Flatiron District, Manhattan: 23
Days of Flatiron Cheer will include free, holiday-themed events showcasing the
intersection of shopping, dining and culture in this vibrant neighborhood.
The Shops at Columbus Circlehas kicked off its fourth year of Broadway Under the Stars, a five-week series of free public performances taking place this holiday season.Select cast from today’s hottest Broadway musicals will perform against the backdrop of the destination’s famous 12 massive stars. These stars, one of the largest specialty crafted exhibits of illuminated color displays in the world, are suspended from the 100-foot-high ceilings. Performances, lasting 20 minutes, begin at 5 pm and are free to attend and open to the public, no reservations or tickets are required. (Nov. 11, Waitress, Chicago, Oklahoma!andThe Lightening Thief; Nov. 18, Come From Away, Rock of Ages;Nov. 25: Dear Evan Hansen, The Illusionists, Frozen; Dec. 2: Beetlejuice, Tootsie, Mean Girls; Dec. 9: Phantom of the Opera, Wicked). Additional Broadway Under the Stars offerings include specialty cocktails from the Shops at Columbus Circle’s Restaurant and Bar Collection which includes Monday night drink specials like Center Bar’s Pomegranate Smash cocktail ($16). Visit www.theshopsatcolumbuscircle.com for more information and list of events and happenings.
Shop at Your Hotel: Several hotels are home to retail pop-ups this holiday season, partnering with iconic stores to make shopping easier than ever for visitors.
Grand Hyatt New York is partnering with Macy’s Herald Square for a pop-up located behind the check-in desk, featuring New York City-themed gifts, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade apparel and novel gift items November 25–January 1.
Loews Regency New York Hotel and Bloomingdale’s are teaming up to bring a curated selection of holiday gifts to the lobby lounge November 29-December 24, including on-site monogramming of leather gifts by ROYCE New York.
Conrad New York Midtown is launching the first FAO Schwarz Holiday Suite, filled with shoppable toys, stuffed
animals and gifts that will be restocked for visitors who book a stay in the
suite November 18–January 5. Additionally, all guests during this time period
will be able to order gifts on demand to their suite or home address.
The iconic Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade is actually two events, which begins the day before with the Macy’s Balloon Inflation, from 1 to 8 pm when you can watch the volunteers as they literally breathe life into the iconic giants.
has become wildly popular, with thousands and thousands of people arriving for
a peek as hundreds of volunteers work to inflate the balloons. They start off
flat, laid out in precise order on the streets around the American Museum of
the event is so popular, the entrance is at 73rd and Columbus (be
prepared for intense security; can’t bring backpacks and very long lines),
following a route up Central Park West, to 77th Street, Columbus Avenue and back down 81st
streets to the exit.
best time to watch is around 5 pm when you will see the balloons in various
stages of completion. (Insider tip: if you visit the Museum of Natural History
early in the day, when you leave, you are right in the middle of the action.
is really an insider’s look and it is really thrilling.
1927, when the Parade’s character balloons first joined the revelry, the
inflatables have become a signature element featuring some of the world’s most
beloved characters. Over time, the inflatables have morphed from air-filled
characters carried on sticks to high-flying giants, balloonheads and even
hybrid inflatables with vehicles inside (balloonicles) or tandem tricycles
giants joining the line-up this year include Astronaut Snoopy by Peanuts
Worldwide, Green Eggs and Ham by Netflix, and SpongeBob SquarePants & Gary
by Nickelodeon. In celebration of his 75th birthday, a heritage balloon and fan
favorite will return to the Parade as Smokey Bear once again takes to the skies
In 2005, the Macy’s Parade began to feature
what would become a collection of high-flying artwork created in collaboration
with renowned contemporary artists. The special series, entitled Macy’s Blue
Sky Gallery, has featured some of the art world’s finest creators. This year,
for the eighth edition of the series, the world’s most renowned female
contemporary artist will take her iconic art to new heights as Yayoi Kusama
joins the Macy’s Parade with her Love Flies Up to the Sky balloon. The design
was developed by the artist from face motifs that appear in her “My Eternal
Soul” series of paintings–a body of work that she began in 2009. Vibrant and
animated, the paintings embody Kusama’s innovative exploration of form and
revolve around a tension between abstraction and figuration. The artist’s
signature dots–which recur throughout her practice—are also featured
prominently in the Macy’s Parade balloon design. Previous balloons in the
Macy’s Parade Blue Sky Gallery series have included works from famed artists
Tom Otterness, Jeff Koons, Keith Haring, Takashi Murakami, Tim Burton, KAWS,
giant balloon characters include Diary of A Wimpy Kid® by Abrams Children’s
Books; Sinclair Oil’s DINO®; The Elf on the Shelf®; Goku; Illumination Presents
Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch; Jett by Super Wings™; Olaf from Disney’s “Frozen 2”;
Chase from PAW Patrol®; Pikachu™ by the Pokémon Company International;
Pillsbury Doughboy™; Power Rangers Mighty Morphin Red Ranger; Ronald McDonald®;
and Trolls. Completing the inflatable lineup is the famed Aflac Duck, Sinclair
Oil’s Baby DINOs and the Go Bowling balloonicles, as well as Universal Orlando
Resort’s The Nutcracker.
93rd Edition of Macy’s
the 93rd edition of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade kicks off at 9 am
on Thursday, November 28 when the time
honored phrase Let’s Have a Parade™ rings from the starting line. With more
than 8,000 volunteers dressed as clowns, guiding the flight of larger-than-life
character balloons, transporting some 2.5 million spectators who line New York
City’s streets and 50 million more watching on television to new worlds.
iconic holiday event ushers in the season with its signature giant character
balloons, floats of fantasy, the nation’s finest marching bands, whimsical
groups, musical performances, and the one-and-only Santa Claus With special
performances and appearances by Natasha Bedingfield, Black Eyed Peas, Chicago,
Ciara, Josh Dela Cruz, Celine Dion, Jimmy Fallon and The Roots, Debbie Gibson,
former NASA Astronauts Kay Hire & Janet Kavandi, Chris Janson, Idina
Menzel, Lea Michele, Miss America 2019 Nia Franklin, NHL® Legends Dominic Moore
and Eddie Olczyk, the cast & Muppets of Sesame Street, NCT 127, Ozuna,
Billy Porter, Kelly Rowland, That Girl Lay Lay, TLC, Tenille Townes, and Chris
Here are more fun facts about the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade:
Years of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade – 93 (est. 1924) o Note: The Parade
was canceled in 1942, 1943 and 1944 due to World War II.
Parade Route Spectators – 3.5 Million
Parade Route Length – 2.5 miles (77th & Central Park West south to 34th
Participants – 8,000+ including Macy’s colleagues and their friends &
families, celebrities, recording artists, athletes, Broadway performers,
marching bands, clowns, dancers, cheerleaders and other performance groups
Giant character helium balloons – 16
40 novelty, heritage, specialty balloons, balloonicles, balloonheads and
New balloons – Astronaut Snoopy by Peanuts Worldwide, Green Eggs and Ham by
Netflix, SpongeBob SquarePants & Gary by Nickelodeon, Smokey Bear by USDA
Forest Service, and Love Flies Up to the Sky by Yayoi Kusama
Height of tallest balloon – 62 feet (Diary of A Wimpy Kid®)
Length of longest balloon – 77 feet (Power Rangers Mighty Morphin Red Ranger)
Width of widest balloon – 39 feet (Jett by Super Wings™)
Balloon handlers – more than 1,600 (90 handlers on average per giant balloon)
Floats – 26, comprised of hundreds of different set pieces and other structural
New floats – Blue’s Clues & You! by Nickelodeon, The Brick-Changer by The
LEGO Group, Home Sweet Home by Cracker Barrel Old Country Store®, Rexy in the
City by COACH®, and Toy House of Marvelous Milestones by New York Life
Length and height of largest float – 60 feet long and 3.5 stories tall (Santa’s
• Float escorts – 400
Television Viewers – More than 50 Million, one of the country’s most viewed
Hours of Live Television – 3 (9am-noon, in all time zones), 3 rebroadcast
(2pm-5pm, in all time zones)
Years on NBC, official national broadcast partner – 66 (since 1952)
NBC TODAY Show anchors as host of the Parade: o 2019 marks Hoda Kotb’s 2nd year
hosting o 2019 marks Savannah Guthrie’s 8th year (since 2012)
• 2019 marks Al Roker’s 25th year (since 1995)
PERSONALITIES & PERFORMERS:
Marching Bands – 11 bands spanning approximately 2,793 members in total
Performance Groups – 10 groups including 600 cheerleaders and 600 dancers from
all over the country
Radio City Rockettes® – An annual favorite, they first performed in the 1957
Broadway musicals – 4, the long-standing relationship with Broadway shows to
showcase performances nationally, dating back to 1977
Choral Singers (Macy’s own) – 100
• Clowns – 1,000
• Clown Stilt Walker Units – 22
Santa Claus – the ONE and ONLY in his famed Parade finale appearance o Santa
Claus has closed the Macy’s Parade every year with the exception of 1933, the
only year in which he led the official Parade march
MAGIC BY THE MACY’S PARADE STUDIO TEAM:
Hours of labor from the Parade Studio team of approximately 27 painters,
carpenters, animators, sculptors, welders, scenic/costume designers,
electricians and engineers – 50,000+
Square Footage of the Parade Studio’s Moonachie, NJ headquarters – 72,000
Length of Tubular Steel – nearly ½ mile for creation of the Macy’s Singing
Tree, and the most steel ever sourced for a Macy’s Parade float
entertainer Ben Vereen, honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Gold
Coast Arts Center, Long Island, at the opening of its 9th Annual
Gold Coast International Film Festival, Nov. 4, 2019, brings a spiritual message to the arts which
explains why he has been such a strong advocate for arts education, mentor and
“If you would ask, ‘Why
is life so important to you?’ I would say, ‘In the beginning God created.’ It’s
not ‘in the beginning God manufactured’. We are living, walking, talking art pieces
of the One who created us. Our job is not just performing arts, but one aspect
of life itself. Life is an art piece for everybody to see. We’re supposed to
care for each other, love each other, show the wonders of creation – this
building, these seats – didn’t just come here, they came from thought. A thought
and we bring forth that which is manifested.
“Arts have saved people
throughout the centuries. Art has calmed people from war. Art is here to
embrace our lives. We are healed through the arts.”
Vereen tells the
audience which included the young people from Uniondale High School who
performed in their nationally acclaimed choir, Rhythm of the Knight, “Go play
in hospitals. When someone would come to do art, music, singing, the vibration
in building is higher. It’s important we support – we call it the arts- what it
really is is ‘Let’s support life,’” he said to applause.
“The arts. Change the name
to life – arts of life, the teaching part of life, the engineering part of life
is all art.
If we give our children
arts from the beginning, they will be better at school.”
And what do you tell a young
person about pursuing a career in arts? Dilla asked. “Know thyself, study you,
who you are, you are that art you would bring forth. Be conscious of who you
are. It’s okay to take baby steps, eventually you will get you there. Don’t
take rejection as a ‘no’ to your life – your life isn’t over, just a
steppingstone to your higher self. Keep stepping up.
“We need you. Your form
of art may not be on stage, it may be going to government. Your art might not
be an interviewer like Frank Dilella, it might be to head a country and make
the world a better place for everybody. Know thyself and to thine own self be
offered insights into his life in a conversation with Frank DiLella, Emmy Award
winning host of On Stage on Spectrum News NY1.
was honored for his epic performances that have been woven into the fabric of
the nation’s artistic legacy – first coming to worldwide attention as Chicken
George in the ground-breaking television series, Roots for which he won an Emmy nomination in 1977. He won a Tony
Award as well as the Drama Desk Award for Best Actor in A Musical in 1973 for Pippin; and starred in Jesus Christ Superstar, Fosse, Hair, Jelly’s
Last Jam, Chicago, I’m Not Rappaport and Wicked; and films including Sweet
Charity and All that Jazz.
recent projects include the TV series Bull
and Magnum PI, FOX’s Star, produced by Lee Daniels, Sneaky Pete with Bryan Cranston, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Time Out of Mind with Richard Gere, and Top Five with Chris Rock. He is
currently working on his new Broadway musical, Reflections, written by Joe Calarco, to be directed by Tony nominee
Josh Bergasse with music by Stephen Schwartz.
is heralded for promoting the talents and careers of young people – through
education and access to the arts – wherever he gives concerts he holds master
classes and in past concerts has provided the opportunity for a talented
newcomer to make their debut on stage with him – and for his humanitarian work
for which he has received numerous awards including Israel’s Cultural and
Humanitarian Award, three NAACP Image Awards, Eleanor Roosevelt Humanitarian
Award and a Victory Award.
2016, he signed with Americans for the Arts, the largest advocacy group of Arts
in America and has spoken before Congress defending funding for the National
endowment for the Arts.
Vereen spoke of his career and his calling in a conversation with Frank
about how he got started in show business, a boy of modest means from Brooklyn,
he said, “This career chose me.
“This career was handed
to me. In my community in Brooklyn going to the High School of Performing Arts was
like being a prodigal son. It is hard to say when I chose this, because it
chose me. I would never have left Brooklyn except for performing arts school –
–known as the Fame School.
Apparently he got into
trouble, because he was placed in a so-called “three-digit school”.
“I was placed in class with Mr. Hill, the director of theater.
I was with guys named Killer, Shank Diablo. Mr. Hill said he wanted me to do King and I. I went to the Brooklyn
Academy of Music – they had an all-African American company – 100 musicians – and
did King and I. That was it – that
was the bug.
Vereen attended the High
School of Performing Arts from the age of 14 – where he studied dancing with
stellar choreographers Martha Graham, George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins.
He was 18 years old when he made his New York
stage debut off-off-Broadway in The Prodigal Son at the
Greenwich Mews Theater. The following year he was in Las Vegas performing in
Bob Fosse’s production of Sweet Charity.
He describes the
audition for Sweet Charity.”Every
dancer was on stage to audition – Bob Fosse was the coolest, he moved so
smooth. He did the combination, smoked cigarettes, the ashes wouldn’t fall. He made
the cut of dancers. Then it was time to sing. I had never seen a Broadway show.”
He had nothing prepared but mimicked another and got the part anyway, going on
to tour with the production from 1967-68.
He made his Broadway
debut in original production of Hair. “It was a groundbreaking show, it made
A real breakthrough was
meeting Sammy Davis Jr. He reflected how important an influence Sammy Davis Jr.
was to him. “Sammy was the first African American that I watched on tv. My
father loved tv. One night Sammy was on the Ed Sullivan show.
Sammy saw Vereen at an
audition. “I had attitude – Sammy Davis Jr saw it. He invited me to have dinner
and hired me for Golden Boy. That’s
where it began. I followed him, wanted to be like him, dress like him, the
coolest cat. He loved everybody. People don’t give Sammy enough credit – he
wasn’t just a song and dance man, but a great humanitarian. He died penniless
because gave all his money to everybody.”
Davis took him on tour
of Golden Boy to London when he was
25. That’s when he discovered he was adopted by James and
Pauline Vereen, when he applied for a passport.
went on to be cast opposite Sammy Davis Jr. in the film version of Sweet
Charity, and then as Davis’ understudy in Golden Boy in England.
life changed – and nearly ended – on one fateful day in 1992 when he had three
accidents the same day that put him in an ICU for 42 days when doctors thought
he might never walk again.
don’t remember being hit
by a car. The interesting thing about the spirit which inhabits this body, it
decides to take a break, ‘but I’ll be back’. All I remember – Pamela [Cooper, his
manager] told me this – I was driving and hit a tree, which damaged an artery
in my brain. I was walking home, got a stroke, and was hit by an SUV.
Amazingly, it was somebody I knew – David Foster, who I had met in Canada, a
famous songwriter who wrote for Whitney Huston, Celine Dion, who had said, “We
should get together.’ He could have left
me and I wouldn’t be sitting here today but he stayed; he called 911, cradled
me, waited for paramedics. They flew me to the hospital ICU. They told me I had
a broken my left leg, suffered a stroke on right side, took out my spleen, I
had an apparatus attached to my head, and a trach. The last thing I remember
was getting into my car.”
“[In my mind I am
thinking] what happened, why am I here? I can’t talk. All these things are going
through your mind – this can’t be happening, I have show on Saturday.
“They told me it will be
at least three years if you’ll ever walk again. At that point, I had just met a
wonderful woman, Rev. Doctor Johnnie Coleman in Chicago [known as the “First
Lady of the New Thought Christian Community] who taught metaphysics and would say, ‘Whenever you have something negative coming
at you, learn this mantra, Cancel. That’s only man’s perception. Cancel.”
Meanwhile, he reflected, people crowded the hospital lobby praying for him. “There were letters, boxes of letters come in. Looking at boxes, thinking were bills, but they were from you [the fans].”
“[The doctors were
saying] ‘We think you should think about another occupation.’ So when they sent
in an occupational therapist, I thought they were to get me a new occupation
instead of teaching me fine motor skills. Cancel, Cancel – I couldn’t talk.
“I said to myself if I
can’t walk again, Lord, whatever you want me to do I’ll do… I had to show up – I
couldn’t just lay there and ask God to heal me. I got to show up.”
“The thing about prayer,
how it works – the doctor instinctively knew where to cut- spirit is always
working in our favor. Steven Hawkins became my hero – if you can do that with Steven
Hawkins, here I am.”
At the rehabilitation
center in Kessler, NJ, he recalls, “There was a young man who had been shot
named Michael Jackson, an orderly called Juice because he delivered the juice
but his real name was Glen Miller, a therapist named Jerry Lewis.
“You don’t have the
luxury of a negative thought. But I did what no one thought I could do, get
back on Broadway.”
He was told there would
be a part for him in Jelly’s Last Jam
if he could be ready.
The therapists from
Kessler went to show, and said, “We can do this, and a few months later, I walked
on stage in Jelly’s Last Jam.
“Hear what that story is
really about: the inner spirit is stronger than our physical human
understanding of who we are. The idea, called surrender, take me as I am, I
what he considers the highlight of his career, he reflects back to Roots.
“I heard about a show, Roots. Every African American in the
world wanted to be a part of that. I go back to the same agent who said Pippin
won’t make it and told him ABC was brave enough to put on show, Roots and I wanted
to be a part. ‘Be real,’ he said. ‘They’re looking for actors. You’re song and
dance man. So I went to Chicago –I was introducing Sister Sledge – then went to
Savannah,Georgia. I did a character Bert Williams – African Americans in show
business had to wear blackface and Williams made it art form. I did a tribute
to him. [Roots’ producer] Stan Margulies knocked on my door and said he loved
the show. ‘We’re shooting Roots for ABC, I want you to be my Chicken George.’ I
fired my agent and off to Hollywood I went.”
In being awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Gold Coast Arts Center, Ben Vereen is in good company. Previous honorees and special guests of the Gold Coast International Film Festival include film industry VIPs Francis Ford Coppola, Hugh Grant, Robert Wagner, Jill St. John, Baz Luhrmann, Brian Dennehy, Paul Sorvino, Ed Burns, Bruce Dern, Isabella Rossellini, Lou Diamond Phillips, Morgan Spurlock, Eli Wallach, Gabriel Byrne, Jacques Pepin, Bill Plympton, Phil Donahue, Phylicia Rashaad, Joan Allen, Jay McInerney and Michael Cuesta, as well as composer Morton Gould, artists James Rosenquist, Oleg Cassini, Edwina SandysandBob Gruen, comedian Susie Essman, Broadway stars Kelli O’Hara, Melissa Errico andSavion Glover, and 4-time Oscar winner for production and costume design Catherine Martin.
The 9th annual Gold Coast International Film
Festival taking place From November 4-13, 2019, presents more than 80
feature-length and short films in venues throughout North Hempstead, Long
Island and an opportunity to
This year’s highlights
include The Two Popes, starring Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan
Pryce; which will be the Festival’s Closing Night Spotlight Film. Other films
of note this year include Marriage Story, starring Scarlett Johansson and
Adam Driver, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, the winner of the Best Screenplay at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and Clemency, starring Alfre Woodard, which won the Grand Jury Prize at
the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.
The Festival will also be screening By the Grace of God, the
Grand Jury Prize winner at the 2019
Berlin International Film Festival.
“Films are a unique
art form, bringing together drama, dance, music, art in 90 minutes. It’s one of
the most accessible and affordable art forms. You come together with 200
others, smile, laugh, cry, think, learn, and sometimes be moved to action. How
often do you get to hear from artists and creators how and why they made the
film?” reflected Caroline Sorokoff, the festival director.
Among the narrative
films that will provoke thought and action, “Wasted! The Story of Food Waste”
from executive producer Anthony Bourdain, co-sponsored by Island Harvest, the
first film in a new Gold Coast series spotlighting social issues of concern to
The Gold Coast Arts
Center is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to promoting the
arts through education, exhibition, performance, and outreach. Located on
the North Shore of Long Island, it has brought the arts to tens of thousands of
people from toddlers, tweens, teens to totterers throughout the region for 25
years. Among the Center’s offerings are its School for the Arts, which
holds year-round classes in visual and performing arts for students of all ages
and abilities; a free public art gallery; concerts and lectures; film
screenings and discussions; the annual Gold Coast International Film Festival;
and initiatives that focus on senior citizens and underserved communities.
These initiatives include artist residencies, after-school programs, school
assemblies, teacher-training workshops, and parent-child workshops. The Gold
Coast Arts Center is an affiliate of the John F. Kennedy Center for the
Performing Arts Partners in Education program, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. More information can
be found at www.goldcoastarts.org.
For information about
upcoming films in the Festival’s year-round film screening program plus the
latest news on the 2019 Festival visit www.goldcoastfilmfestival.org 516-829-2570.
is a relatively easy Par 2 on the Global Scavenger Hunt, now midway through the
23-day around-the-world mystery tour. We have just 30 hours here, but our visit
will largely be shaped by the celebration of the Greek Orthodox Easter (we seem
to be hitting all the destinations on a religious holiday). We arrive on the
Greek Orthodox Good Friday and one of the challenges is to experience the
distinctive celebration. It’s hard to miss. Every church has a similar ritual.
I walk down from the Grand Hyatt Hotel where we have arrived in the midday, to
the Plaka, stopping to reflect on Hadrian’s Arch before I take the narrow
street that leads me to the 11th century Byzantine church, where
devotees are coming.
is particularly interesting, since so far on the Global Scavenger Hunt we have
been immersed in Buddhist culture, then Islamic. Athens is Christian, but it is
also the birthplace of democracy and Western Civilization, as it is known, and
the entranceway to Europe.
I feel very at ease, very comfortable here – partly because this is my third time in Athens and I have spent a relatively lot of time here, but also because it is, well, European, modern, hip, artful – even with its ongoing economic and political problems (though it seems to me the economy has much improved since my last visit).
I am waiting and watching, another of our GSH teams, Transformed
Travel Goddesses (aptly named in Athens), comes up the street and we watch
together. It turns out to be quite a long wait. I had been told
that at 7 pm, the priest comes out and the faithful ring the church. The
service is underway at 7 pm that we can hear from outside; the crowds really
thicken but it isn’t until 9 pm that the priest comes out, leading a
procession. People light candles and follow the procession of the cross and funerary
flowers through the streets.
join the crowd as they wind their way through the narrow streets below the
Acropolis, and when we turn to a different direction, we meet the procession
again. All the streets are flooded with similar processions – candles moving
like ripples of water through the narrow streets. People jam the outdoor
restaurants as well. We visit another small Byzantine church where the frescoes
are absolutely stunning.
next day, I immerse myself in Athens (some of the scavenges lead teams out to
the Peloponnese and the Theater of Epidaurus which I visited on a boat/bike
tour some years ago, and to accomplish them in the brief timeframe, rent a
car).I just want to soak in Athens. I have a list of four major places to
visit, starting with the Acropolis, then the historic Agora, the flea market at
Monasteraki (originally the Jewish quarter), and the National Archeological
walk from the Grand Hyatt to the Acropolis. I don’t have the luxury this time
of organizing my visit for the end of the day when the sunlight is golden and
the crowds are less, so fold myself into the crush of people, satisfied that so
many appreciate history and heritage.
can see the historic Agora from the Acropolis that commands Athens’ hilltop,
and I walk down the stone promenade.
historic Agora is one of the most fascinating archaeological sites and museums
anywhere and tremendously exciting to “discover” as you walk through the paths
lined with colonnades, statues, and come upon the ruins. Here you see the ruins
of what is in essence the “downtown” and Main Street of ancient Athens. The Agora was the political center for Athens, and because it was a
gathering place, also became a commercial center. Courts were held (though
capital crimes were tried outside its boundary, so the blood on a murderers’
hands not pollute the public space).
are the important institutions including what might be called the first
“parliament,” the Bouleuterion, where those
participating in the Assembly of the Five Hundred sat. I actually find
it more intriguing and interesting to explore than the Acropolis. Here in this
one site, is the essence of the Greek Republic that birthed democracy.
Walk down the boulevard lined with statues of Giants (in Greek tradition, Titans were first, then the Giants, then the Olympian gods), to a headless torso of the Roman Emperor Hadrian, who respected and admired Athenian culture and enhanced it with his Library and other institutions, but threw Christians to the lions (and wasn’t so great for Jews, either).
The homage Athenians paid to him is indicated
by the decoration on his breastplate depicting the goddess Athena standing on a
wolf suckling the twins, Romulus and Remus, the mythical founders of Rome. But
the headless statue was contemptuously thrown into the sewage ditch by early
Christians (who also defiled the Parthenon and most of the statues denoting
devotion to paganism), and only discovered in the sewer when they excavated. The
Hadrian Statue stands near the Bouleuterion, or Council House, where the 500
representatives of the 10 tribes met, would have been – in essence, the first
House of Parliament.
Above, on a hillside, is the beautiful Temple
of Hephaistos (5th C BC) but just to the side is believed to have been a
synagogue, serving a Jewish community that had existed in Athens at least since
3rd C BC and possibly as early as 6th C BC. This is based on finding etched
marble – in essence, a sign for the synagogue, which comes from the Greek words
“synagein,” which means “to bring together” and the same root word as
“agora” which means “a place of assembly.” (I learned this on my
previous trip, during a Context walking tour, which then led me to The Jewish Museum of Greece, where you
learn about Europe’s oldest Jewish settlement, 39 Nikis St., 105 57 Athens,
Greece, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.jewishmuseum.gr).
You should allocate at least an hour or two at the Ancient Agora in order to have
time to visit a superb museum, housed in the reconstructed Stoa of Attalos, a
2nd C BC building that was restored in1952-56 by the American School of
Classical Studies to exhibit the artifacts collected at the site.
Artifacts on display show how citizens (a
minimum of 6000 were necessary) could vote to “ostracize” a politician
accused of corruption. You also see the lottery system used to pick jurors
(they paid 1/3 drachma to buy a strip in which to write their names, and if
selected, would receive a drachma pay), and the devices used to record their
verdict. There is an intriguing collection of small cups that were used by
prisoners sentenced to death to take hemlock, considered a more merciful end; one
of these cups could well have been used by Socrates, who was sentenced to death
for teaching the heresy of denying 12 gods at a time when paganism was the
official religion (he supported the idea of a single spirit, which makes me
think he might have been influenced by the Jewish community that was already
established in Athens).
tickets are available that provide access to the Acropolis, Acropolis Museum,
Ancient Angora and several other important sites.)
walk through the flea market at Monasteraki, which, interestingly like the
market next to the synagogue in Yangon, Myanmar, was originally Athens’ Jewish
Quarter, and through neighborhoods and shopping districts to reach the National
Archaeological Museum. The museum (which closes early at 4 pm because of Easter
Saturday, forcing me to rush through) has the most magnificent collection of
gold from Mycenae; statues, bronzes. I also come upon a special exhibit
examining the concept of “Beauty.”
You see the Golden Mask of King Agamemnon, excavated by Heinrich Schliemann at
Mycenae in 1876 (which I learned from my last visit’s tour with a docent is
actually centuries older than Agamemnon’s reign, but they keep the name for
“marketing” purposes), and spectacular gold ornaments and funeral
objects that suggest a belief in an afterlife.
There are two of only five full-scale bronzes
left in the world: one, a national symbol of a standing god (Zeus or Poseidon,
it isn’t clear because the tool he would have held, a lightning bolt or a
trident, has been lost) was saved because the boat sank that was carrying it to
Rome to be melted down for weapons, and was found in 1926 by fisherman; the
other is a magnificent bronze statue, 1000 years old, of an African boy on a
racing horse made during the time of Alexander the Great, when the expansion of
Greek’s empire brought exotic themes into the art, that was saved by being
shipwrecked – it is so graceful, so elegant, so charged with energy, it looks
like it could run away.
There is also a vase with the first sentence
(or rather, the oldest known sentence) written in Greek language: “Now I belong
to the man who is the best dancer.” (I think to myself, what pressure on a
person to write the first sentence to go down in history! Or, for that matter,
the inventor of the “space” between words, which had not existed in
stay in the museum until they literally kick me out, fascinated to read the
descriptions, which I find enlightening and surprisingly current, with lessons
for today in the interplay between trade, migration, innovation, science and
social and political movements:
“In the 6th C BC, the Greeks dominated the
Mediterranean and the Black Sea….The impressive dispersion of the Greeks and
the founding of new Greek colonies and trading posts were the result of long
processes of migration…
nature of the economy underwent a radical change as a result of the growth of
trade. A new class of citizens emerged who were conscious of liberty and its
potential and now demanded the right to play an active role in the running of
public affairs. The 6th C BC saw the consolidation, after major
social upheavals and political changes, of the distinct personality of the
Greek city-state. Intense social disturbances set most of the cities on the
road to democratic constitutions, making an important stop along the way at the
institution of the tyranny.
liberty that was characteristic of the Greek way of life and which governed
their thinking finds eloquent expression in their artistic creations…Works of
art and artists moved freely along the trade routes. The wealth and power of
the city-states were expressed in the erection of monumental, lavishly adorned
temples and impressive public welfare works.
turned their attention to the natural world and to phenomena that gave rise to
philosophical speculation, formulative ideas such as those of matter, the atom,
force, space and time, and laying the foundations of science. Flourishing Ionia
was the region in which philosophy and science first evolved. By the end of the
century, the thriving Greek cities of Southern Italy and Sicily, known as Magna
Graecia, were sharing in these astounding intellectual achievements. At the
same time, the first prose works were written, taking the form of local
histories or geographies containing an abundance of mythological elements and
continuing the brilliant tradition of 7th century poetry.”
of the Easter holiday, and our limited time, and the fact that I have visited
twice before, I miss an otherwise not-to-be-missed Athens attraction, the New
walk through Athens is fabulous, taking me through neighborhoods, and I get to
see Athens’ gallery of street art, with its political and social tinge. Indeed,
taking photos of at least five street art murals is one of the scavenges (you
have to explain where you found them, 25 points).
back through the Plaka, I bump into Bill Chalmers, the ringmaster of our 23-day
Global Scavenger Hunt, Pamela and their son Luka – it turns out to be a team
challenge to photograph them (whichever team sends in the photo first wins the
been a challenge to “see” Athens in just 30-hours, let alone venture out to the
Peloponnese. But our quick visits, one country, one culture, after the next,
paints the rarest of pictures of our common humanity in our mind’s eye. We are
becoming global citizens.
helps us along with the design of his scavenges, and in each location, he
provides language sampler (for Athens, he offers “I am sorry”, “what is your
name,” “Can you speak more slowly,” as well as icebreakers to start
conversations with a local, and questions to ponder.
walk back to the hotel to meet several of us who are sharing a van to get back
to the airport. Our deadline and meeting place is 8:30 pm at the airport.
to Marrakech, Morocco.
Excellent visitor planning tools of Athens are at www.thisisathens.org. Also, the Athens Visitor Bureau offers a wonderful program that matches visitors with a local Athenian volunteer who goes beyond the traditional guidebook sights to take you to local neighborhoods, http://myathens.thisisathens.org/
The Global Scavenger Hunt is an annual travel program that has been operated for the past 15 years by Bill and Pamela Chalmers, GreatEscape Adventures, 310-281-7809, GlobalScavengerHunt.com.
The climax of Cradle of Aviation Museum’s family friendly Apollo 11 50th anniversary Moon Fest was the countdown to the landing of a scale model of the Eagle lunar module timed with a video of the actual landing.
But there was so much more during the day. Some 2500 people
turned out to take part in events and activities.
They delighted in meeting three Space Shuttle astronauts,
who gave talks and signed autographed photos: Bill Shepherd (a former Babylon
resident, who was in the first crew and literally turned on the lights in the International
Space Station and lived in space for140 days) & Charlie Camarda (of Ozone
American engineer and a NASA astronaut who flew his first mission into space on
board the Space Shuttle mission STS-114 and served as Senior Advisor for
Engineering Development at NASA Langley Research Center) and
Bob Cenker, a payload specialist and crew member on the seventh flight of Space
Among the docents and guides are many former Grumman workers who helped build the machines and communications that put astronauts on the moon and the International Space Station, as well as space enthusiasts, like Matt Arnold, who, after giving a guided tour of the Space exhibit, shows us the model of the International Space Station that he built for the museum. Richard Kalen, of Hicksville, who had helped assemble the wings on the Shuttle, explained what went wrong to cause the Challenger and Columbia tragedies.
There were moon buggy races, where kids got to traverse a “lunar
obstacle course” driving electric lunar rovers; launched water-bottle rockets
they built and decorated; looked through solar telescopes; saw student-built robotics
demonstrations from the First Lego League; posed for photos with the superhero
characters from the not-for-profit NY Avengers Cosplayers.
There were also screenings of the Apollo 11 First Steps
Edition documentary in Cradle’s immerse Dome Theater and a virtual reality
experience where you explore the inside and outside of the Apollo 11 with
Microsoft’s Mixed Reality and HoloLens technology.
Then, at 4 pm, they crammed into the atrium to watch a video
of the actual Apollo 11 landing, as a scale model of the Lunar Module descended
in concert with the actual events.
The celebration continued into the evening with a dinner
menu matching the same beef-and-salmon menu served to the astronauts at the
White House and dancing to the music of the 1960s.
Cradle of Aviation Museum, home of the Lunar Module, is currently exhibiting
the largest collection of Lunar Modules, Lunar Module parts, artifacts, photos,
and documentation in the world.
There is still time to
visit the Apollo Space Exhibit. Here are 11 “must sees”:
1. Grumman Lunar Module LM-13 – the crowned jewel of
the museum. The LM-13 was intended for the Apollo 19 mission to Copernicus
Crater in 1973, which was ultimately cancelled. It is one of three Lunar
Modules left on earth. The other two are at Kennedy Space Center and
Smithsonian’s Air & Space. It is presented in a re-created lunar surface
scene with a mannequin wearing an actual Apollo spacesuit.
Cradle of Aviation Museum and Education Center is home to over 75 planes and
spacecraft representing over 100 years of aviation history and Long Island’s
only Giant Screen Dome Theater. Currently, the museum is celebrating
“Countdown to Apollo at 50” sponsored by the Robert D.L.
Gardiner Foundation, showcasing Long Island and Grumman’s significant role in
the Apollo program. The Museum was recently recognized and listed on New York
State’s National Register of Historic Places as a significant part of American
history. The museum is located on Museum Row, Charles Lindbergh Blvd., in East
Garden City. For more information call (516) 572-4111 or visit www.cradleofaviation.org.
County Executive Laura Curran, who donned a replica space suit, and NASA astronaut
Babylon resident Bill
on hand at the Cradle of Aviation Museum to officially begin the countdown to
the 50th Anniversary celebration of the first lunar landing, July
20, 1969. They were joined by Grumman
Engineer Ross Brocco, Museum President Andy Parton and Museum Curator Josh Stoff.
will shine a light on one of the greatest
human and technological achievements in history,” Parton said.
events that start at 9:30 am reach a climax with a Community Countdown at 4:17
pm to collectively watch, re-experience, and honor as a community, the historic
“The Eagle has Landed” Lunar Module landing on the moon. A model of the Lunar
Module will descend from the ceiling, precisely on time.
Shepherd, who was in the first crew on the International Space Station (“We
turned on the lights”) and lived in space for 140 days, sees the importance of
Cradle of Aviation Museum, with its active STEM education programs and the
ability for people, young and old, to interact with exhibits – like climb into
a Gemini capsule, land a Space Shuttle, and in the current exhibit, enter a
space habitation on Mars, and the largest collection of Apollo artifacts in the
world, including an actual lunar module which was built by Grumman in Bethpage
for Apollo 19, a moon mission that was scrubbed.
lunar landing was one of humankind’s epic achievements,” said Shepherd, who
will be on hand during the day to interact with museum goers. “Beyond Apollo,
it ignited a process that is still going on. NASA is on course to go back to
the moon, a steppingstone to planetary expedition to Mars. Children today may
critically vital, he said, for children to have the opportunity to be exposed
to “first-hand” science, as opposed to watching documentaries on television. “Education
is turning to project-based and experiential learning, versus textbooks. Here,
kids get to see for themselves. The tangible makes learning enjoyable.”
pointed to the Cradle of Aviation as one of the best museums – even attractions
– on Long Island. “It is such an asset in the heart of our county..
July 20, in addition to the Apollo events, there will be former Grumman
engineers and employees who helped build the lunar module and the equipment
that made the space program possible, among them Ross Bracco, a structural
engineer at Grumman who is now a volunteer at Cradle of Aviation Museum.
Shepherd will lead two “episodes” allowing kids to design their own lunar
noted that the moon, itself, remains a mystery – how it was created more than 4
billion years ago – was it knocked off from earth or form separately? “We don’t
know but maybe some kids here will research.” He said the moon has been static
for 4 billion years, unlike the earth which is “dynamic” and changing, so is a
time piece that can shed light on what the solar system was like 4 billion
years ago. “We are learning about the moon’s relationship to the earth.”
you can even get a whiff of what the moon smells like in one of the exhibit.
On Saturday, July 20, 2019,
thousands of people will be joining together at the Cradle of Aviation Museum
to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 mission. The Cradle
of Aviation, home of the Lunar Module, is celebrating all day and night with
two festive events to give the community an opportunity to learn, reflect,
remember, & jointly celebrate, all the wonder, achievement, and pride that
will be events throughout the day:
COMMUNITY COUNTDOWN TO LUNAR
LANDING – Join in a Community Countdown at 4:17 pm to collectively
watch, re-experience, and honor as a community, the historic “The Eagle
has Landed” Lunar Module landing on the moon.
ASTRONAUT ENCOUNTERS with Space
Shuttle Astronauts Bill Shepherd (Babylon) & Charlie Camarda (Ozone
Park), both from Long Island, and Bob Cenker.
MOON BUGGY RACES – Traverse a
lunar obstacle course driving an electric lunar rover. (kids)
VIRTUAL REALITY – Explore the
inside and outside of the Apollo 11 up close and personal with Microsoft’s
Mixed Reality and the Microsoft HoloLens technology.
APOLLO 11 FIRST STEPS in IMAX –
Experience a free showing of the new highly-acclaimed documentary, Apollo
11 First Steps Edition in our immersive Dome Theater.
SOLAR TELESCOPES- Explore the
sun with a special purpose solar telescope.
LAUNCH ROCKETS – Build,
decorate, then launch a water bottle rocket.
ROBOTICS DEMONSTRATIONS – View
and interact with student-built robotics from the First Lego
VISITS FROM THE UNIVERSE – The
not-for profit, NY Avengers Cosplayers are assembling at the Cradle to
celebrate the American heroes who contributed to the successful lunar
Museum opens at
9:30am. Family activities are 12:00 – 4:00pm. Countdown begins at 4:00pm.
Then, from 7-11 pm, is
the Apollo at Countdown Celebration, a lively dinner and champagne toast with
music and dancing, as the community comes together to watch and re-experience
the unforgettable first steps on the moon at 10:56 pm with a special moon
landing viewing and countdown.
Astronauts Bill Shepherd (Babylon) & Charlie Camarda (Ozone Park), both
from Long Island, and Bob Cenker, will be in attendance.
Tickets to either
event can be purchased at www.cradleofaviation.org/apollo or
by calling Reservations 516-572-4066 (M-F) 10:00am-4:00pm) Grumman Retirees and
Museum Members, may call Reservations for discounted tickets. Proceeds to
Benefit Museum Education and Preservation Programs.
Cradle of Aviation
the reason there is such a world-class space and aviation museum here on
Charles Lindbergh Avenue, named for the famous aviator, is that this is indeed
the cradle of aviation – it is located on what was Mitchel Air Force Base
Field, which, together with
nearby Roosevelt Field and other airfields on the Hempstead Plains, was the
site of many historic flights , most significantly, where Lindbergh set off for
his historic transatlantic solo flight to Paris and it was on Long Island that
so much of the aviation industry and innovations happened. In fact, so many seminal flights occurred in
the area, that by the mid-1920s the cluster of airfields was already dubbed the
“Cradle of Aviation”, the origin of the museum’s name.
events and exhibits also pay homage to Grumman engineers who designed and built
the lunar exploration module (LEM), and there is an actual LEM on exhibit – the
only actual LEM of the three modules on exhibit (the three that went to the
moon remained there). This one was built by Grumman for Apollo 19 but that
mission was scrubbed.
can also see mock-ups of Grumman engineers in a “clean room” building a LEM.
of Aviation museum has the largest collection of Apollo artifacts anywhere –
the space exhibits are phenomenal and include simulators and a real moon rock.
so it was fitting at one of the Apollo 50th events held in recent
weeks, the Gold Coast International Film Festival screening of “First Man,” as
part of its Science on Screen series, three former Grumman engineers who worked
on Apollo project related their experience.
who was a co-op engineering intern running technical tests on the Lunar
Excursion Module landing gear and in the Cold Flow area for final ascent &
descent stage system tests before delivery to NASA, reflected, “Had we never had the Apollo1 tragedy, where three astronauts were
lost, the likelihood of doing a successful lunar landing was low…The post-fire evaluation of the design of command
module found so many things inadequately or improperly or stupidly designed-
not the least was the hatch which opened in instead of out so that in a
pressurized environment, it couldn’t open. NASA’s oversight over all the contractors
doubled or tripled. So the prevailing theory is that if that fire hadn’t
happened, design defects could have caused a situation where Apollo 11 couldn’t
Richard Dunne, who was
the chief spokesman for the Grumman Corporation, which
designed and built the Apollo Lunar Module: “The fire
forced a redesign of everything
in the command module and lunar module.” He also reflected on how close it was
that the United States might not have won the space race at all “Two weeks
before Apollo 11 launched, the Russians attempted moon shot, but it exploded.
The way the United States knew about it was because our spy satellites detected
Mike Lisa, who worked
as an engineer on the Lunar Excursion Module in 1963 until the program ended
and spent 36 years at Northrop Grumman, said, “The most important thing was to bring the astronauts
back healthy. A device called a tumbler would grab the LEM on both sides and
flip it around – tumble and turn – to shake anything that might have been loose
inside. On this particular day, I was working in a semi-clean room – we wore white
jackets and different hats to show what we working on – and tumbling, there was
a clink and a nut fell on the floor. The NASA inspector was there and shut the
room down for a whole week, but we all had to be on station, 24/7, waiting for
permission to reopen.”
Inspiring Future Generations Through Learning
Cradle of Aviation Museum
originally opened with just a handful of aircraft in the un-restored hangars in
1980. A major renovation and expansion program in the late 1990s allowed the
museum to re-open in a state-of-the-art facility in 2002. Additional expansion
plans are currently under development. The museum is an educational center
preserving Long Island’s contribution to aerospace, science and technology by
inspiring future generations through learning.
The Cradle of Aviation Museum and Education Center today is home to over 75 planes and spacecraft representing over 100 years of aviation history and Long Island’s only Giant Screen Dome Theater. The museum has been celebrating “Countdown to Apollo at 50” sponsored by the Robert D.L. Gardiner Foundation, through much of the year, showcasing Long Island and Grumman’s significant role in the Apollo program. The Museum was recently recognized and listed on New York State’s National Register of Historic Places as a significant part of American history. The museum is located on Museum Row, Charles Lindbergh Blvd., in East Garden City. For more information call (516) 572-4111 or visit www.cradleofaviation.org.
Michael Arenella and his Dreamland Orchestra are hosting its
14th annual Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island this summer – as
Arenella notes, just one year shy of 100 years since the Roaring 20’s got
underway. His homage to the Jazz Age era brings out the best of New York, with
ladies donning their flappers dresses, feathers, sequins and pearls, and the
fellows their straw hats, suspenders, bow ties and white linen suits. And each
year, it seems, there are more and more kids.
Michael Arenella, an aficionado of the Jazz Age, has
compiled a song book. He transcribes by hand the music from period recordings,
and introduces them with quaint tidbits.
“For Michael, the Jazz Age never really ended, it just fell
He really gets into character, and everyone thoroughly
enjoys the trip back in time, even looking every bit Gatsby-esque when he
marches his orchestra out among the picnickers and into a vintage Rolls Royce
This year features a return of his popular entertainers:
Robert Ross as Emcee; Roddy Caravella and the incomparable Canarsie Wobblers
putting on different dance routines; the Gelber & Manning Band; Peter
Mintun on the piano; Queen Esther and her jazz trio; Gretchen Fenston; Julie
The event typically starts off with a dance lesson
instructed by Roddy Caravella – on the Saturday, it was the Charleston, and in
the afternoon a Charleston contest which was won by by 9 ½-year old Aidan
The romantic mood really takes over on the dance floor as
Max Singer surprised his sweetheart, Bryanna Doe, with a proposal of marriage.
If you missed out on this rollicking good time, you have
another chance: Michael Arenella and his Dreamland Orchestra bring another Jazz
Age Lawn Party to Governors Island on August 24 & 25, noon to 6 pm.
Purchase tickets in advance www.jazzagelawnparty.com.
The New York Philharmonic’s 2019 Concerts in the Parks, Presented by Didi and Oscar Schafer, provided a stunning introduction to conductor Jaap van Zweden, completing his first season as the Philharmonic’s Music Director, leading the orchestra in a program of Rossini’s Overture to “La gazza ladra” (The Thieving Magpie); Copland’s “Hoe-Down,” from Rodeo; and Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2 in E Minor, Op. 27. The concert also featured astonishing compositions by two 12-year olds in the Philharmonic’s Very Young Composers (VYC) program, and their opportunity to hear their works performed by the full symphony orchestra in front of 50,000 people in Central Park and thousands more in concerts in Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx, Cunningham Park, Queens; and Prospect Park, Brooklyn. (For the schedule, see www.nyphil.org.)
In the 54 years that the New York Philharmonic has offered the Summer Concerts in the Parks (for the past 13 years, the series has been presented by Didi and Oscar Schafer), some 15 million people have enjoyed “priceless music absolutely free, under the stars” and with fireworks, no less. It is a vast communal picnic with music the food of love. Play on.
This is the second year that the concert has also showcased original compositions of its Very Young Composers – a program that was begun 20 years ago to give children an opportunity to learn about music in an after-school program in New York’s public schools, with the best of them being performed by members of the Philharmonic, and the very, very best by the full orchestra. There are some 200 students enrolled in schools all over the city; the Philharmonic also partners with schools around the country and the world to offer similar programs. (The director of Education and Community Outreach, Gary Padmore was on his way to Shanghai.)
Nilomi Weerakkody, a 12-year old who is a sixth grader at the Dalton School, composed “Soundscape for Orchestra,” turning the sounds of nature into a symphonic composition.
For “Ociantrose,” Mack Scocca-Ho,
a 12-year old who has been composing since he was 3, created an imaginary city,
Ociantrose, the capital of Myanolar. His composition celebrates Ociantrose’s
distinctive identity, a bustling city where order is not imposed by the
government but arises from the residents. The musical themes suggest “the
variety of people and the harmony emerging form independence.”
The Philharmonic is raising money
to subsidize its education programs – with a challenge that if it raises
$400,000 by August 31, a donor will match with $200,000 (go to www.nyphil.org).
Next season will showcase “Project
19,” marking the centennial of the 19th amendment with new works by
19 female composers – the largest commissioning program of women ever
undertaken by an orchestra, said Deborah Borda, the New York Philharmonic’s
President and Chief Executive Officer. Also, “Mahler’s New York” honors New
York’s past through two of his symphonies with an examination of the
composer-conductor’s time in the city. The “hotspots” festival focuses on three
“new” music centers – Berlin, Reykjavik and New York.
“New York is more than the
Philharmonic’s home,” Borda writes. “This city is in our blood and its high
standards fuel our planning and performances.”
Here are highlights from this
year’s Summer in the Parks concerts: