The Village Halloween Parade, normally an expression of exuberant creativity, this year had an added dimension of courage and defiance. The 44th annual parade went on, on schedule despite a terror attack that took place mere hours before and less than a mile from where tens of thousands of marchers and parade goers were gathering.
In what is New York City’s version of Carnival, the mile-long route along Sixth Avenue was transformed into a bestiary of fantastic hybrids, culled from the hallowed halls of Cryptozoology, fitting in with this year’s theme, “Cabinet of Curiosities: An Imaginary Menagerie”.
The theme was inspired by the likes of PT Barnum’s carnival-esque museum which featured “The Fiji Mermaid,” created with the head of a monkey on a taxidermied fish, and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein – the real and imagined curiosities, made all the more plausible by leading edge technology like CRISPR gene-splicing technology promises to unleash “a host of unholy hybrids into our midst,” said Jeanne Fleming, long-time
Artistic and Producing Director of the Village Halloween Parade.
“Halloween, of course, revels in hybrids, mash-ups and the frisson of crossed identities. So, as we approach Frankenstein’s bicentennial, we are building our own Cabinet of Wonders, the Parade itself!”
Many of the marchers, though, abandoned the theme in favor of subtle (and not subtle) protest, another element of the traditionally irreverent display, with lots of pot-shots at Donald Trump, his administration, and his policies.
Despite the tragic event earlier in the day when eight people were killed and 11 injured when a lone-wolf, self-proclaimed terrorist careened at high speed in a pickup truck one mile down the Hudson River Conservancy bikeway on the Westside Highway, the irreverent, devil-may-care attitude that is hallmark of the Village Parade was still paramount, even with the legions of police with assault weapons – they blended right in.
This year’s parade was also distinguished by two of the marchers: Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill DiBlasio, who joined the parade to show solidarity and hammer home the message: Go on with your lives.
One of the parade regulars put it more directly, as he embraced the parade’s artistic director Jeanne Fleming, “This is a giant F-U to the terrorists.”
Nothing could stifle was has been appropriately hailed as the “Greatest Event on Earth” by Festival International for October 31st and a top event in NYC by Events International, Citysearch and Biz Bash, the Village Halloween Parade is still the nation’s largest public Halloween celebration, with thousands of costumed marchers, hundreds of Halloween characters, giant masks and puppets, dozens of marching bands playing music from around the world stilt walkers, and street performers that turn the avenue into a mile-long stage.
The NYC Village Halloween Parade, which has always encouraged young and upcoming artists, this year selected as grand marshal an up-and-comer, Angelica Vox, who rode up the avenue on a float designed by Alexei Kazantsev, its first ever done in a New Orleans style.
The 12th annual Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governor’s Island nestled between the tip of Manhattan and Brooklyn ended on a high note, Sunday, August 27.
People of all ages, dressed to the nine’s in flapper dresses and glad rags, bearing wicker picnic baskets, stream from the ferries from Manhattan and Brooklyn, onto the island with its forts and structures from the Civil War and World War II. Mere minutes from Manhattan and Brooklyn, and yet a world and an era away.
A celebration of the “hot jazz” and joie de vie of the Roaring ‘20s, the festive event never fails to inspire sheer carefree happiness. It offers the full complexion, tapestry and vibrancy of New York – people of all ages and stripes turn out and for this all-too-brief time, help turn back the clock.
Conductor, composer, musician and crooner Michael Arenalla and his Dreamland Orchestra create this literal dream, with his meticulously recreated, personally transcribed songbook of the 1920s and 30s.
The entertainment abounds on two stages (and two dance floors): The Dreamland Follies evoke Ziegfeld-esque grand dance routines; Roddy Caravella and the Canarsie Wobblers is a fun-loving dance troupe that conjures the rebellious and exuberant spirit of Roaring ‘20s; Peter Mintun takes the moniker of “world’s greatest piano man”; the Gelber & Manning Band delight with their spirited music.
The event on Sunday, August 27, starts with Roddy Caravella and his wife Gretchen Fenston (who is also a milliner and costume designer in addition to being a ballroom dancer) giving a marvelous lesson in dancing The Peabody (which Caravella notes was created in 1915 by William Frank Peabody, a New York police lieutenant, who was a rather portly gent, who nonetheless loved a spirited, fast-paced dance; the innovation is in holding his partner on his right side to accommodate his girth. Caravella walks an enthusiastic group through the various movements: “The steps start and finish toe to toe,” (Caravella refers to gender-neutral “leaders” and “followers”), coming to the part of swirling the partner, “delicately flowering air” and the dipping motion.
The afternoon is interspersed with fun activities as well which you can join: Peabody Dance Contest to determine who is the Bee’s Knees; Bathing Beauties and Beaus Promenade, wearing vintage swimming outfits of the age; The High Court of Pie Contest.
The second stage features The Great Dubini and Drew Nugent and the Midnight Society.
You can immortalize the day in your own Vintage Portraits-You Ought To Be In Pictures, perched on a Paper Moons or in tintypes using the same techniques and chemicals (a mixture of gunpowder and ether) as were used more than a century ago; Antique Gramophones reanimate original recordings from the 1920s.
The only thing that bursts the illusion are the ubiquitous cell phones, but being captured in photos and videos streamed to Instagram seems as important to the happening as the music.
At the end, a rather sentimental Michael Arenella, showing his appreciation to his audience and fans, notes that when he originated the Jazz Age Lawn Party 12 years ago on Governors Island, it was just a small gathering of 50 friends and fans. The event has grown in popularity over the years “because of you,” who do so much to fulfill the look and feel of the 1920s and 30s. Some 20,000 fans come from all over during the course of the two weekends, in June and August.
Here are highlights of the Jazz Age Lawn Party in photos:
Can’t wait until next year’s Jazz Age Lawn Party? Michael Arenella also performs at The Clover Club, Flatiron Lounge and the Red Room. Visit www.DreamLandOrchestra.com.
This year’s New York Philharmonic Concerts in the Parks – its 52nd summer – provided a way to say farewell to Music Director Alan Gilbert. The series, presented for the past 11 years by Didi and Oscar Schafer, was a hug and a kiss to the 100,000 music lovers who come out to the free summer concerts (“priceless music, absolutely free”), at the Great Lawn in Central Park, Manhattan; Cunningham Park, Queens; Prospect Park, Brooklyn and Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx. This season’s program was also the Philharmonic’s 175th anniversary season celebration of its hometown, featuring masterworks by Dvořák (Symphony No. 9, From the New World), Leonard Bernstein (Symphonic Dances from West Side Story), and George Gershwin (An American in Paris) — all written in New York and premiered by the Philharmonic – and was the culmination of its season-long “The New World Initiative”.
Throughout the 2016–17 season, The New World Initiative has explored the New World Symphony’s theme of home and honors New York City and its role as an adopted home. The Philharmonic gave the World Premiere of the New World Symphony in 1893, marking the Orchestra’s first World Premiere of a work written in New York City that would become part of the standard repertoire. The Largo theme was later set to the words “Goin’ Home” by Dvořák’s student William Arms Fisher.
The New York Philharmonic’s free parks concerts have become an iconic New York summer experience since they began in 1965, transforming parks throughout the New York area into a patchwork of picnickers, and providing music lovers with an opportunity to hear the best classical music under the stars. More than 14 million listeners have been delighted by the performances since their inception.
Before the New York Philharmonic takes the stage, it has become a new custom to “Share the Stage” with local musicians. This year, that included BombaYo (Van Cortlandt Park); The Ebony Hillbillies and Zulal (Central Park), The queen’s Cartoonists and Slum Suit (Cunningham Park) and The Side Project (Prospect Park).
And at this year’s concerts in the parks series, audiences joined the Orchestra in community performances of the “Goin’ Home” theme from Dvořák’s New WorldSymphony, all part of The New World Initiativeand the Philharmonic’s 175th anniversary season celebration of its hometown. (Dvořák’s symphony also incorporates the Shaker hymn, “Simple Gifts.”)
We caught the concert at Cunningham Park, in Queens, which also featured fireworks display.
The program was a crowd-pleaser – the Symphonic Dances from West Side Story were simply transporting – and Gilbert looked extremely relaxed and joyful.
Alan Gilbert, who has stepped down as music director of NY Philharmonic, just revealed that he will be trading New York for Hamburg, Germany, leading the Elbphilharmonie Orchestra in the new Elbphilharmonie concert hall as chief conductor.
In a phone interview with the New York Times, Gilbert, a frequent guest conductor in Hamburg, said that the Elbphilharmonie’s vision aligned perfectly with his own paradigm for successful 21st-century orchestras. “It’s about how they connect to the cities they serve,” he said. “And one condition for that is the existence of a perfectly appropriate physical space. What’s going on there is related to what’s potentially going to happen here in New York with the idea of redoing David Geffen Hall.”
Gilbert bids farewell to New York in the parks concert program, writing, “It has been a privilege to stand upon this august platform and make decisions that have altered and enhanced New York City’s cultural landscape. When this Orchestra does artistic things, they are noticed, and they inspire others, far and wide. Ultimately, I know my tenure is just one chapter in the Philharmonic’s long story, and I look forward to seeing what comes next.”
As Music Director of the New York Philharmonic since 2009, Alan Gilbert has introduced the positions of The Marie-Josée Kravis Composer-in-Residence, The Mary and James G. Wallach Artist-in-Residence, and Artist-in-Association; CONTACT!, the new-music series; the NY PHIL BIENNIAL, an exploration of today’s music; and the New York Philharmonic Global Academy, partnerships with cultural institutions to offer training of pre-professional musicians, often alongside performance residencies. The Financial Times called him “the imaginative maestro-impresario in residence.”
Alan Gilbert concludes his final season as Music Director with four programs that reflect themes, works, and musicians that hold particular meaning for him, including Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony alongside Schoenberg’s A Survivor from Warsaw, Wagner’s complete Das Rheingold in concert, and an exploration of how music can effect positive change in the world. Other highlights include four World Premieres, Mahler’s Fourth Symphony, Ligeti’s Mysteries of the Macabre, and Manhattan, performed live to film. He also leads the Orchestra on the EUROPE / SPRING 2017 tour and in performance residencies in Shanghai and Santa Barbara. Past highlights include acclaimed stagings of Ligeti’s Le Grand Macabre, Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen, Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd starring Bryn Terfel and Emma Thompson (2015 Emmy nomination), and Honegger’s Joan of Arc at the Stake starring Marion Cotillard; 28 World Premieres; a tribute to Boulez and Stucky during the 2016 NY PHIL BIENNIAL; The Nielsen Project; the Verdi Requiem and Bach’s B-minor Mass; the score from 2001: A Space Odyssey, performed live to film; Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony on the tenth anniversary of 9/11; performing violin in Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time; and ten tours around the world.
Conductor laureate of the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra and former principal guest conductor of Hamburg’s NDR Symphony Orchestra, Alan Gilbert regularly conducts leading orchestras around the world. This season he returns to the foremost European orchestras, including the Leipzig Gewandhaus, Munich Philharmonic, Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw, and Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia. He will record Beethoven’s complete piano concertos with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields and Inon Barnatan, and conduct Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess at Milan’s Teatro alla Scala, his first time leading a staged opera there. He made his acclaimed Metropolitan Opera debut conducting John Adams’s Doctor Atomic in 2008, the DVD of which received a Grammy Award, and he conducted Messiaen’s Des Canyons aux étoiles on a recent album recorded live at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. Mr. Gilbert is Director of Conducting and Orchestral Studies at The Juilliard School, where he holds the William Schuman Chair in Musical Studies. His honors include Honorary Doctor of Music degrees from The Curtis Institute of Music (2010) and Westminster Choir College (2016), Columbia University’s Ditson Conductor’s Award (2011), election to The American Academy of Arts & Sciences (2014), a Foreign Policy Association Medal for his commitment to cultural diplomacy (2015), Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (2015), and New York University’s Lewis Rudin Award for Exemplary Service to New York City (2016).
Even if you were unable to get to the once-a-year Museum Mile Festival along Fifth Avenue on June 13, when six museums (some of them with pricey admissions) throw their doors open to one and all for free, it provided a marvelous preview of some spectacular exhibits that are on through the summer or fall.
At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, at the southern “border” of Museum Mile, I visited the Irving Penn Centennial, a marvelous survey of this brilliant photographer’s career and an opportunity to see the museum quality prints that would have been seen in the pages of important magazines like Vogue; the exhibit is on through July 30, 2017.
I went from Irving Penn Centennial to the “Age of Empires” exhibit of breathtaking sculpture and artifacts from the Qin and Han dynasties, spanning 221 BC to 220 AD, including near life-size but extraordinarily realistic statues of terracotta warriors from Xian (so life-like they appear to breathe) that I had seen for the first time when I visited what was at the time newly uncovered site in 1978 in China. This important exhibit is on view through July 16, 2017.
Then, I couldn’t resist, I luxuriated in the galleries devoted to Impressionists and Post-Impressionists.
Outside, the Met Museum hosted performance art – a troupe of dancers whose movements formed artistic poses. (My favorite time to visit is on a Friday or Saturday evening when the Met is open late, has music on the mezzanine; favorite place to eat is in the American Café in the sculpture garden; also, take a docent-led “Highlights” tour, which brings you all around the museum.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue (at 82nd Street), New York, NY 10028, (212) 535-7710 http://www.metmuseum.org/.
(My clever strategy was to start at the Met at 5 pm, giving me an extra hour of the Museum Mile Festival in order to cover more territory.)
I next visit the Neue Galerie New York and get my annual “fix” of the breathtaking “Woman in Gold” and other Gustav Klint paintings (Klint has become one of my favorite artists). The Austrian Masterworks exhibit is a celebration of the 15th anniversary of the museum’s founding, highlighting Gustav Klint, Oskar Kokoschka, Alfred Kubin and Egon Schiele.
The Solomon R.Guggenheim Museum, which always gets an enormous crowd for the Museum Mile festival, is featuring “Visionaries: Creating a Modern Guggenheim,” “Hugo Boss Prize 2016: Anicka Yi, Life is Cheap” Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1071 Fifth Avenue (at 88th Street) New York, NY 10128, (212) 423-3500, https://www.guggenheim.org/
Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum, which is part of the Smithsonian Institutions, a collection established by Sarah and Eleanor Hewitt as the Cooper Union Museum for the Arts of Decoration in 1897, housed in an exquisite mansion, is presenting a marvelous exhibit, “The Jazz Age: American Style in the 1920s” – bringing together the design elements of the era through a range of furnishings, architecture, clothing, paintings and music, and what made the designs so distinctive and reflective of cultural trends of the time. For example, “Bending the Rules,” the cross-pollination of American and European artists (“A Smaller World”), the infatuation with technology and machines. One of the special delights of the Cooper Hewitt is their interactive opportunities to create designs.
Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian National Design Museum, 2 East 91st Street (off Fifth Avenue) New York, NY 10128, 212-849-8400, http://www.cooperhewitt.org/
The Jewish Museum’s special exhibit this season also focuses on the 1920s, featuring the painter and poet and exemplar of the avant-garde, Florine Stettheimer. This was all new to me – I had never heard of her, or her incredible sisters, before (their independence, feminism and stunning range of creativity reminded me of the Bronte sisters, except these ladies did not keep their creative output a secret).
The Jewish Museum, 1109 Fifth Avenue, (between 92nd & 93rd Streets), New York, NY 10128, (212) 423-3200, www.thejewishmuseum.org.
The two exhibits – at the Cooper Hewitt and the Jewish Museum – are that much more inspiring to see contiguously, to have this extraordinary in-depth insight into the Jazz Age, a time of tumultuous change in culture, social mores and political currents on a scale that only recurred 40 years later, in the 1960s, and now. I became intrigued when I heard of the Jewish Museum’s exhibit at the Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island in June (you have another opportunity to enjoy this fantastic festival August 26 & 27, jazzagelawnparty.com; see story)
From there I walked further north, to just about the top of the Museum Mile with only about an hour to go of the festival.
The Museum of the City of New York always has smart, clever exhibits. The not-to-be missed exhibit, “New York at its Core,” that is on now is in three parts, in three different galleries. It explores the essential question, “What makes New York New York?” (Answer: Money, Diversity, Density, Creativity) and takes the city from its very beginnings (room-sized images of neighborhoods morph from centuries ago into today), to its development as a melting pot for cultures, and then lets viewers imagine what the city of the future should look like (“Future City Lab”) and how it should solve the challenges of affordable housing, greenspace, environment, transit, and so forth. One of the most interesting parts is a computer-generated animation that puts you into the scene.
Museum of the City of New York, 1220 Fifth Avenue (at 104th Street), New York, NY 10029 (212) 534-1672, http://www.mcny.org/
Then, at the end of the Museum Mile, El Museo Del Barrio is featuring “Belkis Ayon: Nkame” and “A Retrospective of Cuban Printmaker Belkis Ayon” El Museo del Barrio, 1230 Fifth Avenue (at 104th Street), New York, NY 10029, (212) 831-7272 (http://www.elmuseo.org/)
By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
New Yorkers love to dress up – any excuse to don a costume will do, but in the case of the Jazz Age Lawn Party, now in its 12th year on Governors Island, it is a chance to push back the clock and create your own community, a Gatsby-esque Brigadoon of sorts. It is the best of New York and brings out the best of New Yorkers. The music and atmosphere brings out pure joy.
For an entire afternoon on Saturday and Sunday of the weekend of June 10 and 11, and again on August 26 and 27, you are transported – quite literally by ferry – to the 1920s era of hot jazz. People of all ages, dressed to the nine’s as flappers and gents, bearing wicker picnic baskets, stream onto the island, with its forts and structures from the Civil War and World War II. A stone’s throw from Manhattan and Brooklyn, and yet a world and an era away.
Michael Arenella and his Dreamland Orchestra create this literal dream, with his meticulously recreated music of the 1920s.
There is impeccable faithful reproduction – even the cocktails are Speakeasy worthy and if you didn’t have appropriate attire, you could rent or buy vintage, take a tintype photo or a photo sitting on a blue moon with a vintage camera. Little boys are there with their caps and suspenders, little girls with hair bows. Interlude music is provided on vinyl recordings over antique gramophones.
At one point, Michael Arenella, who throughout the afternoon gives these wonderful asides about the music, says his trombone “is so old I have to use a string to keep the slide on- that’s how authentic we are, folks.”
The only thing marring the illusion are the ubiquitous cell phones.
Conductor, composer, musician and crooner Michael Arenella presents a personally transcribed, one-of-a-kind songbook for your listening and dancing pleasure by his Dreamland Orchestra, playing the Hot Jazz of the 1920s.
The entertainment abounds on two stages (and two dance floors): The Dreamland Follies evoke Ziegfeld-esque grand dance routines; Roddy Caravella and the Canarsie Wobblers is a fun-loving dance troupe that conjures the rebellious and exuberant spirit of Roaring ‘20s; Queen Esther pays tribute to jazz royalty of yore and Peter Mintun takes the moniker of “world’s greatest piano man”; Drew Nugent and the Midnight Society have come from Philadelphia, presents wry, spry, and certifiably Hot Jazz and the Gelber & Manning Band, feuding vaudevillian lovebirds quarrel, coo and make beautiful music together.
There are fun activities as well which you can join: Charleston Dance Contest to determine who is the Bee’s Knees; Bathing Beauties and Beaus Promenade, wearing vintage swimming outfits of the age (for entry email: firstname.lastname@example.org), The High Court of Pie Contest (categories include “Mom’s Best” “Best Savory ”, “Most Original” and “Hobo’s Choice”; for entry email: email@example.com).
The afternoon starts off with dance lessons in the hottest dance steps of the time, like the Charleston. You can immortalize the day in your own Vintage Portraits-You Ought To Be In Pictures, perched on a Paper Moons or in tintypes using the same techniques and chemicals (a mixture of gunpowder and ether) as were used more than a century ago; the ultimate family-friendly event also features Kidland carnival games and prizes for junior Gents and Flapperettes. There’s also a 1920s MotorCar Exhibition, where you can get up close and personal with flivvers and Tin Lizzies, and Antique Gramophones that reanimate original recordings from the 1920s.
And what would a Prohibition-era, speakeasy event be without booze? VieVité, Côtes de Provence Rosé is the official wine sponsor of the Jazz Age Lawn Party. In addition, refreshing summer cocktails feature Lejay, the official liqueur sponsor which created crème de cassis in 1841, and Bootlegger 21 NY Distilleries, crafted in Roscoe, NY, which is this year’s the official gin and vodka of Jazz Age Lawn Party,. Libations available also include ice cold beer, lemonade and soft drinks. (Take note: you can’t bring in your own alcoholic beverages.)
New for 2017, Dreamland Gourmet Picnic Totes, featuring freshly prepared, custom ordered lunches that you receive when you enter, complete with a chilled bottle of VieVité Rosé, and other treats! (included in all “Bee’s Knees and “Bonnie & Clyde” ticket packages).
People also took advantage of the Gourmet Picnic Market’s fancy picnicking fare, treats and snacks including ice cream, cotton candy, hot popped corn; the Dreamland General Store, offering picnic blankets, parasols, hand fans and assorted sundries; vintage clothing vendors and artisans who create a veritable village of timeless treasures.
What is so special about New York City’s TD Five Boro Bike Tour is how, for one day, you and 32,000 of your closest friends, feel like you own the city. The streets, bridges and highways – like Sixth Avenue, the FDR Drive, the Queensborough Bridge, the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and the Verrazano are your domain. It makes you giddy. Neighborhoods ring with sound and spirit – Greenwich Village, Harlem, Astoria, Greenpoint, DUMBO. Central Park’s blossoms seem to burst just for us.
The ride this year marked the 40th anniversary of this event, which is the largest noncompetitive bike tour in North America. The ride has come quite a long way from that first one, in 1977, when just 250 people participated.
Riders, who race to get a spot as soon as registrations open (participation is limited to 32,000 but could easily be thousands more), came from every state in the nation (yes, Hawaii and Alaska), and 1300 riders came from 43 countries, as far as Australia.
Bill Nye the Science Guy greeted the crowd as they lined up in downtown Manhattan, extending a mile, saying, “The bicycle is the most efficient machine known to humankind.” The ride, he says, brings the joy of movement, of being part of the city. Strong hearts. Free minds. Together we can change the world.”
New York City has really embraced biking, and now offers miles and miles of dedicated bike lanes – dozens more this year.
Manhattan Borough President Gail Brewer said that 750,000 New Yorkers now bike regularly, 50 percent more since 2012. “Thank you for your bike lane advocacy, for being healthy, for being part of the city’s future.”
The annual event raises money for bike education – 17,000 people a year learn how to ride, the largest free biking education program in the country. Bike New York operates bike education centers, after school programs, summer camps, and this year launched a Women’s Initiative, as well as its first membership program. “Alums” from the bike education program are joining the ride this year as “Student Ambassadors.”
Numerous charities such as Doctors Without Borders, also use the event for fundraising, purchasing registrations which participants then raise money against.
One of the charities is the Lighthouse Guild, a not-for-profit vision and healthcare organization with a long history of addressing the needs of people who are blind or visually impaired, and will have several cyclists who are blind riding tandem bikes including a former triathlete, Charles-Edward, who became blind five years ago.
The bike tour is also a model of sustainability, promoting recycling, water conservation, becoming the largest sporting event to be certified for sustainability by the Council for Responsible Sport 3 years ago and this year, earning gold level. Each rest stop featured “zero waste” recepticals.
The ride is designed to be a family friendly tour, not a competition, appealing to all abilities, ages – a pace car keeps the speed down, and keep it safe.
“Diversity is what makes the ride,” says Sam Polcer, who handles communications for Bike New York.
Indeed, everyone marvels at how well organized the ride is and all the precautions that are taken to make the ride safe. The route has also been improved to unplug some of the bottlenecks of years ago, so there is a nice flow.
And there is such a sense of liberation to take over New York City’s streets.
The ride embraces all five boroughs – and each shows off with street entertainment. In all, there were some 25 bands raising the spirits of the riders along the route, and at rest stops (Clif Bar sponsored a DJ and entertainment at the Con Ed rest area) and at the Finish Festival on Staten Island, where, for the first time, all the finishers received a commemorative 40th anniversary medal.
As in recent years, the event is preceded by a two-day Bike Expo, when cyclists can take advantage of discounts and giveaways by scores of bike, biking gear, and bike tour companies and destinations from the New York State’s Erie Canalway, to the Laurentians in Canada, to Taiwan, and special biking events like the Granfondo Campagnolo Roma, October 6-8, 2017, through the World Association of Cycling Events, along with Granfondo Campagnolo Roma.
In a first for the TD Five Boro Bike Tour’s 40th anniversary year, friends and family were able to follow their rider’s progress along the 40 mile route, by virtue of a chip embedded in the number card on each bike.
Riders could sign up to have their progress posted automatically on their Facebook or Twitter pages, or enter the phone numbers of up to three people to keep them updated via SMS (text), so that folks can know when they start the Tour, reach several rest areas along the route and finish.
The Gilded Lady seems to be resting peacefully, her painted visage staring up to the sky. But inside this container are the remains of a real woman who lived nearly 2000 years ago, and for the first time, the ancient coalesces with 21st century scientific techniques: we actually get to peer inside, probing down layer by layer to her mortal remains, and then, at a digitally reconstructed, 3-D image of her as she lived: this middle-aged woman was beautiful.
She has already traveled from Chicago where she lives at the Field Museum, to Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Denver and now she is reposing here in New York as part of Mummies, an extraordinary exhibit featuring one of the largest collections of mummies housed in North America that just opened at the American Museum of Natural History through January 7, 2018.
The exhibit provides an unparalleled glimpse into the lives and traditions of people from ancient cultures. It puts us face to face, head to head with people who lived their lives thousands of years ago, in Egypt and in Peru – two of the many cultures that practiced mummification. The contrasts and the similarities are striking, and just as their similarities speak to a unity of humanity, this extraordinary way of connecting past to present connects us as human beings. (And to bring about an even broader connection, increasing the span from thousands to 100s of thousands of years ago, be sure to visit the AMNH’s Human Evolution wing.)
“Mummies have long been fascinating, and now the intersection of these ancient relics and cutting-edge technology is revealing new and intriguing secrets,” said Ellen V. Futter, President of the American Museum of Natural History. “For generations, the Museum has studied and presented the diverse cultures of humanity, past and present, to help us better understand one another and ourselves. Today, when such understanding is more important than ever, Mummies invites us all to consider both what may be distinct among cultures and what is universal in the human condition.”
On a special, limited tour from the collections of The Field Museum in Chicago — and presented for the first time on the East Coast (the traveling exhibition has already been on view in Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Denver), Mummies showcases the ritually preserved remains of 18 individuals from ancient Egypt and pre-Columbian Peru. The Peruvian mummies that are on display have not been seen since they were exhibited at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.
Significantly, you get to discover how modern imaging techniques have transformed the study of mummification by letting researchers peer inside centuries-old mummies without disturbing or damaging them. Digital touchscreens let you “virtually” peer into Peruvian mummy bundles, layer by layer from the skin to the bones, as well as animal mummies buried as offerings to Egyptian gods. You also get to handle 3D-printed figurines of burial goods that were encased within mummy wrappings for millennia and only recently revealed.
“You may think you know mummies,” Futter said at a press preview, pointing to the most popular representations in horror movies. “That’s not what this show is about. This is serious business that simultaneously offers a window to the past – two different ancient worlds – and into the latest technology and study. You get a glimpse of actual people entombed – who they were, what their lives were like, what they looked like.”
“They are like messages from a different time – they are our sisters and brothers in a shared humanity. It may not be as sensational as a [horror] movie, but more amazing than you would have imagined.”
Indeed, most people – especially young people – have never actually seen a dead body before. The most profound experience in the exhibit is seeing the remains of a woman who lived 5500 years ago, whose bundled body was left in the Egyptian desert where it naturally mummified.
Indeed, it wasn’t just pharaohs and their spouses and other royal figures who were mummified, though their tombs and the possessions that were left with them reflected their station. This was the common practice – as people were lower and lower down the economic totem pole, the possessions that they would have been buried with were more and more modest.
In Egyptian society, it was also common for animals to be mummified and buried – there is a baboon and a crocodile in the exhibit. Cats were actually popular and David Hurst Thomas, the co-curator of the exhibit, said that archaeologists found cemeteries of a million mummified cats, manufactured for sale to be entombed with the loved one.
It is fascinating to have this view to contrast the Peruvian mummies (I’m betting few people have even realized that pre-Colombian Peruvian peoples practiced mummification), with the Egyptian burial practices. The two civilizations never interacted – mummification developed independently, indeed, on every continent but Antarctica, Dr. David Hurst Thomas, curator of North American archaeology, division of Anthropology and co-Curator of the Mummies exhibit, said at a press preview of the exhibit.
In Peru, mummification was intended to enable the living to stay connected with their loved ones. The body was carefully prepared and wrapped and then a mask was placed on top the canvas.
One of the scans of a bundle reveals that it is a woman with two children. The scans also show artifacts that have been buried with the individual.
The ancient Egyptians, in contrast, mummified their dead so that they could live on – their limbs intact – in the next world. The earliest mummies, like the 5500-year old woman, were not buried in elaborate pyramids or tombs, but were put into a pit grave. Over the centuries, the mummification process became more and more elaborate – organs were preserved in canopic jars and bodies placed in magnificently painted coffins with gilded masks.
By using these new technologies – most that have come from medicine – the scientists have been able to see artifacts that were buried with them, how a mother is buried with her two children (how did they die?).
“They have so much to teach us – medical infirmities, migration, interaction of societies,”
The Gilded Lady, for example, is utterly fascinating – you see her in her magnificently decorated coffin, and on the wall are the slides that show how her hair was curled, had a damaged spine, possibly as a result of tuberculosis. Based on the scan of her skull, they made a 3-D reconstruction using a 3-D printer, and from that, like a forensic scientist, re-created what she likely looked like in life – all of this in one view.
The gilded mask that we see was not meant to illustrate how the woman looked in life, but was an idealized portrait that had a purpose: the Ancient Egyptians believed that in the afterlife, the dead would need their faculties – eyesight, hearing, taste and smell. The masks allowed them to maintain these senses. The golden skin was used to show divinity: after death, the dead would be transformed into the god Osiris, who, like most gods, had skin of gold.
The Gilded Lady lays across the room from another mummy, named Minirdis according to the hieroglyphs on the coffin. The coffin was opened for the first time in a century for this exhibition. In examining the remains, researchers discovered the teenaged boy inside was mummified around 250 BC, or 200 years after the coffin was made, construction of the coffin, indicating that the mummified individual wasn’t Minirdis after all, and confirming that coffins were occasionally recycled (though might not the inscription have been added when the boy was buried?)
The hieroglyphs on the coffin say the name of the mummy who is supposed to go inside it – Minirdis, son of a priest. Preserving the person’s name was essential for their soul to reach the afterlife. Minirdis means “Min is the one who gave him,” and Min was a god of fertility. The inscription also says that Minirdis’ father, Inaros was a priest, in charge of purifying and clothing the god’s statue. The only problem was that the boy inside was mummified around 250 BC, or 200 years after the coffin was made, indicating that the mummified individual wasn’t Minirdis after all, but also confirming that coffins were occasionally recycled.
The scans of the body show that the coffin was too large for the body inside and the bones hadn’t fused, indicating that the body was a teenage boy.
The CT scans enabled scientists to generate 3D-printed skull reconstructions of both the “Gilded Lady” and Minirdis. Then, artist Elisabeth Daynès studied the replicas and built facial muscles and skin layer by layer. The hyper-realistic portraits in 3D. we meet at the end of the exhibit let us come face-to-face with these ancient people, seeing them as they may have looked in life —while their mummified remains sleep peacefully.
Peruvian Mummies On View for the First Time in a Century
We are much more familiar with Egyptian mummies, particularly with the sensational exhibits of King Tut and the artifacts uncovered from his tomb in the Valley of Kings, as well as the scientific analysis of his mummified remains. But this exhibit goes much further in its exploration of the cultural significance of the burial practice.
The first part of the exhibit focuses on the collection of Peruvian Mummies, which had not been seen in public since they were on display in the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.
People living along the Pacific coast of South America in what is now Peru began to mummify their dead more than 5,000 years ago. Scholars think that the Chinchorro culture (5,000–2,000 BC)—the world’s first practitioners of mummification—prepared the bodies of their loved ones personally, removing the deceased’s skin, de-fleshing the bones, and removing the organs before reinforcing the skeleton with reeds and clay and reattaching the skin. The mummy was then painted black or red and given a wig and an individualized clay portrait of the deceased.
In addition to the Chinchorro, dozens of societies in the region mummified their dead to remember and remain connected with the departed.
As we walk through the Mummies exhibit, we encounter a number of Peruvian mummy bundles, including the mummified remains of three children from the Chancay culture (AD 1000–1400), which placed their dead into a sitting position and wrapped them in layers of cloth.
The exhibit is very much hands-on, interactive, if you can believe it, because you get to do what scientists do, in penetrating the layers of scans to reveal the body contained in the wrappings, through the skin layer, to the bones.
There are digital touchscreens, where you can examine composite CT scans of these mummies and virtually “unwrap” them to reveal figurines and other burial offerings that are contained within, becoming surprised as surely the scientists were, when a scan reveals a mother with two children bundled together, or seeing the objects that were personal or prized which reveal so much about who they were in life.
A life-sized diorama of a Chancay pit burial demonstrates the common practice of interring members of an extended family together. These burial pits were accessible to living family members, allowing relatives to bring food or drink to their loved ones’ graves, or even to remove mummies to take them to festivals or other special events. We see examples of real burial offerings such as chicha (corn beer) pots.
Jim Phillips, curator of The Field Museum, tells me that the Peruvian mummies were uncovered on expeditions in the 1880s and 1890. This means they would have been recent finds – the most modern discoveries – when they were displayed at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.
Egyptian Mummies of the Nile Valley
Unlike people in Peru, ancient Egyptians believed the dead could live on in the next world if provided with a physical home, preferably within the body itself. This belief made it essential to preserve the corpse, and Egyptians used an elaborate process of mummification to halt the natural process of decay. Scholars posit that natural mummification—an example of which can be seen in the remains of a woman whose preservation occurred naturally in the hot, dry sand about 5,500 years ago—gave Egyptians the idea for artificial mummification.
Within centuries, ritual burial in Egypt evolved into a complex practice that included elaborate embalming, brilliantly decorated sarcophagi, and grandiose tombs designed to deter grave-robbers (we see magnificent limestone busts from sarcophagi that were an added layer of security to those who could afford this extra protection and would have weighed thousands of pounds). Organs that would hasten decay—the liver, lungs, intestines, and stomach—were removed, preserved, wrapped, and housed in separate containers. The heart—thought to be the source of emotion and intellect—often stayed in place, since it would be necessary in the afterlife, while the brain, thought to have no use, was removed through the nose. Forty days in salt desiccated the body, and embalmers then used resins, oils, and padding to restore its appearance before wrapping it in linen. Artifacts on view include a Ptolemaic Period mummy (332-30 BC) along with canopic jars containing the person’s organs. Here, there are stations where you can handle 3D-printed burial figurines that depict ancient Egyptian gods provide visitors with an opportunity to explore the hidden artifacts within its wrappings.
The objects found in Egyptian tombs were meant to provide for the deceased in the afterlife. Burials of wealthy Egyptians include their servants, represented by figurines called shawabti; ideally there would be 365 of these, one for each day of the year, with 36 overseers, one for each week in the Egyptian calendar. Even mummified animals were included in tombs, and archaeologists have uncovered cemeteries containing millions of animal mummies, including cats, baboons, gazelles, birds and even crocodiles, some of which are on view. Grave-robbing was rampant in ancient Egypt, and an Egyptian tomb diorama represents a type of crypt that Egyptians with rank or wealth constructed to guard against such thefts. Within the tomb, a plain stone sarcophagus contains a smaller stone sarcophagus and a wooden coffin from the Late Period (525-343 BC) covered in hieroglyphs. Most of the imagery on the coffin was inspired by scenes in The Book of the Dead, a collection of funerary texts believed to assist a person’s journey into the afterlife.
Dr. Thomas says the Gilded Lady steals the show, and indeed she does. She was mummified during the Roman Period (30 BC-AD 395), a period when we see in the exhibit the most magnificently painted coffins. There is one of a woman whose coffin is a stunning piece of artwork – it has a magnificent gilded mask and the body had pronounced breasts. Why? The anthropologists could not say, showing that there is still so much more to be learned.
Mummies is on view in New York through January 7, 2018. The exhibition is co-curated at the American Museum of Natural History by David Hurst Thomas, Curator of North American Archaeology in the Division of Anthropology, and John J. Flynn, Frick Curator of Fossil Mammals in the Division of Paleontology.
Mummies was developed by The Field Museum, Chicago, and will go back there for an exhibition after its New York showing.
Mummies is featured in the Museum’s recently re-launched Explorer app, developed with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies, which lets visitors think like an explorer by personalizing their onsite experience using cutting-edge location-aware technology that provides unique journeys through the Museum’s 45 permanent halls.
When we see these fantastic exhibits, we don’t necessarily see behind them, to the fact that the American Museum of Natural History, founded in 1869, is one of the world’s preeminent scientific, educational, and cultural institutions, whose research has contributed not only to their discovery, but to the understanding of what is displayed.
Indeed, the press tour takes us behind the scenes to the institution’s Microscopy and Imaging Facility – the technology that would have been used to scan the mummies. The equipment is shared by all five departments of the institution, whether AMNH scientists are studying fossils, cultural artifacts, planets or solar systems, the cutting-edge imaging technologies in the facility make it possible to examine details that were previously unobservable. While earlier studies often required unwrapping mummies – which could have damaged them – tools like high-resolution computerized tomography (CT) scanner provide scientists with non-invasive methods to examine them. MIF technician Morgan Hill walked us through the process, along with Zachary Calamari, a Ph.D. student in comparative biology program at the Museum’s Richard Gilder Graduate School, who showed us how the scans help in research of two naturally-mummified newborn wooly mammoths – one who was mummified by being frozen and the other who was “pickled.”
During our visit, the CT scanner is doing an image of a rabbit. It is this ability to understand the internal aspects of dinosaurs and fossils that have led scientists to rejigger Evolution’s schema, to redefine who is related to who and what is connected to what.
The Museum’s five active research divisions and three cross-disciplinary centers support approximately 200 scientists, whose work draws on a world-class permanent collection of more than 33 million specimens and artifacts, as well as specialized collections for frozen tissue and genomic and astrophysical data, and one of the largest natural history libraries in the world. Through its Richard Gilder Graduate School, it is the only American museum authorized to grant the Ph.D. degree and the Master of Arts in Teaching degree.
The Museum encompasses 45 permanent exhibition halls, including the Rose Center for Earth and Space and the Hayden Planetarium, as well as galleries for temporary exhibitions. It is home to the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial, New York State’s official memorial to its 33rd governor and the nation’s 26th president, and a tribute to Roosevelt’s enduring legacy of conservation.
The museum gets 5 million visitors a year and the Museum’s exhibitions and Space Shows can be seen in venues on five continents. The Museum’s website and apps for mobile devices extend its collections, exhibitions, and educational programs to millions more beyond its walls.
American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West at 79th Street, New York, NY 10024-5192, 212-769-5100. Open daily from 10 am-5:45 pm except on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Visit amnh.org for more information.
New York City’s Chinatown celebrated the Year of the Rooster with its 18th annual Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade & Festival.
US Senator Charles Schumer of New York was the Grand Marshal.
All along the route, Senator Charles Schumer gave a shout out to the largest ethnic Chinese community in the US, to Chinese immigrants, to all immigrants, and finished with a declaration “Immigrants make America great. We need more,” eliciting cheers from the crowd each time, as the parade wound its way along Mott Street.
Periodically, he would make his way to personally greet parade-goers, which included many people from outside the community. The most frequent comment that he heard had to do with somehow torpedoing the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary. “She’ll be terrible,” he said. “We need one more vote. I’m working on it.”
Occasionally a few in the crowd would shout an anti-Trump remark, but in general, the crowd was in the spirit of the Lunar New Year.
This is the Year of the Rooster, the tenth in the 12-year cycle of Chinese zodiac sign. The Years of the Rooster include 1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017, 2029.
“The Rooster is almost the epitome of fidelity and punctuality. For ancestors who had no alarm clocks, the crowing was significant, as it could awaken people to get up and start to work. In Chinese culture, another symbolic meaning of chicken carries is exorcising evil spirits,” according to the travelchinaguide.com site.
New York City’s Chinatown, two square miles in lower east side of Manhattan, is the largest Chinatown in the United States and the site of the largest concentration of Chinese in the western hemisphere. Manhattan’s Chinatown is also one of the oldest ethnic Chinese communities outside of Asia.
Schumer’s encouragement for immigrants was understandable in Chinatown. With a population estimated between 70,000 and 150,000, Chinatown is the favored destination point for Chinese immigrants, though in recent years the neighborhood has also become home to Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, Burmese, Vietnamese, and Filipinos among others, according to Sarah Waxma, who writes about the history of Chinatown on the Chinatown-online.com site, which is also a source for planning a visit and touring.
“From the start, Chinese immigrants tended to clump together as a result of both racial discrimination, which dictated safety in numbers, and self-segregation. Unlike many ethnic ghettos of immigrants, Chinatown was largely self-supporting, with an internal structure of governing associations and businesses which supplied jobs, economic aid, social service, and protection. Rather than disintegrating as immigrants assimilated and moved out and up, Chinatown continued to grow through the end of the nineteenth century, providing contacts and living arrangements — usually 5-15 people in a two room apartment subdivided into segments — for the recent immigrants who continued to trickle in despite the enactment of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882,” she writes.
In remarks that sadly resonate in today’s headlines because of Trump’s Travel Ban on seven predominantly Muslim nations, she notes that “The Chinese Exclusion Act (1882-1943), to date the only non-wartime federal law which excluded a people based on nationality, was a reaction to rising anti-Chinese sentiment. This resentment was largely a result of the willingness of the Chinese to work for far less money under far worse conditions than the white laborers and the unwillingness to ‘assimilate properly’.”
There is none of this dark history on view today, only celebration.
At the Lunar New Year, Chinatown becomes a fantastic street party with vendors, food and festivities, and heritage and ancient traditions on view.
“Lunar New Year is the liveliest and most important celebration in Chinese culture and Chinatown is the place to experience it!
The Museum of China in the Americas (MOCA) offers a walking tour that takes visitors through Chinatown to learn about holiday traditions and customs observed by Chinese households. Witness how the neighborhood transforms itself in preparation for the New Year and discover the characteristics that make this holiday unique.”
Tours are conducted in English and are led by MoCA docents with personal or family roots in the neighborhood. In case of inclement weather, tours will be held in the galleries. Advance reservations are required. For information and reservations call 212-619-4785 or purchase tickets online, www.mocanyc.org. (Museum of Chinese in America, 215 Centre Street New York, NY 10013, 855-955-MOCA).
My favorite way to transition to the new year has been to attend the New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace in the grand, awe-inspiring space of the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine. The music that fills its cavernous space with such pure, sweet sound, inspires contemplation, hope, and even calm against the uncertainty ahead.
The event is the most inspirational and life-affirming – such a contrast to the crassness of most New Year’s Eve festivities.
“Tonight is so important, as we pray for peace, because we renew our commitment to goodwill and hopefulness,” stated Reverend James A. Kowalski, Dean of the Cathedral. “We dare to believe again that mean spiritedness and division must not have the final word. We invite the Spirit of Light to empower and embolden us, as we cast off despair and cynicism, and reaffirm that we will choose fairness, justice and kindness over the shallowness and destruction of ‘winner take all’ or ‘to the victor goes the spoils.’ As global citizens, we pray that the world will also be drawn to that light. We acknowledge that we must do our part to brighten and represent that light – across faiths, cultures and geographies to build more just societies.”
“We come because we care about justice, fairness, poverty, morality… we care about peace,” said the broadcast journalist Harry Smith. “But what we know now is that caring about these things is not enough. Peace needs to be won, justice needs to be fought for, causes need to be championed, poverty needs to be abolished.” Desire and good intentions aren’t enough, he said. These causes need “our involvement; movements need a head; legislators need new members. ..Causes without participating is little more than idle fantasy,” he said, adding a jibe at those who did not vote.
This year’s concert was especially poignant, featuring a New York Premier of “Light Shall Lift Us,” by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Paul Moravec and librettist Mark Campbell, a musical response to the tragedy that occurred at Pulse nightclub in Orlando on June 12, 2016: the largest mass shooting in U.S. history. The inspirational work, which they dedicated to the victims and survivors of the massacre, was premiered June 16, 2016 in “One Voice Orlando,” a benefit concert Campbell helped organize with Opera Orlando. (A portion can be heard at youtube, https://youtu.be/YA9NozeWEcc).
I recalled sadly that last year’s Concert for Peace featured the world premiere of “Prelude and Spiritual for Mother Emanuel,” by librettist Virginia Sirota and composer Robert Sirota, honoring the victims of the Charleston massacre.
Judy Collins, the Cathedral’s Artist in Residence, spoke and sang of her 50 year friendship and collaboration with Leonard Cohen, that began with his composition which has become so identified with her, “Suzanne” which she recorded in 1966. (She said he also encouraged her to write her own music.) It was kind of a tribute to all those lost this past year. (See youtube, https://youtu.be/3lQg5QKDWt4)
Then, in a nod to current affairs and challenges ahead, she “read” and sang a letter to Vladimir Putin that recalled her tour of Russia at the age of 26 and what she saw there, interspersing it with refrains of “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” her sweet, melodic voice ringing through the cavernous cathedral. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v5fFU-f35oE).
Jason Robert Brown, Tony-Award-winning composer and lyricist, performed his “To Build A Home,” portraying an immigrant’s arrival to the heartland of the USA, from his musical TheBridges of Madison County, joined by soloist Elizabeth Stanley, who starred in the musical’s national tour.
Brown also performed a new composition, ‘Hope.”
The concert also featured the world premiere of a stunning choral piece, “Come, Lord, And Tarry Not,” from a new oratorio by composer Georgia Stitt, who played the piano and soprano Jamet Pittman and Randy Landau on bass.
Kent Tritle, Director of Cathedral Music, began this year’s concert with selections from Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 6 in D Major, and finished with the optimism of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Gloria/Et in terra pax from the monumental Mass in B Minor, and the beloved gospel song “This Little Light of Mine,” led by soloist Jamet Pittman, to herald the coming of the new year.
The “Light Shall Lift Us” celebration – which is offered as a free concert (though general admission and reserved seat tickets are available) culminated with the light of thousands of candles held aloft by audience members.
Founded by Leonard Bernstein in 1984, the annual New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace is a signature Cathedral event, for the Episcopal church which prides itself as being a “unifying center of intellectual light and leadership, embracing people from across faiths and communities. There are concerts and events throughout the year.
The Cathedral itself is a marvel. Originally designed in 1888, with construction beginning in 1892, the cathedral has undergone radical stylistic changes and the interruption of the two World Wars. It started out in Byzantine Revival-Romanesque Revival style, but the plan was changed to Gothic Revival in 1909. A major fire on December 18, 2001 caused the cathedral to be closed for repairs until 2008. It remains unfinished with construction and restoration a continuing process – which inside, only adds to the mystique of the place. It boasts being the largest Gothic cathedral, and may be the world’s largest Anglican cathedral and church; it is also the fourth largest Christian church in the world.
The cathedral houses one of the nation’s premier textile conservation laboratories to conserve the cathedral’s textiles, including the Barberini tapestries. The laboratory also conserves tapestries, needlepoint, upholstery, costumes, and other textiles for clients.
The Cathedral of St. John the Divine, 1047 Amsterdam Avenue (at 112th Street), New York, NY 10025, 212-316-7468, www.stjohndivine.org.