It was pouring rain all day. Working for the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, my office is situated near the Special Events office whose phones were ringing off the hook from patrons wondering if the evening’s New York Philharmonic perfromance had been canceled. “We are on the phone with the National Weather Service but it won’t be called until the last minute.”
Having been raised on Broadway, Jazz, and Classical music, I fall into these events easily and willingly. Tonight we were getting a wonderful treat in the history of music and the New York Philharmonic (NYP). Branford Marsalis, a Louisiana saxophonist, would be making his New York Philharmonic debut. Seriously, this was a ridiculous treat.
Loving my Parkie perks, we entered in through the back of the stage area. It’s fun to see the happenings behind the stage before the performances. Musicians are stuffing their faces with food, sipping on drinks and mingling while they mess with their instruments.
My tribe of 14 had dwindled to 7 as the rainy day progressed. Honestly, I had my own doubts on how the night would turn out but I was trying to stay positive. However, just like the previous night, the rain stopped around 3pm and the 55-acre center of Central Park, called The Great Lawn, was littered with people who knew a little water was worth what we might get to experience.
Parkies get wonderful accommodations for Central Park performances. Where as all other patrons in the park must get there insanely early to beat the 30,000 other people expected to occupy the lawn that night, Parkies get special seating in chairs while the New York Phil guests get even closer seats. We also get the option of having plenty of space to lay out blankets and have a picnic style lounge for the evening. There were so many free seats that we took over an edge of seats and placed the blanket along side. A few laid down on the grass while the rest of us utilized the seats.
A long time New Yorker and my guest for that evening explained to me how in the past he would arrived early in the morning and leaves his blankets and bikes in the spot he wanted to reserve only to come back hours later to occupy his spot. Apparently, no one ever messed with his belongings. I am glad I didn’t have to take those kind of risks. My advice is to do just that if you do not have an “in” for these performances.
Right before the show began, a NYP staff member came around to the Parks attendees and told us that the they would love for us to move forward to use their seating as so many people had not shown. We decided we were close enough and didn’t move.
Check out this video of the musicians preparing for a night of gorgeous music!
The concert was conducted by Andrey Boreyko, a Russian conductor, and featured the following pieces:
Anatoly Lyadov‘s “Baba-Yaga”
Alexander Glazunov‘s “Concerto for Alto Saxophone”
Erwin Schuhoff‘s “Hot Sonate for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra”
Encore: Disney’s Sleeping Beauty Medley
I am not going to break this night up by song. I totally just sat back and enjoyed myself choosing only to recall whatever ends up in this article. When it comes to Classical music, I just want to sink into it. I don’t want to think about writing or taking pictures. In fact, I don’t think I took a single picture with my camera, these are all from my Droid.
The first half of the program consisted of the first three pieces with Marsalis coming out on the second. Marsalis was spectacular, blowing his alto saxophone with technical perfection. These songs were rather obscure and I didn’t know them. It was nice to hear Russian interpretations though. The only piece that wasn’t Russian was Schuhoff‘s.
My good friend, and constant Philharmonic companion, James M., made a nice little video recap of the evening. The classical music starts somewhere in the middle and the fireworks display is great! (He had a rough time getting the music to play on other outlets so enjoy Alicia Keys dubbed over for a bit in the beginning!)
The ambiance alone is worth going. There was gorgeous music with a backdrop of a gorgeous skyline while sitting on a lush green carpet of grass. We had wines, cheeses, dips, conversation, fireworks, seats if our backs hurt or it got wet. The sound is incredible. If you are seated in the back of the Lawn then you had screens to see the performance. Just the entire event, from start to end, with all its little elements really makes it a stand out summer performance from a music festival or a show held indoors. I am constantly looking forward to it coming around every summer.
During this entire time, we had been experiencing a lovely vibe. There were couples around us laying on blankets, snuggling. In the middle of a particularly quiet moment in the music, we hear this ripping blast from the guy on the blanket to our right. I don’t think I can emphasize the power it took for all of us to not bust a gut laughing. He immediately sat up and tried to mask it with a cough while I almost choked. Angie, who was closest, didn’t know what to do with herself. I mean, just hilarious. The guys were not as good at hiding their giggles. A lovely classy moment brought back to our gross reality.
The encore was not mentioned in the pamphlet but I recognized the music almost immediately. They performed a medley of songs from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, which draws as much from Tchaikovsky’s ballet. It was gorgeous and gave us another 20 minutes of classical music. I always love hearing nostalgic tunes covered in interesting ways. Classical Disney music? Totally my thing.
They ended the night with a lovely fireworks display over the south end of the Central Park. The display lasted over 10 minutes and solidified everyone’s smile for the evening. All we could think about is what the people in midtown were thinking about when these explosions went off near them.
As always, my tribe was one of the last to leave the lawn, or rather, be asked to leave. We strolled out of the park in our various directions home feeling sorry for those who had chickened out of the concert. They missed a phenomenal night where some history was made 🙂