Black History Month in New York means no shortage of ways to celebrate, educate yourself, or simply have a good time. Below, a smattering of events running throughout the month at institutions around the city.
If it’s art you’re after, check out the exhibition “African Americans: Seeing and Seen: 1766-1916” at the Babcock Galleries (724 Fifth Avenue, between 56th and 57th Streets; 212 767-1852).The show looks at both positive and negative portrayals of African Americans in fine art, going back to Colonial times.
Over at BAM (BAM Cinema; 30 Lafayette Street in Brooklyn; 718 636-4100), a schedule of films is running throughout the month under the heading “The Best of the African Diaspora Film Festival.” Coming up: “Made in Jamaica,” on Feb. 19, which explores the world of reggae music. Events are also running at the Brooklyn Public Library (10 Grand Army Plaza; 718-230-2100) and the Brooklyn Children’s Museum (145 Brooklyn Avenue; 718 735-4400).
Up at the Dwyer Cultural Center (258 St. Nicholas Avenue in Manhattan; 212 222-3060), both music and theater are on the bill. This week (Feb. 9) “Rivers Run Deep: The Paul Robeson Story” is being presented.
And New York’s Lincoln Center is offering a roster of performances throughout February. On Feb. 11, for example, swing to “Basie and the Blues” with Wynton Marsalis (Rose Theater at Frederick P. Rose Hall, Broadway and 60th Street; call 212 721-6500.)
So beat those February blues with culture and education. Get out there!
WQXR, the only remaining full-time classical music station in New York, and one of the only ones left in the country, is celebrating Grammy Month. (No, it’s not all about Lady Gaga.) Each week leading up to the awards ceremony on Sunday, January 31, WQXR will focus on one of the categories in which classical performances have been nominated. (WQXR switched to a public-radio format this past fall, and can now be found on 105.9 FM.)
Each week, pieces from the nominated albums will be played throughout that week, and also streamed on WQXR.org.
Categories include Best Classical Vocal Performance; Best Small Ensemble Performance; and Best Instrumental Soloist Performance (Without Orchestra).
You can vote for your faves on their website, and these days, you can even follow them on Twitter and read a series of blogs; yes, classical music has entered the digital age.
In other WQXR news, venerable WQXR radio host George Jellinek, 90, passed away over the weekend. Jellinek created the radio program “The Vocal Scene” in 1969, a year after becoming the station’s music director. The show, which ran for 36 years, focused on opera and opera singers. It was syndicated on classical stations around the country, and became synonymous with WQXR.
Although he retired as music director in the mid-1980s, Jellinek stayed on as a consultant with the station until a few years ago. He was one of the great old-time classical-music voices in New York.
It’s been a bad week for cultural touchstones–first Gourmet Magazine folds, now New York’s venerable classic radio station WQXR is moving up the dial and changing into a public radio station and part of WNYC. Starting tonight, the soon-to-be-former New York Times-owned radio station will migrate from 96.3 FM to 105.9 FM. The switchover in frequencies will occur at 8:00 pm tonight at Carnegie Hall; the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra is presenting its opening-night concert as the kickoff for their 37th season. The performance will include the world premiere of the Concerto with Echoes, by Aaron Jay Kernis, as well as Stravinsky’s Dumbarton Oaks, and Beethoven’s Violin Concerto.
WQXR, the country’s oldest commercial classical music station, will be preserved as New York’s only 24-hour classical music station. Now, however, it will be listener-supported.
WQXR has been broadcasting for more than 60 years at 96.3 FM, and has been owned by The New York Times for 65 years. The new format means no more commercials but the same familiar lineup of hosts (Jeff Spurgeon; Midge Woolsey) as well as familiar programming like Metropolitan Opera Radio Saturday Matinee Broadcasts. More web content will also be added.
Few cities even have full-time classical radio stations any more; WQXR was one of a dying breed. So New Yorkers and classical music lovers–show your support, and tune in early–and often.
Sometimes knowing where to go for a cultural event in New York is a no-brainer–Carnegie Hall for music; City Center for dance, and so forth. But there’s one small venue that actually has a lot of those things, and more–Symphony Space, on New York’s upper west side (Broadway and 97th Street; (212) 864-5400.
As Symphony Space embarks on its fall season, it does so with the recently announced resignation of its artistic director and one of its founders, Isaiah Sheffer, coloring its season. Sheffer (who is as much an institution as the institution itself) has been instrumental in plotting the direction of Symphony Space, and indeed helped design what is probably the institution’s most widely known and beloved feature—“Selected Shorts,” story readings by well-known actors that are also carried on Public Radio International. Sheffer’s tenure has also been associated with “Bloomsday on Broadway,” the annual reading of James Joyce’s “Ulysses”; and “Wall to Wall,” celebrations of composers ranging from Bach to Sondheim.
Sheffer will continue as the host of “Selected Shorts,” and fans should take note of the upcoming ”Isaiahfest” planned for June.
In the meantime, the season is underway, with its roster of the expected (family programs like their “Just Kidding” extravaganza on Nov. 1) and the more unusual (a high-definition screening of the second part of “The Ring Cycle,” “Die Walkure,” on Oct. 11).
So take advantage–and enjoy Sheffer’s legacy.
According to many classical music buffs, with New York’s Carnegie Hall opening its season tonight, Thursday, October 1, the fall cultural season in the city has officially begun.
Kicking off the 119th season is Opening Night with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, led by Daniele Gatti, with the renowned Evgeny Kissin on piano.
The program includes Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture, Op. 62, and Debussy’s La Mer; as well as the New York premiere of John Williams’ On Willows and Birches. (Yes, that John Williams; let no one say that the man who wrote the “Star Wars” theme isn’t diverse.)
While Carnegie Hall is of course best known for classical music, it offers a surprisingly wide repertoire of events for all tastes.
When December rolls around, do you crave loud, glitzy holiday cheer? Celebrate with The New York Pops on December 19, conducted by John Morris Russell.
Looking for something a little more cutting edge? Try out “Ancient Paths, Modern Voices: Celebrating Chinese Culture,” from Oct. 21-Nov. 10. Carnegie Hall has teamed up with other cultural institutions to present a lineup of music, exhibitions and theater, ranging from marionettes to art exhibits.
Jazz, children’s programs, and even tap, courtesy of Savion Glover (April 14) are all on the menu as well (who knew?), so check out Carnegie Hall this season–it might surprise you.
September 16 marks the beginning of a new era as Alan Gilbert takes over as director of the New York Philharmonic. His tenure officially kicks off that evening with an Opening Night Gala featuring the world premiere of an overture written for Gilbert by Composer-in-Residence Magnus Lindberg. Famed soprano Renee Fleming also sings “Poemes Pour Mi,” a song cycle and love poem to his wife Claire by Olivier Messiaen.
Gilbert, surprisingly, is the first native New Yorker to hold the position of director. (He grew up on the upper west side of Manhattan and attended a local private school.) Both his parents were both violinists with the Philharmonic, although his father is retired.
Gilbert may not be a name familiar to many New Yorkers (Alan who? is a common reaction), but his past credentials include being the first Music Director of the Santa Fe Opera; assistant conductor with the Cleveland Orchestra; and chief conductor of the Royal Stockholm Orchestra.
Other highlights of the upcoming season include programs by popular baritone Thomas Hampson and Handel’s “Messiah.” And on September 17, 100 years after Gustav Mahler conducted his first concerts as director of the Philharmonic, Gilbert starts off his regular season with Mahler’s monumental Third Symphony.
For ticket information, call (212) 875-5656