An Evening With the Philharmonic, Celebrating 50 Years of Music in NYC Parks

An evening with the Philharmonic, celebrating 50 years of music in New York City Parks. #NYPparks50

On May 19th, the New York Philharmonic held a gala, celebrating free concerts in the parks, with Alan Gilbert, conductor and Joe Torre, narrator.

Back in 1964, Mayor Robert Wagner was approached by the NY Philharmonic about performing a live free concert in Central Park.  The mayor responded by saying, “I am not the Mayor of Manhattan, I am the Mayor of the 5 boroughs.  If you can perform in all 5, I will pay for a stage that can be used for you in each park.”  A deal was made.

The first concert was held August 10th, 1965 in the area known as Sheep Meadow, in Central Park.  Since then they have performed for almost 14 million people over the past 50 years. You can catch them on June 17 when Alan Gilbert conducts Bernstein’s West Side Story Suite, featuring violinist Joshua Bell, alongside works by Barber, Gershwin, Copland, Anderson, Rodgers, and Sousa on the Great Lawn in Central Park for free.  For the complete NY Philharmonic schedule, click here.

The evening also honored Didi and Oscar Schafer, for their generosity and dedication, which has made this iconic summer experience possible since 2007.  There was also a special guest appearance by Joe Torre, the narrator for Aaron Copland’s Lincoln Portrait.  This piece was performed back in 1976 for a special bicentennial concert on July 4, 1974 in Sheep’s Meadow, conducted by Leonard Bernstein.

The evening’s program was made up of some of their most popular and most-performed pieces over the past 50 years.  The event ended on a high note with two encores.  The first was “Stars and Stripes”  followed by “New York, New York”.  Both encores brought the audience to their feet for standing ovations.


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