Promoters of New York City’s biggest outdoor summer concert series are being cautiously optimistic about resuming the annual festivals which until the coronavirus pandemic delivered free films, dance, spoken word and a potpourri of music genres.
A few recently announced plans to accommodate fun-loving patrons and entertainment-starved New Yorkers who have been quarantined from the usual summer/fall revelry that distinguishes the Big Apple from others.
One such is the City Parks Foundation, presenters of Central Park Summerstage at the Rumsey Playfield which annually offer the largest and most diverse, free, entertainment throughout the seasons.
“SummerStage will help restore vibrancy to our city through free performances in parks, which have been such important public spaces for New Yorkers seeking safe respite during the pandemic,” Heather Lubov, City Parks Foundation’s Executive Director said.
Reputed for booking an extensive lineup of international and local acts, the series usually continue into fall when paid benefit concerts book exclusive artists for evening presentations.
“The last year has been enormously difficult for our city,” Lubov added.
“Live performance, with the energy that is generated by experiencing it with others, will be a balm for our collective soul.”
Throughout the seasons the signature series has expanded its specialty to spotlight the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival at Harlem’s Marcus Garvey Park as well as deliver borough-wide concerts in neighborhoods throughout the city.
The good news is that following last year’s hiatus due to the pandemic, instead of another drought this summer a cautious and safe approach will entreat patrons to revisit at least two Manhattan parks.
The full City Parks lineup has not been announced, however, socially distanced concerts, benefits in the fall, virtual presentation and assurances to jazz lovers that scat and bebop will return to the Richard Rodgers Amphitheater in Harlem have been confirmed.
The announcement noted that all in-person performances will be livestreamed on SummerStageAnywhere.org
Last year, the series launched its first-ever digital festival, presenting more than 100 digital performances. One of the major highlights included VP Records’ 40th anniversary celebration which featured Elephant Man, Junior Reid, Estelle and other reggae acts.
“Performances will follow all state and local regulations regarding large-scale outdoor events, including limited capacity, masks and socially distanced seating.”
Admittance will require a free ticket, proof of vaccine and/or negative COVID test, and health screening — such as a questionnaire and temperature checks.”
At Lincoln Center where a plaza there annually features live orchestras, swing sessions and a myriad of classical showcases, the 16-acre outdoor, concrete surface will be transformed by a grassy turf and public installation called “The Green.” The organizers say the performance green space will accommodate 10 new outdoor, venues.
Commissioned by celebrated set designer Mimi Lien, the installation will transform Lincoln Center’s iconic Josie Robertson Plaza into an expansive green space open to all New Yorkers.
“I immediately thought that by changing the ground surface from hard paving stones with no seating to a material like grass, suddenly anyone would be able to sit anywhere,” Lien said.
The architect and set designer added, “I hope that this curved grass surface will feel like an embrace and an expanse at the same time, and will reimagine the Plaza as a site of social infrastructure, like a town green – a place to gather, a common ground.”
Slated to open on May 10, the lawn will offer books for borrowing from the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, a snack bar, and pop-up performances throughout the summer and fall.
Bryant Park at 42nd St. also promise summer fun and free outdoor festivities.
Beginning on June 9, the Bryant Park Corporation will present 25 free performances from local institutions including the New York Philharmonic, Carnegie Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Joe’s Pub, the Classical Theater of Harlem, and Paul Taylor Dance Company. Other participants include Elisa Monte Dance, Harlem Stage, National Sawdust, New York Chinese Cultural Center, Limón Dance Company, Greenwich House Music School, and The Town Hall.
A bonus to outdoor enthusiasts will launch “Picnic Performances” on that day with music, dance, and theatrical events integral to the menu.
Each event will have the capacity to accommodate 200 guests.
All events will require advance registration.
The 100-year-old The Town Hall will close out the series on Sept. 20 with an anniversary performance by mandolinist Chris Thile.
Currently the mid-town park has been hosting “Spring Up” a new immersive dining and shopping experience in Bryant Park.
It is unlikely that the Celebrate Brooklyn series will resume in the borough this year. Their reliable lineup of Africa and Caribbean-based and other foreign acts might impede bookings since many borders remain closed and visa applications still on hold.
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