TRINI COMPOSER SHINES

Trinidadian composer Etienne Charles at the Lincoln Center in Manhattan.
Trinidadian composer Etienne Charles at the Lincoln Center in Manhattan.
Photo by Lawrence Sumulong

Trinidadian composer Etienne Charles in early October opened the new David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center in Manhattan.
The Hall was officially opened to the public as the home of the New York Philharmonic and the new welcoming cultural home for New York, with a ribbon cutting attended by Gov. Kathy Hochul and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
The ribbon-cutting marked a month of opening celebrations that featured many firsts, beginning with the World Premiere performances of San Juan Hill: A New York Story by Charles, commissioned by Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts for the New York Philharmonic, and performed by Charles and Creole Soul, alongside the orchestra, conducted by Music Director Jaap van Zweden.
Charles – a performer, composer and storyteller, who is continuously searching for untold stories and sounds with which to tell them – said: “The goal of the piece is to center and honor the people and cultures of San Juan Hill, but also to remind people to reflect on who and what were where, and when.
“It’s really hard to put into words, but the energy of Creole Soul, the New York Philharmonic together and the audience combined felt electric,” he added. “I’m filled with joy and gratitude for the whole team that made this possible.”
Renee Hastick-Motes and her sister, Camille Hastick – daughters of the late Dr. Roy Hastick, former president and founder of the Brooklyn-based Caribbean American Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CACCI) – attended the re-opening of the David Geffen Hall.
“Caribbean Composer Etienne Charles, the Creole Soul Band and the NY Philharmonic did an exceptional job telling the story of San Juan Hill through its multimedia visual and musical presentation,” Hastick-Motes told Caribbean Life on Monday.
“I commend Lincoln Center for opening the doors to the David Geffen Hall in such a dynamic way,” she added. “It was ingenious and also exhibited Lincoln’s Center’s commitment to diversity, not only to the Caribbean community but the community at large. I know if my father was alive today, he would have said this was a historic event, and he’d be elated to see such progress.”
Hochul said “the transformation of David Geffen Hall is a pitch-perfect addition to one of New York’s premier concert venues at the iconic Lincoln Center.
“Thanks to our well-orchestrated partnership, this project will boost New York’s cultural and economic life with additional jobs, vibrant community space, and a new and improved concert hall two years ahead of schedule,” she said.
“Our arts institutions play a pivotal role as economic drivers, community centers, and cultural anchors, and I am excited for all of the music New Yorkers will experience and enjoy in this beautiful new home,” she added.
“The arts are central to New York’s economy, its identity and soul, and that is why I have fought throughout the pandemic to deliver relief for the arts economy and cultural institutions like Lincoln Center — they are the very beating heart of New York,” Schumer said.

From left: Gabriella Florio, Nevaeh Motes, Imani Hastick, Denise Motes, Kristine Ortiz, Davond Motes, Renee Hastick-Motes, NYS Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Camille Hastick, Jennifer Arnoux, Jahirah Arnoux, and Joshua Arnoux.
From left: Gabriella Florio, Nevaeh Motes, Imani Hastick, Denise Motes, Kristine Ortiz, Davond Motes, Renee Hastick-Motes, NYS Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Camille Hastick, Jennifer Arnoux, Jahirah Arnoux, and Joshua Arnoux. Photo by Saul Joseph

“The Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program, created by the Save Our Stages Act that I championed and led to passage, provided Lincoln Center with $10 million in federal relief, and I was proud to advocate for funds for the reconstruction of David Geffen Hall that were provided by Gov. Hochul and New York State,” he added. “In addition to sublime performances, this opening also means thousands of new jobs and opportunities for minority- and women-owned businesses. It will supercharge the City’s comeback, energize tourism, and help our arts industries grow and thrive.”
“In New York City, our arts and culture don’t belong to a few, but to all of us to experience. And the new David Geffen Hall is reflecting that inclusiveness by creating tens of thousands of feet of public space — building community and welcoming all New Yorkers,” said New York City Mayor Eric Adams. “This project has been a true partnership between the public and private sectors, and it’s supporting 6,000 jobs and creating $600 million in economic activity as we recover from COVID-19. Congratulations to Lincoln Center and the New York Philharmonic on this beautiful space.”
Completed two years early with a transformative design by Diamond Schmitt Architects and Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, the Lincoln Center said the project represents “a statement of faith in New York and its artistic community, while delivering jobs and economic development at a crucial time for the city’s rebound.”
In addition to two celebratory galas held on Oct. 26 and Oct. 28, the crescendo culminated with a free open house weekend on Oct. 29 and 30, featuring hundreds of artists animating the entire hall with performances, participatory activities and family events.
“A huge community came together around the idea of a bright future at a dark time for our city. Now, we are able to celebrate an economic engine, a vibrant creative hub, and a cultural home for both the New York Philharmonic and all New Yorkers,” said Katherine Farley, chair of the Board of Directors at Lincoln Center. “We are so grateful to the many people who helped bring us to this moment—chief among them David Geffen for his original generous and catalytic gift and Clara Wu Tsai for her gift that enabled the acceleration of the project by two years.”
Peter May, speaking also on behalf of his NY Philharmonic Board Co-chair Oscar Tang, said: “The NY Philharmonic looks forward to ushering in a new era for our great Orchestra at David Geffen Hall. It’s been a long journey that has well been worth the wait.”
“David Geffen Hall is for New York and for New Yorkers—proof of our resiliency after a tremendously difficult time,” said Henry Timms, president and chief executive officer of Lincoln Center. “Finally, our hometown orchestra has a home that lives up to its immense talent and creativity, boldly built through some of the darkest times in New York’s history. To the thousands of New Yorkers who made this project a reality, thank you. To the millions of New Yorkers we hope will find inspiration here, welcome.”
Deborah Borda, the NY Philharmonic’s Linda and Mitch Hart president and chief executive officer, said: “Thanks to our partners at Lincoln Center and our committed Board and dedicated donors, and a visionary and resourceful team of architects and designers, we are celebrating the dynamic, new concert hall constructed during the pandemic. NY Phil musicians look forward to reuniting with old friends and welcoming new ones to David Geffen Hall.”
Shanta Thake, Ehrenkranz Chief Artistic Officer at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, said: “As we look to the future of Lincoln Center, celebrating art in its many forms and creative collaborations between artists is one of our primary focuses. We simply cannot establish that sense of collaboration and creative welcome without acknowledging and celebrating what was here before us– the vibrant community of San Juan Hill. Etienne Charles’ piece ‘San Juan Hill: A New York Story’ was a perfect way to honor all those intentions as David Geffen Hall opened its doors to the public, blending jazz, hip hop, and classical music.”
New York Philharmonic Music Director Jaap van Zweden said: “This is a very special time in the history of the New York Philharmonic, its musicians, and in my personal history as well. Our dream has finally been realized! I am honored to be here to usher in this new era, inaugurating a hall befitting our world class musicians and institution. The moment we have all been waiting for is here… the return to our long-anticipated new home!”

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