NYC concerts and stunning exhibitions

Because there are 8 million people in New York, every day there are a myriad of things to do. In the Spring and Summer much of the living is outdoors – for example, ‘Summer on the Hudson’ operates from May until September. 

As I have mentioned and talked about before, there are free concerts at the Juilliard School from September to the end of May. The quality of the music is extraordinary and extremely varied. Apart from the usual classical composers, the students themselves compose music. It was fantastic to see a concert with multiple cellos and another with multiple double bases.
I live near the main campus of Columbia University who also have a great musical school. They, too, put on very enjoyable free concerts. I particularly enjoyed ‘The Musical Theatre Lab presents ‘Broadway Babies’- numbers from different musicals.
In Miller Hall they have very interesting, bordering on weird, concerts that are well worth attending because they are so different.
Then there are the Manhattan School of Music Chamber Music concerts.
Symphony Space, just a walk down Broadway, ran a ‘Wall to wall Leonard Bernstein’ day – with many different performers – singing, dancing and choral/chamber music. They also had some of the Bernstein family and leading cultural figures giving interesting talks.
Carnegie Hall is a great place to visit – and I took some pictures in their museum area of the many performers that have passed through their doors. They also have really inexpensive and interesting concerts from time to time.
The many churches in Manhattan put on various performances. The HUGE one is the annual free Memorial Day concert by the New York Philharmonic held in the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine on Amsterdam Avenue. We were lucky to get seats as there are thousands of people who wish to attend. The flags hanging from the ceiling add an extra layer of interest.
I also attended a couple of other New York Philharmonic concerts at the Lincoln Center: one was the film of Amadeus with the music performed live.  Debbie and I also enjoyed another concert with selections from Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty 
And then there are the much smaller concerts in small churches – the composer Derek Bremen had his music performed by the Jack Quartet and a very talented young soprano – Micaela Bennett – in St Michael’s Episcopal Church (around the corner from us).
The music was enjoyable and the surroundings perfect, as the church is full of magnificent Tiffany windows installed in 1895. The church is really worth a visit for the windows alone.
Smaller scale still: the West Side Community Garden holds events, including a concert by a tango quartet and another with a jazz trio.
Another outside series of concerts is performed by various artists – including from Columbia University – in Riverside Park on consecutive Sundays
And then of course there is the wonderful Central Park and the ‘Summerstage’ concerts. I mentioned the Blackstar concert in a previous blog and there are very many more, such as Greg Porter was amazing – Debbie’s friend Lise visited for a week and we had a great time at the concert.
At Summerstage, Rhiannon Giddens (of the Carolina Chocolate Drops fame) went down really well – I watched her side-stage with my blind friend Tom and his lovely wife Sandra who really loves Rhiannon and was delighted to be able to meet her.
Debbie and I also went to the ‘Fete de la Musique: Vianney/Chassol/Joakim’. Vianney is a very energetic French singer who had a lot of French fans.
The annual free New York Philarmonic concert in Central Park was held on a lovely balmy evening, attended by thousands and finished with a huge firework display.
All year there are exhibitions galore in NYC. Even if you went to 4 galleries every day of the year you would not see all of the exhibitions.
There is one gallery that I love: The Morgan. It is not one that is well-known but all art lovers visiting NYC should avail themselves of the Friday evening free session from 6 to 9 p.m. with jazz.
I went twice and timed it so I could visit 4 new exhibitions each time.  
The first time, there were some interesting drawings by Rubens and Van Dyck as well as NY photographer Peter Hujar but more interesting were the drawings from Thomas Gainsborough, normally celebrated for his paintings. Wayne Thiebaud’s luscious paintings of pies and ice-cream cones were a revelation.
The next visit revealed ‘Medieval Monsters and ‘Now and Forever – the Art of Medieval Time’.
Again, really wonderful were the next 2: ‘The magic of handwriting’ – the most extraordinary collection. We could see letters by Lucretia Borgia, Van Gogh, annotated sketches by Michelangelo, Jean Cocteau and Charlie Chaplin, and manuscripts by Marcel Proust and others. What a treat!
Tennessee Williams is my favourite playwright and so it was delightful that the 8th exhibition I saw there was of his original drafts, private diaries, personal letters, paintings, photographs, production stills and posters. A real treat!
So, as I said, anyone visiting NYC should try to get to the Morgan Library and Museum on Madison Avenue – incidentally, the previous owner of the house and collector was Pierpont Morgan.
The most famous art gallery in NYC has to be the Metropolitan Museum of Art, nicely situated on the East side of Central Park.
The ‘must-see’ exhibition this year (from May to October) is  ‘Heavenly Bodies – Fashion and the Catholic Imagination’ with pieces from Yves Saint Laurent, Jean-Paul Gaulthier and Alexander McQueen, amongst others.
The costumes are fabulous and the Medieval pieces worn by Popes are dripping with jewels, very ostentatious! There is also an angelic influence
The Met has a great roof garden that presently has 2 huge sculptures ‘We come in Peace’ created by Huma Bhabha.
I love the roof garden – there is a great panoramic view of Central Park and the buildings surrounding it.
Several lovely pieces of outside art, created by Kathy Ruttenberg, can be found on streets between 64th and 157th streets, part of her project ‘In Dreams Awake’
As I was walking down 5th Avenue I took a picture of the historic Arsenal Building and a man came up to me and told me to go and see the art exhibition inside – so I did!
I love the connections you can make in the streets of New York. The exhibition was the NYC/New York Times Photo Project from 1978 – a year they called ‘the year of reckoning’ when the parks system was in distressed and underfunded.
The improvement dated from then. The pictures reflected a moment in time.
Talking of 5th Avenue, once a year they close the ‘Museum Mile’ – people walk in the streets and entrance to all of the museums there are free.
I took the opportunity to go to the Guggenheim Museum – architecturally fascinating.
The current exhibition is Giacometti – not an artist I particularly like – his sculptures are like burnt bodies. However, I did discover some of his other work.
My favourite sculpture in the Guggenheim permanent collection was a head by Brancusi – beautiful!
Going outside, there was a naked man being painted in the street.
I also visited the Soutine exhibition at the Jewish Museum. Like Giacometti, quite gory stuff, so I took pictures of the prettiest ones.
Finally, there was a great Andy Warhol exhibition down in Chelsea.
I wandered in and started chatting to the girl on the desk. The exhibition was a fundraiser for a charity ‘In God’s love we deliver’ and she invited me to the auction and party the following evening.
So of course Alfie and I had to go! We had a brilliant time and met some great people. There was delicious food, good music and a great atmosphere. I love New York!