New York, New York!

Euan Murdoch is travelling Around the World in 60 Days and blogging about it. After a few weeks in the UK he has made his way over to the USA…


Euan in front of the statue of libertyWow, the energy of this place is great. Spending a few days here looking and listening; walking and talking is like a week in most other places. There’s so much to experience it’s hard to know where to start.

As in Paris some of the most memorable performances are out on the street. Yesterday was a beautiful day for being out and about so we walked the High Line and spent a wonderful few hours being entertained by the street performers in Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village.

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A street performer plays Rachmaninov Preludes in Washington Square Park.

Our concert included Rachmaninov Preludes played on a grand piano that had been specially wheeled in to the park for the occasion, a jazz combo featuring an extraordinary horn player who played trumpet and flugelhorn simultaneously and the chilled-out sounds of a large guitar ensemble. There were many other performances spread out around the park but these were the ones that caught my ear. It’s such a pleasure to have a varied line-up like this and the ability to browse or stay all afternoon in one spot is another luxury.

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A street performer in Washington Square Park plays trumpet and flugelhorn simultaneously!

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A street performer in Washington Square Park plays trumpet and flugelhorn simultaneously!

Later in the evening we sampled another varied cast in an extraordinary setting. This time 68 floors above Columbus Circle overlooking Central Park in someone’s apartment. The performers were all part of VisionIntoArt and they gave us a taster of their new season in an intimate salon setting. Kronos cellist Jeff Zeigler was involved in all the performances and his wife, composer Paola Presitini, had written some of the material.

Maya Beiser with LED cello prototype as VIA Board Member Mickey Straus and Vocalist Helga Davis look on

Maya Beiser with LED cello prototype as VIA Board Member Mickey Straus and Vocalist Helga Davis look on

The sensation, other than the launch of the world’s first LED cello, was vocalist Helga Davis. Her voice spanned a phenomenal range and this was matched by her powerful presence. She improvised with Jeff as she made her way from room to room in the apartment, starting and finishing on the floor…if you can imagine Nina Simone crossed with Jessye Norman!

There is no doubt that musical experiences are enhanced by the environment and the juxtaposition of these two ‘concerts’ on the same day really reinforced that for me.

Hearing Tokyo String Quartet at the height of their powers after four decades of making music together made me feel a little sad that they have decided to call it a day. Their colourful programme on Saturday at 92nd St Y included Haydn, Kodaly and Bartók. If you’re reading this post in NZ or Australia, I recommend you to make a special effort to hear the Tokyos for the final time next month. It will be the end of an era.

I spent today in conversations with some of the key thinkers involved with artist and audience development at Juilliard School and Carnegie Hall. These institutions are leading the way in preparing young artists for the future.

My next post will explore some of this fertile ground but for now I have to sign-off because I have a date with my son to go to see the Brooklyn Nets play Chicago Bulls in the NBA Basketball Playoffs. That’s sure to provide more theatre and maybe even a little dramatic music. We’ll be wearing all black following the call to black-out the stadium…now, where have I seen that before?

Go the Nets!

– Euan, 29/04/2013

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