The chance encounter came during a recent visit to Governors island (Some Days Nov 1, 2017). We were hiking down from a tall hill overlooking the Hudson Bay when a fellow hiker met us on a narrow path. I alerted her to a group of caterpillars on the path ahead. She stopped. Her name was Nancy and she told us that her work schedule had changed, exchanging Saturdays off for Mondays. She planned to use the time exploring New York. We had something in common. We shared our adventure and she was interested in hearing about the places we have found. We gave her our card with the blogsite, and she invited us to attend a concert at the school where she works.
The school is Third Street Music School Settlement and it has quite an interesting history. It began with Emilie Wagner in 1894 who taught music lessons in the immigrant neighborhood on the Lower East Side. Her 3rd street school quickly grew and became the first music settlement in New York, providing hope and refuge for people of all backgrounds in a time and location where hope was in short supply. Nearly 125 years later the school still provides a much-needed link across cultures and languages.
In the words of Calmen Flesig, a Third Street Student in 1915,
In a world of different tongues and accents, in a world filled with different languages, in a world filled with different religions and customs – an F sharp is universal.”
We were expecting the standard recital. You have all been to one. Kids working hard to learn an instrument. Screechy violins, and out of tune pianos. Enjoyable not so much for the music as for the pleasure of watching youthful hope grow toward beauty.
Were our eyes opened! Or should I say our ears! The program featured a mix of faculty and students with a cross-section of music designed to answer the question that titled the concert. “Does Gender Matter?”.
This blend of artists performed the music of composers, male and female. The first performer was Margaret Mills. She spoke briefly about challenges facing early female composers. Mills was obviously a seasoned pianist and she performed pieces by composer Gloria Coates who had previously written pieces for her performances.
Hugh Sam and Joan Forsyth were also accomplished pianists. Hugh performed a piece by Margaret Bonds and one he had written himself while Forsyth performed Last Light by James Park.
For me, Chiu-Chen Liu was the highlight performer. She passionately performed the music of Frederick Adler on her viola.
There was a duet medley of Gershwin performed by Dana Pielet and Rita Rack.
One of the most enchanting pieces for me was performed by Adams Tendler and Marks. A ballet by Cole Porter, lost then rediscovered after his death. Who knew that Cole Porter wrote a ballet?
These world class artists are professionals who have travelled and performed across the globe and here we sat, listening to them perform in a room of about 100 seats. Their Live Sounds Performances are scheduled most Friday evenings October-April. They are free and open to the public.
This is one of the reasons I love New York. This gift to the community both in what it offers as a school and as a performance hall encompasses the spirt of New York to bring the best of all art to it’s citizens.
Now about the open windows. As we wander this beautiful city we have continued to meet interesting people who have stories to tell. So often we have found these acquaintances open windows to a world into which we otherwise would not have ventured. We continue to find ourselves blessed by would-be strangers who by a chance meeting open a window and invite us in to share the view.
Such was this evening. Thank you Nancy.
If you have a chance, I hope you will try to catch one of the Live Sounds performances that are scheduled between now and April 27. Check here for more information. Third Street Music School Live Sounds.