NEW YORK PHILHARMONIC
The New York Philharmonic turned its Sept. 20 opening gala into a benefit, presenting a performance of the Brahms German Requiem that reviewer Anthony Tommasini described as inspired. The performance was televised nationwide.
“The orchestra members donated their concert fee and TV fee to the fund, and waived any additional radio fees that might have been involved,” said committee chair Fiona Simon. Chorus, conductor and soloists also donated their services, there was no charge for the hall, and all proceeds of the ticket sales were contributed, raising an estimated $350,000.
“The Requiem made a powerful emotional statement,” Simon said. “It was very nice that we could use our skills to do something that was meaningful emotionally, and that also contributed a substantial amount of money.”
The Philharmonic recently announced plans to present a series of free lunchtime chamber concerts near the heart of the disaster area. “On Sept. 20, the New York Philharmonic performed music of mourning and remembrance,” said Executive Director Zarin Mehta. “But now New Yorkers are back at their jobs and, in many ways, are getting back to their lives. Musicians from the orchestra want to serve another musical role – to help bolster the spirits of the people who live and work around Lower Manhattan with these free, short lunchtime concerts. We’re the home-town band, and our musicians are delighted to be able to play for our own.”
Duncan Patton told Allegro that Metropolitan Opera orchestra members, librarians and music staff, who are all 802 members, volunteered their services for a Sept. 22 benefit concert. “In addition to that, the orchestra collected contributions of over $6,000, that we donated to the same fund.” That event raised more than $2½ million.
NEW YORK CITY OPERA
Another major benefit, a performance of The Flying Dutchman, was presented by the New York City Opera on Oct. 8. “The orchestra offered its services to management before they came to us,” said committee chair Laura Flax. “We were very eager to do something.”
She pointed out that NYCBO opened its season the week of the attack, and that General and Artistic Director Paul Kellogg “was so eloquent each night, talking about how music has served a purpose of consolation from the earliest times. Those first performances were very affecting. Everybody was up on the stage – not only the cast, but everybody from back offices, the stage hands – singing ‘The Star Spangled Banner.’ And the response from the audience was unbelievable.”
On Oct. 8, the Brooklyn Philharmonic and Brooklyn Academy of Music joined with a wide range of Brooklyn cultural institutions to present a highly successful benefit concert titled “Brooklyn Remembers, New York Rises.”
“It was a kind of journey along American music – with work by Copland, Gershwin and Bernstein, two of whom were born in Brooklyn – interspersed with poetry and readings,” said Graham Parker, General Manager of the Brooklyn Philharmonic. “It was quite a wonderful event.
“We were able to put an orchestra of over 80 players on that stage, a full symphony orchestra. There was no compromising because of the fact that it was donated – a large number of people took part. We were very excited about that, and very grateful to the union for everything they did to help.”
Funds have also been raised in hundreds of smaller venues and lower-profile events. For example, 802 member Marc Ribot, a guitarist, performed in a number of benefits at Tonic, a club located on Norfolk Street north of Delancey. Singer/songwriter Marc Anthony Thompson, aka the Chocolate Genius, headlined the first benefit at Tonic, on Sept. 16, for a fire-fighters’ fund. It was followed by five evenings of concerts organized by composer and saxophone player John Zorn, to benefit the Red Cross.
“We’ve all been terribly affected by what we’ve seen, and we wanted to help out in any way that we could,” Ribot told Allegro. “We participated in the benefit mostly to raise money for relief efforts – but also because we wanted to help Tonic survive, after the Canadian government withdrew funding at the last minute for a week of performances there. Even though 100 percent of the door was donated to relief, at least the bar kept going.”
He points out that Tonic was almost empty for more than five days, because police restricted access to residents only, in neighborhoods south of 14th Street, and is likely to have reduced attendance for quite a while. “And many of the clubs are somewhat marginal to begin with.”
Ribot is aware of a number of musicians who have lost housing, or rehearsal and recording spaces. He suggested that one useful role 802 could play in the disaster’s wake would be to serve as a conduit to resources for musicians who have been affected by it.