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Manhattan

by Barbara Hanning

As the old Rodgers and Hart song proclaims, the island of Manhattan holds an embarrassment of riches to delight members of the Society for Seventeenth-Century Music for their twentieth annual conference, to be held 19-22 April 2012 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Home to 1.5 million people, New York County (Manhattan) is still nevertheless a clutch of small neighborhoods, each with its distinct style and flavor. The song will serve to highlight some of those relevant to the conference.

parkIn Central Park we’ll stroll
Where our first kiss we stole,
Soul to soul.

Our meeting site is in the neighborhood of the elegant Upper East Side, where the Metropolitan Museum at Fifth Avenue and East 82nd Street borders Central Park, the first landscaped public park in the country. Colloquially known as the Met, the Museum owns more than two million objects and boasts a collection of Egyptian art second only to Cairo’s. Its building lies at the southern end of the classy stretch of Fifth Avenue known as “Museum Mile,” which includes the Museum of the City of New York, The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, the Jewish Museum, the Guggenheim Museum, El Museo del Barrio, and the Neue Galerie, among others. A few blocks further south of the Met is the astounding Frick collection, housed in the industrialist’s former mansion. Our center of gravity during the conference, however, will be the Met itself. In addition to the paper sessions, the Museum will enable small-group tours of some of the galleries (including the fabulous musical instruments collection) and will host a private concert in the Museum’s Patron’s Lounge overlooking Central Park. The concert, on Saturday evening and preceded by cocktails and light refreshments, will feature Robert Mealy playing the Museum’s 1693 Stradivari violin along with the ensemble Juilliard 415.

5th aveWe’ll have Manhattan
dottedThe Bronx and Staten Island too;
We’ll try to cross Fifth Aaaaaaav-en-ue.

Crossing Fifth Avenue and walking one block east, we’ll come to Madison Avenue with its array of fine restaurants and shops. And further east, accessible via the crosstown bus or by a 25-30 minute walk (1.2 miles), is the chosen hotel, the Courtyard by Marriott Manhattan Upper East Side, at 410 East 92nd Street near First Avenue, where the convention rate is only $169.00/night. The city is served by three airports: JFK, La Guardia (LGA), which is the closest, and Newark (EWR). Those travelling by rail or bus will arrive at Grand Central, Penn Station, or at the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Instructions for getting to the hotel by public transportation will be on the hotel’s registration website and on the Society’s conference page, which should be accessible in January. (Graduate students may wish eventually to check that page for alternative accommodation suggestions.)

The city’s clamor can never spoil
The dreams of a guy and goil.

With a wealth of entertainment possibilities to choose from, the conference planners felt that attendees would appreciate having Thursday night free to explore concerts and night life on your own. At the same time, they urge you to reserve Friday and Saturday nights for conference events. Therefore, rather than the traditional opening-night reception, the Society will host a breakfast reception at the Museum on Friday morning before the sessions get under way. For Thursday night, opera buffs will be disappointed to learn that the Metropolitan Opera has no performance scheduled, but among the many other exciting venues on the Upper West Side are Avery Fisher Hall, where guest conductor Herbert Blomstedt will conduct the NY Philharmonic in Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 and Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 9 (Jeunehomme) with Garrick Ohlsson; Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall, where the Brentano String Quartet will perform Busoni’s No. 2 and Beethoven’s Op. 130 and the Grosse Fuge; and Alice Tully Hall, where the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center usually holds audiences spellbound.

villageWe’ll go to Greenwich
dottedWhere modern men itch
To be free.

For those interested in less formal night-life, there are the jazz clubs in Greenwich Village: the Blue Note, Small’s, or the legendary Village Vanguard, whose schedules are not yet posted for April. You might also like to head uptown to Jazz at Lincoln Center to hear Taj Mahal & the Phantom Blues Band perform that weekend, or catch a late set at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola in the chic new Times Warner Center. Further listings and more details appear on www.nycgo.com and eventually on the Society’s conference page as well.

lincolnAnd tell me what street
dottedCompares with Mott Street in July.

With those who wish to attend the banquet, which will take place this year on Friday night, we’ll travel downtown to the Lower East Side to check out another of New York’s neighborhoods: Chinatown, where we’ll have an authentic and bountiful Chinese meal. One of the city’s oldest ethnic enclaves, Chinatown covers about 35 blocks and until 9/11 was the most populous and densely settled Chinese community in the nation. Now, a decade later, the majority of its population still lives in traditional tenement houses and its food markets, jewelry shops, restaurants and other tourist attractions continue to thrive. The intrepid among you will want to venture downtown by subway and explore the area on foot before or after the banquet, but others may opt to take a tourist bus chartered for the occasion.

Then there’s the theater district, concentrated in Midtown. Despite the slump in ticket sales after the 2001 terrorist attacks and the current economic downturn, Broadway audiences have risen to record-breaking numbers. In addition to popular and long-running shows such as Lion King, and revivals such as Cole Porter’s Anything Goes, there are many less expensive happenings in alternative theater spaces Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway. In any case, if this is your first time in the Big Apple it will undoubtedly be a memorable visit. And if you’ve been here before, then we hope you’ll be able to attest its virtues and join in singing . . .

chinatownThe great big city’s a wondrous toy
Just made for a girl and boy
We’ll turn Manhattan
dottedI
nto an isle of joy.

 


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