Brian Wise covers the classical music business for WQXR, including aspects of performance, technology, philanthropy and institutional trends. He manages the station's homepage and makes sure what you hear on air is what you see online. Follow him on Twitter at @Briancwise.
Mayor Bloomberg Will Conduct Orchestra at City Center Reopening
Tuesday, August 02, 2011 - 05:54 PM
Following in the footsteps of Fiorello LaGuardia, Rudolph Giuliani and David Dinkins, Mayor Michael Bloomberg will conduct the Encores! Orchestra at the re-opening of New York City Center on October 25.
The neo-Moorish theater in midtown, built as a meeting hall for the Shriners in 1923, has been undergoing a $75 million renovation since April 2010. It will include expanded seating in its 2,251-seat auditorium, a new marquee, and a repainted and redecorated box office lobby. The city is funding half of the renovation costs.
Event organizers said that Bloomberg’s conducting stint harkens back to the center's 1943 dedication gala, when then-Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia conducted the New York Philharmonic.
Bloomberg will conduct the Encores! Orchestra, an ensemble founded in 1994 to present the works of American Songbook composers like Harold Arlen, Irving Berlin, and George and Ira Gershwin. The mayor's repertoire details have yet to be announced.
"City Center occupies a special place in the lives of New Yorkers as the diverse and accessible ‘People’s Theater’ founded by Mayor La Guardia,” Bloomberg said in a statement Tuesday. “Generations of New Yorkers flocked to City Center to see performances by many of the world’s greatest artists and companies. The city of New York is proud to help City Center remain a vibrant cultural attraction for generations to come.”
Bloomberg follows in a long tradition of mayors as maestros. In 2001, Rudolph Giuliani led the Amor Artis Chorus and Orchestra in a performance of Verdi’s "Anvil Chorus" on Staten Island. In 1990, David Dinkins was a surprise performer at the New York Pops' seventh birthday gala, conducting "The Stars and Stripes Forever" at Carnegie Hall.
Bloomberg's musical credits are more limited. In 2009, he played the congas at a restaurant event in Spanish Harlem. Last year, at the Mayor’s Awards for Arts and Culture, Bloomberg was photographed at the piano in a duet with the actress Meryl Streep, although he never actually touched the keys.