NEWS RELEASE – For Immediate Release • New York City, September 8, 2019
Sunday, September 15, 5:00 pm, Verdi Square Festival 2019 opens with New York Jazzharmonic Trad-Jazz Sextet salute to the music of Lillian Hardin, Lovie Austin, Bessie Smith, and Alberta Hunter – the women pioneers of Jazz. Ron Wasserman, creator of the “Women of Early Jazz” program and founder of New York Jazzharmonic, is Principal Double Bass of the New York City Ballet Orchestra and composer. The one-hour open air concert at Verdi Square, Broadway & 72nd Street, is free, but seating is limited. Early arrival is recommended. Performances always play to standing room crowds and ovations. The 2019 Festival’s other two 5:00 pm Sunday concerts are September 22 – American Musical Theater and September 29 – Opera, both by artists of the Manhattan School of Music.
The Verdi Square Festival was created in 2006 by a group of Upper West Side music lovers who saw in Verdi Square, dominated by the statue of Italy’s great composer Giuseppe Verdi, an ideal venue in which to present free concerts by aspiring young musicians and new musical groups. Then incumbent Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, an ardent Opera fan, heartily endorsed the idea. The NYC Parks Dept. is a Festival partner, providing set-up manpower, concert seating, and stage platforms for the Festival’s three September Sunday afternoon concerts.
Verdi Square has a long, distinguished musical history. In 1906 the Italian-American community of New York under the leadership of Carlo Barsotti, Editor of the Progresso Italo-Americano, raised the funds to commission the Verdi statue by sculptor Pasquale Civiletti. 10,000 people attended the statue’s unveiling with innumerable marching bands and a chorus of 300 school children. The Ansonia Hotel across Broadway from Verdi Square, the pre-eminent hotel of its time, was the New York residence of Enrico Caruso, Fyodor Chaliapin, Lauritz Melchior, Arturo Toscanini, and Igor Stravinsky. They all regularly strolled through Verdi Square, as did George and Ira Gershwin living down the block on Riverside Drive.
The Festival always concludes with an Opera concert. Programs have featured a wide variety of great music, from American Musical Theater to Jazz, Bluegrass, Klezmer, and Jug Band. Initially young performers came from New York and Boston Conservatories. In recent years new groups of established musicians also have performed before the Festival’s highly appreciative UWS audiences. Festival partner First Republic Bank’s Broadway 76th Street branch (“Verdi Square North”) has presented Poetry Readings and Art Exhibits. The Festival has an especially close relationship with the Manhattan School of Music whose artists have performed in every Festival since inception.