By Morgan Rousseau
The 2010 season of Long Island City’s performance series Live at the Gantries is kicking off with a sunset show at Gantry Plaza State Park June 13 with a performance by the Long Island City Jazz Alliance, a new collective formed by jazz fans and musicians that live and work in LIC.
Live at the Gantries is a series of 10 outdoor free shows featuring some of Queens’ most celebrated new entertainers. After Sunday’s show the performances run weekly, every Tuesday, from June 22 through Aug 18 at 7 p.m. at Gantry Plaza on the Long Island City waterfront.
The series offers up a diverse selection of music, ranging from jazz to classical, power gospel to rock ‘n’ roll and more.
The series is organized and produced by The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, Queens Theatre in the Park, and Queens Council on the Arts. All three organizations work together, each contributing resources and commitment to make Live at the Gantries what it is.
Since Live at the Gantries began in 2008, it has drawn an eclectic audience of all ages — a combination of LIC residents and folks from other Queens neighborhoods and boroughs, thanks to a blazing word of mouth.
Rachel Gordon, regional director at the Parks Department, came up with the idea for the series because she wanted to make the most of a beautiful state park in the Queens community. “[The series] brings a wonderful sense of community in the larger sense. Not just a community within a few blocks, but in all of Queens, for the city as a whole,” she said.
Gordon calls Live at the Gantries a “unique series in a unique park that stresses the diversity of Queens.”
She describes the selection of performers as a broad spectrum of diversity. “There is a marvelous array of music, performers and people from different parts of Queens, and people from different parts of the world that come to Queens,” Gordon said.
Chris Henderson has been curator of Live at the Gantries for the past three years. He describes the event as having a relaxed setting with a family-oriented crowd made up of children and young adults. In order to choose the musicians, Henderson assembles a master list of Queens-based musicians from which the performers are chosen.
“I’ve worked around the borough, so I know a lot of the bands in the area. I give [the organizers] a list of the bands. We then collaborate on the right mix of balancing different kinds of music — things that are obscure, things that are popular,” Henderson said.
Jeff Rosenstock, executive director of Queens Theatre in the Park, says the organization has been involved since its inception three years ago. Rosenstock says Queens Theatre in the Park’s goal is to make something unique and “Queens-oriented” happen in LIC at no charge to the community.
“We see Live at the Gantries as a window into the artistic depth of our borough’s emerging and diverse performing artists, as well as an entry into one of the city’s most beautiful locations — Gantry Park,” Rosenstock said.
This year’s line-up includes Opera Collective (June 22), whose name is self-explanatory; Pass Kontrol (June 29), an art collective and band that puts on plays and musical performances; Jia-Yi He (July 6), a Taiwanese harmonica virtuoso; DB Rielly (July 13), a roots musician; Mundoclave (July 20), an Afro-Cuban jazz act; Andy Statman (July 27), a mandolin-and-clarinet maestro; the St. Paul AME Mass Church Choir (Aug. 3); Hiromi Suda (Aug. 10), a classically trained singer who has taken up Brazillian jazz; and a closing performance by Mission: on Mars (Aug. 17), an Indian-flavored fusion band.
Adrienne Patino of Opera Collective says the musical group strives to make opera accessible to the general public, which makes Live at the Gantries a perfect venue.
“Any organization like Live at the Gantries that provides musical experiences to the public is very appealing, and you couldn’t ask for a better setting than our city skyline,” Patino said.
Three out of the 10 members of Opera Collective live in Queens. “Being a rather new Queens resident myself, I love getting to know my borough. This series will allow me to explore more parts of my community. And we strive to make our communities better through music,” Patino said.
Gantry Plaza State Park is a 2.5 acre waterside spot between 49th and 50th avenues along the East River in LIC. The venue offers a perfect view of a skyline sunset, with open seating.
“Our goal was not to re-create another large scale outdoor summer festival, but rather to take some exceptional Queens-based artists, fuse them with a beautiful setting and share it all at no charge with all who wish to attend,” Rosenstock said.
Live at the Gantries is sponsored by TF Cornerstone, Rockrose Development Corp. with additional support from State Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan, City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, L Haus, O’Connor Capital Partners and Con Edison.
For more information visit www.liveatthegantries.com.