By Bill Parry
Jazz great Louis Armstrong’s love affair with Corona will be celebrated throughout May and June as Queens Library partners with the Kupferberg Center for the Arts at Queens College and the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Corona to bring events to all 62 of the system’s branches.
Free workshops, concerts, lectures, videos and surprise events will focus on the 50th anniversary of the release of Armstrong’s classic “What a Wonderful World,” which was inspired by the neighborhood around his home at 34-56 107th where he and his wife Lucille Wilson lived from 1943 to 1971.
“There is so much in ‘Wonderful World’ that brings me back to my neighborhood where I live in Corona, New York,” Armstrong recalled in a 1968 interview. “Lucille and I, ever since we’re married, we’ve been right there in that block. And everybody keeps their little homes up like we do and it’s just like one big family. I saw three generations come up on that block. And they’re all with their children, grandchildren, they come back and see Uncle Satchmo and Aunt Lucille. That’s why I can say, “I hear babies cry/ I watch them grow/ they’ll learn much more/ then I’ll ever know.’ And I look at all them kids’ faces. And I got pictures of them when they was 5, 6 and 7 years old. So when they hand me this “Wonderful World,’ I didn’t look no further, that was it.”
Highlights of the celebration includes a variety of musical performances, including Grammy Award-nominee David Ostwald and his ensemble, The Louis Armstrong Eternity Band, which will play at the Langston Hughes Library in Corona on May 24 at 6 p.m., the Flushing Library June 14 at 6:30 p.m. and the Peninsula Library in Rockaway Beach June 29 at 6 p.m.
“While the song reflects Louis Armstrong’s feelings about the neighborhood of Corona and (the) borough of Queens, it also applies to the way many of our customers experience our libraries,” Queens Library President and CEO Dennis Walcott said. “It speaks of the joy of discovery and the satisfaction of learning that occurs each time people come to us for information that helps them succeed in their lives.”
Experts and archivists from the Louis Armstrong House Museum will offer lectures on the life and times of Louis Armstrong and his “undeterred love for Queens and its people” at the Glen Oaks Library May 18 at 1 p.m. and the Forest Hills Library June 25 at 6:30 p.m. The team will also deliver lectures in Spanish at the Jackson Heights Library June 2 at 3 p.m. and the Astoria Library June 4 at 5:30 p.m.
“The Louis Armstrong House Museum is thrilled to be sharing the legacy of the great Louis Armstrong throughout the borough of Queens and beyond the neighborhood of Corona he loved so much where the museum is based,” David Ostwald, the Chairman of the board and leader of the Louis Armstrong Eternity Band, said.
Following Armstrong’s death in 1971, his house on 107th Street was transformed into the museum, which now has a visitors center and a performance space.
“We are thrilled to be working with the Queens Library to bring ‘What a Wonderful World’ programming to all 62 library branches in the borough and in turn make the arts more accessible to everyone in Queens,” Queens College President Felix Matos Rodriguez said. “What better way to communicate our college’s mission to serve the students and families of our borough than through a celebration of one of America’s and Queens’ most-beloved cultural icons?”
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Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr