2009-06-12 / Columnists

Notes from the High C's

Rockaway Music and Arts Council
by Sharon Gabriel


The Sunset Picnic Concerts that is. We are all very excited about the fact that we have been able to finalize negotiations with Gateway National Recreation Area to bring our favorite summer pasttime back to our friends and neighbors. As you know, negotiations have been going on for almost two years and just last week everything came together.

Since it is so late in the season to book artists, we will only be having three concerts this summer and as I write this we are in the midst of negotiations with several groups to fill out our program. So mark your calendar with the following dates and watch this column for additional information because I'm not sure we will be able to have all of our publicity ready in time. The dates are Sunday, June 28, July 26 and August 9, beginning at 6:30 p.m.

A great part of the original problem with the cancellation of our series last year was the fact that Gateway would not let us use the Parade Grounds for the concerts as we had in the past as they had closed their headquarters building just behind the stage and moved to the newly renovated bathhouse and the parade ground area had become off-limits. In addition, there were several turnovers of park personnel so it was hard to get someone to speak with who would be there by the next meeting. They had offered us several areas in the park for the concerts but they really were not usable for "picnic" concerts; there would be too much foot traffic, and other problems in setting up for a proper concert. Then came the problem of whether the Wenger Wagon (the stage) was even operable any longer. It had originally been obtained for the RMAC by Chuck Schumer when he was our congressman. At a cost of over $80,000 it was not something that could easily be replaced. So, negotiations continued and continued and we have finally come to a conclusion which we think will work for everyone and we are very excited.

The 2009 Sunset Picnic Concerts will be presented at the Jacob Riis Bathhouse and there will be plenty of parking at the parking lot just across the street. This is the same area where the Fall Festival is presented. As you face the bathhouse there is a large grass area to the left and that is where the concerts will be held. While not as expansive as the parade grounds, it is a very nice area and will protect us from any breeze that might be coming off the ocean as it is protected by the building. One very important fact is that the concerts will now begin at 6:30 p.m. rather than 6:00 p.m. and this is due to the parking. The parking field is open until 6:00 p.m. and there is a charge to park up until that time, however, if you arrive after 6:00 p.m. there is no charge and so we decided to go with the later hour so that our guests would not have to worry about a parking fee.

We have been advised that there is plenty of lighting around as it gets later in the day and the word that I got is that it is "lit up like Broadway" so we have nothing to worry about in that area. Of course, bring your food, drinks and chairs with you and settle in for a good time.

While I can not tell you at this time whether they will appear in July or August, one of our guests will be the New York Klezmer Ensemble. Their music will bring back many memories for some of our guests. I am in the middle of negotiations with them as we speak and hope to have them finalized in the next day or two. Two other groups we are talking to are favorites that have been with us before in one way or another but I can't go into more details at the moment.

Just know that we are doing, and have been doing, everything possible over the last two years to bring our concerts back. There are several people who have to be mentioned who have worked tirelessly to this end.

Our president, Steve Yaeger, and vice presidents John Musumeci and Harold Cornell have met many, many times with the Gateway personnel to try to get this problem resolved. It was a tough negotiation but I think we did it.

On the Gateway side, I want to thank Rita Mullally for all of her efforts. I personally inundated her with phone calls over the past two weeks, calling every day to try to get an approval and Rita came through. Thank you Rita we appreciate all of your efforts.

As for John Musumeci, he will be "semi-retiring" from producing the concerts and I will try to fill his shoes and that's going to be a very hard job. John is the go-to guy about any musical talent and I have asked him to "watch my back" as I try to learn a new job. John knows the artists whether classical or rock 'n' roll and anything in between, and I really don't know how I'm going to do it, but I'll try. If you feel you can help just let us know at the concerts.

As the saying goes, we are looking for a few good men and women to join us as we continue presenting our programs. It takes a lot of time and effort to get all of our programs put together and the more people to work on them the better, so think about it and jump in with two feet. You never know what you can do until you try. And believe me, if you think we always know how something is going to turn out, we don't, so don't be shy and try.

Hope to have more information for you next week. See you around the neighborhood.

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