By Bette Dewing
"While we revere the recordings, there's nothing like hearing it live!" Oh, Steve Shaiman, you are so right about live music and hearing the swing era played by your 20-piece Swingtime Big Band. That is musical joy of the very first kind. And especially, but not only for the pre-rock generation who grew up with the incomparable sounds of bands like Basie, two Dorseys, Ellington, Goodman and Miller, and singers like Bing, Ella, Judy and Frank.
And we could not be more thankful to the Carl Schurz Park Conservancy, and its president, David Williams, for bringing the Great America Song Book music to Carl Schurz Park for a fifth annual concert. (But we wish there was funding for two or three more. The conservancy number to call is 212-459-4455)
The concert setting at the top of the 86th Street Mall staircase on John Finley Walk overlooking the East River and the Triborough Bridge is also perfection. And, it's all part of glorious Carl Schurz Park, replete with the Mayor's mansion, and we sure wish its new tenants, especially the young ones, had experienced this concert and realized how this type of music must be part of their musical diet. I am most serious.
A bit of a sidetrack, but the whole First NYC Family must also realize that the proposed "trash dump" site near their own backyard will do far more than spoil the view, but soil the air (especially around the adjacent public playground and sports field), and create garbage truck crowding to spike traffic danger the mayor's inspired Vision Zero program vows to stamp out.
And we sure could use a song protesting the trash dump, which Ken More and his band performing in Carl Schurz Park, Wednesday, August 6 from 7:30 pm to 8:30 pm, just might want to provide.
Ah, and bless Steve Shaiman for honoring the members of the Swing Era generation attending the concert, especially several World War 11 veterans, And one of them said later, "This kind of music keeps me going." Indeed studies galore show how music "not only soothes the savage breast," (or is it "beasties"?) but has countless other social and health benefits, including getting through, bringing joy, to fading brains when nothing else can.
Some of us there mourned the absence of community activist, Sylvia Slavin, who so loved this park, this music and especially this concert, and who at 92, departed this life last year. But no one knows where to send condolences to her devoted son, Ira.
About this photo, we're sorry it doesn't also show the "boy vocalist," Jerry Costanzo, and a few other band members but even more that it doesn't show the smiles and the tapping of toes of the standing room-only audience, and some, like this former band singer, softly singing along and remembering the words. Music hath power. And doggone it, we need to hear, sing or otherwise make music, as much as we need a healthy food and exercise diet. This was the foremost goal of the late great Pete Seeger.
All this is what America's First Families need to advise! And for the many elder people without Internet, Steven Shaiman and his Swingtime Big Band can be reached at 516-876-8324 and again, the Carl Schurz Park Conservancy number is 212-459-4455. They deserve all-out support.