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Live Orchestra al Fresco: New York Philharmonic's Concerts in the Parks

May 25, 2018 - by Merrill Lee Girardeau
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Every year since 1965, the New York Philharmonic has toured the public parks of New York City, bringing free music to anyone with two ears and a picnic blanket. This year, the Concerts in the Park series will last from June 12 to 17, including a diverse program of music to liven up your summer evening. Find below the schedule, featured music, and tips to get the most out of your experience. We can hear the violins tuning now…

NY Philharmonic Concerts in the Parks 2018: The Schedule

Concerts in the Park

Locals enjoying New York Philharmonic in Central Park, 2013 flickr: Stuart Tracte

There are five concerts in the series this year—one for each borough in New York City. Tuesday, June 12, the Philharmonic begins at its northernmost venue: Van Cortlandt Park in the Woodlawn neighborhood of the Bronx. The concert will be held on the parade grounds.

Get ready for the biggest crowd at Central Park on Wednesday, June 13. The concert will be held at the Great Lawn in the middle of the park. Enter from West 81st or 86th Streets at Central Park West. Coming from the East Side at Fifth Avenue, enter at East 79th or 85th Streets. 

Queens gets the classical treatment on Thursday, June 14, at Cunningham Park. This sizeable park in Fresh Meadows, Queens, will host the orchestra at its 193rd Street Field near 81st Avenue or Union Turnpike. 

Friday, June 15, come to Brooklyn’s iconic Prospect Park for live music at Long Meadow Ballfields. Enter from the Park Slope side at 9th or 15th Streets.

The series will end with a diversion inside at Staten Island’s Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden. This indoor concert will occur at 3pm in the Music Hall at Snug Harbor on Sunday, June 17. The event is still free for all, but tickets are required due to space constraints. Find yours here!

All NY Philharmonic concerts, with the exception of the Staten Island concert, will begin at 8pm on their scheduled night. They will last an hour and a half with intermission. 

NY Philharmonic Concerts in the Parks 2018: The Music

NY Philharmonic

Last year’s Concerts in the Parks provided an approachable program for listeners: a bit of Aaron Copland, a bit of George Gershwin, and even a sing-along with the crowd. This year, conductor James Gaffigan will lead the New York Philharmonic through an equally democratic selection of music. The program will begin and end with major operatic works, while the three middle pieces are lively and contemporary, with a little musical theater thrown in for good measure. 

The night begins with the “Bacchanale,” a famous excerpt from Camille Saint-Saëns’ 1877 opera Samson and Delilah, drawn from the biblical story of a man of preternatural strength. The second piece of the evening is called Boogie Down Uptown from composer Jordan Miller. Third, hear Camryn Cowan’s Harlem Shake. These pieces were composed as part of the Philharmonic’s Very Young Composers initiative. Millar and Cowan are both under 12 years old!

Next come three dances from Leonard Bernstein’s score for the musical On the Town. The musical was a Broadway hit in 1944, became a movie starring Frank Sinatra, and has enjoyed several revivals since its initial run. Finally, a piece of Russian opera will round out the evening with Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade. This opera is based on the ancient Arabian Nights tale about a princess with storytelling powers so bewitching that she stays the hand of a tyrannical sultan.

NY Philharmonic Concerts in the Parks 2018: The Scoop

Take it from us: this is an event worth camping out for. For a seat close to the stage, we’d recommend arriving no later than 6:30pm (although for the Central Park concert, 6pm might be a safer bet). Get your favorite picnic blanket and seat cushion, and be sure to bring food and drink to complete the ultimate summer evening. Some people bring cooler bags and picnic sets to transport their cold items and little wine glasses (seriously). That said, try to minimize your haul to the essentials. Typically, blankets will line up edge to edge as the lawns fill up, so you won’t have much room to spread out.

Call for weather tips and more on the concert hotline at 212-875-5709, or visit

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