Thanks to Bryant Park Picnic Performances—presented by Bryant Park Corporation (a private, not-for-profit) there are lots of fun, free, cultural music and theater events to enjoy through October at Bryant Park. The lineup for this month includes performances of Shakespeare plays by The Drilling Company, selections from classics as played by the New York City Opera, the Accordions Around the World, which spotlights acclaimed local and international musicians; the indie rock-focused Emerging Music Festival; and a series with New York’s top arts organizations.
This scenic Midtown Manhattan park, which is visited by more than six million people each year, is located behind the New York Public Library between 40th and 42nd Streets, and Fifth and Sixth Avenues. The sprawling space offers guests movable chairs and tables, cafe umbrellas to shade the sun, and a variety of food kiosks and restaurants, as well as restrooms. All events are free; tickets are not required. For more information, visit bryantpark.org.
(Friday, August 2nd) Harlem Quartet
Harlem Quartet has been praised for “bringing a new attitude to classical music.”
Founded in 2006 by The Sphinx Organization—a nonprofit dedicated to transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts, Harlem Quartet is working towards advancing diversity in classical music. 6pm-7:30pm.
(Wednesday, August 7th and August 14th) Accordions Around the World
Photo: Angelito Jusay Photography
Nearly a half-dozen accordion players set up in different stations across the park to show off the many styles of accordion music. 5:30-7:30pm.
(Friday, August 9th) Citywide Night with Matuto, Eileen Ivers, and Nathan & the Zydeco Cha Chas
Acclaimed Brazilian, Irish, and New Orleans folk bands share an array of contemporary and traditional sounds. Matuto’s lively quartet shakes up Brazilian folk music with flatpicking guitars and fiery fiddles of American bluegrass. Matuto describes it as “Brazilian Carnival in the Appalachian Mountains.” Anchored by the guitar of Clay Ross and accordion of Rob Curto, Matuto’s joyous explorations of every folk, world, and jazz style are invigorating. 6pm-10pm
Irish fiddle player Eileen Ivers is a Grammy Award winner and nine-time All-Ireland Fiddle Champion. Her daring, exciting sounds push boundaries. Deeply rooted in tradition, Ivers remains dedicated to exploring new possibilities. She has played with major orchestras worldwide and with Sting, the Chieftains, and Patti Smith.
Zydeco’s sound, which fuses Cajun, Afro-Caribbean, and African-American popular music, burns brightly when Nathan Williams and the Zydeco Cha Chas perform. Williams’s accordion playing sets the boisterous tone while his brother Dennis’s jazz-tinged guitar ushers in its own unique sound. Bass, drums, and rubboard bring a bit of spice to this Louisiana-styled musical gumbo.
(Saturday, August 10th) Town Hall’s Broadway Sings
Impresario Scott Siegel of Town Hall's Broadway by the Year brings a formidable collection of Broadway stars out from under the bright lights to perform in the park. The show features Laurel Harris of Wicked and Beautiful; Jenny Lee Stern from Forbidden Broadway and Rocky: The Musical; Brian Charles Rooney of The Three-Penny Opera; Jillian Louis of It Shoulda Been You; Kristen Dausch of Funny Girl; Douglas Ladnier of Jekyll & Hyde; and multi-award winning vocalist Natalie Douglas.
(Friday, August 16th) Accordions Around the World-Accordion Festival
This five-hour concert celebration features accordion-driven bands from around the world. Bands include Toot Sweet (cabaret soul); Aces of Rhythm, Tango from Argentina; Fedor Chistyakov (Russian Rock & Roll); Los Texmaniacs (Texas-Mexican Conjunto); and Rey Vallenato Beto Jamaica(Vallenato from Colombia). Mickela Mallozzi—the Emmy Award-winning host of Bare Feet with Mickela Mallozziis hosting the festival. 5-10pm.
(Friday, August 23rd) Emerging Music Festival-Sammy Rae, Morningsiders, Celisse, and The Muckers
In 2016, Sammy Rae & The Friends (SR&TF) emerged from a group of talented musicians and friends. Since the release of their single ‘Saw It Coming,’ the band has enjoyed six sold-out shows in New York at Knitting Factory, Bowery Electric, DROM, and Rockwood Music Hall. The lyrics focus on themes of coming-of-age, defiance, and self-expression.
Morningsiders started making music together in college. Magnus and Reid write, record, and release music on Spotify and other streaming platforms. Their music has debuted in several movies and commercials, and has been featured on prominent Spotify Playlists such as Feel-Good Indie Rock, Totally Stress-Free, New Music Friday, Songs Taylor Loves, and more.
Singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, performer, and spoken word artist, Celisse Henderson has played at venues ranging from the Beacon Theater while supporting Mariah Carey to Madison Square Garden while supporting Kesha, and the Apollo Theater with Melissa Etheridge. It was her talent as a singer-songwriter and musician that defined her most as a musician.
Before arriving in New York City in 2017, The Muckers formed in Iran. Last November, they released a 3-track effort boasting unapologetic funk-laden disco grooves tied together with early-aughts-MTV-era guitar licks. 6-10pm
(Saturday, August 24th) Emerging Music Festival: Renata Zeiguer, Tomberlin, Ghost Funk Orchestra, and Remember Sports
Renata Zeiguer is a multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter who grew up playing classical and jazz music. Her debut album Old Ghost, which was recently released by Northern Spy Records, is the sound of someone finding and losing herself in the endless dance of fear and forgiveness.
On her deeply moving debut album At Weddings, Sarah Beth Tomberlin writes with the clarity and wisdom of an artist well beyond her years. She has a knack for transforming the personal into parable.
Ghost Funk Orchestra
New York psychedelic soul band Ghost Funk Orchestra began as a one-man basement recording project and has evolved into a 10-piece powerhouse band.
Remember Sports’ peppy indie power-pop encapsulates the melancholy and excitement of growing up. Vocalist/guitar player Carmen Perry’s writing is an amalgam of melancholy and joy. The band’s latest album was 2018's Slow Buzz with Father/Daughter Records. The group includes Jack Washburn on guitar, Catherine Dwyer on bass, and Connor Perry on drums. 6pm-10pm.
(Friday, August 26th) New York City Opera: Carmen
New York City Opera's Carmen.
The innkeeper Lillas Pastia narrates the tempestuous story of the irresistible seductress Carmen and her hapless lover Don José in this hour-long presentation of highlights from Bizet’s beloved opera. 6-10pm.
(Friday, August 30th-Saturday, September 1st) Shakespeare-The Drilling Company’s Othello
Othello examines the interplay of well-intentioned peacekeeping and progressive thinking conflicting with the regressive backdrop of tribal instincts and backbiting social climbing. This take on the story of the Moorish prince and his doomed wife stars Emmanuel Elpenord as Othello, David Marantz as Iago, and Liz Livingston as Desdemona. 7pm.
For more information, visit bryantpark.org.