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Kaufman Center
“Setting the Stage”
Opening Night Celebration

Kaufman Center
(Kaufman Center Website)

Esther Heideman, soprano
Friends of Kaufman Center Orchestra
Aaron Jay Kernis, Conductor
Lucy Moses School Flute Faculty and Friends
Face the Music
Jenny Undercofler, director

Press: Cohn Dutcher Associates
Kim Smith Public Relations

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
January 8, 2008


Dawn Carol (1996): Composed by Margaret Lowe, Performed by Lucy Moses Flute Faculty: Susan Friedlander, Valerie Holmes, Diane Taublieb, Linda Chesis, Shoji Mizumoto.

Music for the Theatre (1925): Composed by Aaron Copland, Performed by Friends of Kaufman Center Orchestra, Aaron Jay Kernis, Conductor.
Prologue, Dance, Interlude, Burlesque, Epilogue

Simple Songs (1991, arr. 1995): Composed by Aaron Jay Kernis, Performed by Esther Heideman, soprano, and Friends of Kaufman Center Orchestra, Aaron Jay Kernis, Conductor.
Hildegard of Bingen, Psalm I, Ryokan, Rumi, Psalm 131

Kol Aharon (1993, Premiere, New Version): Composed by Ira Mowitz, Performed by Face the Music.

Tonight was the Gala Opening of the new Kaufman Center and Merkin Hall, completed after an eight-month, $17 million renovation. There were pre-concert and post-concert receptions and speeches by Manhattan Borough President, Scott Stringer, and NYC Council member, Gale Brewer. The concert featured Esther Heideman, renowned soprano, Friends of Kaufman Center Orchestra, with Aaron Jay Kernis conducting, including a performance of his own Simple Songs, a carol by the flute faculty of Lucy Moses School, and a new version of Kol Aharon for solo violin plus mixed ensemble and digital soundtrack, commissioned for this occasion by the Special Music School.

The Kaufman Center renovation was designed by Robert A. M. Stern, architect and Dean of Yale School of Architecture. This was not a gutting or re-building, but, rather, an updating and upgrading of the building’s exterior, public spaces, and technical features, including an overhauling of the acoustics and lighting of Merkin Concert Hall, which presents 235 concerts/year. There were also new seats, new paint, and a new air system. Jaffe Holden Acoustics was in charge of the essential sound maintenance and enhancements in this renovation. Recording and broadcasting will be enabled in this new design concept. The theatrical consultant was Auerbach Pollack Friedlander, and the lighting consultant was Cline Bettridge Bernstein Lighting Design. .

In addition to the 457-seat Merkin Concert Hall, the Kaufman Center houses the Lucy Moses School, for community arts, and the Special Music School, a unique NYC public school, K-11, reserved for musically gifted children. The Kaufman Center, originally the Hebrew Arts School, built in 1952, and then the Goodman House, has been in its current location and multi-institution format since 1978. This was its first renovation. There are now large, inviting windows, red-orange bright signs on the exterior, and a brightly colored lobby. Tonight’s successful Gala event and concert to unveil the Kaufman Center’s renovation owes its gratitude to many major gifts, and its benefactors were present to celebrate with the audience, staff, and musicians. Among those celebrants were Elaine and Henry Kaufman, for whom the institution was named, Executive Director, Lydia Kontos, and Bethany Millard, Chairman of the board of Trustees. Major listed donors included the Kaufmans, the Merkin family, the Goodman family, the Millards, and members of the NYC Council.

The concert began rapturously with five flautists, placed in the balcony and near the orchestra and audience, with tiny lights on their podiums. Thus, they presented the new acoustics in an ethereal ambiance. The work was Margaret Lowe’s 1996 Dawn Carol. The effect was a nature-evoking harmony, very fluid and enfolding. Copland’s 1925 Music for the Theatre was conducted by Aaron Jay Kernis and performed by Friends of Kaufman Center Orchestra. The orchestra includes members of numerous musical ensembles, such as the Lark Chamber Artists and American Brass Quintet. Mr. Kernis is the orchestra’s designated conductor leading musicians on violins, violas, celli, bass, flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn, trumpet, trombone, percussion, harp, and piano. The Copland work is a tone poem, encompassing all of the sounds one would hear at the theatre, with a contemporary motif, at once melancholy and melodic, then dissonant and dynamic. There were hints of Stravinsky and Bernstein, perhaps not by accident, as Bernstein conducted Copland’s works. A trumpet solo soared with acoustical brightness, a good sign.

At various points in the program, there were warm welcoming remarks by the Kaufman Center leaders, such as Elaine Kaufman, Bethany Millard, and Lydia Kontos. Aaron Jay Kernis’ 1991 Simple Songs, arranged for chamber orchestra in 1995, were conducted by the composer and sung by Esther Heideman, soprano. They are five songs, including two psalms and poems by Hildegard of Bingen (Medieval), Rumi (Persian), and Ryokan ((Buddhist). Translations were by Stephen Mitchell and Robert Bly. The music was, at times, a harmony of raindrops and, at other times, driven dissonance. The text of Rumi includes “You are the notes and we are the flute. We are the mountain, you are the sounds coming down…” Ms. Heideman’s vocalization had lovely, lyrical phrasings, while each note and word were radiant and resonant. Again, the acoustics rose to the occasion.

The evening closed (prior to the post-concert reception, with chocolate strawberries and champagne) with Face the Music’s presentation of an ensemble from the Special Music School, performing Ira Mowitz’ newly commissioned re-creation of his 1993 Kol Aharon (“Aaron’s Voice”). There was a digital soundtrack with the voice of the composer’s son, plus strings, trumpet, horn, flutes, and keyboards. Kudos to the Kaufman Center’s leadership and staff, kudos to Robert A. M. Stern, Architects and their renovation team, and kudos to the musicians, conductor, and composers for a grand “Setting the Stage”, Opening Night Celebration.

Pre-Concert Reception
Photo by Roberta E. Zlokower

Michael Barrett, Co-Founder/Assoc.Artistic Dir.,
New York Festival of Song and CEO of Caramoor Center
Photo by Roberta E. Zlokower

Elaine and Henry Kaufman
Photo by Roberta E. Zlokower

Lydia Kontos with Elie and David Klafter
Photo by Roberta E. Zlokower

Hector and Amparo Martignon
Photo by Roberta E. Zlokower

Bethany Millard, Chairman, Kaufman Center Board of Trustees
Photo by Roberta E. Zlokower

Scott Stringer, Guest Speaker,
Borough President, Manhattan
Photo Courtesy of Scott Stringer

Gale Brewer, Guest Speaker,
NYC Council
Photo by Roberta E. Zlokower

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