Sunday, June 8, 2014

City Parks Foundation Kicks Off SummerStage Season with Night of Dinner, Dancing and The Beatles!

By Tami Shaloum
Photos by Heather-Ann Schaeffner* 

R to L: Willie Nile; Philip Bailey; David Broza; Paula Cole; John Batiste
Ever wonder where the money for the maintenance and programming of the over 750 New York City parks comes from? Tuesday’s CityParks Foundation (CPF) Gala answered that question with a fundraiser that yielded over one million dollars. Honoring CPF Board Member Andrew Tisch with the 2014 People and Parks Award, the gala coincided with the start of a rich and varied SummerStage season. Featuring over 100 free music, dance, comedy and theatre events spread throughout all five boroughs, SummerStage is one of New York City’s most highly anticipated performing arts festivals. The gala did not disappoint, as it lived up to the high standards of previous seasons with an evening featuring the music of The Beatles.

Willie Nile Gets the Audience Dancing
As the rainfall turned into a trickle, a rainbow smiled on the start of the concert at Rumsey Playfield in Central Park. With G.E. Smith and his All-Star Band at the helm, a rotating roster of accomplished musicians paid tribute to the Fab Four with songs such as “Eight Days A Week,” “A Hard Day’s Night,” “And Your Bird Can Sing” and “She Said She Said.” Willie Nile got the audience dancing with his rousing version of “Revolution.” Israeli singer/songwriter David Broza then chilled out with a Spanish guitar inflected “In My Life” and a Paul Simon-esque “Twist and Shout.” Paula Cole enchanted the audience with a solo piano rendition of “She’s Leaving Home,” then got the audience up on its feet again with the band-backed “Get Back.”

John Batiste Plays a Different Kind of Keyboard
New Orleans native Jon Batiste really put his own spin on “Blackbird,” using the piano to evoke both jazz and classical styles. His “Paperback Writer” was similarly interesting, pulling in funky rhythms to the familiar tune. Southside Johnny (of the Asbury Jukes) pulled off an expectedly rocking “Helter Skelter” and “Drive My Car.” But it was Philip Bailey of Earth, Wind & Fire and his brass section that really brought the house down with a funky, soulful R&B performance of “Got to Get You into My Life.”

Although the gala and concert were not for the general public, the result of it certainly is. The money raised will go toward supporting the City Parks Foundation’s free arts, education, and sports programs all year round. If anything was raining down on Central Park the other night, it was the community spirit and celebration of the arts that the City Parks Foundation and its supporters showered on the city.

The full calendar of all the SummerStage 2014 events can be found at

More Photo Highlights from the CPF Gala:

G.E. Smith Gets Down with Paula Cole
John Batiste Tickles the Ivories

Southside Johnny Sings Out
Willie Nile Plays the Tambourine

Andrew Tisch and CPF President Alison Tocci 

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