Apollo Theatre: A Standing Tribute to the History of African-American Arts and Music

by Nick David

The Apollo Theatre stands on West 125th Street, just north of Central Park and right in the heart of New York’s Harlem neighborhood. It is a music hall, a national landmark and a beacon of American music history.

From its heyday in the late 1930s to its modern incarnation, the Apollo has come to stand for all that is great about American music and the contributions of African-Americans to the soul of New York City and the country as a whole.

Apollo Theater

Click for more details on the Apollo Theater

 

History of the Apollo
The Apollo Theater began life as the New Burlesque Theater; a neo-classic theater which opened its doors in 1914 as a whites-only venue. It ran popular burlesque shows for years, until it fell into disrepute and disrepair in the 1930s. In 1933, the building was sold after soon-to-be New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia campaigned to close down burlesques.

The building was renovated and then reopened in 1934 as the Apollo Theater. This time it was open to patrons of all colors, and it began showcasing African-American acts, featuring performances by everyone from swing acts and jazz musicians to gospel singers and comedians.

The theater grew to its heyday in the pre-war era, when it labelled itself as the “place where stars are born”. The list of performers who graced the stage at the Apollo is nothing short of legendary; including Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Sam Cooke, Mahalia Jackson, Bill Cosby, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles and Otis Redding, to name just a few of its most legendary acts.

The Apollo, and its Harlem community, hit hard times in the 1970s, but both have since rebounded to embrace a new era.   After the turn of the 21st century, the theatre was renovated and restored to its original glory.

Amateur Night at the Apollo
Since it re-opened its doors in 1934, the most popular nights at the Apollo have been Amateur Nights, complete with “The Executioner” who sweeps bad acts off the stage, and full participation from a famously critical and vocal audience.

The list of people who got their start at Amateur Night reads like a who’s who of American culture. A 15-year-old Ella Fitzgerald won $25 here on one of the first Amateur Nights. Other stars that got their debut at the Apollo include Jimi Hendrix, James Brown, Mariah Carey and Sammy Davis Jr.

Visiting the Apollo
The best way to visit the Apollo Theater is to come for Amateur Night. Amateur Night celebrated its 80th season in 2014, and is still held every Wednesday at 7:30pm from January to October. You can buy tickets in person at the box office, or at ticketmaster.com. Tickets range from $20 to $32, but plan far in advance as this popular event sells out incredibly fast.

You can also buy tickets to any of the remarkable concerts staged at the Apollo all year round. You can see anything here from a cutting edge comedy act to a dance recital to a world class concert by one of the world’s biggest stars. The Apollo seats about 1,500 people for one concert, but every year, more than a million people visit the theater.

If concert tickets are sold out, you can take a walking tour of the Apollo Theatre, led by the theater’s resident historian, Billy Mitchell, who has been with the Apollo since he started as a teenaged stagehand in the 1960s. Tours last an hour and cost $16 on weekdays, $18 on weekends. Call 212-531-5337 to make tour arrangements.

The Music of Carnegie Hall | A Century of Outstanding Concerts

by Nick David

The old joke says that the only way to get to Carnegie Hall is to practice.  The truth is that it is a lot simpler than that.  You only need to buy a ticket to enjoy one of the hundreds of concerts performed here every year.

Since it opened in the spring of 1891, Carnegie Hall has attracted the world’s best musicians of all kinds to this stretch of Seventh Avenue just south of Central Park.  The building gets its name from its benefactor, the great philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, and it has become one of the most famous concert venues in the world.

Click for full details on Carnegie Hall

Click for full details on Carnegie Hall

 

Inside Carnegie Hall
Carnegie Hall holds three auditoriums.  The main hall is the Isaac Stern Auditorium; home to the Perelman Stage and nearly three thousand seats.  The hall is named for gifted violinist Isaac Stern, and it is one of the most honored stages in the United States.  It is famous for its perfect acoustics and the stage has been graced by some of the world’s biggest talents, from Vladimir Horowitz to Groucho Marx.

Zankel Hall is the newest venue at Carnegie Hall, and it features a much smaller venue, with just 600 seats.  Concerts here showcase contemporary classical, pop and jazz musicians, as well as chamber music.

The Weill Recital Hall is even more intimate, holding under 300 seats.  It hosts master classes, panel discussions and often plays host to the debut of a young and upcoming artist.

The Design of Carnegie Hall
Aside from the music, the architecture of Carnegie Hall also stands as tribute to the arts.  It was one of the last large masonry buildings constructed in New York.  Its white and gold interior is restrained.  Architect William Burnett Tuthill drew inspiration from all of Europe’s best concert halls.

Tuthill did away with the heavy curtains and chandeliers that were considered so fashionable at the time, as his research told him they interfered with the sound.  Instead, the unadorned design, the domed ceiling and the elliptical shape of the halls have all helped establish Carnegie Hall’s reputation as having perfect acoustics. The building was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1962.

The History of Carnegie Hall
Carnegie Hall opened with the music of Russian composer Tchaikovsky, since then it has seen more than 45,000 of the best concerts in the world.  Over the next century of music, the world’s greatest symphonies, singers and musicians have graced these stages, including the Benny Goodman Orchestra, Duke Ellington’s Orchestra, Harry Belafonte, Judy Garland, Billie Holiday, the Beach Boys and the Beatles.  The New York Philharmonic has played at Carnegie Hall more than 5,000 times.

The hall has seen the world premieres of several of the world’s best orchestras and works of music, including works from Dvořák, Strauss, Gershwin, Ellington and Glass.

Seeing a Concert at Carnegie Hall
With hundreds of performances every season, there are plenty of chances to take in the history and legend of Carnegie Hall.  You can buy tickets directly from Carnegie Hall’s website.  If there is a specific show you have in mind, plan ahead and buy your tickets early. Demand is high.  There are discounts for group purchases and seats with obstructed sight lines or limited leg room are sold at a 50 per cent discount.

There are also a limited number of public rush tickets available on a first come, first serve basis on the day of the performance.  These tickets are sold only at the Carnegie Hall box office and go for as little as ten dollars.  Line up early.

Beacon Theatre in New York City

by Nick David

The Beacon Theatre is located on Broadway in New York City, New York. It is operated by Madison Square Garden and is the number one live music hall in the country. Built in the late 1920’s, this historic landmark offers three different levels of concert and event space that accommodates hundreds of patrons for each event. The Art Deco building is inviting with its Brazilian wood floors making this the most versatile space for any event.
 
Beacon Theatre
 
History
Sister site to Radio City Music Hall, Beacon Theatre has been a legendary rock house since 1926 when Herbert Lubin conceived the building with dreams of turning it into the Roxy Theatre. The goal in mind was to become a part of the movie places in New York City hosting 6000 seats and to become the number one entertainment capital of the world.
 
The theatre was designed by Walter Ahlschlager, a Chicago architect in Art Deco design. It was first opened to the public as an opera, movie, musical production and vaudeville acts venue. It was named as a national landmark in 1979 by the National Register of Historic Places. The Beacon Theatre was the very first concert venue to offer IMAX in 1991 for the Rolling Stones at the Max film.
 
The Theatre joined MSG Entertainment in 2006 becoming part of the world class venue family and continues to grow to what music lovers know as the rock house of the world.
 
Concerts and Events, Past and Present
The theatre is known for its flawless acoustics that was designed for moving pictures and musical events, past concerts, events and current shows. Many rock concerts have taken place as well as awards shows, president’s birthday celebrations and much more.
 
It has become a favorite destination since the twenties and gains in popularity daily for its rock concerts, R&B events and other musical genre.
 
Some of the greatest names in the music industry have and continue to make their appearance at the Beacon. Aerosmith, Queen, Michael Jackson, Rolling Stones, James Taylor and Jerry Garcia are just some icons of the music industry that have performed in past shows. The Allman Brothers have an annual concert that takes place every spring.
 
This is known as the Beacon Run and has been a memorable event since 1989.
Many operatic events take place such as Madame Butterfly and Ballet on Broadway. Rental space is available with catering upon request and other amenities.
 
Visiting the Beacon Theatre
Concessions and restrooms are available during normal business hours. Ensuring each visitor experiences nothing but entertainment and the right accommodations, there are disabled services available for patrons that need assistance. Emergency Medical Technicians are in-house for each event. Ticket prices and hours vary depending on each event.
 
Visit the Beacon Theatre website for detailed information and to browse through the calendar of events to plan your trip to the number one iconic theatre of New York City. For accommodations the Beacon Hotel is located across the street offering Beacon Theatre visitors special rates.