It appears that the Naumburg Bandshell, situated south of Bethesda Terrace around 72nd Street, has been a longstanding fixture in Central Park. While it may not have been there since the beginning of time, it is celebrating its centennial anniversary this summer. Concurrently, the Naumburg Orchestral Concerts (NOC), a non-profit organization, is commemorating its 118th year of presenting five complimentary orchestral performances in Central Park. This concert series holds the distinction of being the oldest continuous series of its kind worldwide.
The first concert is scheduled for June 13th at 7:30 p.m. Further details
and a comprehensive schedule can be found at this location. In 1905, philanthropist and music enthusiast Elkan Naumburg established this series of classical music concerts, open to all residents of New York. In 1923, he funded the construction of the Bandshell and gifted it
to Central Park, with its inauguration taking place in 1924, attracting an audience of 10,000. The inaugural concert featured the debut of the renowned band composition, "On the Mall," composed by Edwin Franko Goldman specifically for Elkan Naumburg. Although many assume the title refers to the Washington, D.C. Mall, it was actually dedicated to Naumburg himself. The Bandshell's neoclassical design served as a model for outdoor music venues throughout the United States.
Throughout its existence, the Bandshell has provided New Yorkers with a diverse array of music and festivals, entertaining multiple generations. Some notable past performers include John Philip Sousa, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Leonard Bernstein, the Grateful Dead, B.B. King, and the Jefferson Airplane. It is also the place where Martin Luther King delivered a speech and where John Lennon's memorial service was held.
In terms of historical significance, the NOC's commitment to showcasing diverse talent was groundbreaking. Ella Belle Davis launched her solo vocal career and secured a recording contract with Decca following her New York debut performance in 1940. The concerts of the 1940s featured refugee conductors, composers, and soloists. Furthermore, in 1964, the series presented the first complete opera performance in Central Park, featuring Donizetti's "Don Pasquale."
To commemorate this exceptional season, NOC has commissioned special "fanfares" for each concert as a tribute to "On the Mall."
Although the concerts are free, seating is assigned on a first-come, first-served basis. For additional information, please visit naumburgconcerts.org.