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Checking in on Friends

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On Saturday, June 26, “the place to be” was under the grand tent on the grounds of the 409-acre historic Planting Fields Arboretum. Under a magnificently weather-perfect June sky the Friends of The Arts, a not-for-profit cultural and education enrichment organization since 1972, kicked off its outdoor entertainment schedule of events with an appearance by Burt Bacharach.

Under the new stewardship of Executive Director Maryann Beaumont, Associate Director Debbi Honorof and continuing Associate Director John C. Chicerio, the first and perhaps biggest cultural event of the spring season was a resounding success.

The main course for the annual gala, fund raiser, raffle and silent auction was held in the Hay Barn, where the movers and shakers of Long Island renewed old acquaintances and mingled with special attendees, such as the guest of honor and grand dame of classical jazz piano, Marian Mc Partland. Other notables on hand were the renowned WFUZ radio personality Pete Fornatale and Nassau County Executive John Suozzi.

The piece de resistance of the evening was the richly eclectic performance of the multi-Oscar- and Grammy award-winning composer Bacharach. Along with three exciting young vocalists and his exceptionally talented band, Bacharach brought back the memories with a seemingly unending string of legendary hits such as “The Look of Love,” “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head,” “Alfie” and “Don’t Make Me Over.”

In between peforming the long list of unforgettable Broadway show hits, movie scores, and the equally loved and memorable pop chart tunes, Bacharach told the fans that many of his successes were in part due to past collaborations with artists such as Dionne Warwick and Elvis Costello.

Bacharach, in a matter-of-fact artist-to-audience banter, shared some brief rib-tickling stories about Great Neck and other well-known haunts on Long Island that made the evening even more special. He warmed up the fans with a sincerity that few artists share, and it was plain to see that he was having a great time telling his stories in between entertaining the crowd with songs.

Friends of the Arts continues its award-winning shows at the same venue throughout the summer season with their Summer Festival and the shorter but hot Long Island Jazz Festival. In the coming summer months one can experience some of the worlds most promising rising Pop, Country, R&B, Smooth, Latin and mainstream Jazz stars such as Stacey Kent and Kurt Elling, Shelby Lynne and Keb Mo, Keiko Matsui, Peter White with Steve Cole, Wynona, Cassandra Wilson, Joshua Redman, Lucinda Williams, Nestor Torres and The Tito Puente Jr. Orchestra.

In my opinion, as one who has been attending these great performances since 1984, this is bar none, for folks in the five boroughs, one of the hottest music tickets this summer. So, if you really want to experience the best that the world of music has to offer, don’t wait, because the tent and Great Lawn seating go faster then you can say “show time.”

Posted 7:07 pm, October 10, 2011
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