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Five Alive with Music

The Quintet of the Americas (l.-r.) flutist Karla Moe, bassoonist Maureen Strenge, Clarinetist Nicholas Gallas, horn player Barbara Oldham and oboist Matt Sullivan is scheduled to perform at the Queens Botanical Garden in June. Photo courtesy the Quintet of the Americas
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Queens has long been known for both its richness of cultural diversity as well as music history from the likes of jazz great Louis Armstrong, punk rock pioneer Joey Ramone, rapper-turned-business tycoon 50 Cent and many others.

And so, in the spirit of celebrating the contributions of Queens-based musicians and composers, the internationally acclaimed Quintet of the Americas, billed as Queens’ own premiere woodwind quintet, will be performing in a special free concert at the Center for Meditation Services in Jamaica at 1 p.m. April 9. Another concert will be held at Queens Botanical Garden June 16.

The concert was originally scheduled for this Saturday at the Flushing Branch of the Queens Library, but was postponed because of illness.

The concert will feature woodwind quintets composed by Beata Moon of Forest Hills, James Cohn of Douglaston, Dylan Glatthorn of Astoria and Chris Caliendo of Jackson Heights.

In addition, the program will also include music from former Queens-based musical greats such as jazz by Louis Armstrong and rags by Scott Joplin as well as music from Flushing-born John Williams, responsible for the scores of the Harry Potter films.

The Quintet was founded in Bogota, Colombia in 1976 and has helped to bring music to audiences in the United States since its arrival in New York in 1979. The world-renowned group has performed in concert halls throughout the Americas, including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Symphony Space and the Library of Congress.

Barbara Oldham, director of the Quintet, traces her involvement with the group back to its very founding when she played with the National Orchestra of Colombia. Oldham recalled that in its first year, the Quintet was invited to play on a weekly radio program for the Colombian National Radio.

And years later the group would find its way to New York City and Queens.

“Our Colombian roots led us to Jackson Heights and then to community leaders and venues all around Queens including Corona, Long Island City, Sunnyside, Bayside, Forest Hills, Far Rockaway, Flushing, Jamaica and Douglaston,” Oldham said.

She said that for the last 20 years, the group has served the people of Queens with free concerts and workshops that feature various types of music and artists.

“It is really special for us to be focusing on music by Queens’ composers,” Oldham said.

Moon, who was a piano major at Juilliard and discovered composing later in life, said while she is not performing in the concert herself, she loved the idea that the Quintet is highlighting composers from Queens, which she called the “melting pot of the world.”

Even though she wasn’t familiar with all the pieces on the program, Moon said she still couldn’t help but to make a food analogy of the concert.

“Just as Queens has such distinctive, delicious cuisines, I think that this concert hopefully will be an aurally flavorful and satisfying experience!” Moon said.

Glatthorn, who grew up performing music theater, also studied music theory and composition as well as scoring for film and multimedia at NYU.

“The number of musicians that Queens has produced is astounding,” Glatthorn noted. “From Billie Holiday to Louis Armstrong, Scott Joplin to John Williams, the list goes on and on. Queens is like a second home to me and it’s always such an honor to have my work performed in the borough.”

An accomplished composer himself who studied at Juilliard and graduated in 1950, James Cohn wrote solo, chamber, choral and orchestral works including three string quartets, five piano sonatas and eight symphonies.

Among his numerous awards are a Queen Elisabeth of Belgium Prize for his Symphony No. 2 (premiered in Brussels) and an A.I.D.E.M. prize for his Symphony No. 4 (premiered in Florence, Italy).

The Quintet of the Americas features Karla Moe on flute, Matt Sullivan on oboe, Nicholas Gallas on clarinet, Barbara Oldham on horn and Maureen Strenge on bassoon. The group currently resides in The Department of Music and Performing Arts at The Steinhardt School at New York University.

“Though we have a big history of touring, we love the people of Queens,” Oldham said. “Our audiences are really fantastic here and we are very proud to be sharing so much music from the rich musical heritage of this borough.”

The free celebration of Queens Composers will take place in Jamaica at the Center for Meditation Services, 89-64 163rd St. For more information, call 718-523-6868. The June 16 concert at 2 p.m. will take place at the Queens Botanical Garden, 43-50 Main St. in Flushing.

Call 718-886-3800 or visit www.queensbotanical.org.

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