Forest Hills Gdns. turns 100

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Forest Hills Gardens has turned 100 this year and to celebrate the close-knit neighborhood will be putting on a show featuring the area’s current and future talent.

The Community House in the gardens will be holding a charity concert Sunday that will feature several performers who have been active members of the community for years. The show will begin with an original musical number sung by the Centennial Chorus, which will be made up of adults and children who are from the Gardens Players Musical Theater program and PS 101.

“It shows the diversity of musicians in Forest Hills Gardens,” said Ellen Rusconi, parent coordinator.

Over the last month, the children, between 7 and 12 years old, have been practicing their number, “Music in the Gardens,” which was written by Forest Hills composer Denver Casado and Betina Hershey, who has been teaching music at PS 101 and runs the Garden Players.

Hershey said she was excited to be a part of the show and help train the children because they will not only be part of a major performance, but also part of the Gardens’ history.

“They are just at the beginning of their life and the area will be a part of their lives forever,” she said.

Joining the children will be several professional musicians and singers who have called the neighborhood their home. Broadway actress Ann Kittredge; Pulitzer Prize-nominated composer William Ryden, who grew up in the area; and jazz musician and lifelong Gardens resident Chieli Minucci, are some of the people who will be performing in the concert, which will also be raising money for PS 101.

Kittredge, who moved to the Gardens a few years ago and is raising her two children with her husband in the area, practiced with the schoolchildren Sunday and said she was amazed at their talent.

“They’ll get exposed to a large range of music,” she said.

Pieces will include various genres from classical and Broadway songs to contemporary pop and jazz, according to Rusconi. Ryden, who graduated from PS 101, said living in the community helped him grow as a musician because the neighborhood was home to many artists and the neighborhood continues to attract new talent.

“It is especially nice for me to work all of the wonderful kinds of music and see it come together,” he said.

The Forest Hills Gardens Community Development was founded in 1908 and designed with English style architecture. The houses that were built in the 142-acre site included Tudor- and Gregorian-style that were popular during the turn of the 20th century and have become the trademark of the area, located in southern Forest Hills.

Minucci, who will be performing with his son, Gianluca, said he enjoyed growing up in the neighborhood and raising his children there because of its intimate atmosphere.

“This place has a small village feel and there’s a lot of performance groups,” the 51-year-old jazz musician said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

Posted 6:28 pm, October 10, 2011
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