Brooklyn Philharmonic wants to give you free summer concerts

Brooklyn Philharmonic wants to give you free summer concerts
Photo by Cory Weaver

The New York Philharmonic dropped the baton on its outdoor summer concert series, and Brooklyn’s symphony is itching to pick it up.

The Brooklyn Philharmonic has proposed something radical in the world of long-haired music — a Brooklyn takeover of a Manhattan tradition!

“Having served New York City in both music performance and education for over 150 years, the Brooklyn Phil can certainly manage some rousing Sousa in Central Park and deliver terrific Prokofiev to Prospect Park,” new Brooklyn Philharmonic Artistic Director Alan Pierson wrote to Mayor Bloomberg last week. “We’d very much like to help New Yorkers properly celebrate this summer’s warm evenings.”

Pierson’s letter could be seen as simply a pitch for a gig — but it’s also a powerful salvo in the much larger cultural war between cutting-edge Brooklyn and vainglorious Manhattan.

And it’s clear to many which side is winning.

“In Brooklyn, we’re the cultural producers,” said Ellen Salpeter, director of Heart of Brooklyn, a coalition of the borough’s major arts institutions. “We like to say that Manhattan is the place of cultural consumption, Brooklyn is the place of cultural consumption and production. There’s a creative energy here that’s very exciting.”

Brooklyn’s cultural domination extends beyond just classic musical, but to indie rock, books, artisanal goods and even sandwiches.

Last weekend, the Northside Festival rocked Williamsburg and Greenpoint with Brooklyn’s own version of SXSW, while Celebrate Brooklyn has been going strong for more than 30 years in Prospect Park, bringing top-notch talent to the band shell. The Brooklyn Book Festival lineup was announced last week, boasting several Pulitzer Prize winners. This past spring, a store devoted solely to Brooklyn-made products opened in Cobble Hill, selling borough-made necklaces, jams and even pickles. And just this week, Boerum Hill delicatessen Mile End announced that it would expand to NoHo.

And let us not forget the epitome of Brooklyn cachet: last winter, a bar opened in Manhattan called the Brooklyneer, in an apparent attempt to pay homage to/cash in on the borough for those too lazy to cross the river.

To Ella Weiss, president of the Brooklyn Arts Council, it’s all evidence that “Brooklyn’s secret is out.”

“Today, the borough is a known artistic powerhouse that attracts arts-goers from the city and around the world,” said Weiss. “So the timing is right for the Brooklyn Philharmonic to step in to provide free professional orchestral music in an outdoor setting.”

Not so fast. The New York Philharmonic, which held the concerts in Prospect Park, as well as Central Park in Manhattan, Cunningham Park in Queens, and CUNY Center for the Arts in Staten Island, said that the events were only canceled this year because of a “scheduling conflict.”

“The series will return in the summer of 2012, with free, outdoor concerts throughout the city,” the West Brooklyn music outfit said in a statement.

The mayor’s office has not had the decency to return repeated calls from us for comment on Pierson’s outer-borough renaissance proposal, which would require a sponsorship to help pay the symphony’s union musicians.

In his letter to the mayor, Pierson queried whether MetLife Foundation or Target, past sponsors of the New York Philharmonic park concerts, could come on board this summer too, though given the late notice, any sponsorship is unlikely.

“At this time, MetLife Foundation is unable to consider the request from the Brooklyn Philharmonic, as the funding for 2011 is fully committed,” said a company spokesperson.

The Brooklyn Philharmonic, which appears to have moved past its previous season’s financial straits, is set to announce its new season in the coming weeks.