Thursday, February 4, 2010

Park Slope, the Beating Heart of Brooklyn

Nothing echoes the beating heart of a neighborhood more than with its musicians.

A bridge away from Manhattan in Brooklyn is a neighborhood called Park Slope. Though a New Yorker since 1985, it’s only been the last six months that I discover this neighborhood. About a 20 minute train ride from downtown Manhattan, conveniently accessed by a handful of subway lines - Park Slope is bounded by Prospect Park to the east, Fourth Avenue to the west, Flatbush Avenue to the north, and 15th Street to the south. Its name comes from its location, situated on the western slope of Prospect Park.

“In December 2006, Natural Home magazine named Park Slope one of America's ten best neighborhoods based on criteria including parks, green spaces and neighborhood gathering spaces; farmer’s markets and community gardens; public transportation and locally-owned businesses; and environmental and social policy”. Historic buildings, Prospect Park, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, shops, bars, top-rated restaurants… there is much to like about Park Slope.

What stands out most for me about the neighborhood is its emerging music scene. Over the course of a half a year of having attended various performances in cafes and bars, I offer you three examples of the variety and dynamics in the realm of music in Park Slope:

Audrey Lo is a Taiwan born American Classical violinist. She and her group, Classsical Revolution get together once a month at Linger Café [533 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11217] or Tea Lounge [837 Union Street, Brooklyn, NY 11215]. The group has a unique mission, to present and engage the community by offering chamber music performances in bars and cafes. “By taking chamber music out of the recital hall and making it more accessible to an audience who does not otherwise hear such music in a live context, we hope to bring to a broader public consciousness the realization that this music is still relevant and needn't be restricted to more austere venues.”

Robin Verheyen is a Belgian saxaphonist in both traditional and experimental jazz. He came to study and work in New York in 2006, feeling that this city is the place for a jazz musician. Robin and the Devin Gray group performed at the Douglass Street Music Collective [295 Douglass St, Brooklyn, NY 11217 ]. Located in a nondescript brick building on an abandoned street, it is a space started by a collective of musicians for musicians to perform. “Performance spaces and clubs are booked in advance and you have to always think ahead. And they always expect something”. “One can only hope that it's a beginning of a trend toward more musician-run spaces for creative music.”

Andi Rae Healy performed at Hank's Saloon [46 3rd Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11217]. Her category of music is alt-country/Americana, but her bluesy version is original. Small in statue, she has an amazing big voice. I rather like this quote of hers on her website, “Just because I’m small doesn’t mean I don’t have a whole lot to say, and a lot of passion to say it with.”

Some people love neighborhoods for the cafes, others for the bars, and still others for the food. I fell in love with Park Slope for its music and its charismatic musicians. If you ever come across great music venues, don’t hesitate to pass the word to me :)

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