Bay Ridge

Met Orchestra brings classical music to Brooklyn veterans

Musicians perform free concert at VA hospital

May 2, 2017 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Renowned conductor Marco Armiliato leads the MET Orchestra in concert in a unusual setting; the atrium of the Veterans Affairs NY Harbor Healthcare System hospital in Bay Ridge. Photos by Kate Glicksberg

The joyful strains of Mozart’s “Exultate Jubilate” filled the air at the Veterans Affairs NY Harbor Healthcare System’s Brooklyn Campus on Monday morning as the MET Orchestra performed in a special concert in tribute to those who have served in the military.

The orchestra, which normally accompanies sopranos, tenors and other stars of the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center, played a variety of classical pieces for an appreciative audience in the atrium of the veteran’s hospital at 800 Poly Place in Bay Ridge.

The concert, offered in partnership with the Associated Musicians of Greater New York, Local 802 American Federation of Musicians, marked the latest in the MET Orchestra Musicians Community Performance Series in which the music makers visit neighborhoods throughout the five boroughs to perform. The concert series is funded by a grant from the Achelis and Bodman Foundation.

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“Music and the arts play a vital role in our neighborhoods and our city,” said Tino Gagliardi, president of Local 802. “The MET Orchestra Musicians are not only musicians, they are New Yorkers — parents, teachers and community advocates who are active in the civic life of our city and who care passionately about the making sure our children and all our communities citywide have access to the arts.”

The idea of playing for veterans came about as the result of a friendship that MET Orchestra timpanist Jason Haaheim struck up with an Air Force veteran who recounted for him a touching story of being comforted by a Met Opera radio broadcast while stranded in a blizzard on Mt. Rainier.

As a result, Haaheim and trombonist David Langlitz organized a concert in 2014. Several other MET Orchestra musicians also have personal connections to the armed forces. Langlitz’s father is a World War II veteran who fought in Gen. George Patton’s army in the Intelligence Corps. Violist Vincent Lionti’s father and clarinetist Jim Ognibene are veterans who have performed with the U.S. Marine Band.

“When I grew up, I heard stories from my dad about being in the war, and I always had a lot of feeling and sympathy for the vets. By bringing music to the VA, we are able to bring the power and beauty of live performance to the people who served our country, and for whose sacrifices we are so grateful,” Langlitz said.

Monday’s performance in the atrium began after the musicians played two short chamber music programs in the hospital’s inpatient wing.

Haaheim and Borough President Eric Adams introduced the 42 musicians to the audience, along with soprano Susanna Phillips and conductor Marco Armiliato.

The musicians performed a 70-minute concert that featured selections from Verdi’s “La Forza del Destino,” Puccini’s “La Boheme” and Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man.”

In a salute to the veterans, the orchestra also played “Stars and Stripes Forever.”

“As musicians, we were all inspired by music at a very young age and we want to bring joy and comfort to people who have given so much,” clarinetist Jessica Phillips said.

Adams thoroughly enjoyed the concert. “Music has the power to inspire and bring people together, and I commend the MET Orchestra Musicians for seeking innovative ways to share their artistry and talent in service for the greater good of all Brooklynites,” he said.

“It is wonderful to have such talented musicians come out and honor our veterans with music as part of their new series.” said Yvette Cintron, chief of voluntary service for NY Harbor Healthcare System.


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