New York's way to fight vulgar culture

(China Daily)
Updated: 2010-08-17 14:21
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NEW YORK - There is a fairly simple solution to China's latest "war" on the so-called vulgar art and culture - free concerts and shows, especially at its parks.

If Shanghai and Beijing host such concerts and shows at parks, it would enrich the afterwork and weekend experiences and there will be no need to wage the war on cultural vulgarities.

New York's way to fight vulgar culture

One thing is for sure. The handful of expensive theaters, such as the Shanghai Grand Theater and Beijing's National Center for the Performing Arts, are simply incapable of handling such tasks.

And compared with New York, many parks in Shanghai and other Chinese cities seem so lifeless and all lawns look like deserts.

Indeed, New York parks in summer are a paradise for lovers of concerts, music and even plays.

The Big Apple, the most costly American city, can be a much cheaper city compared with Shanghai and other Chinese cities, especially where big-ticket events are concerned.

If you are an early riser, you could attend all the wonderful concerts at the Rockefeller Center that starts at 7 am every Friday. Stars this summer have included Lady Gaga, John Mayer and Christina Aguilera. Keith Urban will play on Friday.

Yes, these are all free as part of the Today Show concert series. And they are on a long list of fascinating free events taking place in New York every day.

New York's way to fight vulgar culture

On Sunday afternoon, the revolutionary hip-hop band, Public Enemy, played in the Central Park as part of the NYC Revolutions Series.

On that day, too, the Harlem Meer Performance Festival featured a five-piece Latin jazz group Sumbaswing in the park's Charles A. Dana Discovery Center, against the backdrop of the lake and the Conservatory Garden.

If you are a jazz fan, you may want to go to the Discovery Center every Sunday at 2 pm for the rest of the summer, either sitting in the chairs or on the lawns in the back.

Concerts are not the only things free. The Shakespeare in the Park in Central Park has staged Winter's Tale, played by such stars as Al Pacino and Meryl Streep.

While Central Park may host more free events, every park in New York has a busy summer schedule.

Bryant Park near my office hosts free yoga and tai chi classes and events are being held almost every day. The weekly Broadway in the Park always draws huge crowds to the lawn under the scorching noon sun.

The Monday night movie screening has also been a hit, with people arriving before 5 pm for the 8:30 start of mostly old movies. On Monday it was the 1957 movie 12 Angry Men starring Henry Fonda.

If you love the beautiful sunset of Manhattan as I do, you could go to concerts staged along the Hudson River at dusk. Manhattan's sunset is a dreamlike stage setting.

For many people, going to free outdoor events is not just about watching a film or attending a concert, it is also to unwind from a day's hectic work, to meet people or enjoy a meal and drinks.

Compared to formal shows at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall, they are physically more relaxing.

I love formal events, but I also have been exploring the free events this summer. I regret deeply missing Toni Braxton's free concert in the Wingate Park in Brooklyn on July 19, which was part of the Martin Luther King Jr Concert Series.

Shanghai and Beijing folks, who are fighting for pop singer Faye Wong's 300-2,500 yuan ($44-368) concert tickets this fall, may not believe what I have written.

But in New York, free shows are common. The July 13 concert by Shanghai Symphony and New York Philharmonic orchestras, featuring pianist Lang Lang, baritone Liao Changyong and soprano Huang Ying, was also free on Central Park's Great Lawn.

I am certainly not alone in taking advantage of the free shows. One friend at the New York Times said he has been doing this for years and has been taking many of his friends to the free shows.

Neither does it seem that only underpaid journalists are flocking to such events. At Lang Lang, I saw big names, such as Hollywood star Eric Baldwin, former AIG chairman Maurice Greenberg and Wendi Murdoch, who sat right next to me.

Back in China, the question seems to be not how many celebrities will go to such free events, but how many pop stars, bands, orchestras and drama troupes are willing to play in parks for free, and how governments, corporations, foundations and individuals can help to make it happen, so that more Chinese can immerse themselves in a health cultural environment.