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Water Music

Dsc06542For over 30 years, Olga Bloom's Bargemusic concerts have been a New York institution, albeit a peculiar one. As the name indicates, the concerts take place on a 100-foot floating barge in Brooklyn Heights just south of the Brooklyn Bridge, commanding postcard views of downtown Manhattan.

On her website, Olga - who turns 89 this year - relates the tale of how Bargemusic came to be:

"In Averne, a borderline community between Nassau County and Queens, a hospitable boatyard provided us with space and helpful tutelage by experienced waterfront dwellers. We solved the problem of achieving good acoustics in the practical advice that we visit a maritime scrap yard on Staten Island. The proprietor there, Mr. John Witte, offered a huge supply of paneling, mahogany stripping, and cherry wood benches retired from duty on the original Staten Island ferry The American Legion. For a year and a half I made weekly trips from the scrap yard with materials weighing down my VW Beetle until it almost scraped the ground. En route, truck drivers shouted to me, ‘Yo! Mama.’

Dsc06537The interior, which remains unaltered, has a quirky, patchwork quality. On one side of the barge is a brick fireplace, on which a ceramic vase precariously sits. Outside the north windows, tourists compete for space with wedding parties, scrambling for the perfect photo opp. Behind the stage, floor-to-ceiling windows are filled with Wall Street skyscrapers and passing boats, whose wake causes the barge to shift violently from side-to-side and up-and-down. It is not for the faint of heart (or stomach).

Dsc06525It must also test the concentration of even the most seasoned musicians, most of whom are not used to having the floor moving underneath them while playing. Fortunately, it didn't seem to faze the young pianist Victoria Schwartzman, who performed this afternoon in Bargemusic's monthly free recital. Schwartzman, a Russian expat, played a powerhouse performance of Schumann's Symphonic Études from memory. (She also played Prokofiev's 10 Pieces from Romeo and Juliet prior to my late arrival.) The crowd of fifty-or-so - equal parts young and old - gave her a warm, well-deserved ovation.

Bargemusic's performance calendar continues throughout the summer with concerts every Thursday-Sunday, in addition to the free monthly recitals. Go, and say Hi to Olga while you still have the chance. And, tell her thanks. (More pics after the jump.)


(Seated: Bargemusic director Mark Peskanov with Olga Bloom)

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