Archive for July, 2010

Field Trip Friday: Ryman Auditorium, Nashville

Continuing on our coverage of Hae-In’s recent Southern roadtrip, this week’s field trip takes us to the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. The Ryman first opened as the Union Gospel Tabernacle in 1892. Built by Thomas Ryman, a riverboat captain and Nashville businessman who owned several saloons, the auditorium was originally built for the celebrated revivalist Samuel Porter Jones. The Tabernacle was designed by Mark Ludwig and later renamed the Ryman Auditorium after Ryman died in 1904.

The Ryman exterior

By the turn of the century, the Ryman had become one of the South’s major performance venues and developed a tradition of showcasing a wide variety of genres and entertainers. Everyone, from stars such as Charlie Chaplin to composers such as Edward Strauss and Sergei Rachmaninov, performed there.

Hae-In, at the newer entrance

From 1943 until 1974, the Ryman was used for Grand Ole Opry broadcasts. It was around this time that the building became known nationwide as the “Mother Church of Country Music,” featuring influential performers such as Hank Williams and Patsy Cline.

After 1974, a larger venue for the Grand Ole Opry was built just outside Nashville, in addition to the Opryland USA theme park. The original building was left mostly vacant and fell into disrepair.

The Ryman Stage

In 1992, singer and songwriter Emmylou Harris and her band, the Nash Ramblers, performed a series of concerts there. These concerts helped renew interest in restoring the Ryman, and it was renovated and reopened as a performance venue and museum in 1994. The pews were also fully restored, serving as a reminder of the Ryman’s origins as a church. And the acoustics are reputed to be second in quality in the US only to Salt Lake City’s Mormon Tabernacle.

Hatch Show Print Gallery

While many might assume the Ryman solely features country and bluegrass musicians, the performance hall has stayed true to its traditions and continues to feature an eclectic concert schedule. Some notable, sold-out performances in recent years include R.E.M., Merle Haggard, Ryan Adams, the Pixies, Erykah Badu, and Keith Urban. The Ryman also features musical theatre.

Historic landmark signage

The site was first included in the National Register of Historic Places in 1971, and was further designated as a National Historic Landmark in 2001.

Located in the heart of downtown Nashville, right by the Nashville Arena, the Ryman is open daily for self guided and guided tours from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm (except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day).


Field Trip Friday: Feast of the Giglio in Brooklyn

Sunday, July 18, marked the last day of The Feast of Our Lady of Mt Carmel and San Paolino, an annual street festival brought to Williamsburg, Brooklyn by the neighborhood’s Italian immigrants from Nola, Italy (near Naples). From July 7 – 18, North Williamsburg was home this festival and ritual, which dates back to fifth-century Italy.

Festival streets

For two weeks during the summer, the festival brings together religious processions, carnival rides, concessions and parades on Havemeyer and North 8th Streets, surrounding Our Lady of Mount Carmel church. The event is also a fundraiser for the church, which has sponsored the feast since 1903.

The statute that gets carried

The Dancing of the Giglio refers to the lifting of a massive four-ton, five-story, hand-sculptured tower, boat and 12- piece brass band on the shoulders of one hundred men, who carry this structure on a large wooden platform, through the streets. There is traditional music and the way the structures are carried creates the impression of ‘dancing.’ The tower honors a Roman Catholic Saint, San Paolino di Nola, and his act of sacrifice and bravery in the ancient Italian city of Nola in 409 AD.

The boat

According to the story, around 410 AD, North African pirates overran the town of Nola. Bishop Paolino, who had not even been a Catholic until the age of thirty-seven,  offered himself in exchange for one of the many boys abducted into slavery. He was taken to North Africa, where the tale of his courage and self-sacrifice spread. A Turkish sultan heard about this act of generosity and negotiated for Paolino’s freedom. When he returned to Nola, the town greeted him with lilies, symbolic of love and purity.

The lilies (gigli) are featured on the elaborate wooden towers and the boat (la barca), which are carried through the streets in remembrance of Paolino.

Hae-In at Giglio

Dozens of street vendors sell a variety of fried foods, including clams, pork sausages, zeppoles (fried donuts), calzones and Oreos!

Tasty street food

The Feast of Our Lady of Mt Carmel and San Paolino has been taking place in Williamsburg for over 100 years, celebrating religion, culture and community and bringing a bit of southern Italian history to Brooklyn.

Havemeyer Street and North 8th Street, Brooklyn, NY
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Hidden Harbor Tour® with the Working Harbor Committee

Container ship, courtesy of Bernard Ente

Join the Working Harbor Committee and OHNY on a boat tour to explore the Brooklyn waterfront and New York Harbor — places that are normally hidden from the eyes of most area residents and visitors.

The American Princess II will depart Pier 17 at 6:15pm and explore the Brooklyn waterfront down to Sunset Park, over to Kill Van Kull and Howland Hook, back Military Ocean and Global Marine Terminals and finally, past the Statue of Liberty on its way back to Pier 17. The tour lasts about 2 hours.

The world of working maritime vessels and facilities is both fascinating as well as vitally important to the area’s economic well being. Narrated by Captain John Doswell, the tour will focus on the built environment of the New York harbor and waterways and the maritime industry, both past and present. Purchase tickets here!

The Hidden Harbor Tours® help fulfill the Working Harbor Committee’s mission to strengthen awareness of the working harbor’s history and vitality today, and its opportunities for the future.

Field Trip Friday: Bastille Day on 60th Street

Last Sunday July 11, intern Kathleen attended NYC’s annual Bastille Day Celebration. The event closed three blocks on 60th street from 5th Ave to Lexington Avenue and has been the largest celebration of its kind in the US for over a decade. Over 40 participating organizations, restaurants, musicians, performers, and bakeries gathered crowds of festive locals and visitors.

Bastille Day Celebration 2010!

Bastille Day is a Fête Nationale (National Celebration) in France held on the 14th of July.  It is the anniversary of the 1789 storming of the Bastille, a significant event representing the beginnings of the French Revolution. In New York, it was celebrated a few days early with market booths tempting passerbys with patriotic-themed macarons, nutella crêpes, financiers and pâté sandwiches.


Payard pastries, including tarte au citron and chocolate eclairs

Belgian Waffles!

Belgian Waffles and Dinges truck!

The celebration included a Citroën Car Show, a Garçons de Café Race, Cancan dancers, obligatory mimes and live performances featuring music by Brassens (sung by Pierre de Gaillande), Edith Piaf (Gay Marshall) and contemporary artists Malika Zarra, Les Sans Culottes, and Michèle Voltaire Marcelin.

mmm baguette...

Inside the fi:af building--Cheese!

fi:af (french institute, alliance française), the largest Alliance Française in the US, hosted a wine, beer, and cheese tasting event throughout the day in its recently renovated 1939 building. Vendors offered samples of as much cheese as you could stomach while the Bordeaux Wine Council (CIVB) provided red or white wine. After sampling the Brie and cheddar on nostalgically-delicious baguette, visitors headed downstairs to the theatre room for a live screening of the World Cup Final.

22 East 60th Street, New York, NY
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Field Trip Friday: Parthenon, Nashville

Recently, OHNY’s program coordinator Hae-In took a Southern roadtrip. Starting in Austin, Texas, she made her way to New Orleans and ultimately Nashville. She was very surprised to find a full-scale model of the Parthenon in Nashville’s Centennial Park, just west of downtown. As several locals explained, Nashville is also known as the “Athens of the South” (why Athens, Georgia, does not hold this title is a mystery).

Parthenon in Centennial Park

Built as the centerpiece of the 1897 Tennessee Centennial and International Exposition, the Parthenon was joined by Memphis’s pyramid, among other buildings based on ancient originals. The Exposition celebrated the 100th anniversary of the state’s entry into the Union in 1796, although it was technically a year late. The Parthenon, however, was the only one that was an exact reproduction of the original and the only structure eventually kept by the city. The temporary Parthenon was built with plaster, wood and brick. It was reconstructed using concrete in the 1920’s, completed by 1931, on the original Exposition grounds now known as Centennial Park.

Emily, in front of the Parthenon

The reconstruction also includes a replica of the 42-foot statue of Athena and plaster replicas of the Parthenon Marbles.

Concrete columns


The Parthenon now functions as an art museum, with a permanent collection of 63 paintings by 19th and 20th century American artists. Additional gallery spaces is used to show a variety of temporary exhibits. During the summer, local theater companies use the building as the set for classic Greek plays and other performances.

Doors to the Parthenon


Field Trip Friday: Congregation B’nai Jeshurun

On Friday evening one of OHNY’s summer interns, Jordan, decided to take a field trip that would be both cultural and spiritual. She went to visit Congregation B’nai Jeshurun on the Upper West Side. Originally founded in 1825 by a group of German and Polish Jews who broke from New York’s Temple Shearith Israel also on the Upper West Side, B’nai Jeshurun has become a staple and landmark in this neighborhood.

After many years of searching for the perfect space to build the congregation, they settled on a plot of land on the Upper West Side. The exterior of the building, constructed in 1916 is vast but also humble to those who pass by. A New York Times article reported that the original architects Henry B. Herts and Walter S. Schneider, both congregants at the time, were said to have taken influence for the designs from an Egyptian temple at Aswan. While the exterior details are noteworthy, what is truly spectacular about the sanctuary is the interior.

The interior was originally decorated by Emil Phillipson in the shape of a giant cube. The wide range of colors one notices upon entering the main sanctuary are bold and powerful. Entering the synagogue, one sees that even the little kids who are attending the service enjoy the space and spend most of the service surveying the colorful details. Beautifully lit for a Friday night Shabbat service in the summer, the Bimah (the front podium where the Torah is located and the rabbis position themselves) gleamed as a result of the meticulous gold detailing set against bright reds and blues.

Bromely Caldari Architects, in partnership with Cosler Theater Designs, re-designed parts of the synagogue in 1996 after a ceiling collapse. Originally, the seating on both the main floor and the balcony were pews. Now, post renovations, the first floor is set up with stackable chairs to give the room a variety of functions including reception hall and lecture space. The balcony maintains the original pew setup allowing for the congregation to seat over 1,000 people comfortably. For pictures of the interior space, check out the Bromley Caldari website.

Jews of the Upper West Side are only few among many who feel that the space is spectacular. In fact, B’nai Jeshurun has gained high visibility as a result of its beauty. The movie featuring Ben Stiller and Ed Norton, “Keeping The Faith” features B’nai Jeshurun as the congregation of Rabbi Jake Schram (Stiller). Also, the sanctuary has been featured in a number of “based in New York City” TV shows, including “Sex and the City.”

The architecture and detailing contributes to the not-so-ordinary vibe of the congregation, in the best sense. Known around the Upper West Side as the “hippie synagogue”, B’nai Jeshurun’s service often includes a variety of musical instruments including bongos, acoustic guitars, cellos and flutes and the occasional egg shakers to accompany the beautiful voices during their services. Congregants attire varied including some in suits and ties, and others in jeans and sneakers. The total package: immensely aesthetically pleasing surroundings, the unique spiritual experience and the varied interesting congregants made for a transformative experience.

Congregation B’nai Jeshurun
257 West 88th Street, New York, NY
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