For going on 31 years thousands of New Yorkers have flooded Astoria Park for the annual pre-Independence Day fireworks show and concert. This year the Queens Symphony Orchestra — a 47-member crew that is embarking on its 60th year — is ecstatic to be warming up the crowd for the June 24 Central Astoria Local Development Coalition’s Independence Day Celebration.
“We do it a little before because not everything can be done on the Fourth,” said Teresa Raimondo with the CALDC.
“We are super excited,” said the orchestra’s interim Executive Director Andrew Frank. “It’s going to be a great time.”
The orchestra started as an affiliate of the American Symphony Orchestra League, practicing in conductor David Katz’s Forest Hills basement and presenting free chamber concerts for the community. Katz later officially founded the group in 1953.
“Katz hoped that his passion would eventually allow Queens residents to experience classical music without crossing a bridge or tunnel into Manhattan,” its website boasts.
Katz always put an emphasis on the borough and on youth. This focus remains today.
After Katz’s passing conductor Arthur Fagen assumed the post of music director. In 2006 Constantine Kitsopoulos took over the position, where he continues to lead the historic symphony.
Although the orchestra plays three outdoor concerts a year this is the first show at Astoria Park for about a decade. The other two outdoor performances this summer take place on July 30 at St. John’s University and on Aug. 4 at the Forest Park Bandshell.
“At the outdoor concerts we get a little bigger crowd,” Frank said. “We play a little more popular repertoire, but we always bring professional pieces to our concerts.”
Guests will be serenaded by a hardy helping of Americana classics as well as some pop culture favorites such as the “Star Wars” theme and the classic composition for “The Pink Panther,” written by Henry Mancini.
Last year about 2,000 people showed up despite the rain to view the Grucci Company fireworks and listen to Joe Battaglia & The New York Big Band.
“We get all different types of people together from all over Queens,” Raimondo said.” We have some people from Manhattan too. It’s a cultural program. It’s a fun event.”
When: Monday, June 24, concert at 7:30 p.m. and fireworks at 9:15 p.m.
Where: Astoria Park, 21 Hoyt Ave.
Tickets: Free, queenssymphony.org