The sounds of music cascaded across the campus on the evening of Thursday, July 28, as the St. John’s University community welcomed the return of the annual Summer Concert on the Great Lawn.
The 22nd annual concert, a St. John’s tradition, featured jazz and classical masterpieces performed by the Queens Symphony Orchestra to the delight of several hundred guests, who enthusiastically greeted the show’s return after a two-year absence due to the pandemic.
“This brings back memories of all the past years in which we enjoyed some of the best music in the borough by the Queens Symphony Orchestra,” said Joseph Sciame ’71Ed, the University’s Vice President for Community Relations. “Through their talented efforts and financial support from Con Edison, local residents and our benefactor alumni are enjoying a relaxing night out.”
Established in 1953, the Queens Symphony Orchestra is the borough’s only professional orchestra and the oldest and largest professional arts organization in Queens.
“We are so happy to be back. We missed everyone,” said Maestro Martin Majkut, a native of Slovakia and leader of the orchestra since 2017. “We want to bring some cheer, so tonight it’s all about jazz.”
The audience clapped in delight as the orchestra performed George Gershwin’s “An American in Paris” and Roberto Molinelli’s “Four Pictures from New York.” Other highlights included Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer” and “Maple Leaf Rag,” and the classic “What a Wonderful World” by George David Weiss and Bob Thiele.
“Four Pictures” featured a series of solos by saxophonist Otis Murphy, whose melodic tones have drawn praise the world over. “I’m just so grateful that we can do this,” he said. “After two years and considering all that New York City has gone through, we need music for our souls and to connect with each other again. I’m honored to be a part of it.”
Pivoting from the jazz format, the orchestra delivered a moving version of “Prayer for Ukraine” by Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov. Composed in 2014 amid citizen protests in Ukraine, the piece carried added significance in the aftermath of the Russian invasion of the country, and was received warmly.
“We’re so glad to see the symphony back on campus,” said Clare M. Byrne ’76C, ’90MBA, ’06MLS. “They always put on a good show, and it’s nice to have our neighbors back, too.”
A barbecue at the D’Angelo Center for members of the Loughlin and McCallen societies, key benefactors of the University, preceded the concert. Thunder showers were in the forecast, but thankfully stayed away, allowing for a perfect return for an event that has defined summer at St. John’s.
“St. John’s and the Queens Symphony Orchestra have such a long relationship with each other that goes back to when I was a student here,” said Michael Brady ’86C of Jackson Heights. “It’s really nice that St. John’s can share this performance with members of the Queens community.”