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Two Sundays in New York: Before and After the Election

On Sunday, November 6, on a bright clear autumn day, more than 50,000 runners dashed across all five boroughs to compete in the New York City Marathon. In fact, on initial count, 51,388 people crossed the finish line in Central Park, appearing to make the race the biggest ever.*

On the last leg of the race, the marathoners ran west on Central Park South. Just before Columbus Circle, at the Maine Monument, they turned north into Central Park to complete the journey. Friends and family, along with thousands of race watchers, waited for them in the area near the circle. Many solitary runners ended up in various parts of the park or on the streets of the Upper West Side or in the Time Warner Center to do whatever they needed to do to recover from running 26.219 miles. A handful of runners had the wherewithal to go grocery shopping in Whole Foods, like it was their normal Sunday routine.

Runners in the New York City Marathon turn into Central Park. View from Time Warner Center. Columbus Circle. November 6, 2016




On that Sunday, five stories above Columbus Circle, with a clear view of the marathon's final stretch, concertgoers filed into Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall. The occasion was a concert by The Orchestra Now, or (TŌN), a training orchestra for pre-professional musicians and a master's degree program at Bard College.

The members of the orchestra are the cream of the crop, young musicians of great accomplishment who have displayed the talent and hard work to take their seats in the world's greatest orchestras. This Sunday afternoon, as on most occasions, the musicians were under the baton of Leon Botstein, longtime Bard president and conductor of the American Symphony Orchestra. 


The afternoon's program featured works by three composers - Marc Blitzstein (1905-1964), Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990), and Aaron Copland (1900-1990). The choice of these American composers packed a punch on the eve of the election. Botstein noted in his opening remarks that all were champions of the "liberal and progressive tradition." Members of the young orchestra were chosen to stand up and introduce the selections, reminding the audience of Blitzstein's pride in his Orchestra Variations, (though more famous for his notorious WPA musical The Cradle Will Rock), Bernstein's lyrical lamentations in Symphony No. 1 Jeremiah, and Copland's political commitments with Statements for Orchestra.

The program ended with Copland's famous Appalachian Spring Suite, and on hearing the orchestra hit such a confidant stride with the quotation from the Shaker tune "Simple Gifts," it was hard not to tear up and be moved and feel great hope for the country’s future.

Switch the view to scenes from the following Sunday, November 13, an equally sunny autumn day. Fifth Avenue in the early afternoon, normally boisterous at this time of year, was an eerily quiet thoroughfare. In front of the Trump Tower, where the president-elect lives in a gilded three-story apartment, police in full riot gear guarded the entrance. The whole block was inaccessible, including the sidewalks. We may have to deal with this state of affairs for some time.  

Police block off Fifth Avenue in front of Trump Tower. November 13, 2016.

While the scene at Fifth Avenue was silent, protesters were gathering near the Trump-owned hotel and office tower at Columbus Circle to march on the Fifth Avenue location. The whole stretch of W. 56th Street just west of Fifth, a friendly pedestrian block for this part of New York, was blocked off, too.

The scene at Columbus Circle was equally somber on this second Sunday of November. Squad cars and police officers were everywhere. By late afternoon, thousands of New Yorkers took their place on the streets, not running this time but marching down the street together.

Between the two Sundays in November, the city and the country had changed profoundly and in ways still hard to measure.

"How doth the city sit solitary,
That was full of people!
How is she become as a widow?
She that was great among the nations.
And princess among the provinces.
How is she become tributary!"
- Leonard Bernstein, Symphony No. 1 Jeremiah 

Images by Walking Off the Big Apple from November 6, 2016 and November 13, 2016.

Notes:
* Runners World (report on the New York City Marathon)

The Orchestra Now (TŌN) will play a concert in New York at Carnegie Hall on December 9, 2016 at 7:30 p.m. Website for The Orchestra Now.

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