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It’s high quality and it’s cheap. It’s international and local. It’s easy to get to and hard to leave. Get out your daily planners, because I’m only going to write this one time.

And for the love of God, don’t tell your Manhattan friends.

Celebrate Brooklyn kicks off its 2002 season of performances at the Prospect Park band shell on June 20 with a weekend of "multicultural funk and Dominican music" beginning with a performance by the New Orleans doctor of boogie - Dr. John, that is.

Although the festival is 24 years old, co-producer Jack Walsh is keeping it vital by tweaking everything from the concession stand (now catered by Park Slope’s Two Boots) to the roster of performers, which has swelled with the inclusion of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis on July 5.

"I certainly think that we’ve tried to achieve our usual, unusual mix," Walsh said of the 2002 lineup.

This year’s Celebrate Brooklyn is an abundant harvest of 26 performances culled from the international scene as well as this borough’s resident masters, like the Mark Morris Dance Group and the Brooklyn Philharmonic. Walsh is also presenting Flatbush hip-hop artist Talib Kweli, formerly of Black Star with Mos Def, on July 19 and the "pan-Latino flair" of Si Se, featuring Carol C of Flatbush and Neil Ochoa of Fort Greene, on Aug. 9.

"The mix changes from year to year," said Walsh. "Last year there was a lot of world music, and this year, there’s rock ’n’ roll, too. We’ve got great, perennial underground favorite Yo La Tengo on July 12."

Also new are benefit concerts, and a "ramped up" membership program, "Friends of Celebrate Brooklyn."

"We were definitely affected by the soft economy and post-Sept. 11 events, but we are thrilled we could present as full a schedule as we have," said Walsh.

"We didn’t have to cut back dramatically," he explained, as a result of a "Andrew Mellon Foundation post-Sept. 11 fund grant," benefit concerts planned for August and the improved membership program which provides benefits ranging from T-shirts to parties to an exclusive "Friends Tent," in exchange for donations of $25 and more.

Tickets for the benefit concerts are $30 for the Aug. 17 performance by Jamaican reggae artists Capleton & Friends, and $37.50 for the "smorgasbord of cult groups" on Aug. 24 and Aug. 25 at 4:30 pm. The lineup on those days features "folk-hip-hop-soul-country-funk-alterna-rockers" Cake, as well as "indie heroes" Modest Mouse; "post-punk, acid bubble gum surrealist pop stars" The Flaming Lips; boho rap founding fathers De la Soul; and the electronic samples, house and Latino rhythms of Kinky, "who are coming out of the rocking Espanol scene of Mexico City," said Walsh.

Admission to the rest of the Celebrate Brooklyn performances is technically free, though a $3 donation is encouraged.

On Friday, July 26 at 8 pm, Fort Greene’s Mark Morris Dance Group will return to dance "Canonic 3/4 Studies" (1982), "The Argument" (1999) and "Gloria" (1984). They will be accompanied by Mark Morris musical director and pianist Ethan Iverson and cellist Wolfram Koessel.

(Perhaps the troupe was lured back to the band shell by the roaring standing ovation it received after last year’s rain-delayed performance.)

The Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra, under the baton of Grant Llewelleyn (music director of the Handel & Haydn Society), will perform a huge show on July 27. In addition to Gershwin’s "Porgy & Bess" suite with three guest vocalists and a chorus joining the orchestra, the program will also feature a tribute to Queen Elizabeth’s 50th anniversary on the British throne.


Fleet of foot

Additional highlights of the 2002 season include a performance on June 28 by Sarah Harmer and her band, who spent last summer on tour with the rock group Barenaked Ladies, and three new dance works, commissioned by Celebrate Brooklyn, to be performed by choreographers David Neumann and NicholasLe­ichterDance on Aug. 2.

According to Celebrate Brooklyn co-producer Rachel Charnoff "each of them had admired each other’s work, they both teach at NYU, so they agreed to do a duet.

"They are very physical dancers, two great, handsome, but very different, dancers working on this duet," said Charnoff. "David Neumann had done a piece with Laurie Anderson; he’s very collaborative and up and coming. He crosses that boundary between acting and performance.

"Nick is a very sexy choreographer who works a lot with very contemporary, stylish music." As choreographers-in-residence, Neumann and Leichter will also host an open rehearsal-lecture-demonstration at the Prospect Park Picnic House on July 31 to share the techniques used in creating their new works.


Screen gems

In addition to showcasing a wide swath of music and dance, Celebrate Brooklyn has several film screenings including Harold Lloyd’s 1928 film "Speedy" with a score performed live by the returning Alloy Orchestra on July 18; Walt Disney’s "Fantasia" on July 25; and Alfred Hitchcock’s "North by Northwest" on Aug. 1.

Not only is Walsh bringing rock back to the band shell stage, he’s bringing it back to the silver screen. In recognition of the 25th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death, Celebrate Brooklyn will screen the 1957 film "Jailhouse Rock," with its Lieber-Stoller score, on Aug. 8 at 7:30 pm.

"The film is black-and-white, but it’s in Cinemascope, wide format, and it will be awe inspiring," said Walsh. "It’s unanimously hailed as Elvis’ best movie - and we all know there are a lot of his films that had left a lot to be desired - but the direction [by Richard Thorpe] is excellent."

The film will be preceded by an Elvis tribute performed by the Losers Lounge, assembled by Patty Lenhart and Williamsburg resident Joe McGinty.

Walsh also emphasized that "film purists" will be pleased that the festival shows 35-mm, good quality film prints on its 50-foot wide screen.

There are still a large core of international performers in this year’s festival - too numerous to name here - including the 11th annual "African Festival" on July 13, which Walsh calls his "strongest lineup ever" and on June 30, their first "Kreyol Festival," a day-long Haitian celebration of music and culture.

With the help of Celebrate Brooklyn, it seems that Brooklyn’s performing arts off-season is heating up fast.



Celebrate Brooklyn performances take place June 20-Aug. 25 at the Prospect Park Band Shell (Ninth Street at Prospect Park West) in Park Slope beginning at 7:45 pm on June 20, with pianist Dr. John.

For a performance schedule, call (718) 855-7882, ext. 45 or visit the Web site at Rain or shine. A $3 donation is suggested.

Tickets for the Celebrate Brooklyn benefit concerts on Aug. 17, Aug. 24 and Aug. 25 are available through Ticketmaster, or by phone (212) 307-7171.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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