Frank da Cruz, July 29, 2018.
The Jackie Robinson Park
bandshell and outdoor
dance terrace, built by the WPA and opened in 1937 [9
]. Until about the mid-1940s there were
free weekly WPA Orchestra dance concerts here. In fact Colonial Park (the
orginal name of Jackie Robinson Park) had its own ensemble: The Colonial
Negro Dance Orchestra of the WPA Federal Music Project, which performed at
the opening ceremony which turned into a big dance party. And the Harlem
Community Chorus performed the Negro National Anthem. Aside from the
regular concerts, big name orchestras gave dance concerts here and at other
major NYC parks in the 1940s: Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Cab Calloway,
Clyde Lucas, Don Wilson*, Ray Kinney, Jimmy Dorsey, Charlie Spivak, Claude
Thornhill, to name some. Also there were performances by the WPA Trailer
Marionette Theater as well as the WPA Federal Theatre Project: drama,
comedy, Shakespeare... plus performances by the Federal Dance Theatre and
the Negro Theatre Unit of the Federal Theatre Project ("Voodoo Macbeth").
In the 1960s, free performances were given here by the Harlem Opera Society.