Niagara Gazette — “High above the Niagara, tramping through some historic countryside, sounds from Artpark began to drift down, and they were good sounds. Soft Gospel words from the “New Image,” welcomes from the Commedia Dell Art Co. and a lot of electric anticipation rippling through a crowd of first nighters-nice vibes signaling the start of something long dreamed, Artpark.”
That was reviewer Ted R. Hadley’s take on the opening night of Artpark, July 25, 1974.
As Artpark gets set to recreate the magic of that evening tonight as part of its 40th season celebration, the show features pianist Norman Krieger, singer Michele Ragusa and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, plus many other performers, we will look back at the night when it all started.
The ad promoting the show said simply, “Artpark is Thursday,” signaling the birth of an institution in these parts that would become an integral part of Western New York.
Like tonight’s performance, The Buffalo Philharmonic hosted the event in 1974. The headliners were Ethel Merman, Cicely Tyson and Maureen Forrester.
Patrons arriving to the gala were dressed in all types of attire, some in formal wear and others dressed casually in jeans and t-shirts. There were greeters dressed in Shakespearean style costumes and champagne toasts.
Like most gala’s the evening began with a dedication ceremony and a plaque unveiled honoring then former State Senate Majority leader Earl W. Brydges.
The evening was not without its minor glitches as actress Cicely Tyson mistakenly introduced the Buffalo Philharmonic as the “Boston Philharmonic” but all has long since been forgiven for that minor slip of the tongue.
The entire program was designed to display the different types of performances that would be coming to Artpark. There were Broadway melodies from Merman including “Gee, But it’s Great to Be Here” and “I Get a Kick Out of You.” Maureen Forrester sang Mozart’s “non piu di fiori” and the evening ended with a rousing rendition of the “1812 Overture,” followed by a huge fireworks display.