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Published:May 5th, 2006 08:28 EST
As Concerto Debuts, Billy Joel Retires At Garden...Sort Of

As Concerto Debuts, Billy Joel Retires At Garden...Sort Of

By Maria Grella

A concerto based on Billy Joel’s classical album will be featured this summer at a musical celebration.  The concerto, from 2001’s Fantasies & Delusions, is set to debut at the Eastern Music Festival in June.  Jeffrey Biegel, who arranged the piano section, will perform the “Concerto for Piano and Orchestra” on the 24th, along with the EMF faculty orchestra.  The EMF orchestra will be conducted by Stuart Malina, the former musical director of the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra.  Malina also shares the 2003 Tony award with Joel, for the hit musical “Movin’ Out”.  EMF President & CEO Tom Philion commented on how beneficial it is to draw in the big name.  “With a piece like this and an artist like this, it is a huge deal for us.”

The Eastern Music Festival is held in Greensboro, North Carolina; it is a place where artists come to perform for gifted students of music.  Recorded performances are regularly featured on National Public Radio’s program Performance Today, which broadcasts on 264 stations. 

This news comes on the heels of Joel’s retirement from the Garden…so to speak.  April 24th, closing night of his history making tour, came complete with his jersey being hung up at New York’s most famous arena.  Joel is the first entertainer in Madison Square Garden’s 125 year history to have his ‘number’ retired; that magic number being 12, the amount of record-breaking, sold-out concerts at MSG.  It will remain there for all entertainment events.  The jersey will join the ranks of retired sports greats Patrick Ewing and Willis Reed (of basketball fame), and Mark Messier (for hockey).

While Billy Joel heads over to Europe for a small stint, his record label, Columbia records, will release 12 Gardens Live on June 13th, drawing from the best performances of his historic run.  Presenting the honor to Joel was Senator Charles Schumer, who joked about the title coming back to the Big Apple.  Previous record holder Bruce Springsteen, who hails from New Jersey, had the record at 10 sold-out shows from his 2000 tour.  “I love Bruce Springsteen, but I’m happy to see the record cross the Hudson.  The score is now Long Island 1, New Jersey 0,” joked Schumer.

While accepting the honor, Joel described his affection for the grand arena.  “It’s been a great run here.  It’s always been a thrill to play at MSG.  It’s just got an aura to it, since I was a little kid.”
Joel recalled his most memorable Madison Square Garden appearance.  It was during “The Concert for New York” in October 2001, where he sang “New York of Mind” just one month after the terrorist attacks.  “That was tough,” he remembered.  “I wanted to do it really slow and bluesy.  But I was singing the lyrics and I started to lose it.  It was a battle to get through the song.”

For millions of New Yorkers, Billy Joel is as part of the Empire State as the skyline is.  Many fans grew up listening to his music, and his songs have continued to stand the test of time, transcending generations.  Senator Charles Schumer commented “Billy Joel’s music embodies NY, and NY stays loyal in return.”