On beautiful days, when the sky is blue with clouds of white, and you feel grateful just to be alive, there’s one song that comes to mind. Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World took its place among the iconic entries in the American songbook as soon as it was released in 1968, and Satchmo’s home borough of Queens is throwing a free two-month music festival to celebrate.
All 62 branches of the Queens Library, in partnership with the Louis Armstrong House Museum and the Kupferberg Center for the Arts, will host free concerts as well as workshops, film screenings, talks and more events starting April 23 through June 30.
The heart of the program will be 12 concerts by world-class musicians and bands who represent the musical diversity of Queens, including the Grammy-nominated Louis Armstrong Eternity Band; Radio Jarocho, playing Mexican folk songs with New York jazz flair; and Chinese pipa player and jazz vocalist Min Xiao-Fen.
For more Armstrong-inspired fun and songs, the fifth annual Wonderful World Festival in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park will take place in July. Evoking the garden parties Armstrong and his wife Lucille used to hold, the festival features family-friendly activities and performances throughout the park; past headliners have included Jon Batiste and The Dap-Kings.
Armstrong found the inspiration for his most famous song right on his Queens block. “There’s so much in ‘Wonderful World’ that brings me back to my neighborhood where I live in Corona, New York,” he said in 1968. “Lucille and I, ever since we’re married, we’ve been right there in that block. And everybody keeps their little homes up like we do and it’s just like one big family. I saw three generations come up on that block. And they’re all with their children, grandchildren, they come back to see Uncle Satchmo and Aunt Lucille.”
Here’s the full list of #WonderfulWorld50 concerts:
April 23: Radio Jarocho (Peninsula Library)
May 1: A Lecture on the Life and Times of Louis Armstrong (in Spanish; at Corona Library)
May 4: Prasanna (Woodhaven Library)
May 14: Blue Pipa: From Harlem to Shanghai and Back (Fresh Meadows Library)
May 18: A Lecture on the Life and Times of Louis Armstrong (in English; at Glen Oaks Library)
May 24: David Ostwald’s Louis Armstrong Eternity Band (Langston Hughes Library)
May 26: Radio Jarocho (Langston Hughes Library)
June 2: A Lecture on the Life and Times of Louis Armstrong (in Spanish; at Jackson Heights Library)
June 4: A Lecture on the Life and Times of Louis Armstrong (in Spanish; at Astoria Library)
June 9: Akoko Nante Ensemble (Jackson Heights Library)
June 14: David Ostwald’s Louis Armstrong Eternity Band (Flushing Library)
June 16: Akoko Nante Ensemble (Glen Oaks Library)
June 19: Blue Pipa: From Harlem to Shanghai and Back (Windsor Park Library)
June 25: A Lecture on the Life and Times of Louis Armstrong (in English; at Forest Hills Library)
June 29: David Ostwald’s Louis Armstrong Eternity Band (Peninsula Library)
June 30: Prasanna (Flushing Library)
June 30: Radio Jarocho (Forest Hills Library)