When people use the word “fanfare” to describe celebrations, they usually mean it metaphorically. But there were literal brass instruments, bells up and held high, at the official opening of the Shed on Friday night.
The first public performance — inside the cavernous McCourt space at the new arts center, one of the most ambitious and high-profile additions to New York City’s cultural landscape in years — began with a marching band exuberantly parading through the audience.
It was the start of Soundtrack of America, a five-concert series paying homage to the history of African-American music, conceived by the filmmaker and artist Steve McQueen. He and Quincy Jones watched from the sidelines as the instrumentalists made their joyous entrance.
Nearby was Alex Poots, the Shed’s artistic director and chief executive, pacing on the periphery. He was witnessing not only the inauguration of an institution more than a decade (and $475 million) in the making, but also of the programming he has been developing since he joined in 2014.
about the Shed’s development.]
For the Shed’s first weekend, he had commissioned “Soundtrack for America,” as well as the interdisciplinary “Reich Richter Pärt,” new work by the artist Trisha Donnelly and the play “Norma Jeane Baker of Troy,” starring Ben Whishaw and Renée Fleming.
On Wednesday evening, the Shed had opened its doors to mostly donors and industry insiders for a preview party. Mr. Poots and Elizabeth Diller — the architect whose firm, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, designed the building in collaboration with the Rockwell Group — were tapped on the shoulders by a near-constant stream of luminaries offering congratulations. It was a long day for Ms. Diller, who arrived at the building around 8 a.m. and stayed at the party until 10:30 p.m. (To unwind, she said, she and her husband, Ricardo Scofidio, went out for ramen. She was back at her office by 9 a.m.)
There was a preview of “Reich Richter Pärt”; afterward, Steve Reich said in an interview that he was happy to finally hear his score with a large crowd, and not in the acoustics of an empty room. He was there again for the piece’s first public performances on Saturday.
[Our guide to navigating the Shed and Hudson Yards.]
By the weekend, the building was operational, though not fully finished. One crucial escalator wasn’t completely installed; another was in and out of service. A bartender for Cedric’s, the Shed’s not-yet-open restaurant by Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group, apologetically handed out free bottles of water and said that it would probably be up and running by late April.
Jon Batiste was leading the Howard University “Showtime” Marching Band, the Brooklyn United drumline and his own 369th Experience brass band. Their set commemorated James Reese Europe, a pioneer in bringing African-American music to concert halls — including Carnegie Hall in 1912 — and recordings. During World War I, he served in the segregated 369th Infantry Regiment, known as the Harlem Hellfighters, and directed its regimental band, which introduced ragtime across Europe. Mr. Batiste’s 369th Experience musicians wore military khakis.