September 30, 2020

Save the Sourlands SoloFest Blends Art and Science

SINGING FOR THE ENVIRONMENT: Renowned tenor Jonathan Tetelman, who grew up in Princeton, is among those taking part in a combined nature documentary and music festival to benefit the Sourland Conservancy. 

On October 10 at 8 p.m., the Sourland Conservancy will present a free, hour-long program combining nature documentary and music festival to raise public awareness and funds to address a serious threat to the Sourlands, the third largest forested area in New Jersey and home to several threatened and endangered species.

“We are losing over 1 million trees. That’s devastating,” said Sourland Conservancy Executive Director Laurie Cleveland. “Over 20 percent of the Sourland trees are ash, the highest concentration in New Jersey, and all these trees will be killed within the next few years by an invasive insect, the emerald ash borer. We are working to develop a reforestation plan in partnership with local, state, and national  organizations that recognize the ecological importance of  the Sourlands — and the impact of ash decline on our forest’s ability to clean our water and air, sequester carbon, and provide critical habitat.”

The Sourland Conservancy’s popular Sourland Mountain Festival was canceled due to COVID-19, so Conservancy staff, volunteers, sponsors, partner organizations, and municipalities and worked together to create a new event to safely engage the community in the effort to restore the forest.

Musicians recorded original songs alone, or with a household partner, surrounded by Sourland landscapes including St. Michaels Farm Preserve, Hunterdon County Sourland Mountain Preserve, Baldpate Mountain, Hidden Spring Lavender Farm, and Unionville Vineyards. Featured musicians include Hopewell native Danielia Cotton; Abbie Gardner and her husband Craig Akin of Jersey City, who premiere a new song, Cypress Tree; Stacey and Alan Schulman, the As Is Jazz duo, of Llewellyn Park; and rising opera star and New Jersey native Jonathan Tetelman.

The signature performance features an ensemble of over a dozen musicians who were recorded performing alone in iconic Sourland settings combined as one in the studio of music director Cliff Wilson of Princeton. Wilson also co-produced the original documentary upon which the event is based, The Sourlands: A New Jersey Treasure.

Approximately half the program will be a documentary focusing on the beauty and ecology of the Sourlands, as well as the serious threats facing the forest, as described by nearly a dozen naturalists and scientists, including Jim Amon, Rush Holt, Sharyn Magee, Jennifer Rogers, Hannah Suthers, and foresters from the New Jersey Forest Service. They will focus on the importance of the Sourlands in terms of wildlife protection, water quality, climate, history, and recreation.

The program will premiere for free on YouTube at 8 p.m. on October 10, followed by an “After Party” at 9 p.m. on Zoom. Visit for additional information, to purchase event merchandise and After Party tickets, to preview music performances, or to donate funds for planting native trees and shrubs in the Sourlands.