November 7, 2018

By Nancy Plum

New Jersey Symphony Orchestra opened its 2018-19 Princeton concert series this past Friday night at Richardson Auditorium. Led by guest conductor Christoph König, the Orchestra launched a season focused on the theme Music Speaks! — performances inspired by poetry, stories, and fantasy. Friday night’s concert in particular presented an outstanding violin soloist in a work not often heard. more

October 31, 2018

By Nancy Plum

The Princeton University Music Department prides itself on training solid vocal and instrumental musicians. Both the University Orchestra and Glee Club tour overseas periodically, no doubt connecting with similar musical organizations internationally, and one of the most foremost European musical training institutions paid a visit to Princeton last week at the invitation of the University Orchestra. Based in Milan, Italy, the Accademia Teatro Alla Scala offers a full range of performing art onstage and backstage training, including an orchestra, which has been on tour this month in the United States. Last Tuesday night, the Accademia Teatro Alla Scala Orchestra presented a concert in Richardson Auditorium focused on a “Dialogue through Music” between Italy and the United States. Featuring music of 19th-century Italian composers or those connected to Italy, last Tuesday night’s performance enthralled the Richardson audience with fresh and youthful instrumental playing.   more

October 24, 2018

By Nancy Plum

The Princeton University Orchestra, never an ensemble to sneak quietly into the concert season, announced its arrival in the new academic year this past weekend with flair and a strong musical statement. In concerts presented Saturday night and Sunday afternoon at Richardson Auditorium, the Orchestra joined the ongoing tribute celebration to American composer Leonard Bernstein, and also started the year off with one of the most challenging works of the Romantic symphonic repertory. Conducted by Ruth Ochs (filling in this past weekend for Orchestra Music Director Michael Pratt), the University Orchestra showed itself more than up to its demanding season ahead. more

October 17, 2018

“DETROIT ‘67”: Performances are underway for “Detroit ‘67.” Directed by Jade King Carroll, the play runs through October 28 at McCarter’s Matthews Theatre. Chelle (Myxolydia Tyler, left) is upset by a series of risky choices made by her younger brother Lank (Johnny Ramey). Photo by T. Charles Erickson

By Donald H. Sanborn III

The music of Motown underscores Detroit ’67, a drama whose action begins just before the Detroit Riot, or Great Rebellion. It focuses on an African American woman’s determination to provide security for her family; and her passionate younger brother’s wish to start a new life, and blur racial boundaries.  more

October 10, 2018

Organist Stephen Buzard will lead a master class on Tuesday, October 16 at 2:30 p.m. and participate in the Sacred Music Lab at 6:30 p.m., in Bristol Chapel on the campus of Westminster Choir College of Rider University in Princeton. Sacred Music Lab is a worship service led by Westminster’s Sacred Music students and is open to the public. Admission is free. He will also present a recital in the Princeton University Chapel on Monday, October 15 at 8 p.m. more

October 3, 2018

By Nancy Plum

There is a lot of Leonard Bernstein in concert halls these days; in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the iconic composer’s birth, performers worldwide are participating in Bernstein at 100, a two-year global celebration. Princeton Symphony Orchestra joined the party this past weekend at Richardson Auditorium by devoting the opening concert of the 2018-19 season to music of the American legend. A clear sign of growth and success, Princeton Symphony Orchestra has expanded its classical series to two performances of several of the classical concerts this season. Saturday night’s performance (the concert was repeated Sunday afternoon) brought several of Bernstein’s more popular works to life, featuring two stellar solo performers. more

September 26, 2018

By Nancy Plum

Bobby McFerrin is a vocal visionary, stretching the capabilities of the human voice to new heights and palettes of sound. Through his recordings, live improvisational concerts, conducting engagements, and his innovative professional ensemble Voicestra, McFerrin has shown that he is so much more than his signature musical command “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” As part of Princeton University Concerts’ 2018-19 season, McFerrin brought his unique brand of musical performance to Richardson Auditorium last Friday night in a joint concert with the Princeton University Glee Cub and the vocal ensemble Gimme5. The informality of the evening was set when the members of the Glee Club took the stage dressed in everyday collegiate attire, however the quality of this concert was anything but casual.

The musicians performed less than 10 musical selections within the 90-minute concert, but each was a creative unfolding of sound and vocal color, undulating in dynamics and timbre as singers were added and subtracted from the musical palette. Princeton University Concerts wisely chose to begin its 125th anniversary season with singing, as more people participate in singing than any other performance medium, and the crowd-unifying elements of Bobby McFerrin will no doubt pique the interest of new attendees for later events. more

PRAISE THE LORD, I’VE BEEN SAVED: Louis Zamperini was persuaded by his wife to attend a revival meeting led by Billy Graham, where the preacher’s message transformed Louis’s life and alleviated his PTSD.

By Kam Williams

The movie Unbroken (2014) portrayed the ordeals undergone by the Olympian athlete and Air Force bombardier Louis Zamperini in a Japanese POW camp during World War II. Directed by Angelina Jolie, the biopic was adapted  by the Coen brothers from Laura Hillenbrand’s bestseller of the same name.

The sequel, Unbroken: Path to Redemption, is also based on Hillenbrand’s book, but unfortunately the creative team is not as outstanding as that of the earlier film. The cast has also been changed, with Samuel Hunt now starring as Louis.

Unbroken 2 picks up where the first film left off. The original closed with Louis kissing the ground upon landing back in the states after he was liberated from the POW camp, thereby implying that he lived “happily ever after.”

True, he did meet and marry Cynthia Applewhite (Merritt Patterson) and the happy couple moved to California to start a family. However, Louis becomes haunted by flashbacks to the torture he underwent during World War II at the hands of Corporal Mutsuhiro “The Bird” Watanabe (David Sakurai), a sadistic guard at Sugamo prison.

Unfortunately, Louis is suffering from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and he has become angry, abusive, and an alcoholic. In desperation his wife persuades him to attend a Billy Graham Christian revival meeting (in which Billy Graham is portrayed by his grandson, Reverend Will Graham).

The charismatic Baptist preacher’s plea to “just reach out and take the hand of Jesus, and every problem will be washed away,” resonates with Louis. When Louis falls to his knees, it is clear that he has been saved. The closing credits show scenes of Louis being featured at subsequent evangelical revival meetings.

Very Good (HH½). Rated PG-13 for mature themes and disturbing images. Running time: 98 minutes. Production Studio: Universal 1440 Entertainment/Matt Baer Films.Studio: Pure Flix Entertainment.

September 19, 2018

Papa Leroux (George Agalias, right) proposes to Rubenesque heiress Daisy Tillou (actually “dead” artist Jean-Francois Millet disguised as his own sister — both played by Nick Pecht) in “Is He Dead?,” a “new comedy” by Mark Twain, adapted by David Ives. The production by ActorsNET performs weekends September 28 through October 14 at The Heritage Center Theatre, 635 North Delmorr Avenue, Morrisville, Pa. Show times are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults, $17 for seniors 62 and up, $15 for WHYY members and students, and $10 for children age 12 and under. To reserve, call (215) 295 3694, email actorsnet@aol.com, or visit www.brownpapertickets.com.

George Street Playhouse’s Educational Touring Theatre, courtesy of support from The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey and RWJBarnabas Health, will premiere a new musical about the opioid crisis and its impact on teens and families. Developed in response to the devastating impact prescription opioid misuse, heroin, and fentanyl have had on communities throughout New Jersey, Anytown will premiere on September 25 at George Street Playhouse as part of a special Spotlight Conference on Opioid Abuse. 

The Spotlight Conference will feature a keynote address from New Jersey State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal along with workshops for educators, school administrators, and public health professionals conducted by experts in the field from RWJBarnabas Health’s Institute for Prevention and Recovery.  more

September 12, 2018

BACK ON THE AIR: John Weingart returns to WPRB radio on September 16 to begin his 45th year of the unique folk music program “Music You Can’t Hear on the Radio.”

John Weingart’s Sunday evening show on WRPB radio begins its 45th year on Sunday, September 16, from 7 to 10 p.m. Music You Can’t Hear on the Radio is broadcast live from Princeton on 103.3 FM and streamed worldwide at WPRB.com.

The program is notable for the well of often little-known music from which Weingart draws and the sets he creates around varied themes that may be topical, humorous, poignant, beautiful, or just great music. The show generally includes old and new country blues and string band music, bluegrass, singer-songwriters, and other music loosely classified as folk or Americana that was recorded as long ago as the 1920s, and as recently as this month.

Weingart, a former assistant commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and chair of the New Jersey Highlands Council, is currently associate director of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers. He started Music You Can’t Hear on the Radio in February 1974 while a graduate student at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School.

CUBAN ROOTS: Aydmara Cabrera, shown here in “Swan Lake,” hopes to bring her experience at National Ballet of Cuba into the curriculum of Princeton Ballet School.

Former National Ballet of Cuba principal dancer Aydmara Cabrera has been named school director of Princeton Ballet School (PBS), the official school of American Repertory Ballet (ARB).

According to Julie Diana Hench, executive director of American Repertory Ballet and Princeton Ballet School, “Ms. Cabrera is already a beloved teacher and ballet master at PBS, and will be an incredible member of the leadership team. She has impressive professional experience and an inspiring vision for the School that will provide students even greater opportunities. Ms. Cabrera’s passion for the art form is infectious and we are thrilled to have her lead Princeton Ballet School into an exciting new era.” more

September 5, 2018

FROM PAGE TO STAGE: Helen Cespedes and Andrew Veenstra star in Douglas McGrath’s play adapted from Edith Wharton’s classic novel “The Age of Innocence,” at McCarter Theatre Center starting Friday. (Photo by T. Charles Erickson)

By Anne Levin

Fans of Edith Wharton find plenty to love in The Age of Innocence, her novel about a New York love triangle in the stultifying high society of the Gilded Age. But when they were younger, playwright Douglas McGrath, who wrote the theatrical adaptation that opens at McCarter Theatre Center on September 7, and Doug Hughes, who directed the production, did not count themselves among those fans. more

August 15, 2018

From September 7 to October 7 in the Berlind Theatre, McCarter Theatre is hosting the world premiere production of “The Age of Innocence,” a tale of star-crossed lovers forced to choose between love and honor. The play is adapted by Oscar and Tony nominee (and Princeton University alumnus) Douglas McGrath and directed by Tony Award-winner Doug Hughes. About the production, McCarter Artistic Director Emily Mann said: “What I love most about Douglas McGrath’s brilliant adaptation is how all of us — regardless of age, background, or varied experiences — look back on our past decisions and wonder ‘did I make the right choice?’ This production shows the universal truth behind the struggle of choosing one path over another.” Tickets start at $25 –­­­­­  to purchase, visit mccarter.org or call (609) 258-2787.

August 1, 2018

By Nancy Plum

Princeton University Summer Chamber Concerts has celebrated its 51st season with innovative programming this year.  The series closed its 2018 season last week by reverting to its classical roots with a return visit from the Daedalus Quartet, an ensemble with a strong performance and recording history of both 19th century and contemporary music. Violinists Min-Young Kim and Matilda Kaul, violist Jessica Thompson, and cellist Thomas Kraines presented a very recent American piece sandwiched between two pillars of the Classical period in Richardson Auditorium last Wednesday night, mesmerizing a sold-out house with sophisticated and refined playing.  more

July 18, 2018

“UNCOMMON WOMEN AND OTHERS”: Performances are underway for Princeton Summer Theater’s production of “Uncommon Women and Others.” Directed by Daniel Krane, the play runs through July 22 at Princeton University’s Hamilton Murray Theater. Mrs. Plumm (Carol Lee, center) serves tea to residents of North Stimson Hall, from left: Rita (Allison Spann), Kate (Kat Giordano), Susie (E Harper Nora Jerimijenko-Conley), and Leilah  (Michelle Navis). Photo by Sarah Golobish.

By Donald Sanborn III

Princeton Summer Theater is delivering a polished production of Uncommon Women and Others at Princeton University’s Hamilton Murray Theater. A press release for this season’s previous production, Tick, Tick…Boom!, states that it “sets the stage for a summer of performances that center around self-discovery as seen through critical turning points in our characters’ lives.” That theme — as well as pressure to succeed with personal and professional accomplishments by the time one reaches a certain age — is shared by this play, which was written by Wendy Wasserstein (1950-2006). more

By Nancy Plum

No matter how much doubt is shed on the future of orchestral music, it is clear that there will always be composers looking for opportunities to present newly-created musical works. In Princeton, thanks to a collaboration among the Edward T. Cone Foundation, Princeton University, and the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, four emerging composers have had the chance to explore in depth symphonic composition as part of the Fifth Annual NJSO Edward T. Cone Composition Institute. Conductor David Robertson, Institute director and composer Steven Mackey and members of the New Jersey Symphony mentored four composers in creating significant musical pieces, as well as learning the business aspects of the field. This year’s Institute culminated last Saturday night in a public performance of four new one-movement works at Richardson Auditorium to an audience which has continued to grow over the five years of the Institute. Composers Jonathan Cziner, Brian Shank, Aaron Hendrix, and Natalie Dietterich spent last week in Princeton receiving an invaluable experience and education as a huge stepping stone in already successful careers. more

July 3, 2018

By Nancy Plum

’Tis the week for 18th-century music in the Princeton area. Princeton Festival has been showcasing its Baroque Festival Orchestra and Chamber Ensemble, and for the first time in its 51-year history, Princeton University Summer Chamber Concerts has presented a Baroque instrumental ensemble. Last Tuesday night’s concert at Richardson Auditorium featured the chamber ensemble REBEL, named after the early French composer Jean-Féry Rebel. REBEL has been performing worldwide for more than 25 years, winning numerous awards while compiling an impressive roster of instrumentalists. Tuesday night’s concert brought two violinists, one violoncello, and a harpsichord to Princeton, performing a potpourri of 17th and 18th-century pieces. It was a unique program of music for three strings, but no viola, and the collection of multi-movement works presented on period instruments showed solid partnership among violinists Jôrg-Michael Schwarz and Karen Marie Marmer, cellist John Moran, and harpsichordist Dongsok Shin. more

By Taylor Smith 

This year’s Princeton Student Film Festival will take place July 17-19 at 7 p.m. The showings on July 17 will be held at Princeton Garden Theatre, while the showings on July 18 and 19, will be hosted by the Princeton Public Library.

Created and presented by the Princeton Public Library, the Festival features original short films created by student filmmakers ages 14-25. The films were chosen from local, national, and international entries. Some of the films represent college student thesis projects, while others are from novice high school filmmakers who possess a passion for filmmaking and a desire to see their vision portrayed on the big screen.  more

This year, eight Philadelphia Youth Orchestra (PYO) students have been selected to participate in the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America (NYO-USA), and two students have been selected to participate in its sister ensemble for younger students: NYO2. The PYO students who have been chosen from Pa. are: Akili Farrow, violin, of Southwest Philadelphia; Johnny May, violin, of Penn Valley; Noah Stein, trombone, of Yardley; Sabine Jung (NYO2), cello, of West Chester; and Gregory Padilla (NYO2), bass, of Northeast Philadelphia. The students from N.J. are: Clara Bouch, viola, of Cherry Hill; Robin Park, cello, of Princeton Junction; and David Stein, tuba, of Morristown.  more

June 27, 2018

“TICK, TICK…BOOM!”: Performances are underway for Princeton Summer Theater’s production of “Tick, Tick … Boom!.” Directed by Victoria Davidjohn, the musical runs through July 8 at Princeton University’s Hamilton Murray Theater. Susan (Allison Spann, left), Michael (Chibueze Ihuoma, center), and Jon (Isaac Piecuch) sing “Louder Than Words,” the show’s closing number. (Photo by Sarah Golobish)

By Donald H. Sanborn III

“The sound you are hearing is not a technical problem,” quips Jon, the protagonist of Tick, Tick … Boom! “It is the sound of one man’s mounting anxiety. I am that man.” He reveals that he is “a ‘promising young composer.’ I should have kids of my own by now, a career, but … I’m trying to work, trying to enjoy what remains of my extremely late 20s, trying to ignore the tick tick booms.” more

By Nancy Plum

Princeton Festival is spending the fourth week of this year’s season focusing on the Baroque era of music history, beginning with a chamber orchestra concert last Saturday afternoon. Comprised of six members of The Princeton Festival Baroque Orchestra, the Festival Baroque Chamber Ensemble presented an hour-long performance at Princeton Abbey which felt like a refreshing cool drink on a summer afternoon. The five works performed were, as advertised, “rare gems of the Baroque chamber repertoire,” as four string players, a theorbo, and harpsichord showed that the Festival’s foray into 17th- and 18th-century music was a worthy artistic decision. Princeton Abbey is an unusual liturgical space in that the members of the congregation face one another, rather than the chancel, but perhaps thanks to the recent residency at the Abbey by the American Boychoir, the acoustics were perfect for chamber music. more

June 20, 2018

By Nancy Plum

Princeton Festival opened its mainstage opera production this past weekend with an audience favorite in Giacomo Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. Now one of the most popular Italian operas in the repertory, Puccini’s 1904 Butterfly was an unexpected disaster on its premiere night in Milan, leading the composer to revise the opera into the blockbuster it is today. Princeton Festival’s presentation Saturday night at McCarter Theatre Center’s Matthews Theatre was every bit the crowd-pleaser it should be, showcasing several stand-out singers in the process. Some operas lend themselves to restaging in other time periods, but Madama Butterfly is best left in its original timeframe of late 19th-early 20th-century Japan. Set in the harbor town of Nagasaki, Butterfly combined Puccini’s lush orchestrations and melodies with an exotic seaside locale to tug at audience heartstrings. Princeton Festival’s production, sung in Italian with English supertitles, took every advantage of Puccini’s rich melodic writing to convey a poignant storyline.  more

June 13, 2018

By Nancy Plum

Summer brings many traditions to the Princeton area: the P-rade, fireworks on Reunions weekend, and other signs that three months of summer days stretch out ahead. One musical tradition which has become a staple of audience calendars is the Concordia Chamber Players concert which opens the Princeton Festival each year. Concordia Artistic Director Michelle Djokic annually brings an ensemble of refined chamber music players to Miller Chapel, and this year in particular set the tone for the festival with a performance of dramatic late 19th and early 20th-century music. more

May 23, 2018

By Nancy Plum

Like a successful garden, it takes a long time to develop and nourish a performing ensemble. Princeton Singers began 35 years ago as a volunteer chorus singing English cathedral music, madrigals, and folksongs, and has grown like a weed under the direction of only two conductors: Founding Director John Bertalot and current Artistic Director Steven Sametz. The ensemble is celebrating its 35th anniversary this season, paying credit to its past and present, while looking ahead to the future. The Singers is especially proud of its emergence as a leading professional vocal ensemble performing a wide range of repertoire with a commitment to contemporary music, and its closing concert of this season demonstrated why the chorus is justifiably proud of its musical heritage. more