As Princeton University Orchestra conductor Michael Pratt explained in his concert remarks, at first glance the four works performed this past weekend by the orchestra would seem unrelated to one another. Beethoven, Gershwin, and Stravinsky, combined with Princeton University composer Juri Seo, sounded like a set of pieces without a common thread, but conductor Pratt and the musicians of the orchestra found a way to allow four diverse works to speak to one another as well as the audience. Friday night’s University Orchestra performance at Richardson Auditorium (the concert was also presented last Thursday night) featured tight ensemble playing, elegant instrumental solo work, and a display of both compositional creativity and keyboard virtuosity from a composer who premiered her own concerto. more
American Repertory Ballet (ARB) brings the beloved classic “Nutracker” to the stage with Tchaikovsky’s magnificent score, new sets, thrilling choreography, and more than 100 performers. A holiday tradition for more than 50 years, ARB’s is one of the longest continuously running “Nutcracker” productions in the nation. Directed by Artistic Director Douglas Martin, ARB’s professional company will be joined by select students from Princeton Ballet School to tell the story of a young girl named Clara and how a mysterious gift from her Uncle brings about enchanted dreams and fantastical scenes. For tickets, visit www.statetheatrenj.org or call (732) 246-7469. (Photo Credit: Leighton Chen)
Simon Morrison was hoping to pursue a career as an orchestral musician when he fell in love with 20th-century Russian music. From that fascination grew an interest in Russian ballet. Soon, these subjects, and their histories, eclipsed his plans to play percussion or tuba in a symphony orchestra. more
Art Garfunkel, one of the most celebrated voices in American music, will perform at Princeton University’s Richardson Auditorium on Tuesday, December 13 at 4:30 p.m.
Garfunkel, along with his former partner Paul Simon, has received numerous awards and critical acclaim for his music, including 5 Grammy awards, the prestigious Britannia Award, Rolling Stone’s Best Album of the Year notation, and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. more
More than 120 children in the Trenton Children’s Chorus (TCC) prepare to delight audience members during the month of December. TCC is an award-winning nonprofit organization providing Trenton area youth with exceptional choral music training and performance opportunities. TCC has performed at the White House for President and Mrs. Obama, the United Nations, the South African Embassy, the World Café Live, the Washington Monument, and throughout New Jersey. For additional information, visit trentonchildrenschorus.org.
“Art demands of us that we do not stand still.” So commented Ludwig van Beethoven on his own late string quartets. No one can argue that the world is far from standing still, and the cycle of Beethoven string quartets presented this year by the Takács String Quartet at Princeton University may represent more than just music. Beethoven composed his repertory of 16 string quartets during some of the most tumultuous decades in world history, and the Takács performance of all the composer’s quartets over six concerts both shows promise for consistency in high-quality music and demonstrates the evolution of the string quartet as a musical form. more
BIRTHDAY SURPRISES: (L to R) Matt (Grant Shaud), Jill (June Ballinger), Carol (Leslie Ayvazian), and Dan (Ken Land) leave the city for a weekend at a bed-and-breakfast in the Poconos to celebrate Carol’s 60th birthday, and they find themselves in unexpected, unsettling emotional territory in Passage Theatre’s production of Leslie Ayvazian’s “Out of the City,” playing through November 20 at the Mill Hill Playhouse in Trenton. (Photo by Michael Goldstein)
At least since A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare’s “out-of-the-city” play set in ancient Athens and the surrounding forest, leaving the structured, rule-bound urban world for a sojourn in the unconstrained world of nature has been a risky proposition, bringing about all sorts of romantic upheavals, shifting relationships, and surprising transformations of identity. more
STRING SECTION: Students at Grace A. Dunn Middle School in Trenton are learning the violin from José Gregorio Sanchez Rodriguez, who is a product of the highly successful El Sistema program in Venezuela. Rodriguez also teaches at Westminster Conservatory in Princeton.
In a cluttered classroom at Trenton’s Grace A. Dunn Middle School, seven girls and one boy stand in a circle, violins in hand. It has been barely a month since they began learning the basics of the instrument. But “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” which they are playing along with their teacher, is sounding pretty good. more
In its season opener at Richardson Auditorium this past weekend, Princeton Pro Musica returned to its roots in the great choral masses of music history. Pro Musica Artistic Director Ryan James Brandau centered Sunday afternoon’s concert on one of the more dramatic masses of Franz Joseph Haydn, combined with smaller choral works similarly grounded with Classical melodies and clear-cut structures. Dr. Brandau combined the 100-voice Pro Musica with a Classically-sized orchestra and the established Polydora Ensemble, whose members doubled as soloists for the Haydn mass. more
Growing up in Princeton, Brian Sanders was captivated by two things: ballet and gymnastics. The 1984 graduate of Princeton High School divided his time between Princeton Ballet School and Alt’s Gym.
Initially, ballet won out. Mr. Sanders spent several years studying at Princeton Ballet with the late Alexei Yudenich, who was a principal dancer with The Pennsylvania Ballet. So there is something gratifying about the fact that a piece by Mr. Sanders, now a choreographer with his own company, is being performed by the Pennsylvania Ballet next weekend. Chicken Bone Brain shares a program with works by George Balanchine and British choreographer David Dawson at Philadelphia’s Merriam Theatre November 10-13. more
“ONCE”: Seniors Sam Gravitte and Maddie Meyers in rehearsal for the Lewis Center for the Arts’s production of the musical “Once.” The show runs November 11, 12, 17, 18, and 19 at 8 p.m. in the Berlind Theatre at McCarter Theatre Center. Tickets are available at (609) 258-2787 and online at arts.princeton.edu/once. (Photo Credit: Graham Phillips)
The Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University presents the Tony Award-winning musical Once, directed by senior Graham Phillips and featuring seniors Sam Gravitte and Maddie Meyers, on November 11, 12, 17, 18 and 19 at 8 p.m. in the Berlind Theatre at McCarter Theatre Center. more
HOSPITALITY TO HOSTILITY: (L to R) Amir (Maboud Ebrahimzadeh), Emily (Caroline Kaplan), Isaac (Kevin Isola), and Jory (Austene Van) enjoy a cordial dinner before resentments surface and the mood turns dark in McCarter Theatre’s production of Ayad Akhtar’s 2013 Pulitzer Prize-winning drama “Disgraced,” at McCarter’s Matthews Theatre through October 30. (Photo by T. Charles Erickson)
If Ayad Akhtar’s characters had followed my grandmother’s warning, “We never discuss politics or religion at social occasions,” his 2013 Pulitzer Prize-winning drama Disgraced would never have been written.
Now playing in a riveting production at McCarter’s Matthews Theatre, the 90-minute uninterrupted, four-scene exploration of identity, Islam, and what it means to be Muslim in contemporary America, as seen through the interwoven lives of five New York City characters, was the most often produced play in the United States in the 2015-16 season. more
The Princeton University Orchestra opened its 2016-17 season this past weekend with a performance of music both rooted in the theater and revolutionary in its innovation. Princeton University Orchestra conductor Michael Pratt described Saturday night’s concert at Richardson Auditorium (the performance was repeated Sunday afternoon) as two 20th-century works “sandwiched” around a composer Mr. Pratt defined as the cornerstone of 19th-century orchestral invention, but the three works performed could be viewed as programmatic — telling stories of theater and life in general. With a very full stage of players to open the season, Mr. Pratt also shared the conducting podium in the second half of the program with Ruth Ochs, no stranger to heavy-duty symphonic works herself. more
With the appointment of Xian Zhang as music director, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra (NJSO) is entering a new era of musical accomplishment. Ms. Zhang will make her Princeton debut later this month, and this past Friday night, the NJSO invited an old friend back to the podium. Former Associate Conductor Gemma New led the orchestra in a concert paying tribute to her homeland and including an audience favorite from the piano concerto repertory. more
CELEBRATING MUSICAL COMMUNITY: Hinds Plaza hosted the second annual edition of the Unruly Sounds Festival Sunday. Excelsis Percussion, seen here, was among the groups performing. (Photo by Emily Reeves)
Despite a chilly drizzle Sunday afternoon, the audience sat in rapt attention as the genre-defying group Bonjour played in Princeton’s Hinds Plaza. A pair of double bassists flanked Florent Ghys’s “low string” band as it wound its way through a selection of pieces corresponding to days of the week. Their instruments’ bowed tones were sweet and thick as honey, tempered by the clarity of an electric guitar and a cello, and propelled by the drive of their set’s intermittent drum parts. At times, the musicians broke into wordless song. more
Photo Credit: NARENDRA DANGIYA
Acclaimed dancer/choreographer Aparna Ramaswamy brings her solo work They Rose at Dawn to the Berlind Theatre on October 23 at 3 p.m. In this solo work, women are depicted as carriers of ritual. Navigating inner and outer worlds, they invoke a sense of reverence, of unfolding mystery, of imagination. more
FORBIDDEN PASSION: Father Monroe (Raul Mendez) visits Marcela (Hannia Guillen) and her struggling Cuban-American family, but his pastoral kindness turns into much more, in McCarter Theatre’s production of Nilo Cruz’s world premiere of “Bathing in Moonlight” at McCarter’s Berlind Theatre through October 9. (Photo by T. Charles Erickson)
Father Monroe (Raul Mendez) welcomes the audience into his church in the opening moments of Bathing in Moonlight, Nilo Cruz’s new play, currently at McCarter’s Berlind Theatre. The smiling priest in his 40s, attractive, warm, addressing his “parishioners” individually as friends, makes his way down the aisle to the stage, where Edward Pierce’s striking set and lighting — with a red cross in the middle of a large stained glass window and latticed wooden screen backdrop — emphasizes the church setting. more
RECITAL AND MASTER CLASS AT WESTMINSTER: Pianist Alejandro Cremaschi will present a recital of works by Ginastera and others on Friday, September 23 at 8 p.m. He will lead a master class on Saturday, September 24 at 2 p.m. Admission to both events is free.
Learn more at www.rider.edu/arts.
Westminster Choir College of Rider University welcomes visiting pianist Alejandro Cremaschi, who will present a recital on Friday, September 23 at 8 p.m. and a master class on Saturday, September 24 at 2 p.m. A reception will follow the recital. Admission to both events is free. more
There is always an air of freshness at the start of a new musical season — the night air is crisp with the coming of autumn and audiences are eager with anticipation of what the new season will bring. Princeton Symphony Orchestra began its 2016-17 season a bit early this year with a concert last Thursday night which was definitely a breath of fresh air — and an approach to Antonio Vivaldi which Princeton audiences likely have not heard before. more
Photography by Erica Cardenas
Beyond Words, the annual fall gala hosted by the Friends of the Princeton Public Library took place on Saturday, September 17. This year’s special guests were Pulitzer Prize-winning author Elizabeth Strout and novelist Jean Hanff Korelitz who spoke at Nassau Presbyterian Church. After the talk, guests gathered at Hinds Plaza for a book signing and cocktails followed by a silent auction and dinner. more
SWINGING SOUNDS: “It’s an exciting milestone year for JazzFeast,” says Palmer Square Marketing Director Anita Fresolone, who oversees the planning of this very popular open air jazz festival. Prominent jazz musicians will be on hand, as will an array of various cuisines from Princeton area eateries.
The 25h annual JazzFeast will be held on the Green and the west side of Palmer Square from noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday, September 18, rain or shine. more
Acclaimed Irish actress Lisa Dwan will give a talk entitled “Performing Beckett” on Friday, September 16 at 4:30 p.m. at the Lewis Center for the Arts’ James M. Stewart ’32 Theater, 185 Nassau Street. Part of the 2016-17 Fund for Irish Studies series at Princeton University, the event is free and open to the public. more
McCarter Theatre Center will renew its annual tradition in December of 2016 with a reimagined version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. As part of this new theatrical endeavor, McCarter is looking for a new group of young actors ages 5 to 13 to form this year’s Young Ensemble.
Sign-Ups for A Christmas Carol Young Ensemble Auditions will be held at McCarter Theatre Center on Wednesday, September 14 from 3 to 6 p.m. more
MUSIC AND MIRTH AT KELSEY THEATRE: Virginia Repertory Theatre presents “The Princess and the Pea” at Mercer County Community College’s Kelsey Theatre on Saturday, October 1 at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for seniors, students, and children. To purchase, call the Box Office at (609) 570-3333 or visit www.kelseytheatre.net.
Love will always find a way. It’s never been more true than in “The Princess and The Pea,” to be presented by Virginia Repertory Theatre at Mercer County Community College’s (MCCC’s) Kelsey Theatre on Saturday, October 1 at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Kelsey Theatre is located on the college’s West Windsor Campus at 1200 Old Trenton Road. more