April 8, 2020

By Stuart Mitchner

I’ll be writing in depth about Federico Fellini (1920-1993) later in this, his centenary year, but there’s no way not to mention the director of La Strada when Italy has been at the epicenter of the pandemic, with locked-down neighbors on rooftops, balconies, or leaning from open windows expressing solidarity by singing, strumming, clanging, and making their own free-form fear-and-death-defiant music. No wonder, since song is at the heart of the land, and the language, simple as a tune heard on the street, elegant as an opera; whether it’s poetry on the page or on the canvas, just say the names, Leonardo and Michelangelo, Puccini and Pavaratti, Venezia and Firenze. You can hear it in the air, or see it shining in the eyes of the wonderstruck waif Gelsomina in La Strada, the film that shaped my imagination of the place a year before I arrived in person.

That was the summer when Dominic Modugno’s song “Volare” was the “virus” infecting all Europe. No need to know the Italian lyrics to sing the chorus, “Vo-lare,” as if your heart was soaring, then joy-sounds, oh-ho, then “Can-tare,” Italian for singing, drawn out to the last measure of musical devotion, then more happy, happy Oh-oh-oh-oh-ho’s, then, “Nel blue di pinto di blu” (the formal title), which is about the blue sky you’re flying into on the wings of the song that seemed to come out of nowhere, an infusion of pure melody, musical nitrous oxide that has you laughing with the sheer exhilaration of singing it.  more

MAKING MASKS: A variety of face masks made by McCarter Theatre Center Costume Shop staff members have been donated to the Mercer Mask Project, which disperses them where they are needed. (Photo courtesy of McCarter Theatre Center)

By Anne Levin

Two of Princeton’s major arts institutions are aiding the effort to keep citizens healthy by making non-surgical masks to be worn during the COVID-19 crisis. At McCarter Theatre Center, staff of the costume shop are turning out several dozen a day. And at the Arts Council of Princeton, community members can cut fabric into patterns or actually sew the fabric into face masks. In both cases, the completed masks will then be available for pick up for those who need them.

A month ago, McCarter’s costume shop was busy working on productions that were scheduled to round out the season. But the swift outbreak of the coronavirus canceled them all, leaving drapers, cutters, and seamstresses at loose ends.

It didn’t take long for this enterprising group to turn their talents in a different direction. Within a week, they were sewing masks out of fabric they had on hand in the shop. By the end of last week, they had produced more than 350 masks. They donate them to the recently formed Mercer Mask Project, which disperses them where they are needed.

“The Mercer Mask Project came together in order to fight against potential shortfalls in personal protection equipment (PPE),” said project co-founder Cindy Rosen of Robbinsville. “The masks made by Mercer Mask Project are made for people who fall through the cracks and may not have access to PPE, like first responders, home health care, and the homeless, and may potentially be used to extend the life of N95 masks. I thank everyone involved at McCarter Theatre Center for their help in this fight.”  more

KEEPING THE MUSIC GOING: Princeton Symphony Orchestra has introduced At Home with the PSO, designed to keep audiences engaged online during the COVID-19 shutdown. It can be found at princetonsymphony.org/media/home-pso.

The Princeton Symphony Orchestra has announced the launch of At Home with the PSO (princetonsymphony.org/media/home-pso), a new gateway to original online content including performance webcasts, musicians’ recipes, photo albums, and more, with fresh content being added weekly.

Features include Play it Forward, online weekly webcasts of PSO performances; Cooking with the PSO; a virtual gallery of student artwork and writings, and PSO photo albums.

The first webcast was a performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, complete with video introduction and an accompanying pre-concert talk and program note. It was performed by the PSO, under Rossen Milanov’s direction, in February 2019, in Richardson Auditorium.

Musicians are contributing their favorite recipes weekly to the Cooking with the PSO series. A new recipe will be posted every Wednesday. more

PAINT.TEAM: New Jersey artist Kelly Sullivan has created two new virtual projects that are free and open to anyone who wants to access the healing power of art from home. To participate, log on to https://paint.team/.

For more than two decades, New Jersey fine artist Kelly Sullivan has used her talents to build and anchor communities through creative collaborative artworks. These large-scale works, called FingerSmears, have been created at events all over the country by more than 100,000 participants, including The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, and other household names. She recently enlisted the talents of software entrepreneur Doug Moreland to create a digital version of FingerSmears called Paint.Team. Instead of gathering in front of a large canvas, participants can “paint” together from remote locations.

“Like many of us, suddenly ‘sheltered’ at home, I want to make the best of it and do something positive,” said Sullivan. “Right now, people are looking for new ways to connect to others, myself included. I created two pieces of collaborative art, Sheltered in Place and More Monologues, Please, for anyone looking for a creative release. They are available to anyone at no cost. Art has the power to heal, which is much needed today.” more

TRASHED ART CONTEST: “Thing,” left, and “23 Stellated Octohedrons” are displayed at the Lawrence Headquarters Branch of the Mercer County Library System during the TrashedArt 2019 Contest. This year’s contest, which celebrates Earth Day, will be held virtually through the Library System’s website at mcl.org.

Due to the continuing health and safety concerns surrounding Coronavirus (COVID-19), the Mercer County Library System is closed until further notice. E-books, audiobooks, streaming media, and digital resources are still available 24/7 online.

In light of these events, the TrashedArt 2020 Contest will now be held virtually through the Mercer County Library System’s website. The contest celebrates Earth Day by encouraging patrons to turn ordinary trash into extraordinary art.

The contest is limited to one entry per artist. Students in grades 7-12 and adults who live or work in Mercer County are eligible to participate. To submit an entry, send pictures of your artwork to trashedart@mcl.org and complete the contest entry form on the Mercer County Library System’s website at mcl.org/trashedart.  more

April 1, 2020

By Stuart Mitchner

I’m not missing Opening Day. No use pretending this into an April Fools move by Joe Torre and the owners. So I tell myself. No need to feed on field of dreams fantasies. I can live without the misery of blown saves, lost leads, delusional winning streaks, walk-off home runs, magnificent catches, bench-clearing brawls, heartache, and hype. I could care less how the sign-stealing narrative plays out for the disgraced Houston Astros. It’s actually healthy when you think of it. No more high blood pressure moments second-guessing managers Tony LaRussa or the two Mikes, Matheney, and Schildt.

True, for a while I had to overcome my habitual itchy-trigger-finger visits to the St. Louis website on mlb.com for rebroadcasts of Classic Cardinals Moments like the titanic home run by Albert Pujols that stunned the then-National League Astros and super fans George and Barbara Bush in the 2005 NLCS playoffs or the Mother of All Walk-Off heroics of David Freese in the 2011 World Series.

So here I am with a shelter-in-place mindset looking out the living room window at the backyard bird feeders while pondering potential subjects ranging from comic books to comfort food, desert island narratives to the National Pastime.

Thanks to the determined nocturnal activities of a certain raccoon, the bird feeders have to be taken in every night and returned to their respective branches early every morning by my wife, still in her robe and slippers, a bird feeder in either hand. In our domestic comic book, Little Lulu has evolved from the Little Red Hen into the Bird Lady of Princeton Ridge.  more

NEW SEASON: The Princeton Symphony Orchestra’s 2020-2021 season opener on September 12-13 will feature pianist Inon Barnatan performing Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.” For a complete schedule, visit princetonsymphony.org. (Photo by Marco Boreggreve)

In its 2020-21 season, the Princeton Symphony Orchestra (PSO) will present works by living composers Sarah Kirkland Snider and Andreia Pinto Correia, and a piece by George Walker, the first African American to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music. Also scheduled are works by Berlioz, Stravinsky, Mozart, Brahms, Beethoven, and Tchaikovsky.

Concertos by Sibelius, Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky, and Glière, and Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, will showcase guest artists. Appearing for the first time with the orchestra are violinists Elina Vähälä and Simone Porter, pianist Alexander Gavrylyuk, and harpist Alexander Boldachev. Returning artists are pianist Inon Barnatan and cellist Pablo Ferrández.

All concerts include the option of Saturday 8 p.m. or Sunday 4 p.m. performances at Richardson Auditorium on the campus of Princeton University. more

THE SHOW MUST GO ON: Carol Thompson and Lea Jeffers star in ActorsNET’s March production of “Mrs. Warren’s Profession.” The play, which was scheduled open in Buck County, Pa., on March 13 and was postponed, can now be accessed free of charge on YouTube above.

In keeping with the tradition “the show must go on,” ActorsNET has released on YouTube a video of its March production of George Bernard Shaw’s Mrs. Warren’s Profession.

“ActorsNET has postponed or canceled all presentations planned for the immediate future, at least through July, to protect actors, staff, and patrons from the dangers of COVID-19. At the time of postponement, Mrs. Warren’s Profession was to open the next day, March 13,” Said Artistic Director Cheryl Doyle. “Days later, before Governor Wolf extended his shutdown to Bucks County, the cast and crew assembled at The Heritage Center to film our production. Although no audience was present, professional videographer Tom Smith of Direct-A-Friend Pictures recorded it just as audiences would have seen it.” more

While its galleries are closed, Morven Museum & Garden invites the community to visit them via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube, where fun and interactive content lives to keep people entertained and inspired. The grounds remain open to the public, but social distancing is encouraged. For more information, visit morven.org.

“EXIT 11”: This painting by Lisa Lackey is part of “R’emerged: An Emerging Artists Alumni Exhibition,” on view online at monmouthmuseum.org/virtualgallery April 3 through June 3. The exhibit features current works of New Jersey Emerging Artists alumni.

As museums remain closed due to COVID-19, the Monmouth Museum is moving forward in an innovative way. The Museum is hosting its first virtual exhibit, welcoming home artists celebrating their local roots and diverse art.

“R’emerged: an Emerging Artists Alumni Exhibition” will take place online in a virtual gallery available at monmouthmuseum.org/virtualgallery April 3 to June 3. It features current works of New Jersey Emerging Artists alumni spanning the last 13 years.

The opening reception will be a remote Zoom party on Friday, April 3 at 5 p.m. — visit the Monmouth Museum’s Facebook and Instagram pages @themonmouthmuseum to link to the party. more

March 25, 2020

By Stuart Mitchner

Meanwhile, here we are, with America hanging from a cliff that looms larger every day” — so ended a “Cliffhangers and Character” column about escaping into films and series television thrillers like Stranger Things, Ozark, and Babylon Berlin.

That was in August 2018.

At the time, after binge-watching the first two seasons of Netflix’s sensational German import about Berlin in its racy late-twenties, pre-Third-Reich heyday, I called it one of the best shows of the year. Now, when the whole world seems to be hanging from a cliff, my wife and I have just survived the recently released third season of Babylon Berlin. “Released?” — imagine a maddened bull charging out of the gate of the Weimar past. Grab it by the horns and off you go. As with the first two seasons, your bond with the show, your ballast, is a charismatic couple: the damaged, unrelenting Bogart-in-a-Trilby-hat police inspector Gereon Rath (Volker Bruch) and the spunky, savvy, charmingly undaunted Charlotte Ritter (Liv Lisa Fries), plus stunning visuals, epic musical sequences in arena-sized cabarets, and cliffhangers to die for, but nothing equals riding the bull of season three in the pandemic present.

“It is a bit of a mess,” my shaken wife said as the season finale clawed, shrieked, howled, knifed, bled, drugged, and cross-dressed itself to a close. Only something this outrageously improbable and fascinatingly visual could hold its own in times like these. As New York Magazine’s “Vulture” Kathryn VanArendonk says, “it’s the kind of show you get to the end of, and then desperately need to talk about with every single person you see for the next week.” Not much chance of that these days, at least not in person. But here we are. more

POSTPONED: Crossroad Theatre Company’s production of “Freedom Rider” will now take place September 10-20 instead of the originally scheduled date in April. The play centers on the historic journey of the Freedom Riders 58 years ago. Pictured from left are playwrights Nikkole Salter, Murray Horwitz, Nathan Louis Jackson, Ricardo Khan, and Kathleen McGhee-Anderson.

Crossroads Theatre Company’s world premiere production of Freedom Rider has been rescheduled to run September 10–20 in the Arthur Laurents Theatre of the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center (NBPAC). The play, which was originally set to run April 9-19, was rescheduled in response to federal, state, and local mandates to address the spread of COVID-19.

“We value every aspect of our theatre family and we want everyone to be assured that the health and welfare of our audiences, performers, creative team, and staff are our first priority,” said Anthony P. Carter, president of Crossroads Board of Trustees. more

In response to the continuing situation regarding COVID-19 (coronavirus), McCarter Theatre Center has announced the cancellation of all performances and events through June 30, it was announced on Monday, March 23.

The full production run of Nathan Alan Davis’ The Refuge Plays, all scheduled Presented Series events for the rest of the season including the Jazz in June Festival, and 2020 Gala featuring Michael Feinstein are affected. McCarter administrative offices and production shops will remain closed for the time being and the remaining staff will continue to work remotely.

Regarding this expansion of cancellations, McCarter Managing Director Michael S. Rosenberg said, “We do not take this decision lightly and think it is in the best interest of the many different communities and constituencies that we serve. We ask that you consider making a donation to McCarter to help ensure that we are ready to re-open our doors when the time comes and welcome everyone back for the magic and fellowship of live performance. In the coming days, we hope that you will join us online as we celebrate art and artists, keep an open dialogue with our community, and inspire you to embark on your own creative projects as we weather this storm together. What you can expect from us: important updates to keep you in the know, a deeper look at the artists we have for the fall, fun at-home activities, a look back on our favorite productions, and more. Our goal is to be a source of light and human connection during these times.”

The staff will be reaching out directly to ticket holders for these events to facilitate donation and other options. If a child is enrolled in an After School class, a member of the Education team will reach out to discuss options as well.

For a full list of programs that have been canceled, visit mccarter.org/update.

“WHEN WOMEN VOTE”: A new online exhibit at the Old Barracks Museum focuses on the history of the anti-suffrage movement, the women of the Old Barracks Association, and Trenton. It can be viewed at barracks.org/whenwomenvote.

The Old Barracks Museum has announced the opening of a new online exhibit titled “When Women Vote: The Old Barracks and the Anti-Suffrage Movement.” It can be viewed at barracks.org/whenwomenvote.

This timely exhibit, which is being released during the centennial celebration of the 19th Amendment, explores a conflicted aspect of history. The Old Barracks’ origin is rooted in the military struggles of the 18th century, but the building also has a unique history tied to a group of affluent Trentonian women. more

ZIMMERLI GOES VIRTUAL: The Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers–New Brunswick, currently closed to the public, is now offering virtual tours and online demonstrations, along with downloadable coloring pages from their permanent galleries to help keep children occupied at home.

Responding to coronavirus quarantines nationwide, many museums are turning to technology to fill the void. Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers–New Brunswick is taking it a step further with online demonstrations to help keep children and adults productive during this period of uncertainty.

Google Arts and Culture has partnered with more than 2,500 museums and galleries around the world to offer virtual tours of their spaces. Some of the options include New York’s Museum of Modern Art and Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum.

“We shared a virtual tour of the “Everyday Soviet” exhibit on Instagram and the response has been very positive,” said Amanda Potter, the Zimmerli’s art education curator. “We’re going to continue to share more exhibits this way, as well as permanent galleries, and we plan to post more frequently on all social media platforms to offer different ways that both adults and children can be productive and maybe even be introduced or dive deeper into art.”  more

March 18, 2020

By Stuart Mitchner

It makes surreal, unhappy, pandemic sense, that after last week’s preview of the long-awaited five-day Bryn Mawr Wellesley book event at the Princeton Day School gym that ended after less than two days, I find myself writing a book review about a once-in-a lifetime art event that closed a week after it opened. The e-mail invitation from the Princeton University Art Museum (PUAM) offering “great art” as “a source of solace” came with an implicit now or never alert. The fact that a “number of steps” had been taken to assure the public’s safety left little doubt about the endgame possibility. The promise of “a touch-free museum experience,” and the proviso to keep our social distance, no handshakes, no hugging, along with the assurance that “new disinfection protocols are in place” seemed clinically antithetical to the spirit of the show.

At the same time, there was an irresistible attraction in the element of risk, the idea of an embattled and unprecedented showing of Cézannes, two galleries of “infinite riches” by the “wonder, wonder painter,” as Ernest Hemingway once called him. And there was the paradoxical upside, that because of the threat of the virus, there were no crowds bustling between you and the work of a painter who once told a friend, “One minute in the life of the world is going by! Paint it as it is!”  more

FLUID MOTION: Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, which blends contemporary dance, theatrical jazz, and classical ballet into a unique style, is among the attractions at McCarter Theatre next season.

McCarter Theatre Center has announced offerings for the 2020-21 season in music, dance, theatre, and speaker series.

Music events will include performances by violinist Pinchas Zukerman and pianist Yefim Bronfman in a joint recital, pianist Daniil Trifonov, Gächinger Kantorei/Orchestra Bach-Collegium and soloists of the Internationale Bachakademie Stuttgart, The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Jeremy Denk and Les Violons du Roy Chamber Orchestra, pianist Leif Ove Andsnes, soprano Christine Gorke, and a joint recital from pianist Mitsuko Uchida and tenor Mark Padmore. more

“MORNING”: This painting by Megan Spring will be featured in ArtJam 2020, now running October 15 to 25 in a pop-up gallery on Hulfish Street. The event, which combines the art of professional artists and undiscovered artists who have experienced homelessness, supports ArtSpace, the therapeutic art program at HomeFront.

Originally scheduled for this spring, this year’s ArtJam opens on October 15 in a pop-up gallery with a noble purpose — supporting ArtSpace, the therapeutic art program at HomeFront. The show continues through October 25 at 11 Hulfish Street, Palmer Square in Princeton.

When buyers pick up a painting, sculpture, or other artwork, they experience a double win — buying artworks they love and supporting a good cause. Recognized as a four star charity by Charity Navigator, 90 percent of every dollar raised is dedicated to programs that directly help clients.

“The work of HomeFront is multi-dimensional. We do much more than provide shelter,” says founder and CEO Connie Mercer. “Our programs and activities are designed to help families experiencing homelessness gain skills for self-empowerment and develop a vision of a better future for themselves and their children.” more

March 11, 2020

By Stuart Mitchner

“Sherlock Holmes took his bottle from the corner of the mantel-piece and his hypodermic syringe from its neat morocco case. With his long, white, nervous fingers he adjusted the delicate needle, and rolled back his left shirt-cuff. For some little time his eyes rested thoughtfully upon the sinewy forearm and wrist all dotted and scarred with innumerable puncture-marks. Finally he thrust the sharp point home, pressed down the tiny piston, and sank back into the velvet-lined arm-chair with a long sigh of satisfaction.”

Reading the opening paragraph of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Sign of Four you don’t need a 7 percent solution of anything, be it cocaine, morphine, or the adrenaline of anticipation, to appreciate the twin themes of addiction and deduction at the heart of the impending Bryn Mawr Wellesley Book Sale. Along with a first chapter titled “The Science of Deduction,” you’ve got the simultaneously calming and compelling bedside manner of Sir Arthur’s prose, as he slows you down with phrasing that puts the everyday world on pause for “some little time.” And anyone addicted to the rare book mystique has felt something like the “mental exaltation” so “transcendently stimulating and clarifying to the mind” that Holmes cites in defense of his habit when Watson warns of the “pathological and morbid process” of a drug that may “leave a permanent weakness.”

For Holmesian book sleuths who know their stuff without relying on smartphones or scanners, the quest for printed gold requires the deduction of clues in the form of those deceptively trivial details that can make thousands of dollars worth of difference in value. For the first issue of the first edition of The Sign of Four (not its occasional variant The Sign of The Four), the broken numeral “138” on the contents page appears as “13,” and the misprint “w shed” for “wished” is found on page 56, line 16. A copy with those flaws goes for as much as $8500, and might fetch thousands more without the bookseller’s minutely detailed admission of evidence such as “neat repairs at spine ends and corners; corners and board edges slightly bumped; hinges repaired; endpapers blistered in places,” areas of “slight discoloration” on the covers, “gilt a little dulled, especially on spine.” And of course it’s necessary to disclose additional and more exotic clues  (move that magnifying glass closer, Holmes), namely the two “faint red stains on the slightly chipped and curled edge of the contents page.” more

By Nancy Plum

The Princeton University Music Department is understandably proud of the depth of talent within its “Orchestra family.” In these days when student activism often leads to political change, the University Orchestra staged a “Student Takeover” this past weekend by featuring an undergraduate conductor and graduate student composer, as well as two student instrumental soloists, in a pair of concerts at Richardson Auditorium. Friday night’s performance (the concert was repeated Saturday night) included two high-spirited concerti, a contemporary work by a University graduate student, and an opera overture conducted by a University senior.

Each of the four works on Friday night’s program was equally significant in showcasing the University’s talented musicians. Senior Reilly Bova, a conductor as well as principal timpanist for the University Orchestra, led the ensemble in Carl Maria von Weber’s 1821 “Overture” to the opera Der Freischütz. Revolutionary in its roots in German folklore and orchestral effects, this “Overture” provided Bova with the opportunity to maintain firm control over the ensemble and the dramatic changes in mood. Conducting from memory, Bova brought out a gentle pastoral nature from a quintet of horns and built suspense well throughout the piece. Throughout the “Overture,” Bova demonstrated solid capabilities from the podium, showing the training from his numerous music department activities during his Princeton career. more

Mort Paterson of Philadelphia (left) as Anton Schindler, Mark Applegate of Washington Crossing as Anton Diabelli, and Peter de Mets of Newtown, Pa., (at piano) as Ludwig van Beethoven in “33 Variations.” The play runs from March 13-22 at the Kelsey Theatre on the Mercer County Community College Campus.

A HINT OF IRISH: Folksinger Joe Jencks brings his Irish heritage into the mix at a concert March 20 at Christ Congregation Church.

On Friday, March 20 at 8 p.m., the Princeton Folk Music Society presents Joe Jencks in an evening of traditional American folk song with a bit of an Irish accent. The performance is at Christ Congregation Church, 50 Walnut Lane.

Drawing on his Irish heritage as a dual U.S./Irish Citizen, Jencks weaves a diverse web of stories into his music. He is a 20-year veteran of the international folk circuit, an award-winning songwriter, and celebrated vocalist based in Chicago. The composer of several songs including “Lady of The Harbor,” Jencks is also co-founder of the harmony trio Brother Sun. He has performed at festivals including Falcon Ridge, Kerrville, Mariposa, and Old Songs, and at venues such as Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall.

Tickets at the door are $25 ($20 members, $10 students, $5 children). Visit www.princetonfolk.org for more information.

“RV FIRE, NEVADA 2019”: This photo by Lindsay Godin is one of the pieces in “The Road,” a photography exhibit running through March 27 at the MCCC James Kerney Campus Gallery in Trenton. The public is invited to a reception and talk on March 12 from 5-7 p.m.

In its first in a series of guest curated shows, Mercer County Community College’s (MCCC’s) James Kerney Campus (JKC) Gallery presents a new photography exhibition by Float Photo magazine founders Dana Stirling and Yoav Friedlander entitled “The Road.”

The show runs through March 27 and features photographic images of iconic Americana. The public is invited to a reception with curators, Stirling, and Friedlander on Thursday, March 12 from 5-7 p.m. with a talk at 6 p.m. at the JKC Gallery, Trenton Hall, 137 North Broad Street in Trenton. more

“SPUTNIK SAMOVAR”: This design by Konstantin Sobakin is featured in “Everyday Soviet: Soviet Industrial Design and Nonconformist Art” on view through May 17 at the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers in New Brunswick. The exhibit explores Soviet design from the postwar era.

The Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers, in collaboration with the Moscow Design Museum, presents the first exhibition in the United States to explore Soviet industrial design from the postwar era. “Everyday Soviet: Soviet Industrial Design and Nonconformist Art” is on view through May 17.

While creative innovation in design flourished in the Soviet Union in the years between 1959 and 1989, limitations in both fabrication processes and consumer circulation resulted in production shortages and left many design ideas unmade. As an outcome, Soviet design from this period is globally largely unknown. “Everyday Soviet” explores the material culture of this period through more than 300 objects loaned from the Moscow Design Museum, including household objects, fashion, posters, and sketches of products and interiors. These objects are further juxtaposed with a selection of approximately 85 works of nonconformist or underground art of the time from the Zimmerli’s Norton and Nancy Dodge Collection of Nonconformist Art from the Soviet Union, offering a holistic examination of the ways in which design and art developed concurrently. more

March 4, 2020

By Nancy Plum

Before coming to Princeton University as director of choral activities, conductor Gabriel Crouch enjoyed an international career as a professional choral artist. Since assuming leadership of the Princeton University Glee Club, Crouch has used his worldwide reach to bring visiting choral ensembles to Princeton to collaborate with the University music department in an annual “Glee Club Presents” series. These collaborations include mini-residencies in which the guest chorus works together with University Glee Club singers and the two ensembles present a joint concert.

This year’s “Glee Club Presents” choral experience featured the New York-based Antioch Chamber Ensemble, a professional chorus which has been performing worldwide and recording for more than 20 years. The joint collaboration between the Antioch Ensemble and University Glee Club had a special focus on undergraduate composers within the Glee Club, and the culminating performance featured several newly-composed works by current and past Glee Club members.

Saturday night’s concert at Richardson Auditorium also paid homage to one of choral music’s most challenging pieces — Thomas Tallis’ 40-voice motet Spem in alium. Glee Club conductor Gabriel Crouch bracketed the performance with Tallis’ work to close and another 40-voice 16th-century motet to open, one which may have served as an inspiration for Tallis. Italian instrumentalist Alessandro Striggio served as composer to the renowned Medici family, and his five-choir, 40-voice Ecce beatam lucem was acoustically well suited for Italy’s expansive multi-dome cathedrals. Placing the five choirs both onstage and throughout the Richardson balcony, Crouch led the Glee Club (with the Antioch singers intermingled) from the stage, allowing the sound to travel around and through the hall. Crouch elicited effective dynamic contrasts from the more than 100 singers, finding variety in the homophonic choral writing. At the close of the piece, the last chord echoed well in the hall. more