July 10, 2024

By Stuart Mitchner

I do not propose to write an ode to dejection, but to brag as lustily as chanticleer in the morning, standing on his roost, if only to wake my neighbors up.

—Henry David Thoreau, from Walden

Late the other night, I saw an insect moving with difficulty across the damp white surface of the kitchen sink. A closer look revealed that it was a firefly, laboring, going nowhere, disoriented, too weak to blink its light, so I offered it a ride on a brand-new green scouring pad, opened the door to the deck, and watched it blink its light and take flight. Only when it met an answering light and the two were in orbit did I read the news of the day into the moment. And since this rendezvous occurred on the night of July 4, a week after the debacle of the debate and the subsequent media feeding frenzy, a pair of innocent fireflies became Biden and Harris.

What can I say? Such things happen when nature intrudes on an Independence Day column about two heroes of the holiday, Henry David Thoreau, who began his two-year-long stay at Walden Pond on July 4, 1845, and Walt Whitman, who published Leaves of Grass on July 4, 1855. more

By Nancy Plum

Audiences usually identify the saxophone with such jazz and blues superstars as Charlie Parker and John Coltrane, but New Century Saxophone Quartet has shattered that image. For more than 30 years, this ensemble has shown that four saxophones can well match the pitch and dynamic range of a string quartet, amassing an impressive repertory for this combination of instruments along the way. The four members of New Century Saxophone Quartet brought their combination of “skillful artistry and down-home fun” to Richardson Auditorium last Tuesday night as part of the 57th season of the Princeton University Summer Chamber Concerts series. Performing music spanning more than 270 years, the Quartet well demonstrated the saxophone’s abilities to emerge from smoky jazz clubs to the forefront of the classical concert stage.  more

FROM THE IVORY COAST: Grammy award-winner Dobet Gnahoré performs on July 13 at 8 p.m. at the Princeton High School Performing Arts Center in the first of two Blue Curtain concerts this summer. (Photo by Lumar Studio 3)

Blue Curtain, a Princeton summer tradition, returns to Pettoranello Gardens Amphitheater with two free concerts in July. The first concert has been moved from Pettoranello Gardens to the Princeton High School Performing Arts Center at Franklin Avenue and Walnut Lane in anticipation of extreme heat.

Grammy Award-winner Dobet Gnahoré appears on Saturday, July 13 at 8 p.m. Hailing from Coté d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Gnahoré is known for her vocal and dance talents as well as her color style sense. She appeals to fans of Angelique Kidjo, Rokia Traoré, Fatoumata Diawara, Oumou Sangaré and other divas of African music. She is currently on tour with concert stops in New York City, Berkeley, Ca.; Vancouver, Canada; and Princeton to support her newest album Zouzou.   more

Princeton Summer Theater’s season continues this summer with Jason Robert Brown’s musical The Last Five Years. The show runs through July 21 at Princeton University’s Hamilton Murray Theater.

The musical tells the story of a five-year relationship between Jamie, a rising novelist, and Cathy, a struggling actress. With a storytelling twist — his tale moves forward, hers backward — the show explores love and ambition. The actors Julien Alam and Kate Short are both graduates of Princeton’s Class of 2023. Alam, an actor based in New York, has worked on both stage and screen, including everything from Shakespeare to sitcoms. He earned a B.A. at Princeton, where he studied English, theater, classics, and humanistic studies, and is currently pursuing an MFA at NYU. He recently appeared at the Brooklyn Comedy Collective, Under St. Marks, and will be performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival later this summer.  more

STRING SESSION: Members of the Balourdet Quartet will perform a free concert at Richardson Auditorium on July 15 at 7:30 p.m.

The Balourdet Quartet will be the final concert of Princeton University Summer Chamber Concerts’ 57th Season in Richardson Auditorium on the Princeton University campus on Monday, July 15 at 7:30 p.m. They will offer works by Mozart, Al-Zand, and Beethoven. Princeton University’s own Ruth Ochs will once again provide commentary.

The Balourdet Quartet earned the 2024 Avery Fisher Career Grant, as well as Chamber Music America’s 2024 Cleveland Quartet Award. With more than 70 concerts per season, they are currently the Graduate Quartet in Residence at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University, and are recent graduates of the New England Conservatory’s Professional String Quartet Program. more

“NJ FRESH”: The Arts Council of Princeton recently unveiled a new Spring Street mural by Sofia Schreiber in collaboration with LiLLiPiES Bakery. It is the Arts Council’s 13th mural at that location. (Photo Courtesy of Arts Council of Princeton)

Arts Council of Princeton (ACP) recently unveiled a new community mural in downtown Princeton titled NJ Fresh. Designed and painted by artist Sofia Schreiber, the illustration-style public art piece can be found on Spring Street on the side of Village Silver.

For her mural, Schreiber was inspired by the vibrancy and variety of fresh fruit abundant in New Jersey in the summertime. She said she was also thinking about Wayne Thiebaud’s delicious looking paintings and Eric Carle’s equally scrumptious illustrations in one of her favorite children’s books, The Very Hungry Caterpillarmore

“INNER CITY”: This work by Emery Williams is part of “Philotechnic Transformation,” on view in the Education Gallery at Grounds For Sculpture in Hamilton through August 25. An opening reception is on Friday, July 12 beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Now through August 25, Grounds For Sculpture (GFS) is featuring an indoor art exhibition curated by the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK) and the Trenton Community A-Team (TCAT).

Entitled “Philotechnic Transformation,” the exhibition at GFS spotlights the positive effect that creating art can have on people’s lives. Each piece represents a broad palette of concepts, emotions and inspirations and offers the viewer a glimpse into the individual artist’s life and creative process.  more

“HARMONIES”: Paintings by Aida Birritteri are on view at David Scott Gallery, in the offices of Berkshire Hathaway at 253 Nassau Street, through August 18. An artist reception is on Thursday, July 11 from 5 to 7 p.m.

David Scott Gallery, in the offices of Berkshire Hathaway at 253 Nassau Street, presents “Harmonies,” a solo exhibition of paintings by Aida Birritteri, through August 18. An artist reception will be held on Thursday, July 11 from 5 to 7 p.m.

“This exhibition showcases Birritteri’s exquisite use of color, as well as her ability to move seamlessly between representation and abstraction in a variety of mediums, said curator David Scott. “Her skilled hand is evident in the gesture of her brushstrokes, boldly and intuitively marking her textured surfaces.” more

July 3, 2024

By Stuart Mitchner

The Culture page of the Bloomsday edition of the New York Times features a photoshopped image of the insect hero of Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” complete with feelers and a smartphone shell. The June 16 dateline of the article by Amanda Hess (“The Very Online Afterlife of Franz Kafka”) inadvertently suggests a comradely connection between Leopold Bloom and Gregor Samsa, whose creator actually happened to be in Trieste in September 1913 when Joyce was working on the “Proteus,” “Lotus Eaters,” and “Hades” chapters of Ulysses.

In Kafka: The Decisive Years (Princeton University Press paperback 2013), Reiner Stach supposes that “if Kafka had met Joyce, there is no telling what direction world literature might have taken.” You never know. As Charlie Chan says in the epigraph heading Chapter 14, (“The Lives of Metaphors: “The Metamorphosis”) — “Strange events permit themselves the luxury of occuring.”

The only other strange event occurring on this Kafkacentric Culture page is the cluster of movie listings in the bottom righthand corner, with titles that ring all the appropriate bells: Film Forum showing Robot Dreams and Evil Does Not Exist, the IFC Center, Ghostlight and Handling the Undead, Film at Lincoln Center Kidnapped: The Abduction of Edgardo Mortara. And at the Paris Theatre, it’s “Bleak Week New York: Cinema of Despair.”

And Bleak Week was well before the debacle of the debate and the existential panic that followed, even before the Supremes sang “Where Did Our Law Go?” more

“THE SOUND OF MUSIC”: Performances are underway for “The Sound of Music.” Presented by Kelsey Theatre and The Yardley Players; and directed by Kristy Davis, the musical runs through July 7 at Kelsey Theatre. Above: Watched suspiciously by the (offstage) Nazis, the Von Trapp Family Singers give a performance on which their lives literally depend. From left are Aurora Quinn (Louisa), Emma Poppell (Brigitta), Gabi Oliano (Gretl), David Nikolas (Captain Von Trapp), Laney Kenwood (Liesl), Lauren Wolensky (Maria), Scarlet Hillman (Marta), Trevin Davis (Kurt), and Joseph Wilson (Friedrich). (Photo by John M. Maurer)

By Donald H. Sanborn III

Yardley Players Theatre Company is presenting The Sound of Music at Kelsey Theatre. Kristy Davis directs and choreographs an appealing production that honors the 1965 film adaptation, while accentuating the benefits that a live production can offer the story.

The Sound of Music marks the final collaboration between composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II. The book by Howard Lindsay and Russell Crouse is suggested by Maria Augusta Trapp’s memoir The Trapp Family Singers. The show follows Maria’s journey from novice at Nonnberg Abbey to governess for the seven children of the stern widower Captain Von Trapp; and the threat posed to the family by the Anschluss (the Nazi takeover of Austria) in 1938.  more

ROCKING OUT: Members of the cast of “School of Rock” are ready for shows July 12-21 at the Kelsey Theatre in West Windsor.

Can a wannabe rock star posing as a substitute teacher transform nerdy fifth graders at an elite prep school into contenders at the Battle of the Bands? The answer will be revealed when Thank You 5 Productions brings School of Rock to the stage of Mercer County Community College’s (MCCC) Kelsey Theatre, July 12-21.

Dewey Finn never quite made it as a rock star, but also never gave up on his rock and roll dreams. So when he manages to impersonate a substitute teacher at a prestigious prep school — and becomes enamored with the musical talent of his students — Finn goes to work transforming a class of straight-A fifth graders into a guitar shredding, bass slapping, rock band to compete in the Battle of the Bands. But can he and his students keep this special assignment secret from parents and the school’s headmistress as they learn to fully embrace the power of rock? more

LODGE IS LIVE: John Lodge, right, with Jon Davison and Duffy King, will perform classics from The Moody Blues in a concert on Saturday, July 13 at the State Theatre New Jersey in New Brunswick. (Photo by Dana Grubb)

State Theatre New Jersey presents The Moody Blues’ John Lodge on Saturday, July 13 at 8 p.m. Lodge, legendary bass player, songwriter, and vocalist of The Moody Blues, a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, will be live in concert performing the music of The Moody Blues and the album Days of Future Passed.

The show encompasses a first set of electric Moodies classics featuring ‘“Isn’t Life Strange,” “Legend of a Mind,” “I’m Just a Singer (in a Rock and Roll Band),” “Ride my See-Saw,” and more. The second set will see Lodge and his band perform the album Days of Future Passed (“Nights in White Satin”) in its entirety, and in full symphonic sound. Jon Davison of YES also joins Lodge on stage to perform the classic songs “Nights in White Satin” and “Tuesday Afternoon.”  more

THREE PIANISTS: German pianists Friedemann Eichhorn, Peter Horr, and Florian Uhlig make up the Phaeton Piano Trio, performing a free concert at Richardson Auditorium on Monday, July 8.

On Monday, July 8 at 7:30 p.m., the Princeton University Summer Chamber Concerts presents the Phaeton Piano Trio in Richardson Auditorium on the Princeton University campus. This concert is free and will include Trio in C Major by Haydn; Trio No.1 in D Minor by Felix Mendelssohn, and Trio No. 4 in E Minor, the “Dumky” by Dvorák.

Pianists Friedemann Eichhorn, Peter Hörr, and Florian Uhlig have performed in major cities in Europe and Asia. After their South American debut at the Fondacion Beethoven, Santiago de Chile, the trio celebrated another debut in the U.S. in 2020 with concerts at the Library of Congress, Washington and the Frick Collection, N.Y.. In 2023, the Phaeton Piano Trio performed again in the U.S., and made its debut in Canada as “Ensemble in Residence” at the “musicandbeyond” festival in Ottawa, Canada.

In the 2024/25 season, the trio has been invited back to Ottawa and will perform at festivals in Germany, again in the U.S., and for the first time in China. In addition, two CD recordings are planned for the hänssler classic label in co-production with SWR, including the complete recording of the works for piano trio by Camille Saint-Saens.

For more information, visit princetonsummerchamberconcerts.org or call (609) 570-8404.

“WHISPERS OF TIME”: An exhibition of photographs curated by architectural design specialist Farzaneh Tahmasbi is on view in the Princeton Public Library Reading Room through July 21. An art talk featuring Tahmasbi is scheduled for Thursday, July 18 at 7:30 p.m. on Zoom.

“Whispers of Time: Exploring Select Iranian Architectural Gems,” an exhibit of photographs curated by architectural design specialist Farzaneh Tahmasbi, is on view in the library’s Reading Room through July 21. An art talk featuring Tahmasbi is scheduled for Thursday, July 18 at 7:30 p.m. on Zoom.

The photographs on display showcase the rich tapestry of Persian architecture and celebrate its timeless beauty, intricate detail and cultural significance. From the majestic domes of mosques adorned with vibrant tile work to the imposing bazaar steeped in centuries of history, each photograph offers a glimpse into the architectural marvels that have shaped Persian culture. The exhibition provides an exploration of various architectural styles, showcasing the diversity and ingenuity of Persian craftsmanship.

A Zoom link will be provided to those who register through the events calendar at princetonlibrary.org.

This fall, viewers are invited to expand their understanding and perception of accessibility through “Smoke & Mirrors,” opening September 4 at the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University—New Brunswick. This major exhibition features the work of 14 artists with disabilities from across the globe who conceptualize access through humor, antagonism, transparency, and invisibility. The exhibition will run through December 22.

For the non-disabled museumgoer, visiting an art institution is likely an experience with few obstructions. For visitors with disabilities, however, wayfinding through a museum — not to mention, simply accessing the entrance — is challenging. And the barriers are often invisible.

Organized by guest curator Amanda Cachia, a prominent disability arts activist and scholar, this unprecedented exhibition showcases work by artists with disabilities, who are underrepresented in museums. It also encourages visitors with disabilities and their allies to become active participants in telling their own stories. more

“CORNELIA FANNING GAY”: This marble bust by Daniel Chester French is featured in “Monuments and Myths: The America of Sculptors Augustus Saint-Gaudens and Daniel Chester French,” on view through January 5 at the Michener Art Museum in Doylestown, Pa. (Photo by Bruce Schwartz)

The James A. Michener Art Museum in Doylestown, Pa., now presents “Monuments and Myths: The America of Sculptors Augustus Saint-Gaudens and Daniel Chester French,” the first exhibition to explore the intersecting careers and significance of two of America’s most preeminent sculptors of the Gilded Age. The exhibition is on view through January 5.

Daniel Chester French (1850–1931) and Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848–1907) were friends and sometimes rivals who transformed sculpture in the U.S. They produced dozens of the nation’s most recognizable public artworks, including French’s Seated Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., and Saint-Gaudens’s Diana, which graced the top of Madison Square Garden in New York. more

June 26, 2024

By Stuart Mitchner

So the first thing I do is buy “Finnegans Wake” and I read a chapter and it’s GREAT and I dug it and I felt like — here’s an old friend!

—John Lennon

John Lennon came into the world on October 9, 1940, a little less than 100 days before James Joyce left it on January 13, 1941. That the singer songwriter from Liverpool and the writer from Dublin arrived and departed in such close proximity should be of no more earthly significance than the fact that Joyce died of natural causes in Zurich four decades before Lennon died violently in New York City. A month before he was murdered, Lennon made sure an image of Finnegans Wake appeared in a video for his song, “Just Like Starting Over.” A copy of the Viking edition is prominently displayed among Lennon’s possessions around 1:17 into the film.  more

By Nancy Plum

Princeton Festival switched gears this past Thursday night to chamber music with a return visit from the popular ensemble The Sebastians, which draws its moniker from the middle name of towering Baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach. Surmising that Bach might actually have been called “Sebastian” by his friends, the instrumentalists first came together with the goal of playing “mixed chamber music at a high musical level, with friends.” Twelve members of The Sebastians came to Princeton’s Trinity Church last Thursday night as part of Princeton Festival, performing music of their namesake, as well as Bach’s contemporaries. Demonstrating the range and capabilities of 18th-century strings, flute and harpsichord, the conductor-less chamber orchestra showed how Bach’s influence is still felt to this day.

Although German composer Georg Philipp Telemann was more recognized than Bach in his own lifetime, his music was overshadowed by other 18th-century composers until the early 20th century. Since then, his music has been recognized as equally complex and intricate as the more well-known Bach and Antonio Vivaldi. Telemann’s Concerto in A Major for Flute, Violin and Cello was initially published in a collection known as “musique de table,” in the tradition of musicians performing while guests were enjoying a meal. The Sebastians began Telemann’s four-movement work gracefully, with David Ross’ Baroque flute providing a richer and more mellow sound than its 21st-century counterpart.

The combination of a slightly lower Baroque pitch, warm period instruments, and animated music seemed to bring down the temperature on a sultry evening as the ensemble created its own world of precise rhythms and tapered phrase endings. Joining Ross as Concerto soloists were violinist Daniel Lee and cellist Ezra Seltzer. All players watched one another well, with each soloist providing clean melodic passages. The second movement “Allegro” featured Lee and Seltzer in duet under extended trills from Ross. A courtly third movement showed Seltzer plying a wide-ranging cello line, while the light orchestration enabled the audience to hear Kevin Devine’s excellent harpsichord accompaniment.

Violinists Lee and Nicholas DiEugenio were showcased in Telemann’s Gulliver Suite for Two Violins in D Major, inspired by Jonathan Swift’s 1726 satirical novel Gulliver’s Travels. Throughout this narrative piece, Lee and DiEugenio frequently played in pure thirds, effectively bringing to life the Laputians and Lilliputians through fleeting passages played with precision and a bit of humorous acting at the close.

The Sebastians are known for Bach, and even with one Brandenburg Concerto cut from Thursday’s program, there was plenty of the Baroque master to enjoy. Concerto No. 6 in B-flat Major was the only one of Bach’s set of six pieces that did not use violins; the composer scored the three-movement work instead to feature two violas da braccio, which were relatively new at the time and which were expertly played in this performance by Jessica Troy and Kyle Miller. The orchestration often juxtaposed the violas against two more familiar violas da gamba, stylistically played by Matt Zucker and Adrienne Hyde. The Concerto’s key of B-flat and the absence of violins kept the texture mellow, as Troy and Miller maintained a lively dialog with cellist Ezra Seltzer and the two da gambas provided a solid foundation to the sound. Cadences were short and clean, and phrases well tapered. The third movement gigue-like “Allegro” was chipper without being too fast, and was especially noteworthy for Seltzer’s nimble cello lines.

The closing Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major brought the strings of The Sebastians to the stage, with the resulting performance being energized and refreshing. Quick thematic passages were passed down the row of violins and then to the violas, and the instrumentalists showed uniform dynamic contrasts. The second movement “Adagio” was originally composed as only two notes, with the intention that players would improvise a bridge between the two faster movements. Violinist Lee provided a quick improvisation over the two harmonic chords, before the orchestra was off to the races again to close the concert in spirited 18th-century fashion.

“AN EVENING WITH SANTINO FONTANA”: The Princeton Festival has presented “An Evening with Santino Fontana.” Broadway and film star Santino Fontana (above) performed a program of highlights from musical theater and animated films. Fontana was accompanied by pianist Cody Owen Stine. (Photo by Princeton Symphony Orchestra staff)

By Donald H. Sanborn III

An Evening with Santino Fontana” has concluded the Princeton Festival’s season. The June 22 concert took place in the festival’s performance tent on the grounds of Morven Museum & Garden.

A debonair baritone, Fontana entertained the audience with standards from Broadway musicals and one animated film. Pianist Cody Owen Stine accompanied the singer on all but one selection. In between songs, Fontana shared amusing anecdotes about his experiences performing onstage and in studios. more

HONOR FOR A PRINCETONIAN: Jane Cox, left, shown here with her daughter Beckett Alexander, was awarded the 2024 Tony Award for Best Lighting Design of a Play. (Photo courtesy Jane Cox)

On June 16, Jane Cox, director of Princeton University’s Lewis Center Program in Theater and Music Theater, won the 2024 Tony Award for Best Lighting Design of a Play for her work on Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’s play, Appropriate.

This is Cox’s fourth nomination and first win. Appropriate received the Tony for Best Revival of a Play. Jacobs-Jenkins is a member of Princeton’s Class of 2006 and of the Lewis Center’s Advisory Council, and has taught in the Theater Program at Princeton. The production garnered a third Tony, for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play, for Sarah Paulson. more

As part of the last few days of the 2024 Princeton Festival, held on the grounds of Morven, the June 19 Juneteenth Celebration culminated in a concert honoring Black choral music conducted by Vinroy D. Brown Jr. Anchored by The Capital Singers of Trenton, singers from area choirs combined to lend their voices to Robert Ray’s “Gospel Mass” and other choral selections. (Photo by Princeton Symphony Orchestra Staff)

Trevor New

West Windsor Arts will host Brooklyn-based musician, composer, and recording artist Trevor New on Friday, June 28, in the gallery of the arts center.

New, an electro-acoustic violist, is the creator of “Cohere Touch,” a unique technology that unites musicians and audiences from around the world with those in the room with him. At the event, classic and new music pieces will be performed by musicians beamed in from all over the world. New’s musical guests include Grammy nominees and musicians from groups that have performed with such artists as Madonna, Jon Batiste, Philip Glass, Katy Perry, and Midori.

The audience will be encouraged to dance and move in response to the music, allowing them to see in real time how their movements and sounds become part of the total experience.

“We believe that art should be for everyone, everywhere, and this show exemplifies how to make that possible,” said Aylin Green, executive director of West Windsor Arts. “When I saw one of Trevor’s shows, I was enthralled by the music and entertained by the interactive experience. His technology allows him to not only beam in musicians from around the world, not unlike Zoom concerts, but take it to the next level by immersing the live audience in a uniquely engaging concert. In other words, Trevor New is very talented and his performances are really cool. People of all ages will enjoy this show.” more

“PUG IN THE CITY”: This oil on canvas painting by Martine Marie White was named Best in Show at the “Members’ Non-Juried Exhibition & Sale,” on view through September 15 at The Center for Contemporary Art in Bedminster.

The Center for Contemporary Art (The Center) in Bedminster has two new summer exhibitions on view through September 15.

The “Members’ Non-Juried Exhibition & Sale” showcases the diversity and creativity of The Center’s community of artists. The exhibition features 89 works of art across a variety of mediums including painting, pastel, charcoal, ink, collage, graphite, photography, sculpture, glass, mixed media, ceramics, and more. more

“CHAMPION”: This work by Richard Harrington is featured in “Captured Moments,” his joint exhibition with Ilya Raskin, on view July 4 through August 4 at Artists’ Gallery in Lambertville. An opening reception is on July 6 from 4 to 7 p.m.

Artist Richard Harrington and photographer Ilya Raskin have announced the opening of their joint show, “Captured Moments,” on view July 4 to August 4 at Artists’ Gallery in Lambertville. The exhibit features the artists’ work inspired by trips throughout the U.S. and the world.

An opening reception will be held on Saturday, July 6, from 4 to 7 p.m.  more

“SUNDAES ON THE VERANDA”: The annual ice cream social hosted by the Trenton City Museum at Ellarslie is on Sunday, June 30 from 1 to 4 p.m. Funds raised will be used to support programs offered by the museum.

Trenton City Museum at Ellarslie will serve up its annual “Sundaes on the Veranda” fundraiser on Sunday, June 30 from 1 to 4 p.m. In addition to all the classic toppings at this family-friendly ice cream social, attendees can choose a unique, artisan-made ceramic bowl to take home. New this year, sundaes are free for children age 6 and under who are accompanied by a paid adult; $20 for a sundae in a handmade ceramic bowl; and $10 for a sundae in a disposable bowl. Admission can be reserved in advance at ellarsie.org/sundaes, or paid at the door. more