August 10, 2022

By Stuart Mitchner

When I think about the people who have questioned my mother’s choice to have me the way she did, or the people who have asked me if I was ever angry with her, it’s easier than ever to answer no, rejecting the antiquated assumption that a real father is a necessary element in a real family.

—Nabil Ayers, from My Life in the Sunshine

Today I’m writing about three admirable single mothers I found in the memoirs of a president and two musicians. If you look online for novels or stories with a single mother as heroine, you’ll find depressing results, with cover images often featuring men out of Harlequin Romance fantasies.

I tried upping the word-choice ante to single mother protagonists in classic literature and came up with the likes of Medea and Mrs. Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility. Without doing any research on the subject, my first thought is of Eliza fleeing across the icy river with her infant son in Uncle Tom’s Cabin — which seems a fitting analogy for women dealing with a post Roe v. Wade reality.

Ann 

In Dreams from My Father (1995), Barack Obama recalls going with his mother Ann and half-sister Maya to the film Black Orpheus, which Ann saw when she was 16, her first foreign movie and, as she told her children, “the most beautiful thing” she’d ever seen. Obama found the film patronizing, with its “black and brown Brazilians” singing and dancing “like carefree birds in colorful plumage,” but when he looked over at his mother, he was touched by the sight of her wistful face “lit by the blue glow of the screen.” In that moment he felt as if he were “being given a window into her heart, the unreflective heart of her youth,” a white middle-class girl from Kansas waking to  the promise of another world: “warm, sensual, exotic, different” — where she would meet, marry, and bear the child of an exchange student from Kenya.

The former president celebrated his 61st birthday last week by naming a new installation at the Obama Presidential Center in Chicago the Ann Dunham Water Garden. In a release, he pictures his mother, who died in 1995, “sitting on one of the benches on a nice summer afternoon, smiling and watching a bunch of kids running through the fountain,” which he thought “would capture who she was as well as just about anything else.” more

By Nancy Plum

Remembrance seemed to be the order of the day this past weekend at a concert paying tribute to both a renowned composer and the choral tradition of Westminster Choir College. Comprised of Westminster alumni and conducted by Westminster professor and conductor James Jordan, the professional vocal ensemble The Same Stream Choir returned to Princeton last Saturday night to present a concert honoring the legacy of composer and longtime Choir College friend Roger Ames. The ensemble was to perform at Bristol Chapel on the former Westminster campus; when the Chapel’s air conditioning system chose not to cooperate, the concert was relocated to All Saints’ Church in Princeton, an acoustically perfect venue for the chorus. The 20 members of The Same Stream ensemble sang a number of choral pieces and opera excerpts by Ames, as well other works which fit the evening’s theme of healing and hope.

Although Saturday’s concert focused on Roger Ames, the performance began with another piece in the same vein of faith and optimistic prayer. Latvian composer Peteris Vasks’ 2013 The Fruit of Silence, based on “the voice of Mother Teresa,” immediately set the choral tone for the evening. James Jordan’s choruses exemplify everything Westminster Choir College stands for in musical excellence — precise tuning, well-blended harmonies, and careful attention to text, and The Same Stream Choir sang Vasks’ chordal meditation as a clean and well-tuned expanse of sound, with the text well phrased and articulated. Same Stream Associate Conductor Corey Everly provided sensitive and adept piano accompaniment throughout the evening, beginning with this piece.

In a century when music can come across as overcomplicated and inaccessible, the simple melodic lyricism of Roger Ames’ compositional style seems to take audiences to a new comfort zone. Nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in Music for one of his extended choral pieces, Ames had a long history of drawing audiences into an ethereal and reassuring listening space through works based on imaginative and inspirational themes or by setting meaningful texts in a thought-provoking way. His text choices ranged from narrations of the Amistad slave ship to the coal mining communities of Wales to a September 11 tribute. Ames passed away in January of this year, and Jordan and The Same Stream Choir took the opportunity last Saturday night at All Saints’ to honor both the composer and his music.
The Ames music performed ranged from a piece commissioned by the Choir College two decades ago to a world premiere. Awakenings, a four-movement setting of the poetry of American writer Kitty O’Meara, grew out of the pandemic, and gave the singers of the chorus plenty of provocative text to communicate. The music showed a clear attention to the words, full comprehension of the sung voice, and particular simplicity in the unisons of the first movement. The Same Stream singers well handled the dissonances of the work, with the harmonic shifts well placed to accentuate text. Pianist Everly effectively conveyed the expressive piano part, as conductor Jordan led the ensemble through the reassuring poetry. Vocally, the chorus demonstrated a solid choral blend, with the sopranos providing a straight and laser-like tone. These were youthful and energetic voices who fit well into the acoustic of All Saints’ Church.

One of Ames’ most poignant works is the Choral Reflections on Amazing Grace, commissioned by James Jordan after 9/11 and dedicated to the children of those who died in the terrorist attacks. Combining a simple harmonization of the familiar tune with Greek text from the Mass for the Dead, this piece was sung by the chorus with sensitivity, aided by the solo singing of Holly Scovell and Alex Meakem. The ensemble also well conveyed the easy musical flow and undefinable longing for homeland of Hiraeth, a setting of a Welsh poem. The soprano choral lines were especially pure in this piece, with the rest of the ensemble providing a well-blended core of sound.

The historic Welsh choral tradition continued in an excerpt from Ames’ opera How Green was My Valley, with a libretto by Elizabeth Bassine. The music evoked the expansive Welsh countryside and landscapes, with soloists soprano Joslyn Thomas and tenor Jesse Borower providing light and clear solo lines. Welsh music is renowned for its hymns, and the chorus sang the “Once to Every Man and Nation” tune within the opera excerpt with effective intensity, invoking Welsh fortitude against the odds.

Always the pedagogue, Jordan turned over the podium to Associate Conductor Everly for two of the closing works on the program. Everly drew the same smoothly-blended sound out of the chorus in works by Thomas LaVoy and Patrick Hawes, with soloists Camille Watson and Meakem providing vocal clarity in Hawes’ setting of Little Lamb and a unified choral sound echoing well in the space of the church chancel. Combined with two pieces by Dan Forrest which concluded the program, the music on Saturday’s concert demonstrated that simplicity is often most effective, especially with works created out of very emotional experiences.

READY TO DANCE: The Grupo de Danza Folklórica La Sagrada Familia is among the attractions at the New Brunswick HEART Festival this weekend.

State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick Cultural Center, New Brunswick Performing Arts Center (NBPAC), and Above Art Studios present the New Brunswick HEART Festival on Saturday, August 13, from 3-6 p.m. in downtown New Brunswick’s Monument Square, 2 Livingston Avenue.  

The family-friendly festival celebrates the arts and history of New Brunswick and Middlesex County with live music and dance performances, dance classes for kids and adults, craft vendors, and more. New this year is the addition of a block party in front of Above Art Studios at 55 Morris Street, with live music, food, vendors, a spades tournament, live painting, and a community chalk art mural. 

This year’s lineup on the outdoor stage on Livingston Avenue includes hip-hop, reggae, and pop performer Fyütch; New Brunswick Latin band Sonido Latino;  tap dancer Omar Edwards; a salsa dance class party with Elvis Ruiz; a dance performance by Grupo de Danza Folklórica La Sagrada Familia; the New Brunswick Brass Band; and a dance performance by InSpira Performing Arts & Cultural Center. more

THE BLUES: Blue Man Group is among the offerings at the Kimmel Cultural Campus in the coming season.

Tickets for touring Broadway shows are currently offered on presale by the Kimmel Cultural Campus in Philadelphia, which includes the Kimmel Center, the Academy of Music, and the Merriam Theatre.

Shows include Les Miserables November 2-13, Annie October 11-16, Tina — The Tina Turner Musical November 22-December 4, Blue Man Group December 27-31, and Dear Evan Hansen August 16-28. Visit KimmelCulturalCampus.org for further information.

“GREEN RELIEF”: This work by Karen Titus Smith is part of “Women on the Wall,” her joint sculpture exhibition with Wendy Gordon, on view at the Arts Council of Princeton September 10 through October 8. The public is invited to an opening reception on Saturday, September 17 from 3 to 5 p.m.

The Arts Council of Princeton (ACP) will show “Women on the Wall,” an exhibition of free form and unique sculpture by New Jersey-based artists Wendy Gordon and Karen Titus Smith in the Taplin Gallery September 10 through October 8. The public is invited to an opening reception on Saturday, September 17 from 3 to 5 p.m.

Gordon’s sculpture consists of repeated, organic forms that hang or lean up against the wall, or are free-standing. They look somehow familiar, as if forms from nature, such as seed pods or cocoons or are reminiscent of ancient utensils, such as cups or scoops. But even though they are similar in size, color and form, each element is subtly unique and when presented together they form a cohesive whole.

“I believe that my work communicates on several different levels,” said Gordon. “I am making a statement on nature and the structures it sometimes utilizes to become stronger and thus survive. Look at a compound leaf, the eye of a fly or the tentacles of a jellyfish and you find multiple forms that work together towards one achievement: survival.” more

“LOTTO: THE AMERICAN DREAM”: This work by Luis Cruz Azaceta is featured in “American Stories: Gifts from the Jersey City Museum Collection,” on view September 1 through December 30 at the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University in New Brunswick. An opening celebration will be held on Thursday, September 8 from 4:30 to 8 p.m.

This fall, the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University-New Brunswick debuts a major addition to its permanent collection that offers a variety of perspectives on American art and life through a regional lens. 

“American Stories: Gifts from the Jersey City Museum Collection,” on view from September 1 to December 30, features nearly 100 paintings, prints, photographs, and sculptures. The public is invited to a free opening celebration at SparkNight on September 8 from 4:30 to 8 p.m.

“We are honored to have the opportunity to share this collection with the public,” said Maura Reilly, director of the Zimmerli. “It includes work by some of the most important artists of the past six decades — Emma Amos, Dawoud Bey, Chakaia Booker, Mel Edwards, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, and others — which, when combined with our stellar American art collection, provides a more comprehensive picture of American art and society.” more

August 3, 2022

By Stuart Mitchner

…nothing will cut New York but a diamond. It should be crystal in quality, sharp as the skyline and relentlessly true.

—Dawn Powell (1896-1965), from The Diaries

When Dawn Powell invited me to lunch, I had no idea that she was the author of a dozen novels. All I knew was that she’d just reviewed my first book in the New York Post under the head “Young But Not Beat.” I was 20. She was around 60. It wasn’t until the 1990s that her work would be revived by Tim Page, a heroic, obsessively devoted enthusiast, with help from Gore Vidal, Edmund Wilson, and, eventually, The Library of America.

At lunch that day, the real novelist at the table never said a word about herself or her work. She was wise, witty, and fun. We were dining in what was to me an intimidatingly classy French restaurant in midtown called L’Aiglon. I’d already been interviewed at the Algonquin and the Russian Tea Room, but this wasn’t an interview, this was a lunch date, and my experience with dates at French restaurants had not been happy. On both occasions, one in Paris the previous summer, I’d taken girls who knew more about wine and French cuisine than I did. There were embarrassing moments. 

In Tim Page’s edition of The Diaries of Dawn Powell 1931-1965 (Steerforth Press 1995), where our luncheon is briefly noted, I’m “a bright, alert lad” who “knew Classic Comics by heart at age of 10.” Such was my contribution to the conversation. Nothing of my excitement about the novel I was writing in a top-floor room at the Players Club or about my Midwesterner’s love for New York, which, as it turns out, I shared with her. I could have talked about how, despite my heavy-handed trashing of the Beats, I loved On the Road, but I was tongue-tied. She’d actually liked my travesties of Ginsberg, my “excellent beat poems are fresh and vivid.” I already knew paragraphs of her review by heart, like the one about how the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, wild orgies on beer, and romantic dreams “would be almost too juvenile” except for the way I grew up with my novel “until at the end you see a young, rich talent come into bloom.” I was “a young man of feeling with an eagerness for experience” — and the best I could do was talk about knowing Classic Comics by heart when I was 10? more

SING OUT: David McConnell will conduct Voices Chorale’s “New Jersey Summer Open Sing” on August 22 at Music Together in Hopewell.

On Monday, August 22 at 7:30 p.m., Voices Chorale New Jersey (VCNJ) invites all singers to join an open summer sing at Music Together Worldwide Headquarters at 225 Pennington-Hopewell Road, Hopewell.

Featured will be excerpts from Folk Songs of the Four Seasons by Ralph Vaughan Williams in an arrangement by the contemporary English composer John Whittaker. David McConnell, artistic director of VCNJ, will conduct. Sheet music and refreshments will be provided.

The work brings together two vital elements of Vaughan Williams’ musical character: his lifelong love for English folksongs and folk carols and his strong support for amateur music-making. The cantata features 16 varied folk song settings, bound together in seasonal groupings that take the listener on a journey through the four seasons.

Those interested in joining Voices Chorale NJ may audition that evening by contacting Paula Mirabile at paulamirabile@verizon.net. All voice parts are welcome to audition, but tenors and bass/baritones are especially encouraged. Visit voiceschorale.org for more information.

TAKING IT OUTSIDE: A recent performer at the Story & Verse outdoor summer series, sponsored by the Arts Council of Princeton and African American Cultural Collaborative of Mercer County at Pettoranello Gardens. The next and final event in the series is Friday, August 19.

The Arts Council of Princeton (ACP) and African American Cultural Collaborative of Mercer County (AACCMC) will present their monthly Story & Verse on Friday, August 19 at Pettoranello Gardens starting at 6 p.m.

This free poetic and storytelling outdoor open-mic is the last outdoor event this summer before the event moves back indoors to the ACP’s Solley Theater. Story & Verse was established in February 2020, and has continued monthly since then. The series welcomes local and regional talent to perform original works inspired by a monthly theme, providing attendees with free, community-created entertainment. This August, performers are invited to present original work inspired by this month’s theme, “Circle of Life.”

Interested performers should arrive by 5:45 p.m. Pettoranello Gardens is at 20 Mountain Avenue. Visit artscouncilofprinceton.org.

ART OF SERIES: Horticulture is just one of the interests celebrated in the Arts Council’s ART OF series. Led by local leaders in art, wine, and more, ART OF events are designed to push attendees’ perceptions of creativity.

The Arts Council of Princeton introduces ART OF, a series of free and ticketed events curated to introduce attendees to the endless creativity and innovation in the Princeton community. From collecting art to tasting wine, ART OF events partner with local leaders in their respective fields, making for a social outing that will leave participants inspired.

Every dollar raised from ticketed ART OF events will benefit the Arts Council’s longstanding community outreach programs, public art initiatives, and year-long community events and projects. Tickets are available now at artscouncilofprinceton.org.

While new events will be added regularly, the current ART OF lineup is as follows:

ART OF Horticulture: Exploring the Landscape at Grounds For Sculpture — Sunday, September 18, 3 to 4:30 p.m.: Join Grounds For Sculpture Horticulturist Janis Napoli on a tour of the grounds and learn about the wide variety of native and exotic trees and plants that grace the 42-acre sculpture park and museum. Tickets are $45.  more

“SCOUTSHIP”: West Windsor Arts, in collaboration with the Historical Society of West Windsor, is hosting a sculpture design contest to commemorate the 85th anniversary of “The War of the Worlds” radio broadcast. This piece is by Eric Schultz.

It was nearly 85 years ago when Orson Welles’ infamous “The War of the Worlds” radio broadcast declared that aliens from Mars had landed in West Windsor, which caused a national stir. To celebrate this upcoming anniversary, West Windsor Arts, in collaboration with the Historical Society of West Windsor, is hosting “The mARTian Project,” a sculpture design contest. 

People of all ages and skill levels are encouraged to imagine what these interstellar beings would look like as they transition to their new home in West Windsor. Entries are encouraged to take inspiration from the audio description given by Orson Welles, but also give an original and friendly spin to how these Martians are depicted. 

Designs will be collected until September 9, and then a public vote will be held to determine which design will be sculpted as the official mascot across town. The winning design will be used to create blank, fiberglass sculptures, which will be given to local artists to decorate as part of a separate design contest that will be released in the spring of 2023.

The winning sculpture designer will receive a cash prize of $500. Details and full parameters of the contest can be found at WestWindsorArts.org more

“AFRICAN SKY”: This oil painting by James Wilson Edwards will be included in “Retrieving the Life and Art of James Wilson Edwards and a Circle of Black Artists,” on view at the Arts Council of Princeton October 14 through December 3.

The Arts Council of Princeton (ACP) will present “Retrieving the Life and Art of James Wilson Edwards and a Circle of Black Artists” this October. The exhibition reveals how Black artist/teachers were integral and influential members in a predominantly white regional community in the last quarter of the 20th century. While there have been significant exhibitions of a few contemporary Black artists during recent efforts by museums and galleries to become more diverse, this is one of the first exhibitions to explore the historical context from which these artists emerged.

This exhibition focuses on five late 20th-century master artists who lived and worked within 25 miles of each other in the geographic region from Princeton to New Hope, Pa.: James Wilson Edwards, Rex Goreleigh, Hughie Lee-Smith, Selma Hortense Burke, and Wendell T. Brooks. These Black artists represent a diverse and vibrant regional arts community largely unknown in contemporary American art history.

Goreleigh, Lee-Smith, and Burke began their careers working for the Works Progress Administration/Federal Art Project (FAP) created during the Great Depression of the 1930s to provide employment for artists. Remarkably for the time, the FAP included both Black and women artists. Its heady mix of art and politics gave Black artists a sense of racial pride, confidence that they could become successful as artists, and a belief that they, too, could help create a better society. The careers of these three artists reflect the principles learned in their early years. They, like other Black artists who came out of the FAP era, communicated these principles to others, thus shaping the careers of younger artists including Edwards and Brooks. They were successful in their artistic work and used the arts to create educational institutions where whites and Blacks mingled on equal terms — usually, the only such places in those communities. Their impact on their communities has not been generally acknowledged until this exhibition.  more

July 27, 2022

By Stuart Mitchner

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes

—The Beatles, “Here Comes the Sun”

And here comes the air-conditioning. I’ve already got the ceiling fan going. We’ve had central air for 30 years now and we never take it for granted. I spent nine summers in New York without it. In the Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Summer in the City,” the back of your neck gets “dirty and gritty,” and “people looking half dead” are walking on a sidewalk “hotter than a match head.” The song says it’s a pity that city days can’t be like city nights, dancing away the heat. I say day or night, New York was never more grittily, intimately, crazily itself than in the hot, humid core of an un-airconditioned summer of reading and sweating, breathing it all in because it was part of being one with the city. And in your teens and early twenties New York summer nights were fine for walking down Greenwich Avenue for a midnight hamburger at the White Tower or all the way up Seventh or Sixth Avenue to wander around Times Square feeling the flash and crackle of the big signs, the back of your neck not hot and gritty but cool and sweaty damp, standing outside the Metropole watching Cozy Cole and his band blowing the blues away on the stand behind the bar.

Reading City Heat

Summer afternoons reading Wolfe, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Faulkner, and Salinger, pairing heat and fiction, I merged my sweet, sweltering city with the mid-1920s New York summer of The Great Gatsby, which I first read in a muggy second-floor room with windows open on Waverly Place. Jay Gatsby comes across cool and freshly conceived in contrast to the “deep summer” of the central chapter, where after referring to how in “this heat every extra gesture was an affront to the common store of life,” Fitzgerald offers a “room, shadowed well with awnings, … dark and cool,” where “Daisy and Jordan lay upon an enormous couch, like silver idols weighing down their own white dresses against the singing breeze of the fans.”

Years later in the front room of a second-floor brownstone oven on West 87th, when I wasn’t watching kids on the street below at play in the gush of the open fire hydrant, I was living in the post-war Manhattan summer of J.D. Salinger’s Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters, where “the heat of the afternoon was, to say the least, oppressive,” as the cab carrying the missing groom’s brother Buddy Glass and the chain-smoking Matron of Honor (“I’m so hot I could die!”) moved west, “directly, as it were, into the open furnace of the late-afternoon sky.”  more

“DETROIT ’67”: Performances are underway for “Detroit ’67.” Directed by Anike Sonuga, the play runs through July 31 at the Hamilton Murray Theater at Princeton University. Above, from left, are Sheleah Harris (Bunny) and Gabriel Generally (Lank). (Photo by Ethan Curtis Boll)

By Donald H. Sanborn III

The Detroit Riot of 1967, also known as the Detroit Rebellion or the 12th Street Riot, is the setting of Detroit ’67. Dominique Morisseau’s 2013 drama depicts an African American woman’s determination to provide security for her family; and her younger brother’s wish to start a new life, and blur racial boundaries. All of these goals are tested by the arrival of a mysterious white woman — and the riot.

Chelle, one of the protagonists, hosts underground parties to pay for her (unseen) son Julius’ college education. Lank, her younger brother, wants to open his own bar. This ties into the event that incited the Detroit Riot: a police raid of an unlicensed bar, in which all of the patrons were arrested.

Detroit ’67 is an installment of Morisseau’s three-play cycle The Detroit Project. Morriseau is a 2018 MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellow whose other credits include the Broadway musical Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations.

The music of Motown, notably the Four Tops’ “Reach Out (I’ll Be There),” pervades Detroit ’67. Music is a “resource and clue to my work, and music plays a unifier among cultural barriers.” Morisseau tells Broadway.com.

Princeton Summer Theater (PST) is concluding its 2022 season with Detroit ’67. Directed by Anike Sonuga, the production successfully conveys the colliding character arcs and rising tensions, which are exacerbated by historical events. more

By Nancy Plum

When one thinks of classical music “trios,” what might come to mind is an ensemble of strings and piano, with plenty of works to perform from throughout music history. The chamber ensemble Zodiac Trio, formed in 2006 by musicians from the Manhattan School of Music, has broken this mold by dedicating a career to repertoire for clarinet, violin, and piano. Taking an unconventional route to success, clarinetist Kliment Krylovskiy, violinist Vanessa Mollard, and pianist Riko Higuma polished their ensemble sound with extensive study in Paris. Zodiac Trio brought an impressive and entertaining concert to Richardson Auditorium last Thursday night to close the 55th season of the Princeton University Summer Chamber Concerts series. 

The Trio opened the program conventionally, albeit with lesser-known works. Composer Paul Schoenfeld has infused his music with a scholarly command of mathematics and Hebrew studies, and his one-movement Freylakh also showed the influence of the Eastern European klezmer tradition. Zodiac Trio began Freylakh with a fiery start, immediately displaying a fierce piano part played by Higuma and the recognizable klezmer scales in Krylovskiy’s clarinet lines. The Trio consistently demonstrated exact rhythms, settling in well to the unusual sonorities of clarinet, violin, and piano together, and well representing the “merry” atmosphere indicated by the work’s title.

Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla was especially known for his use of Argentine dance forms, and this musical flavor was evident in the two short Piazzolla pieces arranged for the Trio by pianist Higuma. Chau Paris evoked a sultry Parisian night, with an understandably dramatic and demanding piano part. In this piece, Krylovskiy provided a lyrical clarinet line, joined by violinist Mollard for a swirling finish. Fugata introduced technically challenging melodic material one instrument at a time, with Higuma playing clean unisons between the two hands of the piano accompaniment. 

The principal work on the first half of the program was a concert suite of five movements from Igor Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du Soldat (A Soldier’s Tale), originally scored for seven instruments but also arranged by the composer for clarinet, violin, and piano. Zodiac Trio began the work with solid unisons and a percussive piano part, with Krylovskiy playing high in the register of the clarinet. Violinist Mollard commanded the second movement storyline of the fiddle which the devil is trying to buy from the soldier, demonstrating numerous double stops and a nonstop jagged melodic line. The fourth movement series of dances was seamless, with the three instruments creating a well-blended sonority. The closing “Dance of the Devil” was as demonic as one would expect from a movement with this title, with all instruments well up to Stravinsky’s technical demands.  more

“BAIRN”: The animated sci-fi film by Mason Gross School of the Arts Conservatory student Kaushik Tare is part of the 2022 Princeton Student Film Festival.

The 2022 Princeton Student Film Festival will be held Wednesday, August 3, at Princeton Public Library. Screenings will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the library’s Community Room. Many of the filmmakers will be in attendance to talk about and answer questions about their films.

The festival, in its 19th year, features 10 short works by high school and college students from the Princeton area and throughout the United States. Genres include animation, comedy, dramatic feature, documentary, experimental, personal narrative, and thrillers.

“The student film festival is a great chance for student filmmakers to show their work to a live audience, and to share their insight and get feedback,” said Youth Services Department Head Susan Conlon, who coordinates the event. “The films are inspired and imaginative and reflect the filmmakers’ commitment to developing their visual and technical craft and the art of good storytelling.” more

PLAYERS SOUGHT: The Greater Princeton Youth Orchestra’s intermediate Concert Orchestra is shown in a performance that took place on June 12. (Photo by Angela Branchek)

The Greater Princeton Youth Orchestra (GPYO) is seeking instrumentalists entering grades 4-12 who play wind, brass, percussion, and lower string instruments. The deadline to sign up is August 15; the deadline to submit videos is August 22. The audition fee is $25.

Members improve their musicianship, play under major conductors, learn challenging repertoire, participate in sectionals and master classes with professional musicians, perform in venues like the Kimmel Center and Carnegie Hall, and make lifelong friends. Ensembles include the Symphonic Orchestra, the Concert Orchestra, the Preparatory String Ensemble, and the Chamber Wind Ensemble

The GPYO was founded in 1960 as the Mercer County Symphonic Orchestra and recently joined forces with the Westminster Conservatory of Music. The mission is to provide excellent training and performance opportunities for students seeking a challenging musical ensemble experience, and to cultivate a lifelong appreciation of the arts. more

CHRISTMAS IN JULY: American Repertory Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker” is among the holiday offerings coming to the State Theatre New Jersey in December. (Photo by Leighton Chen)

State Theatre New Jersey is offering a special Christmas in July sale through Sunday, July 31. Tickets for just added holiday shows are 20 percent off with the promo code JOLLY20.

New to the lineup and part of the Christmas in July Sale are The Irish Tenors in the “We Three Kings” Christmas Concert on December 8; The Nutcracker with American Repertory Ballet on December 16-18; The Queen’s Cartoonists Holiday Hurrah – Yule Love It! on December 23; and a New Year’s Eve tradition at State Theatre, Salute to Vienna on December 31.  

The sale will expire July 31 at 11:59 p.m. Visit STNJ.org for more information.

Rhiannon Giddens

On Sunday, October 9 at 3 p.m., musician Rhiannon Giddens will perform with her frequent collaborator Francesco Turrisi at McCarter Theatre.

Giddens, a MacArthur “Genius Grant” recipient, co-founded the Grammy-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops. She has been nominated for six additional Grammys for her work as a soloist and collaborator. She was most recently nominated for her collaboration with multi-instrumentalist Turrisi, there is no Other (2019).

Giddens’ 12-track album They’re Calling Me Home, recorded with Turrisi in Ireland during the recent lockdown, speaks of the longing for the comfort of home as well as the metaphorical “call home” of death, which has been a tragic reality for so many during the COVID-19 crisis.   

Giddens’s lifelong mission is to lift up people whose contributions to American musical history have previously been erased, and to work toward a more accurate understanding of the country’s musical origins.  more

“BARN WINDOW”: This watercolor by Gail Bracegirdle is featured in “Light & Shadow,” her dual exhibit with Joe Kazimierczyk, on view August 4 to September 4 at Artists’ Gallery in Lambertville.

Watercolorist Gail Bracegirdle and oil painter Joe Kazimierczyk are exhibiting together in “Light & Shadow,” on view at Artists’ Gallery, 18 Bridge Street, Lambertville, August 4  through September 4. An opening reception will be held on Saturday, August 6 from 5 to 8 p.m.

Bracegirdle enjoys exploring different ways of painting with watercolors by experimenting with textures and working on various watercolor papers. She always begins with a subject in mind and then “gets creative.”

“OCTOBER SKY”: This painting by Joe Kazimierczyk is part of “Light & Shadow,” his joint show with Gail Bracegirdle, on view August 4 to September 4 at Artists’ Gallery in Lambertville. An opening reception is on Saturday, August 6 from 5 to 8 p.m.

Kazimierczyk’s landscape paintings are a natural extension of his hiking and cycling trips as he explores and searches out new places for inspiration. His artwork is a distillation of his experiences of a place, and the resulting paintings are somewhere between reality, memory, and imagination.

Artists’ Gallery is open Thursday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, visit lambertvilleArts.com.

“BOTANICA — SOUTH BROAD STREET”: This painting by Marge Miccio is part of “Urban Art Scenes,” on view August 3 through August 27 at the Trenton Free Public Library. An opening reception will be held on Friday, August 5, from 5 to 7 p.m.

The Trenton Artists Workshop Association (TAWA) and the Trenton Free Public Library will present the exhibition “Urban Art Scenes” at the Trenton Free Public Library from August 3 to August 27. An opening reception will be held on Friday, August 5, from 5 to 7 p.m. An artist’s talk is scheduled for August 10 at 6 p.m.

The opening night for the exhibit will be a part of the Trenton Downtown Association’s First Fridays events.

“Urban Art Scenes” features work by two regional artists — Marge Miccio and Kate Graves. Both artists portray colorful and nostalgic scenes of Trenton.

Miccio is a Trenton-based painter known in part for her works depicting Trenton shops, businesses, and homes. She is the recipient of the First Prize for the “2020 Mercer County Senior Art Show”; Juror’s Award for the “2012 Trenton Makes Show”; and is currently represented in the Trenton City Museum’s Ellarslie Open. She studied at the Maryland Institute College of Art and the Italian University for Foreigners. more

July 20, 2022

By Stuart Mitchner

Like Shakespeare, Austen invented us. Because we are Austen’s children, we behold and confront our own anguish and our own fantasies in her novels.

–Harold Bloom (1930-2019)

Pointing out how “the strong selves” of Jane Austen’s heroines attest to her “reserves of power,” Bloom imagines that “had she not died so soon, she would have been capable of creating a Shakespearean diversity of persons, despite her narrowly limited social range of representation.”

Austen (1775-1817) died in Winchester 205 years ago Monday, July 18. Two years later, in August 1819, John Keats (1795-1821) arrived in that “exceeding pleasant town,” where he took daily walks, admired “the beauty of the season,” took advantage of the library, and composed “To Autumn,” his “perfect poem,” according to Harold Bloom, and the “most perfect shorter poem in the English language.” In the introduction to Bloom’s updated Modern Critical Views edition of Keats (Chelsea House, 2007), he finds the poem’s “definitive vision” all the more “remarkable for the faint presence of the shadows of the poet’s hell that the poem tries to exclude.”  more

Madison Russel and Favian Harris

Langhorne Players in Newtown, Pa., presents Lauren Gunderson’s comedic drama I and You from July 22 through August 6. Performances are at the Spring Garden Mill at Tyler State Park, 1440 Newtown-Richboro Road in Newtown.

“This was one of the rare plays where as soon as our entire board read it, we knew we had to stage it,” said producer Jack Bathke. “The themes of connection and how art brings us together were a perfect fit for our first season back after two summers in lockdown.”

I and You is about a single, fateful afternoon in the lives of two teenagers: sardonic and chronically ill Caroline, and overachieving athlete Anthony. Over just a few hours, Caroline and Anthony open up in surprising ways, realizing they are more similar than they’d initially thought.

I and You stars Madison Russell as Caroline and Favian Harris as Anthony. Performances run July 22-24, 28-31, and August 3-6. A talk-back with the cast and crew will follow the Wednesday, August 3 performance. Tickets are $22 at langhorneplayers.org. Use code BOGO online for buy-one-get-one tickets to the August 5 show.

EVENING MUSIC:  From left, Dave Homan (Uncle Ho 2.0), Justin Nawn and Bronwyn Bird, and Sophie Coran will entertain at the space behind Panera Bread at three events presented by West Windsor Arts this summer.

West Windsor Arts presents three concerts at the Nassau Park Pavilion, U.S. Route 1 in West Windsor, on July 30, August 13, and August 27. Each show will feature a musical performance by local and regional talent, as well as art activities for all ages. All shows and activities are free, and take place from 5-7:30 p.m. 

The series includes Latin jazz, blues, samba, R&B, funk, bluegrass, folk, and classical. The first concert is Saturday, July 30, featuring bandleader/saxophonist Uncle Ho 2.0 with cellist Dan Kassel. The rain date is July 31. Kassel, who is organizing the event in collaboration with West Windsor Arts, will be opening the first and third shows with his cello loops.  

Next on August 13 are husband-and-wife duo Justin and Bronwyn, performing Swedish, Appalachian, old-time and bluegrass music. Bird specializes in playing a bowed, 16-string Scandinavian instrument called the nyckelharpa. Her husband accompanies her on a 6- or 12-string guitar. 

“The August 13 concert will be more family-oriented and geared toward children,” said Aylin Green, executive director of West Windsor Arts. “We will have more art projects and a flow performer who will get everyone moving with hoops and ribbon wands.” 

The final event is Saturday, August 25, when Kassel returns to perform with singer/songwriter Sophie Coran. The rain date is August 28. The genre in which Coran feels at home is her signature “Noir & B” style, a blend of R&B, jazz, and classical composition.

Nassau Park Pavilion is located behind Panera Bread on Route. 1. Visit westwindsorarts.org for more information.

“LEAD WITH KINDNESS”: The Arts Council of Princeton and EDENS have completed their collaborative work on a third mural at the Princeton Shopping Center. The new public art piece is located on McCaffrey’s courtyard wall. (Photo by Laura Dominick/EDENS)

The Arts Council of Princeton and EDENS have completed a collaboration on a new mural located on the courtyard-facing wall at the Princeton Shopping Center, 301 North Harrison Street.

Lead with Kindness, the third in a series of murals painted by the Arts Council in Princeton Shopping Center’s public art initiative, speaks to the notion of kindness and compassion as a mindset-first message to the community. The original design was created by Laura Dominick, lead design and media manager at EDENS, which owns and operates Princeton Shopping Center. Dominick said she sees this message as a part of a movement. “Art catalyzes and enriches communities,” said Dominick. “Our final mural with the Arts Council is a vivid reminder to live each day with more empathy and thoughtfulness.”

In the spring of 2021, the Arts Council of Princeton and Princeton Shopping Center announced a new partnership that would produce a series of three murals designed for exterior spaces at Princeton Shopping Center. Each mural would highlight a positive message to the Princeton community, celebrating public art’s ability to uplift and delight. more