January 25, 2023

By Stuart Mitchner

I try to become a singer. The guitar has always been abused with distortion units and funny sorts of effects, but when you don’t do that and just let the genuine sound come through, there’s a whole magic there.

—Jeff Beck (1944-2023), 2010 NPR interview

The only time I saw virtuoso guitarist Jeff Beck in person was at the Fillmore East, where he, Rod Stewart, and the Jeff Beck Group performed a memorable cover of Willie Dixon’s “I Ain’t Superstitious.” It was October 1968 and Halloween was in the air as Stewart keened “bad luck ain’t got me so far” while Beck stalked his trail like a demonic ventriloquist seemingly reanimating every black cat, hell hound, witch, or nightmare that ever bedeviled mortal man since the raven rapped at Edgar Allan Poe’s chamber door.

I’d first heard Jeff Beck two years earlier on the Yardbirds’ single “Shapes of Things,” which my wife and I played on numerous jukeboxes during a pre-nuptial hitchhiking trip through Italy. It was an astonishing creation, a feedback-driven march into a brave new world of psychedelia. I didn’t know who Beck was at the time, nor that he’d gone to school in South London with my old road companion Roger Yates and played in a skiffle band with several of Roger’s mates.

Later that year in Ann Arbor I saw Blow Up, Antonioni’s remake of “swinging London,” where a cosmically bored, glazed-eyed audience in a Soho club sat silent and unresponsive as the Yardbirds played a blues jam onstage. I still didn’t know that Roger’s schoolmate was the guitarist slamming his instrument into the amp in a futile quest for feedback or some sound or act outrageous enough to bring the dead crowd to life; nor did I know that another future guitar legend Jimmy Page was on the same small stage smiling over the scene as if in expectation of the moment Jeff Beck would throw his guitar on the floor, jump up and down on it, and hold the broken thing in the air, flourishing it before flinging it into a seething, screaming, come-wildly-to-life mob fighting over the remains. It all ended with the film’s photographer protagonist David Hemmings racing down a Soho alley with a piece of the mutilated guitar in his hand, before casting it aside, where the next passersby picked it up only to toss it in the gutter, leaving it there like roadkill.  more

HEALING THROUGH MUSIC: Jazz pianist Fred Hersch appears at Richardson Auditorium with “Breath by Breath: Responding to Illness Through Music,” on February 9. (Photo by Herman Blaustein)

Jazz pianist and 15-time Grammy nominee Fred Hersch makes his Princeton University Concerts (PUC) debut on Thursday, February 9 at 7:30 p.m. in Richardson Auditorium with “Breath by Breath: Responding to Illness Through Music,” a Healing with Music series event. Tickets are $10-$40.

Earlier that day, at 12:30 p.m., Hersch will perform as part of PUC’s Live Music Meditation series. Silent meditation begins at 12 p.m. Admission to that event is free.

On Wednesday, February 8 at 7:30 p.m., the Princeton Garden Theatre will introduce audiences to the pianist’s story through a documentary screening of The Ballad of Fred Hersch, including a live post-screening discussion with Hersch, moderated by his student, PUC artist and local composer/pianist Gregg Kallor. The theater is at 160 Nassau Street. Admission is $9-$14. more

AIRBORNE: Dancers from the Philadelphia Ballet rehearse a program of three new works, on stage at the Perelman Theater at the Kimmel Center, 300 South Broad Street in Philadelphia, February 3-11. “Forward Motion” features ballets by Hope Boykin, Andonis Foniadakis, and Juliano Nunes. (Photo by Arian Molina Soca)

“Forward Motion,” a program of new works by choreographers Hope Boykin, Juliano Nunes, and Andonis Foniadakis will be presented February 3-11 by the Philadelphia Ballet at the Perelman Theater of the Kimmel Center, 300 South Broads Street in Philadelphia.

“It is such a thrill to present new works that push the boundaries of ballet and move the artform forward,” said Artistic Director Angel Corella. “We are honored to have three talented and sought-after choreographers crafting new and unique ballets for our audiences here in Philadelphia this February.”

Now in its fourth iteration, Philadelphia Ballet’s New Works series offers audiences performance experiences in the intimate setting of the Perelman Theater. “Forward Motion” advances the company’s commitment to presenting dynamic and innovative dance. more

BACK AT RICHARDSON: Violinist Alexi Kenney returns to Princeton with “Shifting Ground,” presented by Princeton University Concerts at Richardson Auditorium on February 16.

Young violinist Alexi Kenney has appeared at Princeton University Concerts’ (PUC) Performances Up Close, Healing with Music, and Live Music Meditation series over the past two years. The 28-year-old returns to Richardson Auditorium on Thursday, February 16 at 7:30 p.m.

On the program, titled “Shifting Ground,” are works by J.S. Bach alongside pieces for solo violin and violin/electronics by composers of our time, including pieces by Samuel Adams, Du Yun, and Paul Wiancko, and new commissions by Salina Fisher and Angélica Negrón. Jane Cox, Tony Award-nominated lighting designer, director of the Program in Theater at Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts, will design the lighting for this program.

“My hope is that through the course of the program each piece enlivens those around it, framing Bach in a new light and placing contemporary violin works in context — and showing that art need not be defined by era to express our shared humanity,” said Kenney. more

JURIED ART EXHIBITION: Kenoka Wagner, an artist from Revere, Pa., will serve as juror of the “10th Annual Youth Art Exhibition.” The exhibition opens at Phillips’ Mill in New Hope, Pa., on January 29 and will be open to the public on weekends from 12 to 4 p.m. through February 19.

The “10th Annual Youth Art Exhibition” debuts at Phillips’ Mill on January 29 and will be open to the public weekends from 12 to 4 p.m. through February 19. After transitioning to online exhibitions during the height of the pandemic, “Youth Art” now returns to in-person shows at the historic Mill on River Road in New Hope, Pa., in addition to offering the event online.

Launched with a handful of schools in 2014, the Youth Art Committee continues to work in harmony with area public and private school art departments with 22 schools participating this year. Art teachers curate the show, selecting students’ work in the disciplines of painting, works on paper, 3D works, photography, and a new category this year, non-photography digital art. A juror chosen by the Mill awards cash prizes in each category, as well as a Best in Show award.  more

“TRASHED ART CONTEST”: Winning artwork from the 2018 TrashedArt Contest is shown in the Lawrence Headquarters Branch of the Mercer County Library System. Submissions for this year’s TrashedArt Contest must be received by March 8.

In March and April, art will be displayed for the 14th Annual TrashedArt Contest at the Lawrence Headquarters Branch. Patrons will have a chance to view photographs of the artwork and vote for the People’s Choice awards in person at each of the nine branches and virtually on the MCLS’ website. Winners will be announced at the TrashedArt Contest Reception at the Lawrence Headquarters Branch on Tuesday, April 18 at 6:30 p.m. The contest celebrates Earth Day by encouraging patrons to turn ordinary trash into extraordinary art.

The contest is limited to one entry per artist. Classes or groups may participate only if they register ahead of time. See mcl.org/events/trashedart for details. The library will accept artwork no earlier than Wednesday, March 1 and no later than Wednesday, March 8. Selected artwork will be on display at the Lawrence Headquarters Branch throughout the months of March and April. Adult patrons (ages 14 and up) who live, work, or go to school in Mercer County are eligible to participate. more

“ETCHING”: This work by Scarlett Cai is featured in “Princeton High School Emerging Artists Showcase 2023,” on view February 1 through February 26 at the Gourgaud Gallery in Cranbury.

The Cranbury Arts Council and the Gourgaud Gallery are hosting the “Princeton High School Emerging Artists Showcase 2023” exhibition February 1 through February 26.

This exhibition features recent artwork from the upper-level studio courses from Princeton High School: 2D II, 2D III, 3D II, 3D III, Art of Craft, and Studio IV. These emerging artists are beginning to explore advanced conceptual notions of design, identity, place, and more using a variety of media, including printmaking, painting, drawing, ceramics, and sculpture.   

A closing reception is on February 26 from 1-3 p.m. 

The Gourgaud Gallery is located in Town Hall, 23-A North Main Street, in Cranbury, and is free and open to the public Monday  through Friday from  p.m. to 3 p.m.

For more information, visit cranburyartscouncil.org.

“CONTEXT IS KING”: Works by Phillip McConnell are on view in the Main Gallery at Artworks Trenton through February 25. An opening reception is on February 3 from 6 to 8 p.m.

Artworks Trenton celebrates the beginning of their 35th season with the opening of a groundbreaking new exhibition featuring the work of Phillip McConnell and Dionne Jackson. The exhibitions presented in 2023 will capture the organization’s commitment to creativity, community, and connection. From now through February 25, McConnell’s show, “Context is King,” will be presented in the Main Gallery alongside Jackson’s show, “Just As I Am,” in the Community Gallery with a 2023 Season Opening Reception on February 3 from 6 to 8 p.m.

McConnell is an emerging artist from Trenton. His focus surrounds the creation of abstract, surrealist digital artwork. “I specialize in an art form called glitch art,” said McConnell. “Glitch art is the anesthetization of digital or analog errors, such as artifacts and other ‘bugs,’ by corrupting digital code. In my work I discuss my experience as a Black creative with the intention to inspire and connect others.”    

With his exhibition, McConnell seeks to explore the relationship between language and meaning, and between context and content. The work in this exhibition will be an amalgamation of two different art forms — poetry, and visual art. Each piece of artwork will be accompanied by a poem, and this exhibition will explore the relationship between art and poetry. “The themes of poetry within this project all explore a journey of self, and inspire an honest discussion on what the world looks like when you are an outlier to your own culture.” said McConnell.  more

January 18, 2023

By Stuart Mitchner

Dylan is beyond music and lyrics, he has something else. It’s that indefinable something else that makes him special.

—P.J. Harvey, in The Guardian, March 25, 2001

Bob Dylan’s “indefinable something else” is why I’m writing about him again this week. I’m also still walking around with, haunted by, “Where or When,” the last of the 66 songs in his new book The Philosophy of Modern Song. Dylan is not only still part of the where or when of life, he’s even farther “beyond music and lyrics” than he was when singer songwriter P.J Harvey said as much in March 2001. At that time he had yet to write Chronicles: Volume One (2004), record Modern Times (2006), and win the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”

As numerous reviewers have observed, The Philosophy of Modern Song is marred by some of Dylan’s sloppiest writing. Last week I suggested that in spite of the scant coverage of female songwriters and performers and the offensive language inspired by songs like the Eagles’ “Witchy Woman” and Santana’s “Black Magic Woman,” the new book could be read as a coda to his tour de force Chronicles. Having returned to that extraordinary work, which I’ve lived in for almost 20 years, thanks in part to its evocation of New York’s Greenwich Village in the winter of 1961, I’m thinking the only “coda” worthy of the name may be the music of Modern Times and 2020’s Rough and Rowdy Ways.  more

By Nancy Plum

Each year, Princeton Symphony Orchestra (PSO) recognizes musicologist and philanthropist Edward T. Cone with a performance including a bit of star power, honoring the longtime friend of the orchestra and major supporter of cultural life in Princeton. This past weekend’s PSO Edward T. Cone concerts were scheduled to feature South African soprano Pretty Yende, who is well on her way up in the opera world. Unfortunately, Yende was unable to perform because of illness, but Princeton Symphony Orchestra shifted gears well by bringing in another operatic superstar. Fresh off celebrated performances with the Metropolitan Opera and receipt of the 2022 Richard Tucker Foundation award, soprano Angel Blue filled in as soloist in an entertaining evening of opera highlights and American music.

Saturday night’s performance at Richardson Auditorium (the concert was repeated Sunday afternoon) featured a lean and precise Princeton Symphony both on their own and accompanying Blue in arias showing the soprano’s dramatic and technical range. Music Director Rossen Milanov opened the concert with two works depicting the great American landscape. Aaron Copland and Samuel Barber were two of this country’s leading composers in the mid-20th century, and Copland’s Appalachian Spring suite and Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915 showed remarkable similarities in their depictions of the United States in a simpler time. more

BACK IN THE DAY: George LaMond is among the artists singing songs from the’80s and ’90s at State Theatre New Jersey in New Brunswick on January 21.

State Theatre New Jersey and Fever Records present Freestyle Flashback, featuring freestyle artists from the ’80s and’90s on Saturday, January 21 at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $39-$134.

This special concert event includes such dance-pop and freestyle artists as TKA (“Maria,” “Come Baby Come”), George LaMond (“Bad Of The Heart,” “Without You”), Judy Torres (“No Reason To Cry,” “Come Into My Arms”), Noel (“Silent Morning,” “The Question”), Betty D Of Sweet Sensation (“Hooked On You,” “Love Child”), The Cover Girls (“Show Me,” “Wishing On A Star”), Cynthia (“Change On Me,” “Dreamboy Dreamgirl”), Lisette Melendez (“Together Forever,” “A Day In My Life”), C-Bank (“Won’t Stop Loving You,” “One More Shot”), Pretty Poison (“Catch Me I’m Falling”), David of Nice N’ Wild (“Diamond Girl”), and Sammy Zone (“Running”).

Freestyle Flashback is hosted by Sal Abbatiello from Fever Records and Speedy, with music by DJ Whiteboy KYS.

The State Theatre is at 15 Livingston Avenue in New Brunswick. Visit STNJ.org.

WILD ABOUT WILDE: Ray Fallon of Lawrenceville, left, and Hannah Rapaport-Stein of West Windsor star in Oscar Wilde’s “An Ideal Husband” at Kelsey Theatre on weekends January 20 through 29.

Mercer County Community College’s Kelsey Theatre kicks off 2023 with Shakespeare 70’s production of Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband on weekends January 20 through 29. Kelsey Theatre is located on the Mercer County Community College campus, 1200 Old Trenton Road in West Windsor.

One of Wilde’s final plays, An Ideal Husband was first produced in 1895 and combines wit, philosophy, and drama in a way that is still relevant today. Government minister Sir Robert Chiltem is respectable and well-off, with a loving wife. When the conniving Mrs. Cheveley appears with evidence of a past misdeed and threatens to blackmail him, his best friend tries, through a number of comedic entanglements, to lead Sir Robert and his family out of harm. But there are others who have desires and ambitions all their own.

The play touches on feminism, blackmail, political corruption, morality and mistrust, love and forgiveness, all with Wilde’s wit.

Performances are January 20, 21, 27, and 28 at 8 p.m.; and January 22 and 29 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20-$22. Visit KelseyTheatre.org or call (609) 570-3333.

“JITTERBUG”: This work by Alison Saar is featured in “Cycle of Creativity: Alison Saar and the Toni Morrison Papers,” on view at Princeton University Art Museum’s Art@Bainbridge gallery on Nassau Street February 25 through July 9.

As part of a campus-wide celebration of the life’s work of Toni Morrison (1931–2019) — acclaimed author, essayist, Nobel laureate, and Princeton professor — the Princeton University Art Museum will present an exhibition bringing together selections from the Toni Morrison Papers with sculptures, prints, and textiles by the artist Alison Saar (born 1956). Morrison and Saar both draw inspiration from artistic techniques, cultural beliefs, and historical truths of the African American experience for their work, and both speak about the importance of using their work to foster the creativity of future generations of Black artists.

This exhibition takes its title from Saar’s term “cycle of creativity,” used to describe the process of intergenerational exchange. “Cycle of Creativity: Alison Saar and the Toni Morrison Papers,” will be on view at the museum’s Art@Bainbridge gallery from February 25 through July 9, 2023.

“Toni Morrison and her legacy are inseparable from Princeton University, and her work, in its extraordinary fecundity and breadth, resonates far beyond our institution,” said James Steward, Nancy A. Nasher–David J. Haemisegger, Class of 1976, Director of the museum. “By placing selections from Morrison’s papers alongside Saar’s potent artworks in various media, we will have the rare opportunity to see the overlaps between two brilliant minds at work.” more

“INSIDE THE ARTIST’S STUDIO”: Visual artist Adriana Groza, a studio member of the Princeton Makes artist cooperative in the Princeton Shopping Center, will share insights about her practice and demonstrate her techniques and process in a talk on January 19 at 7 p.m. The event will begin with a reception at 6:30 p.m.

On Thursday, January 19, at 7 p.m., visual artist Adriana Groza will be the featured speaker for the “Inside the Artist’s Studio” talk series at Princeton Makes in the Princeton Shopping Center. Groza, a studio member of the Princeton Makes artist cooperative, specializes in creating fluid acrylic abstract art. She will share insights about her practice and demonstrate her techniques and process.

Groza, a Hamilton resident, was born and raised in Transylvania, Romania. She manipulates fluid acrylics directly on deep edge canvas by various means, without a brush. Art, for Groza, is a means for self-healing and renewal, and a way to reach an understanding of time and matter. Her style has drawn the attention of the New Jersey and Romanian press, and her original artworks are currently found in private and public collections throughout the U.S. and Europe.

“I step inside my studio, shedding the constraints of daily schedule and routine, with a deep confidence and trust in my process,” said Groza. “A blank stretched canvas, different color paints that I dilute with mediums to the right viscosity, and several unconventional instruments and techniques for moving the paint around — these are my tools. I apply my foundation color, and then allow my feelings and imagination to wander free with the fluid pigments. I might capture the split and irreplicable moment of a foamy wave splashing the sands, or a snapshot in the fleeting existence of a flower or a creature.”  more

“UNDER THE BRIDGE”: This painting by John Gummere is part of “Art from Art News Writers and Photojournalists,” on view at the Trenton Free Public Library February 8 through March 25. An opening reception is on Thursday, February 9, from 5 to 7 p.m.

The Trenton Artists Workshop Association (TAWA) and the Trenton Free Public Library will present the exhibition “Art from Art News Writers and Photojournalists” at the Trenton Free Public Library February 8 through March 25. An opening reception will be held on Thursday, February 9, from 5 to 7 p.m.

The artists featured in the exhibition include Ricardo Barros, a contributing writer to ICON magazine, Bucks County, Pa., and an internationally known photographer who has had artwork commissioned by Fortune 500 companies. Barros has work in the permanent collections of several museums including the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, and The Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University. He lives in Princeton.

Ilene Dube is a producer for the PBS series State of the Arts and a contributor to media including Princeton Magazine, JerseyArts Features, and Hyperallergic. Her independently produced short documentaries have been screened at the New Jersey Film Festival, Nassau Film Festival, Trenton Film Festival, Princeton Environmental Film Festival, and at arts centers and libraries. Her art, which she considers play, has been exhibited at the Hopewell Tour des Arts, Phillips’ Mill, Hobart Art in the Native Landscape, Ellarslie Open, Salon des Refuses, West Windsor Arts Council, and others. She lives in West Windsor. more

January 11, 2023

By Donald Gilpin

Rider University’s Princeton campus, formerly the home of Westminster Choir College (WCC), is certainly not as lively these days as it was before WCC was moved to Rider’s Lawrence Township campus two years ago, but there are definitely signs of life and even the sound of music emanating from the Walnut Lane campus.

Rider merged with WCC in 1992 and since 2017 has been trying to sell the 22-acre Princeton campus, but ongoing litigation continues to attempt to bring the WCC back to Princeton and block any land sales. 

Meanwhile the Westminster Conservatory, Rider’s community music school, continues to operate on the campus, offering a wide range of music lessons, classes, recitals, and other performance opportunities, “welcoming young musicians of all ages, skill levels, instrument preferences, and economic backgrounds,” according to the Westminster Conservatory website.

Sounding forth from the former Talbott Library on campus are the voices and instruments of the early childhood Music Together classes.  “It feels good to be using Westminster for what it was intended — beautiful,” said Sarah Orfe, director of the Music Together Princeton Lab School, which started up in its new home on the Rider Westminster campus on January 9.  more

By Stuart Mitchner

Some things that happen for the first time
Seem to be happening again

“I feel like I’ve already written about this song before,” Bob Dylan says of Rodgers and Hart’s “Where Or When,” which he saved for the last chapter of The Philosophy of Modern Song (Simon & Schuster $45). “But that’s understandable” because it “dances around the outskirts of our memory drawing us in with images of the familiar being repeated and beguiling us with lives not yet lived.”

“It’s a song of reincarnation,” Dylan adds, referring to Dion and the Belmonts’ 1959 rendition of a number first performed in the 1937 Broadway musical Babes in Arms. “History keeps repeating itself, and every moment of life is the same moment, with more than one level of meaning.” At this point, Dylan slips into the second person, as he does throughout the book and in some of his greatest songs, including “Like a Rolling Stone”: “You were having a discourse, rambling on, thinking out loud, discussing things, letting your hair down, having eyeball to eyeball encounters, playing peekaboo — going backwards, forwards, to and fro — without any difference, with an inkling that it all happened earlier, but you can’t pinpoint the location the district or the region, and now it’s happening again ….”

In fact, Dylan’s new book can be read as a coda to his acclaimed memoir Chronicles: Volume One (2004), which features scattered comments on innumerable songs and musicians, a practice he continued from 2006 to 2009 on Sirius XM’s “Theme Time Radio Hour” and again in “Murder Most Foul” (2020), the almost 17-minute-long epic that includes punning riffs on song and film titles and events of the sixties in a powerful reimagining of Kennedy’s assassination. more

By Nancy Plum

Just barely 30 years old, Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov has been racking up awards, including a Grammy for one of his many innovative recordings. New Jersey Symphony Orchestra (NJSO) has been lucky to call Trifonov a longtime friend; the acclaimed pianist spent a year-long tenure as NJSO artist-in-residence and has collaborated with NJSO music director Xian Zhang a number of times. Zhang, Trifonov, and NJSO brought their collective magic to Richardson Auditorium last weekend, presenting one of Johannes Brahms’ most towering works. Last Friday night’s performance of Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major demonstrated to a very full house not only Trifonov’s range of musical imagination, but also numerous expressive solos from NJSO players.

The first movement “Allegro” of Brahms’ concerto opened with an unaccompanied solo horn melody, richly played by principal hornist Chris Komer. As piano soloist, Trifonov delicately completed the musical sentence, leading into extended triumphant passages of solo keyboard. Trifonov played the diverse range of emotions and technical aspects of the music with ease, conveying the more majestic passages with reverence, with quick pedaling and a very light and fast right hand. From the podium, Zhang and New Jersey Symphony created a variety of dynamic effects within the graceful interplay between orchestra and solo pianist. Trifonov closed the movement with dreamy piano passages in the upper register of the instrument, leading to an elegant close.

The second movement was marked by a lean string sound and Trifonov’s nimble piano playing, punctuated by a pair of German trumpets. A refined duet between flutist Bart Feller and oboist Robert Ingliss helped sustain the ebb and flow of drama in the music. The third movement “Andante” belonged to Trifonov and principal cellist Jonathan Spitz, who opened the movement with a sweet cello solo accompanied by lower strings. Trifonov’s supple a cappella solo keyboard passages added to the song-like palette as Zhang kept the tempo and shimmering strings steady. The closing movement to this concerto was playful and full of Brahms musical humor, aided by fast piano work from Trifonov, a regal pair of clarinets and an appealing duet between oboist Ingliss and Bart Feller playing piccolo.  more

FAMILY-FRIENDLY: All ages are welcome at a concert by Dan and Claudia Zanes on Saturday, January 21 at 5 p.m., which benefits Arm in Arm.

Dan and Claudia Zanes will perform a family-friendly concert at Nassau Presbyterian Church, 61 Nassau Street, on Saturday, January 21 at 5 p.m. In lieu of tickets, audience members are asked to bring one food item to support Arm in Arm’s Valentine’s for Food Drive.

The duo of Grammy Award-winning children’s performer Dan Zanes and Haitian-American jazz vocalist Claudia Zanes will perform Dan’s greatest hits as well as folk and blues classics from their new songbook, Dan Zanes House Party! A Family Roots Music Treasury. All ages are welcome to sing and dance along to this highly interactive, celebratory community concert.

Food items suggested for donation include canned low-fructose fruit, canned low-sodium vegetables, canned tuna, salmon, chicken, or chili, canned beans, or a pound of dried beans. Nothing in glass containers can be donated. Monetary donations to Arm in Arm will also be accepted.

Visit nassauchurch.org for more information.

Joyce DiDonato

Mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato returns to Princeton University Concerts on Wednesday, February 1 at 7:30 p.m. to present EDEN, a theatrical program exploring our individual connection to nature and its impact on our world through music spanning four centuries.

This special event will take place in Richardson Auditorium, Alexander Hall. The il Pomo d’Oro orchestra, conducted by Zefira Valova, and members of the local Princeton Girlchoir will join DiDonato in performance.

Directed by stage director Marie Lambert, EDEN is a staged musical experience that invites audiences back to the Garden of Eden. As DiDonato said in the liner notes of her 2022 Grammy Award-nominated album of the same name, her selection of songs “have no boundaries — like a wild garden,” and range from baroque masterpieces of the 17th century to the world-premiere recording of “The First Morning of the World” from Academy Award-winning composer Rachel Portman.

A focus on the beauty and awe of the natural world united the diverse repertoire, and her newly commissioned works confront climate change and call for environmental activism. “With each passing day,” DiDonato said, “I trust more and more in the perfect balance, astonishing mystery and guiding force of the natural world around us, how much Mother Nature has to teach us. EDEN is an invitation to return to our roots and to explore whether or not we are connecting as profoundly as we can to the pure essence of our being, to create a new EDEN from within and plant seeds of hope for the future.” more

A dance performance by adult students of the Arts Council of Princeton’s flamenco program, led by Lisa Botalico, was a highlight of the Fiesta del Día de Los Reyes Magos, or Three Kings Day, celebration last Friday evening. The cultural holiday is celebrated throughout the world to mark the culmination of the 12 days of Christmas. (Photo by Jeffrey Tryon)

“GARDENING ANGEL”: This work by Jamie Greenfield is featured in “Manifesting Beloved Community,” on view through March 4 at West Windsor Arts. An opening reception is on Friday, January 13 from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

For the new juried exhibition “Manifesting Beloved Community,” on view through March 4 at West Windsor Arts, the West Windsor Arts Council (WWAC) and Art Against Racism invited artists to submit artwork that explores the relationship of community health with race, racism, and efforts to create an antiracist society.

Exhibiting artists include Alice Sims, Barbara Wallace, Bugzdale Jackson, Eleni Litt, Felicia Reed, Hope Vancleaf, Ilene Dube, James Long Rastus, Jamie Greenfield, Janice Gossman, Jersey House Studio, Kate Pollack, Kathleen Caprario, Marge Miccio, Marlon Davila, Marzena Haupa, Nancie Gunkelman, Onnie Strother, Rooma Sehar, Sandra Shim, Spriha Gupta, Terri McNichol, Tracy Hill, and Zakia Amed. more

“AT THE EDGE OF NIGHT”: The late J. Seward Johnson II’s Midnight Snack Art trays will be exhibited along alongside his daughter India Blake Johnson’s photography in “The Bond of Inspiration,” on view in the Silva Gallery of Art on the campus of The Pennington School January 17 through March 30. An opening reception is on February 9 from 6 to 8 p.m.

“The Bond of Inspiration,” an exhibition featuring J. Seward Johnson II’s Midnight Snack Art trays, alongside his daughter India Blake Johnson’s photography, will be presented in the Silva Gallery of Art on the campus of The Pennington School January 17 through March 30.

A reception, open to the public, will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, February 9 (snow date February 10).

In 2020, the world lost one of its most beloved and well-known artists, J. Seward Johnson II. A resident of Hopewell Valley and the son of Robert Wood Johnson, co-founder of Johnson & Johnson, Johnson was an artist who worked in many artistic disciplines and was regarded as an internationally renowned sculptor. He was a mentor to many local artists and the founder of Grounds For Sculpture and The Seward Johnson Atelier (TSJA) in Hamilton.  more

“HOMEWARD BOUND”: This watercolor by Margaret Simpson is featured in “Water, Woods & Wonder,” on view through March 5 at Tulpehaking Nature Center in Hamilton. The free exhibit is presented by the nonprofit Friends for the Abbott Marshlands.

The nonprofit Friends for the Abbott Marshlands (FFAM) present their opening exhibit of 2023, a fine art watercolor exhibit entitled “Water, Woods & Wonder,” on view through March 5 at Tulpehaking Nature Center in Hamilton. This is a first solo show for Hamilton artist Margaret Simpson at the nature center. Simpson is a volunteer and executive board member of FFAM as well as the Garden State Watercolor Society. She has led several “Art in the Marsh” sessions for FFAM and teaches watercolors at the West Windsor Senior Center.

“Water, Woods & Wonder” provides a window into the artist’s source of inspiration hiking the many trails of the Abbott Marshlands. For the “Water” component of the title, Simpson’s landscape paintings portray the Delaware River and estuary, the Delaware Bay, and several ocean and beach scenes. There are paintings of “Woods,” with the marsh and wildlife prominently displayed. Birds and sky are a reoccurring theme contributing to the “Wonder” aspect of the exhibit (the marsh holds an Important Bird Area designation).  more

January 4, 2023

By Stuart Mitchner

Just gently jam the jivin’, drum boogie, the cat is rockin’ with a solid eight, I tell you it’s more to gait, the joint is jumpin’…
—Barbara Stanwyck as Sugarpuss O’Shea

I was told that upon being asked to name his favorite among his books, Charles Dickens answered, “I love them all, but in my heart-of-hearts, I have a favorite child and his name is David Copperfield.” Well, though I love all the films I made with Fred Astaire, I, too, have a favorite child, and it is Swing Time.
—Ginger Rogers (1911-1995)

I’ve been reading Bob Dylan’s Philosophy of Modern Song (Simon & Schuster 2022), which could serve as volume two of his 2004 memoir, Chronicles, or else as a solid place-holder until the next one comes along. In the chapter “Saturday Night at the Movies,” he says “People will tell you they don’t watch old movies for a bunch of reasons — because they are in black and white or maybe there’s a two-minute sequence that changing times have rendered politically incorrect. These people lack imagination and are fine throwing out the baby with the bathwater.”

Four days into the new year, the time is right for a closer look at two terms — “modern” in the context of Dylan’s new book and “dated” relative to the 1941 screwball comedy romance Ball of Fire, which is about, among other things, New York City, night clubs, gangsters, love, art, jazz, sex, and a group of scholars at work on the “encyclopedia of all human knowledge,” with a New Jersey denouement in an imaginary inn near Kingston. Also about New York and night clubs, the 1937 Astaire-Rogers musical Swing Time’s screwball comedy of a plot is patched together around dance sequences that prove time and again that charm is never dated. In both films, which are a treat for the eye, ear, and spirit in any season, not least on New Year’s Eve, the standout “songs” are spectacles — “Drum Boogie,” a word-jazz jam, and “Never Gonna Dance,” a sublime lament.