April 20, 2022

By Stuart Mitchner

The way that history has taken has been so filthy, such a carrion-strewn path of lies and baseness, that no one need be ashamed of refusing to travel along it, even if it should lead to goals we might commend if reached by other paths.

   —Thomas Mann, from a letter (1938)

… grave, genial, aloof, a little shy still because of his English, [Mann] was silent most of the time: but his deep feeling in the reading of his paper on democracy impressed everyone: at one point he could hardly keep back his tears.

—Lewis Mumford (1940)

The passages above appear in Stanley Corngold’s The Mind in Exile: Thomas Mann in Princeton (Princeton University Press 2022). The first is from a letter Mann wrote on his September 1938 arrival in Princeton; the second is from an account of his appearance at the City of Man conference in Atlantic City, May 1940. I added this glimpse of Mann writing and speaking to supplement the cover image, shown here, in which he eyes the reader with a look that seems to say “Who are you, why are you here, and what do you want?”

What a contrast is the cover of The Magician, Colm Tóibín’s 2021 novel about Mann and his family — a treat for the eyes, the packaging bold and bright, with Mann nowhere to be seen, unless you count the dark figure in the foreground gazing at a Venetian fantasia, San Marco in a mist. The dust jacket hooks are all about Tóibín, “the bestselling author of The Master and Brooklyn, one of today’s most brilliant and beloved novelists.”

Unfortunately Tóibín ran into problems when attempting to “saturate himself in the dense intellectual world of Mann,” as D.T. Max reports in the September 20, 2021 New Yorker. Tóibín knew that he could “capture Mann’s erotic yearnings and his conflicts with his children; but could he make repartee about abstract ideas come alive on the page?” Apparently not. His editors told him that ideas “stopped the novel in its tracks,” and he agreed. more

By Nancy Plum

Each year, the Princeton University Orchestra designs its final concert of the season as both a tribute to former Orchestra percussionist Stuart Mindlin and a send-off to the ensemble’s graduating seniors. Over the years, these performances have often presented a single massive orchestral work, but as with many musical events these past months, things are a little different. Led by conductor Michael Pratt, the University Orchestra performed four pieces which may have looked as though they had little in common but were in fact interconnected through their themes of common struggles against tyranny, racism, and intolerance toward diverse backgrounds. The four works of Ludwig van Beethoven, Carlos Chavez, William Grant Still and Leonard Bernstein spoke to both liberty and loss, as well as hope and love, with messages the graduating seniors can take with them as they launch their new lives outside the University.

The Orchestra opened Friday night’s concert at Richardson Auditorium (the performance was repeated Saturday night) with a classic well-known to the ensemble. Beethoven’s Leonore Overture No. 3, Opus 72a was intended for an 1806 production of Beethoven’s opera Fidelio. In a single movement, this work travels from the despair of the prisoner Florestan to energetic fire and finally to victory through Beethoven’s trademark symphonic joy. From the solid opening chords, the Orchestra was always responsive to Pratt’s musical leadership, with the drama of the music building slowly through the introductory passages. Flutist Christine Deng’s chipper playing aided in a smooth transition to the overture’s familiar themes, with a trio of trombones and pair of trumpets adding subtle brass color, as well as a dramatic offstage trumpet. Dynamic swells were well-executed, and drama was maintained through effective sforzandi and the precise playing of timpanist Elijah Shina. Flutist Deng and oboist Jeremy Chen were paired in expressive musical passages, and the Orchestra was effective in creating a fast and furious musical swirl to the closing coda. more

BELOVED BEAR: Paddington is the subject of a musical, based on Michael Bond’s books, coming to New Brunswick this weekend.

The family-oriented comedy Paddington Gets in a Jam comes to State Theatre New Jersey, 15 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick on Saturday, April 23 at 1 p.m. Tickets range from $15-$65.

The show was created and directed by Jonathan Rockefeller. The production has garnered a Drama Desk and Off-Broadway Alliance nomination for Best Family Show. The production brings the famous bear to the stage for the first time with a new adventure inspired by Britsh-born Michael Bond’s book series. For over 60 years, Bond has written stories about Paddington, the bear from Darkest Peru, famous for his love of marmalade. Paddington is popular with both children and adults. His adventures have been adapted several times for television, with his debut onto the big screen in 2014. A second film, Paddington 2, followed in 2017 and a third film is in the works.     

Visit STNJ.org for tickets and further information.

BACK ON CAMPUS: Famed guitarist Stanley Jordan, who graduated from Princeton University in 1981, leads a master class Thursday, April 21. (Photo courtesy of Stanley Jordan)

On April 21 at 4:30 p.m., Princeton University welcomes back alumnus Stanley Jordan ’81, considered one of the greatest living jazz guitarists, back to campus to share his knowledge and experience with the Princeton community. The public is invited to observe an open master class where Jordan will work and perform with current students from the Department of Music’s Jazz Program at Lee Music Performance and Rehearsal Room in the Lewis Arts complex.

Jordan is a guitarist and composer who has made a major impact on the music scene since his rise to fame in the mid-1980s. He is widely regarded as the foremost expert of the touch, or tapping technique, in which a guitarist uses both hands on the neck of the instrument, allowing him to play simultaneous melodies with a degree of independence previously possible only on the piano. Today this technique is common among guitarists, however, when Jordan started it was virtually unheard of. While at Princeton, Jordan’s technique caught the eye of visiting jazz lecturer Benny Carter, who invited Jordan to join himself and Dizzy Gillespie in a performance at Princeton’s Alexander Hall in 1979. more

LONGING FOR PEACE: A concert by Voices Chorale NJ, with the Berks Sinfonietta, is centered around music focused on peace. Artistic Director David A. McConnell directs.

On Saturday, April 30 at 8 p.m., Voices Chorale NJ presents an in-person and live-streamed concert that was originally planned for the spring of 2020 but was postponed due to the pandemic. At Trinity Church, 33 Mercer Street, the chorale will be accompanied by pianist Akiko Hosaki and the 16-piece Berks Sinfonietta, an intergenerational chamber orchestra co-founded and directed by Voices Artistic Director David A. McConnell.

The chorale will perform various pieces from Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and Contemporary periods. These works express the longing for peace through distinct approaches. Though little known, Handel’s rarely performed Anthem on the Peace contains musical themes echoing his other works. Selections by Mendelssohn and Haydn reflect peace within the context of Christian musical traditions. Contemporary pieces include And for a Breath by Ryan Main, A Prayer of Compassion by Gwyneth Walker, and 1000 Beautiful Things by Annie Lennox of the Eurhythmics.

Voices Chorale NJ originally planned to perform this selection of music in the spring of 2020. That makes performing together in person even more relevant, especially due to current world events. “We will accomplish something good if we have people thinking about their role in creating peace,” said McConnell. “If they leave comforted and challenged by the texts, we will have made the words speak more clearly through the music.”

McConnell added, “The idea of peace is something I think about a great deal. These days I can barely stand to listen to the news, because at its core, most of the stories we hear are about an inability or unwillingness to get along with others. People have disagreed with one another surely since the beginning of time, certainly as long as I have been alive. And yet, I cannot recall another time where the idea of disagreeing led to viewing the other side as the enemy.” more

“THEDA SANDIFORD: JOYFUL RESISTANCE”: Works by award-winning, self-taught fiber and installation artist Sandiford are featured in a new exhibit at The Center for Contemporary Art in Bedminster. The Center will also host solo exhibits by Lily Colman, Jennifer Croson, and Debra Samdperil from April 22 through June 4.

The Center for Contemporary Art in Bedminster has announced the opening of four solo exhibitions beginning April 22 and remaining on view through June 4. The opening reception will be held on Friday, April 22 from 6 to 8 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

“Lily Colman: The Knots on the Underside of the Carpet” presents the work of Lily Madeleine Colman a film-based photographer from Philadelphia, where she currently lives and works. Colman was most recently featured in the 2021 International Juried Exhibition at The Center for Contemporary Art, where she was awarded First Prize and a Solo Exhibition. She also won Second Place for the 2021 Foto Forum Santa Fe Photography Award, and had a virtual solo exhibition featured on their website. She completed her master’s degree in photography from the Rhode Island School of Design in May 2020, as well as a Certificate in Collegiate Teaching in Art and Design. She earned her BA in fine art portrait photography and curatorial studies in May 2013 from Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass.  more

“FISH CAR”: Works by artist Jeanine Pennell are among those featured in the self-guided Covered Bridge Artisans Studio Tour to be held on April 30 and May 1 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Delaware River Valley of lower Hunterdon and Bucks counties.

The Covered Bridge Artisans Studio Tour is a self-guided tour located in the Delaware River Valley of lower Hunterdon and Bucks counties. The studio tour takes place in seven professional artists’ studios in Lambertville, Stockton, New Hope, and Sergeantsville areas with 14 additional artists at the Sergeantsville Firehouse Events Center.  All studios are located within 5 miles of Stockton.

For 27 years the Covered Bridge Artisans have hosted an annual Thanksgiving weekend tour, but decided to introduce a spring event this year on April 30 and May 1 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., in alliance with the Hunterdon Art Tour.  The weekend will provide a rare opportunity to see so many open studios regionally. Visitors can have the opportunity to visit the workshops, shop for distinctive gifts, and learn from each artist about how and where they create their work. 

The Covered Bridge Artisans Studio Tour is an introduction to a varied group of professional artists creating work throughout the year.  The group features a variety of artisans working in glass, jewelry, ceramics, photography, cast bronze, painting, weaving, bookbinding, woodworking, quilting and more. 

For more information, and a map connected to GPS links, visit coveredbridgeartisans.com.

MAPPING HISTORY: “A Map of the Trenton to New Brunswick Turnpike-road,” circa early 1800s, is featured in “Kingston: On the Map,” on view at the D&R Canal Locktender’s House through November. (Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division)

“Kingston: On The Map” is now on exhibit in the History Room at the D&R Canal Locktender’s House, on old Lincoln Highway (off Route 27) in Kingston on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. through November. Masks and distancing are requested. 

The village of Kingston has hosted colonial taverns, armies during the American Revolution, canal boats, railroad trains, and travelers on the Lincoln Highway. One of the oldest settlements in central New Jersey, Kingston evolved with America over its 340-year history. 

The display uses journal entries and prints of a dozen historical maps to illustrate Kingston’s evolution, from settlement to commercial center to modern community.  One map shows how Kingston moved between the colonies of East and West New Jersey. Another shows both Kingston and Princeton divided by county lines. Railroads appeared in the 19th century, disappearing by the 20th. The Delaware and Raritan Canal was built for commerce, but is now a recreation destination. more

Works from the estate of Peter Miller, shown in her studio, will be on view in “Peter Miller — Forgotten Woman of American Modernism,” running April 23 through May 31 at Gratz Gallery and Conservation Studio in Doylestown, Pa. A 40th anniversary party for the gallery and preview of the exhibit are on April 23 from 5 to 9 p.m. For more information, visit gratzgallery.com. (Julien Levy Gallery Records, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Library and Archive)

April 13, 2022

By Stuart Mitchner

I think of National Poetry Month as a celebration not only of poems on the printed page but of poetry in the largest sense, as a metaphor encompassing everything from a stunning sunset to the power of the human spirit mounted against a humanitarian crisis like the one consuming Ukraine. As it happens, Anton Chekhov (1860-1904), one of the foremost poets of the human spirit, was born an easy drive from the razed port city of Mariupol, where hundreds of men, women, and children perished during the bombing of the theater in which his plays were regularly performed.

Chekhov the Ventriloquist

A Washington Post story on the bombing of the Drama Theater of Mariupol imagines Chekhov weeping at the spectacle of such “savagery perpetuated in Russia’s name.” Uncle Vanya might weep but surely not Chekhov. I prefer to imagine him as an enlightened ventriloquist speaking furious, hard, enduringly relevant truths through characters like Dr. Astroff in Uncle Vanya. His speech in the first act could almost be shaped to fit the occasion, as if he were bravely tending to the survivors: “Such dirt there was, and smoke! Unspeakable! I slaved among those people all day, not a crumb passed my lips, but when I got home there was still no rest for me; a switchman was carried in from the railroad; I laid him on the operating table and he died in my arms under chloroform, and then my feelings that should have been deadened awoke again, my conscience tortured me as if I had killed the man. I sat down and closed my eyes … and thought: will our descendants two hundred years from now … remember to give us a kind word? No, they will forget.” more

A FAVORITE RETURNS: The “Riverdance 25th Anniversary Show” stops at New Brunswick’s State Theatre New Jersey on its current tour, April 19-21.

The Riverdance 25th Anniversary Show comes to the State Theatre New Jersey for three performances April 19-21 at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $40-$98. 

The popular dance phenomenon from Ireland comes to New Brunswick as part of an anniversary tour. Composer Bill Whelan has rerecorded his soundtrack while producer Moya Doherty and director John McColgan have completely reimagined the show with innovative lighting, projection, stage, and costume designs. 

Director John McColgan said, “We have assembled an extraordinary company of performers and we are thrilled for this brand new 25th anniversary production of Riverdance to be on the road again welcoming audiences back to the theater.”  more

VIOLIN VIRTUOSO: Stefan Jackiw is the soloist with the Princeton Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Rossen Milanov, at Richardson Auditorium May 7 and 8. (Photo by Sangwook Lee)

On Saturday, May 7 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, May 8 at 4 p.m., the Princeton Symphony Orchestra (PSO) presents its Milanov & Jackiw concert featuring violin virtuoso Stefan Jackiw. Jackiw performs Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s lush Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35 on a program with Gabriela Lena Frank’s Elegía Andina and Felix Mendelssohn’s “Scottish” Symphony No. 3 in A Minor, Op. 56. Edward T. Cone Music Director Rossen Milanov conducts both concerts at Richardson Auditorium in Alexander Hall, on the campus of Princeton University.

Milanov and Jackiw are no strangers, having performed with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in 2015, the RTV Slovenia Symphony Orchestra in 2019, and, most recently, with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra this past October. Milanov invited the violinist to play with the PSO in March 2020, but that performance was pre-empted by the pandemic. Milanov said, “I’m so pleased to finally be able to collaborate with Stefan Jackiw here with the Princeton Symphony Orchestra in such an intimate setting as Richarsdson Auditorium. His intelligent and virtuosic interpretation of Korngold’s concerto is not to be missed.” more

OPERAS, POPS, JAZZ AND MORE: Storm Large stars in Kurt Weill’s “The Seven Deadly Sins” at the June 10 opening of the Princeton Festival, outdoor at Trinity Church and Morven.

The Princeton Symphony Orchestra (PSO) has announced that tickets are now available for the 18th Princeton Festival, June 10-25, by phone at (609) 497-0020 and online at Princetonsymphony.org/festival.

This year’s festival will include three staged operas, chamber music, orchestral and pops concerts, plus cabaret and jazz nights all taking place under the festival’s outdoor performance tent being erected on the grounds of Morven Museum & Garden. Baroque concerts will be held across the way at Trinity Episcopal Church.

The new artistic head of the Princeton Festival responsible for its creative programming is Princeton Symphony Orchestra’s Edward T. Cone Music Director Rossen Milanov. “This is an extraordinary event,” he said. “I love bringing a community together through shared musical experiences. My hope is that people who come to the festival will see it as a relaxed and welcoming environment in which to try something new, like attend an opera, sit in on a jazz set, or learn about Baroque music. It is all that a summer festival should be.” more

BRINGING JOY: Princeton Pro Musica presents “Shout for Joy” at Princeton University Chapel.

On Saturday, May 7 at 7:30 p.m., Princeton Pro Musica will perform its final concert of the season titled Shout For Joy! At Princeton University Chapel.

Featuring University Organist Eric Plutz, the concert will open with the Requiem by Maurice Duruflé. Also included on the program will be Trinity Te Deum by Eriks Ešenvalds, and Shout For Joy by Adolphus Hailstork. Artistic Director Ryan James Brandau leads the chorus, orchestra and soloists.

Soloists are Margaret Lias and Dominic Inferrera. Brandau serves as artistic director of Princeton Pro Musica, Monmouth Civic Chorus, and Amor Artis in New York City. As an orchestral and choral arranger, he has created many works for his and others’ ensembles.

Tickets are available at www.princetonpromusica.org, or by calling (609) 683-5122. All patrons must wear a mask and provide proof of COVID vaccination and booster along with photo ID.

“PLAYHOUSE REFLECTIONS”: This oil painting by George Thompson is featured in “Side by Side: A Celebration of Work from Our Studio,” his dual exhibit with Emily Thompson, on view through May 1 at Stover Mill Gallery in Erwinna, Pa.

Stover Mill Gallery in Erwinna, Pa., now presents “Side by Side: A Celebration of Work from Our Studio,” on view through May 1.

This two-person exhibit features works created in the Plumsteadville, Pa., studio of artists Emily and George Thompson. The couple shares a studio and while they rarely collaborate, they are motivated and benefit from each other’s influence and feedback. Inspiring one another has always been an important part of how they work. This show highlights their different painting styles and techniques, ranging from traditional to contemporary. As they embrace the art community that they have now been a part of for 22 years, they reflect on the work they’ve done and continue to do so, “side by side.”

Emily Thompson attended the High School of Art & Design and earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the School of Visual Arts in New York. She is a nationally recognized, award-winning artist. Through her painting she documents the ordinary, the everyday, the disappearing, the nostalgic, the abandoned, and the identity of the American landscape. Inspiration comes from urban and industrial scenery, roadside and rural locations and vintage signage and typography. Her work is part of private collections throughout the United States and has been exhibited at the Woodmere Museum in Philadelphia, The Philadelphia Sketch Club, The Trenton City Museum, The Monmouth Museum, and the John F. Peto Museum in New Jersey, as well as galleries in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Oregon, and California. She was chosen as one of the 50 Most Memorable Artists of 2015 by The Artist Portfolio Magazine, was featured in the June 2017 issue of The Artist’s Magazine, and included as part of “Artists We’re Loving Now: 30 Competition Winners” in March 2018 issue of The Artists Magazine.

George Thompson earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from Pratt Institute in New York and also studied painting and drawing at The Art Students League. He specializes in landscape, portrait, and figure painting in a contemporary, traditional style. His nationally recognized, award-winning work has been exhibited at the The Woodmere Museum in Philadelphia, The Philadelphia Sketch Club, and The Trenton City Museum in New Jersey. His paintings are also part of the permanent collection at The Art Students League and hang in collections throughout the United States. His portraits have appeared twice on the cover of The Artist’s Magazine and he has written articles for them as well. As an art educator, Thompson has taught painting and drawing at Delaware Valley University and continues to teach workshops, classes and private lessons.

Stover Mill Gallery is located at 852 River Road in Erwinna, Pa. It is open Saturdays and Sundays from 1-5 p.m. Free admission. For more information, call (610) 294-9420.

“STORY OF THE HUNT”: Works from the estate of female American modernist Peter Miller will be on view in an exhibition running April 23 through May 31 at The Gratz Gallery and Conservation Studio in Doylestown, Pa.

Gratz Gallery and Conservation Studio Inc. has announced its 40th anniversary celebration and upcoming exhibition of the estate of Peter Miller, a female American modernist, on view April 23 through May 31. A preview and anniversary party for “Peter Miller – Forgotten Woman of American Modernism” will be held on April 23 from 5 to 9 p.m. at the gallery in Doylestown, Pa. A selection of her works will also be featured at the 60th Annual Philadelphia Show, held April 28 to May 1 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

For 40 years, Gratz Gallery has taken pride in supporting the arts and communities of New Hope, Bucks County, Philadelphia, and the Delaware Valley. They have worked with many organizations over the years, including the James A. Michener Art Museum, the Princeton University Art Museum, Morven Museum & Garden, the Drumthwacket Foundation, Princeton University, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Mercer Museum, the Woodmere Art Museum, The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, The Pennsylvania Historical Society, the Travis Manion Foundation, AIDS Walk New Hope, and the Salvation Army, to name a few.

This year the gallery has announced its commitment for a portion of their sales to be designated to the Philadelphia organization Philabundance.

Over the years, Gratz Gallery has promoted and featured many important female, American artists from the New Hope Circle, The Philadelphia Ten, and students from The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.  It has always been their belief that female artists more often do not receive the deserved recognition for their work and talent. It is their hope that women artists from history and current times are finally being seen, reevaluated, and honored for their contributions to the American art community. more

“BEING AND THERE”: An exhibit featuring the work of New York-based photographer Joseph Lawton is on view at Mercer County Community College’s James Kerney Campus Gallery in Trenton through May 13. A reception and artist talk will be held in person and via Zoom on Saturday, April 23 from 1 to 3 p.m.

Mercer County Community College’s (MCCC’s) James Kerney Campus Gallery (JKCG) presents its latest photography exhibit, “Being and There,” on view through May 13. The traveling exhibit features the work of New York-based photographer Joseph Lawton. 

A reception and artist talk will be held on Saturday, April 23 from 1 to 3 p.m. The public is invited in-person or by appointment via Zoom. Reservations are required.

“Being and There” features early black and white photography from Lawton’s extensive travels circa 1983 to 1994. Michael Chovan-Dalton, director of JKC Gallery, describes Lawton as a modern-era wanderer. 

“Joe hitchhiked his way from New York to Colorado to attend college, and soon after he hitchhiked his way through Central America after he discovered photography,” said Chovan-Dalton. “The work in this show is an expression of someone wanting to be part of the greater community, someone who is always moving so he can stop and be there.”  more

“THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY”: Alchemical “Ripley Scrolls,” named after the English alchemist George Ripley, are featured in a new Princeton University Library exhibit now on view in the Ellen and Leonard Milberg Gallery, Firestone Library.

Princeton University Library’s (PUL) latest exhibition, “Through a Glass Darkly: Alchemy and the Ripley Scrolls 1400-1700,” shows how European alchemists built on Greco-Egyptian, Islamic, and late medieval foundations to create a golden age of alchemy from the 15th century to the time of Sir Isaac Newton. Rich in color and symbolism, the exhibition features two alchemical “Ripley Scrolls,” named after the English alchemist George Ripley, which rank among the most spectacular products of this tradition. The exhibition is now on view in the Ellen and Leonard Milberg Gallery, Firestone Library.

In pre-modern Europe, alchemy was a science of change. Medieval alchemists experimented with medicinal elixirs to counter the public health crisis of their era — the bubonic plague — and attempted to transmute base metals into gold and silver to solve the region’s precious metal shortage. They also sought to repair alchemy’s old associations with fraud. more

April 6, 2022

By Stuart Mitchner

My point of entry to Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s Oscar-winning picture Drive My Car was through the title, which his film shares with the opening track on Rubber Soul and the story by Haruki Murakami that opens his 2017 collection, Men Without Women. The Beatles connection continues in the next story, which begins and ends with a character who composes and sings deranged lyrics to “Yesterday.” The second track on Rubber Soul gave Murakami the title for his 1987 novel, Norwegian Wood, a book I look forward to reading, along with The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, which Patti Smith celebrates in her memoir M-Train.

The Cities Game

Finding Murakami in the environs of Hamaguchi was like discovering a thriving metropolis enroute to another, smaller, newer city. Now I’m heading down the road to a sprawling composite of Hamburg, Berlin, and Paris, Texas named Wim Wenders, which I first visited in his film The American Friend, released in 1979, the same year Murakami published his first novel, Hear the Wind Sing. Somewhere in the same enormous state (think of Texas, Ohio and New Jersey all in one), you’ll find Jim Jarmusch Junction, mapped out somewhere between Hoboken, Memphis, and Paterson. more

By Nancy Plum

Princeton University Chamber Choir returned to live performance last Saturday night making a statement. Led by conductor Gabriel Crouch, the 48-voice chorus presented a program originally scheduled for April 2020, but which was just as profound today, both in perseverance of the singers and the creativity the canceled concert generated during the University’s shutdowns. Past and present came together in the Chamber Choir’s concert at Richardson Auditorium as the choristers emerged from the pandemic to find even more meaning in the works of Francis Poulenc and Mary Lou Williams. As a further acknowledgement of current times, the Chamber Choir presented this performance in collaboration with “02.24.2022,” a student-driven initiative supporting students on campus affected by the war in Ukraine and raising funds to provide local currency to refugees. 

Princeton University graduate Allison Spann is no stranger to University musical ensembles; her compositions have been played on campus before. Having lost a chunk of her senior year to the spring 2020 shutdown, Spann took the opportunity to create a work for the Chamber Choir which explored the connections between Poulenc’s Figure Humaine and Williams’ St. Martin de Porres, honoring both composers and their pursuit of divine liberation through music.

Spann commanded the stage herself for the Chamber Choir’s performance of her piece Before the light is gone. The Choir’s presentation of Spann’s work had the atmosphere of a jazz club, with Spann singing the soprano solo accompanied by the expert jazz piano accompaniment of Cherry Ge and Phillip Taylor. Spann’s work is mostly for solo voice (representing liberty, freedom or earth), with reaffirmation of text by the chorus (as mankind). Following a recited opening verse, Spann reached effectively into her upper register with a scatt singing effect, soaring above smooth homophonic chords sung by the Chamber Choir. An octet singing from the front of the stage showed Spann’s skill at writing music for close harmonies, with tricky dissonances well-handled and all singers conveying Spann’s wish to “pave the way for hope through rest, generosity, and compassion.”  more

AUDRA MCDONALD: National Medal of Arts winner Audra McDonald (above) performed April 2 at McCarter’s Matthews Theatre, accompanied by Andy Einhorn. (Photo courtesy of McCarter Theatre)

By Donald H. Sanborn III

Award-winning singer and actor Audra McDonald performed at McCarter this past Saturday night. The concert, which played to a packed Matthews Theatre, featured a selection of Broadway standards. The evening was by turns uplifting and introspective. McDonald’s range and stellar vocal technique, and her respect and passion for material on which she was determined to make her own, all were on display.

In addition to six Tony Awards, two Grammy Awards, and an Emmy, McDonald has received a National Medal of Arts. Her numerous stage credits include Ragtime and Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune. The Juilliard-trained soprano’s opera credits include Houston Grand Opera and Los Angeles Opera. Screen credits include the HBO series The Gilded Age, as well as the Aretha Franklin biopic, Respect.

McDonald was accompanied by Broadway music director and conductor Andy Einhorn. Multiple songs heard in the concert appear on McDonald’s 2018 album Sing Happy, for which Einhorn conducted the New York Philharmonic.

Einhorn struck one key on the piano, which was a sufficient introduction for McDonald to launch into the stirring opening number, “I Am What I Am.” Early in the song Einhorn’s accompaniment was comparatively spare; as McDonald’s impassioned performance grew in speed and intensity, Einhorn’s accompaniment grew more elaborate. more

“FALSETTOS” ON STAGE: William Finn and James Lapine’s groundbreaking musical is at Kelsey Theatre through April 10. (Photo courtesy of Playful Theatre)

Falsettos, William Finn and James Lapine’s musical from 1992, is currently on stage at Kelsey Theatre on the West Windsor campus of Mercer County Community College, 1200 Old Trenton Road. The play runs through April 10.

Presented by Playful Theatre, Falsettos is a comedy that depicts a modern family before its time. It revolves around the life of a charming, intelligent, neurotic gay man named Marvin; his wife; lover; about-to-be-bar-mitzvahed son; their psychiatrist; and the lesbians next door. The show reveals the infinite possibilities that make up a contemporary family. The show was nominated for seven Tony Awards, winning awards for Best Book and Best Original Score.

Remaining performances are Friday and Saturday, April 8 and 9 at 8 p.m.; and Sunday, April 10 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $22. Visit KelseyTheatre.org or call (609) 570-3333.

MUSICAL-IN-PROGRESS: Director, choreographer, and Princeton Arts Fellow Will Davis (in horse mask) and composer Truth Future Bachman, are featured in “HORSEMANSHIP.” (Photo by Jonathan Sweeney)

The Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University presents HORSEMANSHIP, a new musical-in-progress about being transgender and searching for the kind of person you want to be … and horses. The musical was conceived by Princeton University Arts Fellow Will Davis and created by Will Davis and Truth Future Bachman.

Davis is a trans-identified director and choreographer focused on physically adventurous new work for the stage. Bachman is a composer, vocalist, and writer of socially focused musicals who uses they/them/their pronouns.

Performances will be on Friday and Saturday, April 8 and 9 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, April 10 at 2 p.m. in the Wallace Theater at the Lewis Arts complex on the Princeton campus. The event is free and open to the public, however advanced tickets are required through University Ticketing and can be reserved at tickets.princeton.edu.

POETRY THROUGH SONG: Songwriter Jason Isbell, shown here, teams up with S.G. Goodman for an appearance at the State Theatre New Jersey on Friday, April 8 at 8 p.m.

The State Theatre New Jersey presents Jason Isbell with special guest S.G. Goodman on Friday, April 8, at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $45-$199.

Isbell is a native of north Alabama, known for his ability to identify and articulate human emotions and turn them into poetry through song. His first album, in 2013, was Southeastern. His next two albums, Something More Than Free (2015) and The Nashville Sound (2017), won Grammy Awards for Best Americana Album and Best American Roots Song. Isbell’s song “Maybe It’s Time” was featured in the 2019 reboot of A Star Is Born. His most recent full-length album, Reunions (2020), is a collection of 10 new songs. In April of 2021, it was announced that Isbell would appear in the upcoming Martin Scorsese film, Killers of the Flower Moonmore

BLUES AND MORE: North Carolina-based duo Jon Shain and FJ Ventre bring their blend of blues, bluegrass, swing, and ragtime to Princeton on April 22. (Photo by Stan Lewis)

On Friday, April 22 at 8 p.m. in Christ Congregational Church, 50 Walnut Lane, the Princeton Folk Music Society presents the duo of Jon Shain and FJ Ventre. Their music is blues-based, with elements of bluegrass, swing, and ragtime.

Shain is a veteran singer/songwriter who took first place in the solo/duo category of the 2019 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tenn. Ventre plays upright bass and does vocal harmonies. They have been friends since 1982, when they started playing in bands together as high school students in Massachusetts.

Tickets are $25; $20 for members; $10 for students ages 12-22; and $5 for children under 12. Masks and full proof of vaccination are required. Tickets are available at the door. Visit Princetonfolk.org for more information.