November 2, 2022

Roberta Maxwell

The Dryden Ensemble opens its new season with “Versailles: Intrigue & Envy.” Performances will take place on Saturday, November 12 at 7:30 p.m. at Trinity Episcopal Church Solebury, 6587 Upper York Road, Solebury, Pa; and on Sunday, November 13 at 3 p.m. at Seminary Chapel, located on the campus of the Princeton Theological Seminary, 64 Mercer Street.

“Versailles: Intrigue & Envy” features actors Roberta Maxwell and Paul Hecht in a dramatic musical entertainment combining music from the court of Louis XIV with readings from the celebrated letters of Madame de Sévigné and from letters and memoirs written by Captain d’Artagnan of the Musketeers, John Evelyn, Voltaire, and others.

The script recounts tales of court intrigues, the original d’Artagnan (captain of the Musketeers), Louis XIV’s persecution of the Protestants, poisonings in Paris, and the invasion of England by William of Orange. The players will perform music by Jean-Baptiste Lully and François Couperin, keyboard solos by Louis Couperin, lute solos by Jacque Gallot and others, and movements from Marin Marais’s Pièces en trio as well as his Suite in B Minor for bass viol, performed by Lisa Terry, a virtuoso player of that instrument.

Maxwell, known to Princeton audiences for the role of Edna in Edward Albee’s A Delicate Balance at McCarter Theatre, has performed with Ethan Hawke in Chekhov›s Ivanhov at Classic Stage in N.Y., on Broadway in Equus, Othello, Henry V, and The Merchant of Venice, and off-Broadway in Stevie, Ashes (Obie Award), Mary Stuart, A Whistle in the Dark (Obie Award), and many others. more

MAKING A HOMETOWN STOP: Singer/songwriter Avi Wisnia returns to West Windsor Arts for a program of music and story-telling.

West Windsor Arts is welcoming back singer-songwriter Avi Wisnia for a special night of music and storytelling on Saturday, November 5, 7 p.m. at 952 Alexander Road in Princeton Junction.

The concert will be a homecoming for the award-winning musician, who has strong and sentimental ties to the West Windsor community. It was at the art center that Wisnia, whose music is an eclectic blend of 1950s West Coast jazz, acoustic American folk, Brazilian bossa nova, and contemporary piano pop, performed a decade ago upon the release of his debut album, Something New.

Wisnia is returning to West Windsor Arts with an ensemble of musicians to celebrate the release of his new album, Catching Leaves. Produced by bassist/conductor Ken Pendergast, Catching Leaves is a collection of songs about living in the moment and surrendering to forces beyond our control.

“This is a very special concert for so many reasons,” said Aylin Green, executive director of the arts center. We are honored that Avi considers us his hometown venue, and to have the chance to present an evening of music that brings us together and feeds the soul. We all really need that right now.” more

“PLAYTIME”: This oil painting by Mary Lou Thomas is featured in “Art Overlook,” a group exhibition of works by students of Charles David Viera, on view November 7 through December 10 at the Flemington Free Public Library.

The Flemington Free Public Library and Readington Parks and Recreation presents “Art Overlook,” an exhibition featuring art by adult students studying painting with artist Charles David Viera at classes held at the Dobozynski Farm in Readington Township. The exhibition is on view November 7 through December 10, with  an opening reception on November 12 from 12 to 2 p.m.

“I think the public will enjoy this exhibition as it includes many paintings of local landscapes, portraits and a variety subjects interpreted in a number of diverse styles of easel painting,” said Viera. “Most of my students are women and men that are retired from the workforce or balancing jobs and family responsibilities. I think that demographic is a creative source that is sometimes overlooked and this exhibition will shine a spotlight on those artists. Many of the artists exhibiting are cultivating exhibitions in other venues and several were recently represented in exhibitions at the Ellarslie Museum, West Windsor Arts Council, and the Phillips’ Mill.”

Inez Bastido Kline, one of the artists in the exhibition, said, “I love the Dobozynski Farm Park for outdoor painting. No matter where you look there is something interesting to capture from any angle. Indoor painting is also a lot of fun. The still lives and other projects really pushed the envelope for me. I have been a student with Charles for years.“

The Flemington Free Public Library is located at 118 Main Street in Flemington. For more information, visit charlesdavidviera.com or readingtonrecreation.org.

“MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE”: This mixed media collage by Nancie Gunkelman is part of “Escape from Reality,” on view November 5 through December 3 at the Plainsboro Library Gallery.

Artist Nancie Gunkelman describes the work she did during  the pandemic as “bingeing on collage.” Beginning November 5, the gallery at Plainsboro Public Library will exhibit 13 of her colorful mixed media collages in a show entitled “Escape from Reality.” The exhibition will continue through December 24.

The collages are a departure (“escape”) from Gunkelman’s  usual  style. “Normally I paint and draw and most of my work is representational,” she said. The collages,  paper on canvas, are more abstract than representational. Gunkelman describes them as “very imaginative and emotional.”

“Most artists reach a point where they want to refresh whatever they are working on, to change direction and get to another plateau,” she continues.

She promises that the collages, while abstract, contain elements that viewers will recognize. “I don’t want people to be intimidated, but to be open to a gut reaction, to a couple of minutes of visual experience,” she said.

A trained medical illustrator who began her career at the San Francisco Veterans Administration Hospital, Gunkelman  later served in the Peace Corps, designing educational materials for the Medical Training Center in Nairobi, Kenya. She has also worked on health education programs for the United Nations and for nonprofit organizations in Jamaica, Somalia, Sao Tome and Principe, and Nigeria. more

“BULLET THE BLUE SKY”: Jackie Neale, whose work is shown here, and Mel Evans will be featured at the “Twosday Talks” photography presentation on November 8 at 6:30 p.m. The event will be held both in person at Mercer County Community College’s JKC Gallery in Trenton and online via Zoom.

Mercer County Community College’s James Kerney Campus (JKC) Gallery at 137 North Broad Street in Trenton hosts its next “Twosday Talks” photography presentation November 8 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. This month will feature works and presentations by artists Mel Evans and Jackie Neale. Talks will take place live and on the Zoom conferencing platform. All are invited to register at jkcgallery.online.

“Twosday Talks” is curated by Heather Palecek and Habiyb Shu’Aib and hosted by Professor Michael Chovan-Dalton, director of JKC Gallery.

Chovan-Dalton said, “This will be our last ‘Twosday Talks’ of the semester and I am pleased to welcome artists Jackie Neale and Mel Evans who will share their works and discuss their personal approaches to artistic expression.”

Neale is a Brooklyn- and Philadelphia-based artist, photographer, imaging specialist, photo director, and producer who is inspired through interpersonal relationships and the barrier that disappears/appears once a camera is introduced to the mix. Also an author, Neale focuses on using historical, traditional, digital and experimental processes for multimedia documentary portrait projects. A professor of photography at Saint Joseph’s University and New York Film Academy in New York City, Neale is known for her work in social activism and chronicling the experience of immigration in the U.S. and Europe. more

“CLIMATE CHANGE LANDSCAPE” This work by Susan Hockaday is featured in “Artists for Ukraine,” a special fundraiser and exhibition on view, along with “Off the Wall Holiday Market,” at West Windsor Arts through January 7.

West Windsor Arts presents the 12th annual “Off the Wall Holiday Market” where you can support local, do good, and have fun while holiday shopping. The show features over 100 works of original art by 47 artists, all priced at $400 or less, and a large selection of handcrafted items made by 11 artisans including jewelry, women’s accessories, ceramics, and one-of-a-kind notecards.

In addition, “Artists for Ukraine,” a special fundraiser and exhibition organized by Madelaine Shellaby and Ilene Dube, will include a group of 12 artists who have chosen to donate 100 percent of their proceeds to raise funds for Ukraine. The artists include Tasha Branham, Anne Elliott, Susan Hockaday, Eileen Hohmuth-Lemonick, James Jansma, Shirley Kern, Joy Kreves, Marsha Levin-Rojer, Ryan Lilienthal, Andrew Wilkinson, Emily Vickers, and Shellaby. 

“Off the Wall” artists include Zakia Aziz Ahmed, Meta Dunkly Arnold, Nicky Belletier, Seema Bhattacharjee, Sharri Carlin, Kimberly Ducote-Schimmel, Deborah Eater, Toby Ehrlich, Carlo Fiorentini, Gary David Fournier, Angel Gardner, Noreen Gelling, Lisa Gottesman, Anuradha Gurumurthy, D.J. Haslett, Marzena Haupa, Marina Hill, Audrey Jakab & Alejando Berlin, Abigail Johnson, Margaret Kalvar-Bushnell, Mita Karnik, Naina Bhalla, Shipra Khare, Nelly Kouzmina, Joy Kreves, Renee Kumar, Lori Langsner, Yun Li, Christopher Mac Kinnon, Denise McDaniel, Sujatha Mohan, the-O, Hilary Peirce, Helene Plank, William Plank, Pratibha Raju, Arleen Ramos-Szatmary, Rupa Sanbui, Kirsten Sanford, Monica Sebald Kennedy, Aleksandra Seletskaya, Christine Seo, Kelly Silver, J. Marion Simmons, Margaret Simpson, Sumi, Mary Lou Thomas, and Jane Yuan.

“Off the Wall” artisans include Nomeda Aniukstis — Jademon; Kim Casper and Kristina Chadwick — Kristina’s Handmade Ceramics & Jewelry; Nelly Kouzmina — Feltinelli LLC; Merry Madover Jewelry; Georgina Ramirez Alzaga — Punto y Amor; Discover A New Future by Faith Saunders; Creative Ceramics by Christa Schneider; Leslie Schott — Working Cord Studio; and Merle Slyhoff Pottery. more

October 26, 2022

By Stuart Mitchner

The real marriage of true minds is for any two people to possess a sense of humour or irony pitched in exactly the same key, so that their joint glances at any subject cross like interarching search-lights.

—Edith Wharton (1862-1937)

I had other plans for this column until I realized that Friday, October 21, was Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s 250th birthday. On October 26, 1900, Henry James and Edith Wharton began a correspondence, a “marriage of true minds” that lasted until James’s death (“the distinguished thing”) on February 28, 1916. Having already set things in motion for a piece about Wharton and James, I had to make room — lots of room — for Coleridge.

All it took was a few clicks of the Microsoft mouse to confirm that Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan” not only stirred Wharton’s imagination in childhood, but returned full force during her mid-sixties in her account of a young writer’s moment of discovery:

“Oh, what beautiful, what incredible words! What did they mean? But what did it matter what they meant? Or whether they meant anything but their own unutterable music? …. It was a new music, a music utterly unknown to him, but to which the hidden chords of his soul at once vibrated. It was something for him — something that intimately belonged to him …. He sat with his head between his hands, reading on, passionately, absorbedly, his whole being swept away on that mighty current.” 

The passage is from Hudson River Bracketed (1929), in which Wharton’s protagonist writes a novel reimagining the dreamscape of Coleridge’s Xanadu in the Hudson River Valley. I knew the same thrill of discovery the first time I read the poem, in my teens, excited to know more because the vision was unfinished, penned upon Coleridge’s waking from a laudanum dream. Much of the poem’s allure is that he presents it as “A Fragment,” with an introductory paragraph in which “the author, then in ill health, had retired to a lonely farmhouse between Porlock and Linton, on the Exmoor confines of Somerset and Devonshire. In consequence of a slight indisposition, an anodyne had been prescribed, from the effects of which he fell asleep in his chair.”  more

By Nancy Plum

New Jersey Symphony Orchestra kicked off the Princeton leg of its 100th anniversary celebratory season this past Friday night with a concert in Richardson Auditorium. Led by Music Director Xian Zhang, the performance featured a rarely-heard 19th-century piano-orchestral work with a pianist who could easily take over the international stage. With a lean and succinct ensemble sound, the Orchestra welcomed fall in Princeton with powerful renditions of the music of Richard Strauss and Johannes Brahms.

Zhang and NJSO began the performance with a piece resulting from an unusual commission. American-born composer Dorothy Chang, currently on the faculty of the University of British Columbia, was asked in 2017 to write a segment of a symphonic ballet to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary. Her one-movement Northern Star became the fourth movement of the ballet but has also been an intriguing orchestral work on its own. 

With Zhang showing her usual dynamic leadership on the podium, NJSO brought out the crisp icy atmosphere of a piece recalling both the northern lights rising and setting over the landscape and a journey from darkness to optimism. Throughout the work, the NJSO players provided both an expansive orchestral palette and whispers of the winds, aided by delicate wind solos from flutist Bart Feller and oboist Alexandra Knoll.

Nineteenth-century German composer Richard Strauss was known more for symphonic tone poems and vocal works than piano repertoire, but his Burleske in D minor for piano and orchestra was clearly in line with the virtuosic piano performance tradition begun by Franz Liszt. Initially conceived as a “Scherzo” for piano and orchestra, Burleske contained in one movement all the passion and drama of a full-length Strauss opera. 

To convey all this emotion, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra invited pianist Michelle Cann to share the stage. Cann has performed with major orchestras nationwide and is a member of the faculty of the Curtis Institute of Music and could spend her professional life mesmerizing audiences worldwide just as she did in Princeton. Cann played with great power, and at times it was hard to follow her very fast-moving hands. There were numerous extended passages for solo piano, ranging from elegantly lyrical to ferocious and lightning-quick octaves traveling the length of the keyboard, all of which Cann expertly executed. A playful duet was created between Cann and clarinetist Pascal Archer, with a subsequently elegant duet between Cann’s rolling piano lines answered by the viola section. Timpanist Gregory LaRosa was also key in maintaining rhythmic energy among the short spurts of melodic activity. more

EDGY OPERA ON FILM: “Black Lodge” by David T. Little is one of three productions to be locally screened in coming months.

The Princeton Garden Theatre is among five movie theaters to present screenings of productions by Opera Philadelphia in coming weeks. The operas are Soldier Songs, La voix humaine, and Black Lodge.

David T. Little’s Grammy-nominated Soldier Songs, which screens Saturday, November 12 at 1 p.m. at the Princeton Garden, “weaves opera, rock, and film into a stirring and innovative examination of trauma, exploitation, and the difficulty of expressing war’s painful truths,” according to a press release. It was filmed on location at the Brandywine Conservancy in Chester County, Pa., by the site of a significant Revolutionary War battle of 1777.

The feature film is accompanied by Opera Philadelphia’s 2021 short film TakTakShoo, composer Rene Orth’s fusion of opera and K-pop, marimba, electronics, and dance, that creates an eclectic sound and movement world. With a libretto by playwright Kanika Ambrose, the film stars mezzo-soprano Kristen Choi as an energizing life force inviting people to come into the world anew and is directed by Emmy Award-nominated director and choreographer Jeffrey L. Page.

La voix humaine by Francis Poulenc will be shown Saturday, December 3 at 1 p.m.  more

American Repertory Ballet’s (ARB)magical production of The Nutcracker returns to McCarter Theatre November 25-27; Patriots Theater at the War Memorial in Trenton on December 11; and State Theatre New Jersey in New Brunswick December 16-18.

The Nutcracker ballet is a local and national holiday custom for families and seasoned ballet fans alike. It is no surprise that the charm, excitement, and wonder of the production continues to be a part of our communities’ annual holiday plans and an ideal way to celebrate the season,” said Artistic Director Ethan Stiefel.

For the first time, (ARB) will collaborate with the Capital Philharmonic of New Jersey, led by conductor Daniel Spalding. These artists will be joined by the Trenton Children’s Chorus for one performance only at the Patriot’s Theater at the War Memorial.

Five performances at State Theatre New Jersey will feature live music played by the ARB Orchestra, this year led by Princeton Symphony Orchestra’s Assistant Conductor Kenneth Bean, and accompanied by the Princeton Girlchoir. more

BACK ON STAGE: George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick welcomes back audiences with “Her Portmanteau,” a new play by Mfoniso Udofia, running through October 30.

George Street Playhouse (GSP) has opened its 2022-2023 season with Her Portmanteau, a new play by Mfoniso Udofia, directed by Laiona Michelle. The play runs through October 30 at the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center on Livingston Avenue.

The play touches on universal themes of mother-daughter relationships, forgiveness, reconciliation, and the struggle associated with leaving our countries of origin behind, while still holding on to their rich cultural heritage. 

The cast includes Jennean Farmer, Shannon Harris, and Mattilyn Kravitz.

Visit georgestreetplayhouse.org for ticket information.

MUSIC ONCE BANNED: Violinist Siwoo Kim peforms in the Concordia Chamber Players’ upcoming program of works by composers once persecuted for their religious beliefs or skin color.

On Sunday, November 6 at 3 p.m., Concordia Chamber Players’ first regular subscription concert will be held at Trinity Episcopal Church, 6587 Upper York Road in Solebury, Pa. Tickets are $75.

In this program, entitled “The Degenerates,” they will explore the works of composers categorized as such by the Nazi regime for the color of their skin or their religion. The String Quartet No. 2 of Florence Price will be performed along with String Quartet No. 1 in A Major by Alexander Zemlinsky, and String Quartet No. 1 in E-flat Major by Felix Mendelssohn.

Violist David Samuel of the Alexander String Quartet will have his first performance with Concordia along with Gabriela Diaz and Siwoo Kim on violin, and Michelle Djokic on cello. more

“THE QUESTION!”: An exhibit by longtime photographer Larry Parsons will be on view October 29 through November 20 at Gallery 14 Fine Art Photography in Hopewell. Joining Parsons for this exhibit will be the Watercolor Women of Gallery 14.

Gallery 14 Fine Art Photography in Hopewell has announced a special exhibit by Larry Parsons. “THE Question! — A Photography Journey,” is on view from October 29 to November 20.

Parsons, a longtime photographer and member of Gallery 14, dares to ask “THE Question!in his latest work, and takes the viewer on a photographic journey in search of the answer. A young boy and his water buffalo constitute our guide through this narrative series, and we follow the questioner as he encounters many different characters and answers. Both Parsons’ tale and the images that narrate it evoke a childlike inquisitiveness which echoes classic storytelling traditions. Is there an answer to “THE Question?” Follow along to find out.

Parsons is a longtime businessman as well as an avocational photographer, having worked many years in investment management in the Princeton area. While studying history at Wake Forest as an undergrad, he was taken by the images illustrating historical tales, and his pursuit of his photography began in earnest in the 1970s when his parents gave him a camera. While he had no formal training, he was able to study with many master teachers, including Bob Denby, Ricardo Barros, and the late Sally Davidson. more

Friends of Princeton Open Space (FOPOS) is presenting a group show and sale of photographs taken at the Billy Johnson Mountain Lakes Nature Preserve and submitted to FOPOS’ annual Give Thanks for Nature Photo Contest, plus painterly photographs of botanical life at the Mountain Lakes Nature Preserve by Princeton photographer Frank Sauer. The exhibition is on view November 2 through December 4 at Small World Coffee, 14 Witherspoon Street. An opening reception is on Thursday, November 3 from 6-8 p.m.

Join artists and art enthusiasts at Phillips’ Mill in New Hope, Pa., on November 5 from 2-4:30 p.m. to discover the joys of “Nocturne Painting” with Joe Gyurcsak, a new event presented by the Phillips’ Mill Community Association (PMCA) in partnership with the Doylestown Art League (DAL).

An award-winning artist, Gyurcsak’s work has been exhibited throughout the country and he was the recipient of the Patron’s Award for Painting at this year’s Juried Art Show at Phillips’ Mill. A recent Plein Air Magazine article noted, “He has a keen sense for capturing the essence of his subject matter with a bold and candid approach.” That subject matter became his neighborhood, which he would walk at night, during the pandemic when his usual travels were curtailed.

Gyurscak has been a guest on two enlightening ArtTalk discussions. At this presentation, he visits live at the Mill where he will share his knowledge and understanding of nocturne painting, its history, and its origins. Nocturnes are paintings that capture the essence and atmosphere of nighttime through “the power, control and temperature of light, its perception and its translation in paint,” said Gyurscak. He will also discuss George Sotter and his painting methods, Whistler, and Walter Sickert.  more

This work by Joelle Hofbauer is featured in “In Honor of Old Trees,” on view through November 18 at the Trenton Museum at Ellarslie in Cadwalader Park. The exhibit features 34 works by area artists, all of them inspired by the apple trees at Terhune Orchards.

“FULL STEAM AHEAD”: This 2022 ink on canvas is one of the works in Mark Thomas Gibson’s show “HERE YE, HEAR YE!!!,” on view October 27 through November 23 in the Hurley Gallery at the Lewis Arts complex on the Princeton University campus.

The Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Visual Arts at Princeton University will present “HERE YE, HEAR YE!!!,” an exhibition of new work created by Mark Thomas Gibson during his 2021-22 Hodder Fellowship at Princeton. Gibson’s work engages satire to depict the subtext of American politics and life.

The exhibition features paintings, drawings, and collages engaging caricature and satire. The work will be on view October 27 through November 23 in the Hurley Gallery at the Lewis Arts complex on the Princeton campus. The exhibition will open with a reception in the gallery on October 27 from 4:30 to 8 p.m. An artists’ talk with Gibson and writer/curator Dan Nadel and painter/writer Amy Sillman is scheduled for November 17 at 4:30 p.m. in the gallery. All events are free and open to the public.

Gibson notes his personal lens on American culture stems from his multipartite viewpoint as an artist — as a Black male, a professor, and an American history buff. These myriad and often colliding perspectives fuel his exploration of contemporary culture through languages of painting and drawing, revealing a vision of a dystopic America where every viewer is implicated as a potential character within the story.

Gibson received a 2021 Pew Fellowship and a 2022 Guggenheim Fellowship. In 2016 he co-curated the traveling exhibition “Black Pulp!” with William Villalongo. He has released two books, Some Monsters Loom Large (2016) and Early Retirement (2017). Gibson received his B.F.A. from The Cooper Union in 2002 and his M.F.A. from Yale School of Art in 2013. He is represented by M+B in Los Angeles and Loyal in Stockholm. He is currently an assistant professor at Tyler School of Art and Architecture at Temple University and lives and works in Philadelphia. more

October 19, 2022

By Stuart Mitchner

Browne’s writing can be held back by the force of gravitation, but when he does succeed in rising higher and higher through the circles of his spiralling prose, … the reader is overcome by a sense of levitation.

—W.G. Sebald (1944-2001)

As far as I know, King Charles III and Sir Thomas Browne (1605-1682) have nothing worth mentioning in common other than the fact that the author of Religio Medici was knighted by Charles II in 1671. A gap of 337 earthly years separates Charles II, who died in 1685, from Charles III, who acceded to the throne on September 8, 2022, after the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, who was crowned a mere 353 years after the death of Elizabeth I in 1603, speaking of gaps.

Then consider Browne’s dates — born October 19, died  October 19, which is today, give or take three and a half centuries. What other literary luminary lived out a perfect birth-death span? None other than the Bard himself, William Shakespeare, born April 23, 1564, died April 23, 1616, at which time Tom Browne was a lad of 11.

October 1982

A mere 40 years ago I was absorbed in the 1982 World Series pitting the St. Louis Cardinals against the Milwaukee Brewers, still an American League franchise at the time. On October 19 the series turned in the Cardinals favor with a 13-1 sixth game victory. On October 20, the deciding game was saved by future Hall of Fame reliever Bruce Sutter, master of the split-fingered fastball, who died just five days ago, October 14. Shortly before his induction into the Hall, Sutter said, “I wouldn’t be here without that pitch.” When he was pitching relief for the Cubs in 1977, bumper stickers around Chicago read “Only the Lord Saves More Than Sutter.” more

By Nancy Plum

Princeton Symphony Orchestra combined rich orchestral music with the 21st century this past weekend with performances of “Britten & Elgar,” as well as a work by an acclaimed American composer. Under the direction of Music Director Rossen Milanov, Princeton Symphony consistently demonstrated a lean and invigorating sound, well matching the fiery playing of guest solo violinist Elina Vähälä.

Saturday night’s performance at Richardson Auditorium (the concert was repeated Sunday afternoon) began with a 21st-century piece showing the Symphony’s precise string ensemble sound. New York composer Jessie Montgomery’s Starburst was brief in length but reflected a blaze of orchestral colors and musical effects. Princeton Symphony’s performance cleanly revealed every musical detail and pizzicato among the string sections, with the sound traveling well among the musicians. Montgomery’s piece served as a teaser for the concert’s main event — Benjamin Britten’s Violin Concerto, Op. 15 featuring solo violinist Elina Vähälä. Born in the United States and raised in Finland, Vähälä was considered a “young master soloist” at an early age and has been on the international stage ever since.

Britten’s 1939 Violin Concerto was very different from the concertos of the 18th and 19th centuries, opening with a rhythmic ostinato against lush unison string playing. As in the Montgomery piece, Princeton Symphony’s ensemble sound allowed musical details to come to the forefront, especially André Tarantiles’ harp playing. Vähälä’s solo added complexity to the first movement, with shades of joy in the nonstop solo line. Numerous decisive upbows in the solo violin part added rhythmic drive as Vähälä showed full command of the score. Conductor Milanov kept the musical flow in forward motion within the contrasting styles, particularly in a “role-reversal” section in which the upper strings played long melodic lines while Vähälä provided strident violin effects.  more

“BLUES IN MY SOUL”: Performances are underway for “Blues in My Soul: The Legend and Legacy of Lonnie Johnson.” Written by David Robson and directed by Ozzie Jones, the play runs through October 30 at Passage Theatre. Above, Lonnie (David Brandon Ross, left) reluctantly plays for an enthusiastic Chris (Jonathan Jacobs). (Photo by Liz Cisco)

By Donald H. Sanborn III

When a play dramatizes a true story, especially about a long-dead public figure, often the resolution can be learned from the subject’s Wikipedia entry. The challenge to the dramatist then becomes to build enough tension and suspense to make the audience wonder whether a historical event will happen — and if so, how.

That is what playwright David Robson accomplishes so successfully in Blues in My Soul: The Legend and Legacy of Lonnie Johnson, which is being presented by Passage Theatre (following its premiere at Delaware’s City Theater Company earlier this year). A play with music, Blues in My Soul depicts the meeting of blues and jazz luminary Alonzo “Lonnie” Johnson and DJ, journalist, and record producer Chris Albertson.

Johnson (1899-1970) was a singer, guitarist, violinist, and songwriter who performed with legends such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Bessie Smith. Gérard Herzhaft writes in the 1979 Encyclopedia of the Blues that Johnson was “undeniably the creator of the guitar solo played note by note with a pick, which has become the standard in jazz, blues, country, and rock.” Artists such as Elvis Presley, B.B. King, and Django Reinhardt were influenced by Johnson. But by the late 1950s, he largely had faded from the public memory.

Albertson (1931-2019) was a disc jockey at Keflavic Air Base in Iceland, before migrating to the United States. In Philadelphia he worked for WCAU and WHAT-FM. Later he authored Bessie. a 1972 biography of Bessie Smith. For his work producing reissues for Columbia Records, he won multiple accolades, including two Grammy Awards and a Prix du Disque.  more

TRIBUTE TO DVORAK: The Brentano String Quartet’s program for Princeton University Concerts celebrates the composer Ántonín Dvorak’s impact on American classical music on November 3 at Richardson Auditorium.

The Brentano String Quartet, Princeton University’s ensemble-in-residence from 1999-2014, returns to Princeton University Concerts (PUC) on Thursday, November 3, at 7:30 p.m. with a program that celebrates the music of our homeland, paying tribute to composer Ántonín Dvorak and his impact on American classical music.

The concert at Richardson Auditorium will trace musical lineage from a blues arrangement by Princeton University’s own faculty composer Steven Mackey and Charles Ives’ reinterpretation of popular American songs, all the way back to the spirituals that inspired Dvorak’s compositions as he directed the National Conservatory of Music of America and paved the way, by providing education to black composers, for the music of William Grant Still and George Walker.  more

CONCERT WITH AN AUTUMN THEME: Ruth Ochs conducts the Westminster Community Orchestra on October 23 in the Robert L. Annis Playhouse.

The Westminster Community Orchestra, conducted by Ruth Ochs, will perform on Sunday, October 23 at 3 p.m. in the Robert L. Annis Playhouse on the Westminster Choir College Campus of Rider University in Princeton. A suggested donation of $10/person will be accepted at the door.

The autumnally-themed program will feature the world premiere of Kathleen Scheide’s Concertino for Autumn featuring The Guitars of Westminster Conservatory, Mark Johnstone, director. The concert will also include Emilie Mayer’s Faust Overture, Mikhail Glinka’s Kamarinskaya, movements from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 (“Pastoral”), and Richard Rodgers’ The Sound of Music (Selection for Orchestra), arranged by Robert Russell Bennett.

Scheide is a composer, teacher, organist, and early keyboard soloist who has performed throughout the world. The Westminster Community Orchestra previously premiered her Echo for guitars and orchestra, also featuring Mark Johnstone and The Guitars of Westminster Conservatory. Johnstone has over 30 years of teaching and performing experience. He directs The Guitars of Westminster Conservatory, which offers classical guitarists the opportunity to play and perform a variety of music from the Renaissance to the 21st century.

Now in her 18th season as conductor and music director of the Westminster Community Orchestra, Ochs has led the orchestra in performances of major orchestral and choral-orchestral works, including symphonies by Beethoven, Brahms, Haydn, Mozart, Saint-Saëns, Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky. Under her leadership, the orchestra continues to feature ensembles and soloists from the Westminster Conservatory and highlight works by local and under-represented composers.

Members of the Westminster Community Orchestra are professional and gifted amateur musicians, from all walks of life, who come from New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Visit rider.edu/about/events/sound-of-autumn for more information.

PETTY PROPERTY BATTLES: “Native Gardens,” a new comedy about fighting neighbors, is on stage at Langhorne Players in Tyler State Park, Bucks County, Pa.

Langhorne Players close their 75th season with Native Gardens, the new comedy about good intentions and bad manners by Karen Zacarias. “This play reminds me so much of the sitcoms I grew up watching, like All in the Family. It deals with contemporary issues in a very classically funny way, and I’m excited for audiences to see it,” producer John Boccanfuso said.

Pregnant young couple Pablo and Tania del Valle have just moved into a fixer-upper in an upscale D.C. neighborhood. Their next-door neighbors, Frank and Virginia Butley, are stalwarts of the community. They have an award-winning garden, while the del Valles’ must deal with a barren landscape in the shade of an ugly old tree. After the newcomers receive the results of a land survey, they realize that the Butleys’ property is smaller than they thought, and the beautiful garden encroaches on Pablo and Tani’s rightful property line. As the pairs try to reconcile this finding, a battle brews.

Performances run October 14-29 at the Spring Garden Mill in Tyler State Park, 1440 Newtown-Richboro Road. A talk-back with the cast and crew will follow the Wednesday, October 26 performance, and a special matinee will be performed on Saturday, October 22 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $22; visit langhorneplayers.org. Both Friday night performances (October 14 and 28) are buy-one-get-one night when using code BOGO online.

MAKING FUN OF SHAKESPEARE: A scene from “Something Rotten!,” the comedy inspired by the Bard, coming to Kelsey Theatre October 21-30.

Maurer Productions OnStage presents the Shakespeare-inspired musical comedy Something Rotten! at Mercer County Community College’s Kelsey
Theatre October 21-30 with a streaming option October 28-30.

Set in the 1590s, the show is a history-twisting tale with a cast of over-the-top characters, impressive songs, dance numbers, and lots and lots of eggs. “If you love Shakespeare, you’ll love this show! If you hate Shakespeare, you’ll love this show,” said Kelsey Director Kitty Getlik.

The story is of two brothers who are desperate to write a hit play, and who just happen to be the nemeses of William Shakespeare. A local soothsayer foretells that the future of theater will involve something that has never been done before: singing, dancing, and acting, all at the same time, and the brothers then decide to write the world’s very first hit musical.  more

A NIGHT OF LATIN JAZZ: Small World Coffee hosts the Nick Cosaboom Quartet on November 4 and 5.

On Friday and Saturday, November 4 and 5 from 6-7:30 p.m., the Nick Cosaboom Quartet will play at Small World Coffee, 14 Witherspoon Street. The coffee shop is sponsoring musicians from Puerto Rico to play with Cosaboom, who graduated from the Conservatory of Music in San Juan, Puerto Rico, this past May.

Cosaboom is a Princeton native and Princeton High School graduate.  His major at the Conservatory was Latin percussion.

The group performs a variety of primarily original music, ranging from soothing ballads to complex odd meters, with hints of Afro Cuban rhythmic influences. Guitarist John Medina, bassist Lucyann Ceballos, and multi-instrumentalist Kevin Reyes, who alternates between drums and keyboards, make up the quartet with Cosaboom, who is a former percussionist for Charlie Sepúlveda and Sebastián Otero.