December 8, 2021

The Beatles’ rooftop concert in London, 1969. (Wikipedia)

By Stuart Mitchner

Life is an energy field, a bunch of molecules. And these particular molecules formed to make these four guys, who then formed this band called the Beatles and did all that work. I have to think there was something metaphysical. Something alchemic. Something that must be thought of as magic — with a k.”

—Paul McCartney, from a 2007 interview

I’ve just “come down” from Get Back, the film — I say “come down” because I was up on the Apple rooftop four floors above Savile Row for the grand finale with the particular molecules formed to make John, Paul, George, and Ringo.

Up on the roof I could almost feel the January chill along with a mildly exhilarating touch of vertigo as I gazed out over the chimneys and steeples of London’s West End. Down in the cozy confines of the basement studio, it was all I could do to keep from reaching through the fourth wall to pick up the 55-year-old McVittie’s chocolate biscuit on Ringo’s plate, or maybe it was George’s, so dense was the molecular haze, what with all the cigarette smoke. Six-plus hours immersed in the energy field of the Beatles making music and my attention rarely wavered; it was that compelling. My wife watched the entire epic with me, and though she yawned at times, and came near dozing, she enjoyed highlights like Paul and John’s zitheresque take on “The Third Man Theme,” performed for the benefit of director Michael Lindsay-Hogg, said to be Orson Welles’s natural son. more

By Nancy Plum

Princeton University Orchestra presented its winter concerts this past weekend in Richardson Auditorium on the campus of the University. Rather than look toward traditional holiday music heard at this time of year, the Orchestra continued to announce its arrival in the 2021-22 season by performing two challenging and majestic symphonic works, featuring a recent graduate who had a solid musical career while at the University. 

Led by Orchestra conductor Michael Pratt, the concerts Friday night and Sunday afternoon were about courage — in particular from guest soprano soloist Allison Spann, a member of the Princeton class of 2020. Nothing showed her fierceness as a vocal performer more than her choice of David Del Tredici’s Final Alice for the 2019 Princeton University Orchestra Concerto Competition, the winning of which earned her a spot in these concerts. The University Orchestra presented selections from this quirky yet vocally demanding work in this past weekend’s concerts, inviting the audience into what Pratt called the “wacky world of Lewis Carroll set to the equally wacky music of David Del Tredici.” Spann saw this piece, which musically sets the last two chapters of Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, as a source of escape from the past year and a half, and through theatricality and command of the very difficult vocal lines, brought the audience at Richardson Auditorium along with her.

Spann came onstage in character from the outset — looking completely lost and eventually sitting cross-legged on the stage ready to tell the audience a story. Although equally narrated as sung, the selections from Del Tredici’s Final Alice performed took a great deal of voice throughout, asking the soprano soloist to sing in a very high register for extended periods of time and maneuver demanding intervals over a cacophony of orchestral accompaniment. Spann was continually stretched to the top of her vocal range, but was always in command of the difficult music and dynamic demands while simultaneously communicating well with the audience. A particularly expressive moment was an aria sung by Spann accompanied by harpist Leila Hudson.   more

THEATER AND DANCE: Angelina Hawke of Yardville, Pa., Timika Young of Ewing, and Hakim Hachicha of Lawrenceville will appear in “The 9/11 Memorial Performance Project” at the Studio Theatre at Mercer County Community College. (Photo courtesy of MCCC)

Stories from 9/11 survivors and witnesses come to life in “The 9/11 Memorial Performance Project,” to be performed by the Mercer County Community College (MCCC) Academic Theatre & Dance Company on Friday and Saturday, December 10 and 11 at 8 p.m. This special theatrical dance performance will be presented in MCCC’s Black Box Studio Theatre, CM 122, located next to Kelsey Theatre on the college’s West Windsor Campus at 1200 Old Trenton Road.

MCCC’s Dance and Theatre Coordinator, Jody Gazenbeek-Person, created the performance with assistance from Co-Directors LouJ Stalsworth and Daniel Spalluto, along with students who conducted private interviews with individuals who were personally affected by what happened on September 11, 2001. The performance offers a perspective on the number of lives that were touched in so many different ways due to the ripple effect of the events surrounding the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., and a field in Shanksville, Pa.

The event, combining dance, acting and music, will be performed on two nights. more

Santa Claus

The long-awaited midnight visit by Santa Claus, made famous in Clement Moore’s famous poem, is brought to the Kelsey Theatre stage by The Kelsey Players in a musical, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.

Performances are Friday, December 10 at 7 p.m., Saturday, December 11 at 1 and 4 p.m., and 4 p.m. and Sunday, December 12 at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Kelsey Theatre is located on the Mercer County Community College’s West Windsor campus at 1200 Old Trenton Road.

The story takes place in 1822. Moore, who is a professor at Columbia University, always writes a poem and reads it to his family on Christmas Eve. However, this year he is feeling pressure because his youngest daughter, Charity, is sick, and might die. As he experiences writer’s block, a Christmas mouse named Diana appears to him, along with two dancing gumdrops. They, and the audience, help him to write “‘Twas The Night Before Christmas,” a magical poem with dancing reindeer and dancing snowflakes, with a very happy ending.

In the true spirit of giving, Kelsey Theatre is participating in the Toys for Tots drive. Unwrapped new toys may be dropped off in the theater’s lobby through December 13.

Tickets are $10 for children, students, and senior citizens and $12 for adults.Tickets may be purchased at (609) 570-3333 or ordered directly at http://ci.ovationtix.com/35232.

The Arts Council of Princeton’s Artist Chalet Winter Village kicked off on November 26 and continues through December 19. Four chalets will be filled with rotating artists and vendors selling their work during the height of holiday shopping in downtown Princeton. For a vendor schedule, visit artscouncilofprinceton.org. (Photo by Courtney Rohrig)

Works by Laura Rutherford Renner (shown here), Heather Barros, Bill Jersey, and Larry Mitnick are featured in “Sharing,” on view at Artists’ Gallery, 18 Bridge Street in Lambertville, December 9 though January 22. For more information, visit lambertvillearts.com.

Mercer County Community College’s (MCCC’s) James Kerney Campus (JKC) Gallery now presents an exhibit, “Homecoming 2021,” which showcases the works of photography students who graduated during the pandemic. The show runs through January 29, with a virtual and in-person artist reception on Saturday, December 11 from 5 to 8 p.m. The public is invited.

“Homecoming 2021” is a FujiFilm-sponsored collaboration between Booksmart Studio (Eric Kunsman) and Float Photo Magazine (Yoav Friedlander and Dana Stirling), along with JKC Gallery Director Michael Chovan-Dalton and artist Alanna Airitam. The show celebrates the hard-fought creative triumphs of students around the globe whose final years as undergraduate and graduate students were disrupted by the pandemic.

Chovan-Dalton said, “Typically, the final year of a student’s art program is filled with hope and possibilities, and while most institutions did a good job of providing students with alternative modes of learning and interacting, the past two graduating classes have had to settle for limited access to artist visits and delayed or remote thesis exhibitions and graduation ceremonies. ‘Homecoming 2021’ is our way of helping students continue their momentum forward to a fulfilling life in the arts.” more

TEAM WORK: “Our goal is to provide the absolute pinnacle of food quality and services. Our logo is pineapple (the Colonial universal sign of welcome) and tulips (traditional flowers from Holland that represent the Dutch family of John Blaw, the settler of Blawenburg).” Jennifer Cifelli, far left, owner of the new Blawenburg Bistro, is shown with staff members, from left,  Rebecca, Kenia, and Kelly.

By Jean Stratton

I am glad to come to work every single day! And I am here every day. I am inspired by this opportunity.”

The many customers of the Blawenburg Bistro share owner Jennifer Cifelli’s enthusiasm. They are coming from all over the Princeton area and beyond, stopping in for coffee and a croissant early in the morning as they commute to work, or later in the day for a leisurely lunch.

Opened in April, the Bistro is a dream come true for owner Cifelli, who always loved cooking, but who took a detour before owning her own restaurant. She had a previous career as a teacher, but as she says, “I wanted to make a change, and this was the time to do it. I was always interested in cooking and different kinds of food. I was a foodie from day one!

“Also, we found just the right location at 391 County Route 518 in the Blawenburg Village section of Skillman. Our iconic corner building has a long history over more than 250 years. It has been a post office, general store, dry cleaner, deli, antique shop, newspaper headquarters, dog groomer, catering company, and cafe. We are proud to have a legacy of successful and welcoming businesses that have come before us. We want to keep that tradition.” more

RALLY TIME: Princeton University men’s basketball player Tosan Evbuomwan, right, goes after the ball in recent action. Last Sunday, junior forward Evbuomwan scored a career-high 27 points to help Princeton rally for an 81-79 overtime win against visiting Drexel. The Tigers trailed by six points in the last minute of regulation and by six points early in the overtime before pulling out the win over the Dragons. Princeton, who improved to 6-3 with the victory, plays at Lafayette on December 11 before hosting UMBC on December 13. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Twice it looked like the Princeton University men’s basketball team had lost the game as it hosted Drexel last Saturday afternoon.

With 42 seconds left in regulation, Princeton trailed 71-66 but reeled off five straight points on a pair of free throws by Jaelin Llewellyn and a dramatic three-pointer by Ryan Langborg to knot the game at 71-71 and force overtime.

In the extra session, the Tigers were trailing 77-71 with 3:29 left but once again battled back, outscoring the Dragons 10-2 down the stretch. Tosan Evbuomwan hit a pair of clutch free throws and the winning bucket as Princeton pulled out an improbable 81-79 victory before a frenzied crowd of 1,312 at Jadwin Gym.

“That is an incredible win for us; I hate saying it, we weren’t deserving for parts of the game,” said Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson, whose team improved to 6-3.

 more

DREAM SEASON: Princeton High girls’ soccer star Sophia Lis displays her skills in a game this fall. Senior striker Lis made history in her final PHS campaign, scoring 38 goals, giving her the second highest single-season total in CVC history behind the 65 scored by Steinert’s Lisa Gmitter in 1982. The heroics of Lehigh-bound Lis helped Princeton go 21-3 and advance to the state Group 3 final for the first time in program history. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Sophia Lis didn’t want her final season on the Princeton High girls’ soccer team to end.

“I want to stay on this team for as long as possible,” said senior star striker and Lehigh-bound Lis. “It has been so great, it has been such a fun year.”

A great team chemistry helped make the team so fun. “We have really been working in practices a lot,” said Lis.

“I feel like we have the chemistry off the field, that is really showing on the field. We have done so many dinners. Everyone is such great friends, we all want each other to score.”

While PHS boasted good scoring balance, Lis emerged at the go-to finisher for the team, tallying 11 goals and six assists in the first seven games of the seasons as the Tigers got off to a 7-0 start.

“I am definitely trying to work on my shot accuracy but also with me getting more shots, I want to make sure that my team does the same,” said Lis.

“We work well as a unit to make sure to get the final product no matter what.”

Lis kept burying shots as PHS worked really well as a unit, going 13-1 in regular season play and then advancing to the Mercer County Tournament semifinals where it fell for a second time to rival Hopewell Valley.

Moving on to the state tournament, Lis took her game to new heights, tallying two goals in a 6-0 win over WW/P-North in the opening round of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Central Jersey Group 3 sectional. In the quarterfinals, she tallied the lone goal in a 1-0 win over Robbinsville and then got two goals in a 3-1 win over Colts Neck in the semis. In round three with HoVal in the sectional final, Lis tallied both goals in a sweet 2-0 triumph. more

STEADY HAHN: Hun School girls’ basketball player Kiera Hahn dribbles the ball last weekend at the Peddie School Invitational Tournament. Senior guard Hahn helped Hun go 1-2 at the event as the Raiders took fourth place. In upcoming action, Hun, now 2-2, plays at Agnes Irwin (Pa.) on December 10 and at Germantown Friends (Pa.) on December 14. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

With the Hun School girls’ basketball team adding some talented newcomers to a group of solid returners, it wouldn’t be surprising if it took a while for the squad to develop into a cohesive unit.

Instead, the group has come together in a matter of weeks. “Their personalities are great, they are just a lot of fun to be around,” said Hun head coach Bill Holup, who led Hun to a 5-3 record last winter in a campaign abbreviated by COVID-19 concerns.

“It makes it a lot better when everybody is happy, having fun, competing and learning.”

Last weekend, Hun competed hard at the Peddie School Invitational Tournament, topping St. James (Md.) 66-15 on Friday before losing 68-32 to Séminaire Saint-François (Quebec) on Saturday and falling 63-51 to Pennington on Sunday to take fourth place at the event.

Holup is happy to have post-graduate point guard Erin Maguire join the squad this year, the third sister from the Irish clan to play for the program.

“They are a great family and we are very excited to continue our relationship with the family,” said Holup of Maguire, who scored 21 points and had nine rebounds in the loss to Pennington.

“She can penetrate, she handles the ball. She is extremely unselfish, she will be able to shoot from the perimeter. She has quick hands and quick feet. She is a great leader.” more

CHASING SUCCESS: Princeton Day School girls’ hockey player Lauren Chase, right, goes after the puck in a game last season. Junior defenseman Chase will be spearheading things along the blue line for the Panthers this winter. Chase picked up an assist as PDS defeated Randolph 4-2 in its season opener last Wednesday. The Panthers host Westfield on December 8 before playing at Oak Knoll on December 14. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

While the Princeton Day School girls’ hockey team doesn’t boast a big group of veteran performers, it is still bringing plenty of optimism into the 2021-22 season.

“Our numbers are really strong this year, there continues to be a positive vibe around the team to join the program,” said PDS head coach John Ritchie, who guided PDS to a 5-0-1 record last winter in a season abbreviated by COVID-19 concerns.

“We are definitely a younger team but they definitely all have high expectations for themselves.”

Ritchie has high hopes for junior goalie Abigail Ashman, who is assuming the starting role after the graduation of star net minder Jillian Wexler.

“Abby is going to take over for Jillian,” said Ritchie, noting that freshman Grace Ulrich will serve as a backup.

“Not having Jillian is a huge loss for us but Abby is up to the task. Abby is probably going play 70-80 percent of the games this year. Grace is interesting because she is a good goalie but she is a very good player too. She is going to be doing a little bit of double duty for us.”

Along the blue line, defensemen junior Lauren Chase, sophomore Isabel Cook, and senior Natalie Celso will lead the way. more

EMERGING FORCE: Wilberforce School girls’ cross country runner Gwen Mersereau displays her form in a race this year. Freshman Mersereau emerged as the leader of the pack for Wilberforce this fall. She placed fourth individually in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Girls’ Non-Public B Group championship meet to help Wilberforce win the team title, the first in program history. She went on to take 94th in the Meet of Champions as the Wolverines took 18th in the team standings. (Photo provided by Lois Szeliga)

By Bill Alden

While the Wilberforce School only has about 80 students in its upper school, five stellar runners on its girls’ cross country team were able to make some big noise this fall.

After finishing sixth in the team standings at the Mercer County Championship meet in late October at Washington Crossing Park and then placing first at Bob Kiessling Invitational in Logan Township, the girls’ squad made school history by winning the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Non-Public B Group championship meet on November 13. The Wolverines went on to place 18th at the Meet of Champions a week later.

Wilberforce head coach Lois Szeliga sensed that her squad was on track for a big fall after its performance at the county meet as it held its own against some much larger schools.

“When you have one through five within two minutes of each other and that is what we had been doing, you really have a chance at winning these bigger meets,” said Szeliga.

“We have been finishing 1:30 apart. In the Group meet, it was around 2:01. That is really what you need.”

At the Group meet, freshman Gwen Mersereau led the way for the Wolverines, taking fourth individually, covering the 5,000-meter course at Holmdel Park in a time of 21:09. Classmate Adeline Edwards was right behind her in fifth with a time of 21:11. Junior Sophia Park took eighth in 21:35 while senior Annie Whitman came in 11th in 22:23 and senior Laura Prothero finished 18th in 23:10. In the team standings, Wilberforce had a winning score of 45, just six points better than runner-up and perennial power Villa Walsh. more

December 1, 2021

The annual Palmer Square Tree Lighting was live again on Friday, after going virtual last year, as the 32,000 lights on the giant spruce tree lit up the evening sky. The event also featured musical performances and a visit from Santa. (Photo by Charles R. Plohn)

By Donald Gilpin

COVID-19 cases in Princeton, reported on November 29 by the Princeton Health Department, approached the December 2020 highest weekly and biweekly totals of the pandemic.

The Princeton Health Department on Monday reported 35 new cases in the previous seven days and 56 cases in the previous 14 days. The highest seven-day total of the pandemic was 39 in the second week of December last year, with 66 as the highest 14-day total registered during the second and third weeks of that month.

In announcing this “significant increase in cases” the health department pointed out that although cases are occurring in both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals, “there is a substantial difference in the severity of symptoms in those who are unvaccinated.”

For the week ended November 26, Princeton University reported 39 new COVID-19 cases and on November 26 announced an increase in required testing frequency, a 20-person limit on social gatherings, and a tightening of the mask mandate to require students to wear masks in all academic contexts for the rest of the semester. On Saturday, November 27, the campus risk status was raised from “moderate” to “moderate to high.”

“The past two weeks in Princeton we have seen a very abrupt trend change from where it appeared the Delta surge was bottoming out and now we are seeing a slingshot trend back up again,” said Princeton Deputy Administrator for Health and Community Services Jeff Grosser. “As a town we were averaging just about a case a day at our low point of the Delta surge (middle/end of October). Now we are seeing daily, weekly, and biweekly totals that compete with Princeton’s winter 2020 surge.” more

By Anne Levin

A petition signed by 130 students and alumni of Westminster Choir College of Rider University, expressing concerns about inadequate facilities, decreasing enrollment, unfulfilled promises, and more, was delivered to Rider administration on Tuesday afternoon.

“We, the students of Westminster Choir College (WCC), undersigned, are concerned about our education, our institution, the impact inadequate facilities have on our education, the value that our degrees will hold upon graduation, and the quality of support that we receive from the administration,” reads the opening paragraph.

The 22-acre choral college campus, located on Walnut Lane since the 1930s, became part of Rider in 1992. Four years ago, Rider announced it would sell Westminster and its Princeton campus, saying the institution had been losing money. But the controversial plan was dropped in 2017 after attempts to sell fell through, and last year Rider absorbed Westminster into its Lawrenceville campus.

“The move was made with promises to build a premier fine arts building, with more practice rooms, teaching studios, performance facilities, dance studios, offices for music faculty, and accommodations for everyone taking courses in the Westminster College of the Arts (WCA) and Westminster Choir College,” the petition reads. “As we near the end of the fall 2021 semester, we have yet to see what was promised.”

The petition was spearheaded by Marion Jacob, pursuing a graduate degree in master choral conducting; and Debbie-Ann Francis, a graduate student in piano pedagogy. Jacob said she and other students had attempted to express their concerns in the past, with little or no response from Rider administration. more

By Donald Gilpin

With an emphasis on transforming research into information for the benefit of society, Princeton University will be hosting its second annual innovation and entrepreneurship conference online on December 1 and 2.

Engineers, scientists, humanists, social scientists, and business leaders will be gathering via Zoom to engage with each other in sharing discoveries and strategies for fostering innovation to make a difference in confronting some of the greatest challenges facing the world in 2021.

“Our support for innovation aligns with Princeton’s intertwined missions of research, education, and service,” said Princeton University Vice Dean for Innovation and Chemical and Biological Engineering Professor Rodney Priestley. “The University’s informal motto is ‘In the nation’s service and the service of humanity.’ We want to ensure that discoveries made in our labs and working spaces can become solutions for humanity’s challenges, and one way to do that is through entrepreneurship, the creation of new ventures such as startup companies.”

He continued, “Through the Princeton Innovation initiative, we hope that our impact goes beyond Princeton as a university and extends to New Jersey, the broader Northeast region, the nation, and indeed the world.”

Highlights of the two-day virtual gathering, titled Engage 2021, which is free and open to everyone, will include a conversation with the inventor Marian Croak, Google vice president of engineering and a 1977 Princeton University graduate; presentations by an array of Princeton professors and others focusing on the growing innovation ecosystem in New Jersey and the tri-state area; and guidance on finding funding for research and entrepreneurship. more

A GIFT OF A GROVE: Ronnie Ragen, center, and Princeton Councilmember Michelle Pirone Lambros, far left, gathered recently with members of Ragen’s family and the Princeton Shade Tree Commission to plant trees in memory of Ragen’s parents.

By Anne Levin

Princeton’s Shade Tree Commission is hoping that a recent tree-planting project honoring the memory of two former residents will inspire others to consider making similar donations.

Ronnie Ragen and her brother and sister-in-law, Mark and Lisa Ragen, recently gifted a grove of trees in Harrison Street Park, where a dense forest stood before the ravages of storms and the notorious emerald ash borer. The donation is under the aegis of the Commission’s Commemorative Tree program.

The newly planted grove of Happidaze American sweetgums, American yellow woods, and Cherokee Princess Florida dogwoods is arranged in a semi-circle, “to create a restful and welcoming nook in the park,” according to a press release by Commission member Alexandra Radbil. A Norway spruce was also installed, to replace an aging white pine that had served as a screen.

“The new grove will provide multi-season interest: striking white flowers on the dogwood and the yellow wood in spring, a variety of colors in the fall, and fragrant leaves throughout the year on the sweetgum,” reads the release. “The flowers on all the trees are a source of food for pollinators, and the pods and seeds the trees produce are a food source for birds and mammals. Their placement and structure add visual interest and density to the park and serve as a buffer between the park and the road.” more

By Donald Gilpin

Merodie A. Hancock

Thomas Edison State University (TESU), a leader in transforming the lives of its adult students as well as the field of adult education, will be kicking off its 50th anniversary celebrations on Wednesday, December 1, with the initiation of its Edison Speakers Series. TESU celebrates University Day on December 1 each year to commemorate the day the college was granted university status in 2015.

In an era when traditional colleges and universities are being challenged and are forced to question their identities and their role and purpose in society, TESU has been way ahead of the curve from its inception.

According to the resolution that established the school in 1972, it was created “to enable individuals to receive academic recognition for skills and knowledge acquired in a variety of ways and would permit New Jersey residents to complete part or all of their work toward a baccalaureate or associate degree without formal attendance at a campus.”

TESU is one of the state’s public institutions of higher learning funded by the state in the same way as Rutgers, The College of New Jersey, and others, but it is the only public college in the state that is designed specifically for working adults. The average age of its approximately 15,000 students is 34.

Since 1972 TESU has grown from offering correspondence courses and just one associate degree to leadership in online education and more than 100 areas of study with associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. TESU has awarded a total of more than 65,000 degrees. more

HOLIDAY STROLL: Historic homes are decorated for this year’s “Holiday Walkabout” from 12- 5 p.m. on Saturday, December 4. This year’s event is all outdoors, featuring exterior decorations, peeks through the window at inside displays, and sidewalk hospitality areas featuring music, refreshments, and conversation.

The annual Mill Hill Holiday House Tour returns with an all outdoor “Holiday Walkabout” from 12-5 p.m. on Saturday, December 4, in the historic downtown Trenton neighborhood.

This year’s house tour was reimagined to accommodate health safety concerns due to COVID-19, said Mill Hill Holiday House and Window Tour Co-Chair Terry West. “We didn’t want another year to pass without a holiday house tour, so we had to come up with a creative way to celebrate the holidays in our beautiful neighborhood.”

 more

By Stuart Mitchner

“Though I don’t pretend to understand what makes these four rather odd-looking boys so fascinating to so many scores of millions of people, I admit that I feel a certain mindless joy stealing over me as they caper about uttering sounds.”

So says Brendan Gill in his review of A Hard Day’s Night in the August 22, 1964 New Yorker. As an example of mindless joy, he mentions “a lady of indubitable intelligence” who told him that the Beatles “make her happy in the very same way that butterflies do; she wouldn’t be surprised if, in a previous incarnation, the Beatles had been butterflies.” A more mindfully memorable response came from the Village Voice’s Andrew Sarris, who dubbed A Hard Day’s Night “the Citizen Kane of juke box musicals.”

Another Beatles Landmark

Fifty-seven years later here they are again alive and well in The Beatles Get Back, which could be called the Citizen Kane of rock documentaries. Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson has carved a landmark out of 60 hours of film and 150 hours of audio, much of it transcriptions of conversations among the Beatles during the making of the album that would be released more than a year later as Let It Be. While I have yet to see Jackson’s three-act epic, I’ve been enjoying the book (Callaway Arts & Entertainment $60). It’s a massive volume, 250-plus pages brimming with digitally scanned and restored frames from the original footage, along with photography by Linda McCartney and Ethan A. Russell. By far the book’s most fascinating feature is the in-the-moment sensation of “being there.” Reviewing Get Back in Variety, Chris Willman was impressed by how much of the dialogue “reads like it could be adaptable into an off-Broadway play, full of dark comedy and rich insight about what can and can’t emerge out of ego and compromise among longtime partners approaching a crossroads.”  more

PIANIST STEWART GOODYEAR: His recital on December 19, at McCarter Theatre, is among the musical highlights of the holiday season.

By Anne Levin

Traditionally, the local performing arts calendar ramps up during the winter holiday season. These cultural celebrations are especially meaningful this year, signifying a return to pre-pandemic days — at least for now. While some events are still available online or scheduled to be performed outdoors, most are planned for theaters and concert halls. Most require proof of vaccinations, and require masks be worn.

Following is a list of holiday-themed arts events scheduled for the local area:

Princeton University Orchestra, at Richardson Auditorium on the campus Friday, December 3 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, December 5 at 3 p.m., conducted by Michael Pratt. Soprano soloist is Alison Spann ’20. On the program are works by Rachmaninoff and David del Tredici. Music.princeton.edu.

Roxey Ballet performs a sensory-friendly version of The Nutcracker at Eagle Fire Hall, 46 North Sugan Road, New Hope, Pa., Saturday and Sunday, December 4 and 5, at 1 p.m. Roxeyballet.orgmore

NEED A LAUGH?: Maysoon Zayid, actress, comedian, writer, and disability advocate, is one of nine comics at the Lewis Center on December 6. (Photo by Michelle Kinney)

Jersey Jokers, a night of comedy led by comedian and Princeton University Arts Fellow Maysoon Zayid and her “Art of Standup” students as they take their final exam live, is set for Monday, December 6 at 7 p.m. at the Wallace Theater, in the Lewis complex. Admission is free.

Zayid is a comedian, actress, writer, and disability advocate. She is a graduate of Arizona State University and a 2021-23 Princeton Arts Fellow. Zayid is the co-founder/co-executive producer of the New York Arab American Comedy Festival and The Muslim Funny Fest. She was a full-time on-air contributor to Countdown with Keith Olbermann and a columnist for The Daily Beast. She has appeared on 60 Minutes, CNN, ABC News, and Oprah Winfrey Networks. Zayid had the most-viewed TED Talk of 2014 and was named One of 100 Women of 2015 by the BBC. more

“INTERNALIZED”: Work by artist Chanika Svetvilas is now on view at the Plainsboro Public Library gallery. An artist’s talk and opening reception for the exhibit, “What I Have Learned (Fill in the Blank),” will be held on Saturday, December 4, from 1-3 p.m.

An exhibit of work by Chanika Svetvilas, who describes herself as “an interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary artist,” opens at the Plainsboro Public Library gallery on Wednesday, December 1. Svetvilas is scheduled to give an artist’s talk on Saturday, December 4, at the opening reception, scheduled for 1-3 p.m.

The show, which runs run through January 26, features 50 oversize (36” x 24”) charcoal drawings — and some collage — created during the pandemic. Each piece has its own title, and collectively the series is entitled “What I Have Learned (Fill in the Blank).” 

The Princeton Junction artist said that the work in the show represents her response to the ongoing isolation of the pandemic, especially in its earlier days. She has tried to illustrate “satirically the disparities and inequities brought to light” during the nation’s experience of COVID-19.  Included in the exhibit are the artist’s representations of the Black Lives Matter movement, a response to George Floyd’s murder, pandemic charts, images of masking, and depictions of her own experience. more

“OPEN CALL”: This work by Linda Gilbert is part of the exhibit opening on Monday, December 6 at Gourgaud Gallery in Cranbury. The show features works in a variety of styles and sizes in several different mediums by many artists.

Gourgaud Gallery in Cranbury presents its 12th annual “Open Call” exhibit, on view Monday, December 6 through Tuesday, December 28. Admission to the gallery is free. The show will feature several different mediums (paintings, drawings, photography), in a variety of styles and sizes, created by many different artists. Admission to the gallery is free.

As part of the nonprofit Cranbury Arts Council, the Gourgaud Gallery donates 20 percent of art sales to the Cranbury Arts Council and its programs that support the arts in the community. Cash or a check made out to the artist is accepted as payment.

The gallery is located in Town Hall, 23-A North Main Street in Cranbury. Hours are  Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Visit cranburyartscouncil.org for more information.