Category Archives: Dance and the other arts

Not a New York State of Mind

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Image from Columbia Journalism Review post “Beyond the Parachute: Newsrooms rethink centralized model” Feb 26, 2017, Jean Friedman-Rudovsky

Geographic diversity is connected to something crucial re what journalists need: audience trust in their work. The Columbia Journalism Review takes a hard look at how coastal newsrooms ignore middle america in this article.

When reporters “parachute in” to cover a story, they are likely to miss the nuances.

“Often people outside of these major city bubbles see themselves depicted in print and on television in a sensationalized way, without any nuance,” says a journalist who lives in South Carolina.“The thought is ‘well, if they’re getting depictions of us wrong, what else are they getting wrong?’

We in Princeton recognize that everybody thinks New York is better.Where do we go when we are really sick? What newspaper do we need when we really want the truth? Here is the Saul Steinberg cartoon about that self-effacing city, followed by two journal items inveighing against New York-centric viewpoints.

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Saul Steinberg “Ninth Avenue” cover for the New Yorker, March 29, 1976

 Journal item #1 : I lived outside the New York sphere when I worked as a freelance dance writer in Philadelphia and then Pittsburgh. For dance critics, even those big cities are considered boondocks.  A New York critic’s move to Philadelphia drew condolence letters.

To survive, vampires need blood; dance critics need to see and review dance, and New York is the best place to do it.

Back then, to qualify as a voting member of the Dance Critics Association, you had to have had a review published in a print newspaper during the previous year. Features (advance stories based on a critic’s experience with previous performances) didn’t count.

Fine for New Yorkers and big city papers, but in the boondocks, few newspapers would print reviews. I brought this up so often that I got to be known, somewhat affectionately, as the “lady from Philadelphia” even when I lived in Pittsburgh.

Journal item #2: Reporters treasure good sources. Reporters from small papers — from areas unknown to the “big city guys” — particularly treasure sources that respond with the same attention and respect that they might give to a Washington Post or New York Times reporter.

How I ran across this CJR story was because I follow the path of a former assistant managing editor of the Wall Street Journal, Richard Tofel, who always made himself available when I was a reporter at U.S. 1 Newspaper. (We weren’t a boondocks paper — we delivered to the Dow Jones building on Route 1 North, but it was still gratifying to always get a return call.)

Tofel is now president of the Pulitzer Prize-wining nonprofit newsroom, ProPublica. It’s expanding to Chicago. Not exactly the boondocks, but at least it’s not New York. ProPublica offers a new model for investigative journalism. Whether that comes from New York or the boondocks, we need that now.

To Pro Publica, you can contribute information. You can also contribute money.  And if you care about the future of journalism, subscribe to the Columbia Journalism Review. 

 

 

 

 

 

They sold a thousand tickets —

— to the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir tonight.’

estonianIt’s in the Princeton University Concert series usually held in Alexander Hall, but, ever-so-appropriately, the venue for the choir is the Princeton University Chapel.

After years of enjoying Janell Byrne’s choreography to the work of Arvo Part “the uncrowned king of Estonian music,” I’m looking forward to hearing his choral work in that Gothic cathedral space.

Here is the program.

Though the ‘regular’ tickets are sold out, there are ‘obstructed view’ seats available and who cares about the view? But the snow will discourage some, and concert series director Marna Seltzer suggests “likely you will be able to move to a better seat.”

With its riches of Westminster Choir College and the American Boychoir, Princeton is a singer’s town. Next weekend we’ll welcome 800 singers from all over the world for a choral festival, “Sing ‘n Joy Princeton.” Trinity Church hosts a “Friendship Concert”  on Friday night, February 17, and Princeton United Methodist Church hosts a concert on Sunday, February 19, at 3 p.m. It’s free!

3 p.m.  – Friendship Concert – Princeton United Methodist Church
• ChildrenSong of New Jersey (Haddonfield, NJ, USA)
• Paduan Suara El-Shaddai Universitas Sumatera Utara (Sumatera Utara, Indonesia)
• Liberty North High School Choir (Liberty, MO, USA)
• Shanghai Jiao Tong University Choir (Shanghai, China)
• Vassar College Majors (Poughkeepsie, NY, USA)

Take part in the joy!

 

Marathon Singing Today

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For anyone who appreciates outstanding music, please join the community at Nassau Presbyterian Church (at the top of Palmer Square) anytime from 11 am Tuesday, January 31 (yes, that’s today) to 11 am Wednesday, February 1. Westminster Choir College is one of Princeton’s crown jewels, and we cannot afford to lose it to the Lawrenceville campus of Rider University. The musical equipment, the recital rooms and even the culture simply cannot be duplicated in another location.

There is no cost to attend, and you won’t be asked to do anything but enjoy — John F. Kelsey. 

Here is the back story: 

Marathon Performance To Save Westminster Choir College’s Princeton Campus 

Hundreds of performers including dozens of choirs, prominent opera voices, quartets, organists, pianists, students, alumni and other members of the music world who support Westminster Choir College will hold a 24-hour marathon choir performance on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 11 a.m. at the 180 year old Nassau Presbyterian Church located at 61 Nassau Street in Princeton. The performance will last through Wednesday morning.

The marathon performance will be held so the performers, who will come from throughout the New Jersey, New York and Philadelphia areas, can show their opposition to Rider University’s plan to close Westminster Choir College’s Princeton campus and consolidate all students onto the Lawrenceville campus. It is being considered in order to avoid a possible $13.1 million deficit by 2019.

“The announcement has outraged current Westminster students, parents and alumni because the historic Princeton campus is unique in the world in preparing performing artists for the rigors of concert halls, classrooms and recording studios,” the Coalition to Save Westminster College said in a release announcing the event. “Over the last 90 years, Westminster Choir College choirs have performed with premier orchestras and conductors, welcoming the likes of Arturo Toscanini, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Leopold Stokowski, Eugene Ormandy, Leonard Bernstein, Seiji Ozawa, Zubin Mehta, Kurt Mazur, and Yannick Nézet-Séguin.”

Rider University first announced this possibility in December. After that, the coalition was formed. Additionally, a change.org petition that has launched, known as Keep Rider University’s Westminster Choir College Campus in Princeton Open, and there is a Keep Westminster Choir College in Princeton Facebook group.

Earlier this month, the coalition made its case to the Princeton Historic Preservation Committee that the Princeton campus is worthy of historic designation.

“At a time when arts, music and theatre programs are being threatened across the United States, this ninety year old institution which has trained many of our nation’s leading artists cannot be allowed to become a victim of the accountant’s balance sheet,” the coalition said in its statement issued this week. The final decision, expected next month, may come at a later date.

Please do not respond to this…but attend if you care about music.

Very sincerely

John F. Kelsey, III

 

 

Hinted accusation?

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Gioacchino Rossini, composer of “The Barber of Seville” in 1815

First a mere insinuation, just a hinted accusation, slowly growing to a rumor, which will shortly start to flow.

What began as innuendo Soon is swelling in crescendo; Gossip turning into scandal, Stopping nowhere hard to handle… 

Those lines were written 200 years ago for Rossini’s “Barber of Seville,” illustrating how to use slander or calumney (calunnia, in Italian) to ruin a rival’s reputation.
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I saw the fabulous South African coloratura Pretty Yende in this opera at the Met today and couldn’t help comparing compare the aria The Art of Slander, sung by Basilio, to “alternative facts.” And to the Tea Party’s slandering of Obama. And to “fake news,” like what inspired a guy to bring a rifle to a DC pizza parlor.
Other writers have been noticng the same thing.

From the start of Obama’s administration, there were rumors he was a Muslim, not an American citizen, that he was a racist, and worst of all, a socialist. These rumors were repeated and used to fan the fire of the ill-will of people who were quite legitimately upset with what had happened to the country. However, the calumny was used to target a president who had nothing to do with what got us here, and it has been used to fan the hatred against him, disrespect him, and do the absolute opposite of what he’s trying to do to fix the economy. All in all, it’s quite cynical.

Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Rick Perry, and Rick Santorum all must have have taken a lesson from Rossini’s The Barber of Seville. (From the Musical Almanac). 

This exciting production continues at the Met through February 11. Here are the complete lyrics and here is the video of Samuel Ramey in Rossini’s “La Calumnia” Start at Minute Two.

What can we do in the 21st century to keep calumny from being effective?

Reports and Antidotes

 

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“Reconciliation by Vasoncellos. Photo by Martinvl, couresty Wikimedia Commons

 

On the way to the dentist, outside the Princeton Ballet School studio, I encountered a distraught dancer. She said she can’t stand to listen to the news but needs to know what’s happening. So — Susan — this is for you.

Keep up with what’s happening without depressing yourself.  By limiting your news to weekly reports,.you can safely plug your ears to most of the noise, for the sake of mental stability, and still not miss everything.

Think Progress.org promises to summarize all actions taken in the White House every Friday. The snark content is milder than my Twitter feed. It ends with a delicious segment from Samantha Bee.

Politico also offers weekly emails, for the White House and for New Jersey.  They are a roundup of this digital news organization’s  reported stories — more information but more overwhelming.

Online, Washington Week, even without Gwen Ifill, helps me see the big picture without triggering stress.

Mental stability?  Here is a “how to” article on how to achieve it, “Finding Healing and Peace in a Polarized Political Climate.”  It’s from the national organization of the United Methodist Church to which I belong. 

Many of the same hints come from a just-published blog on Medium, by Mirah Curzer, titled “How to Stay Outraged Without Losing Your Mind: Self Care Lessons for the Resistance.

  • Spend a significant amount of time not thinking about Trump and all the work that has to be done. Do not get used to Trump — get away from him.
  • If you want to be effective on anything, pick an issue or two that matter most to you and fight for them. Let the others go.
  • Resolve to do something small every day, without fail. Play to your strengths. Make activism fun.
  • Take care of yourself: exercise, sleep, time with friends, get outside. “Make your bed. Seriously, it takes like two minutes max and makes such a difference.
  • Oh, and call your mother, if you can.”

All this said, it’s hard not to check my Twitter feed.

 

Morning star, o cheering sight

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a Moravian star

Three Moravian hymns touch my heart. Many know we used to belong to Redeemer Moravian Church in Philadelphia. They are:

Jesus Makes My Heart Rejoice — a simple  quatrain that I my granddaughter, Jillian Fox, sing at our 50th anniversary service.

Hosanna! — a responsive hymn for Palm Sunday which would be challenging for most congregations except that Moravians are born knowing how to sing four part harmony.

Morning Star — traditionally sung at the Christmas Eve love feast by one child, responsively with the congregation.

Morning star, o cheering sight, ere thou camst how dark earth’s light. Jesus mine, in me shine, fill my heart with light divine…

It was a memorable Christmas Eve when our nine year old daughter was the soloist as this small church celebrated a Love Feast. After this hymn sung in darkness, ushers bring in trays of lighted beeswacandlelitx candles as the congregation sings Break Forth o Beauteous Heavenly Light.

So you can imagine my delight when I learned that the Chancel Choir at my church (Princeton United Methodist) will sing Morning Star n an arrangement by Helen Kemp at a Christmas concert on Sunday, December 18 at 5 p.m.. They previewed it in morning worship the week before.

Jesus mine, in me shine, fill my heart with light divine…

Sassy Latina? Maybe not always.

 

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“I am inspired by lessons from the Caribbean that underscore creativity, resilience and the capacity for both resistance and celebration in the midst of difficulty,” says Alicia Diaz, a professional dancer who grew up in Princeton. She will participate in an unusual lecture demonstration this Friday afternoon  at Princeton University. Entitled “Diasporic Body Grammar: an encounter of movements and words,” it will be December 2, 2 to 5:30 p.m. in the Wilson College Black Box Theater.

Asked, in an interview, whether she struggles with stereotypes, Diaz brought forward the stereotype of the “sassy Latina.” “Here ethnicity, gender, and sexuality come together to be consumed and dismissed at the same time. I struggle with rejecting the stereotype and its negative implications while also acknowledging and owning its potential power.” 

Diaz, assistant professor of dance at the University of Richmond, will perform with her partner, Matthew Thornton. Here is a video of her work. Also participating will be a Brazilian artist, Antonio Nobrega. For information, contact Pedro Meira Monteiro pmeira@PRINCETON.EDU

 

 

Each photo with a story

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Lunching at the Empire Diner, Chelsea, New York

In these fraught moments, when some rejoice and many despair, I find comfort in Duncan Hartley’s photographs.

 Hartley had pursued several careers. Most recently he was in charge of multimillion dollar donations for prestigious health institutions. But he began as a photojournalist in high school, and continued ‘shooting’ for 50 years. The photographer’s “eye” that could tell the story behind a face helped him breach the facade of deep-pocketed givers.

Hartley is readying a book of his New York photographs from then and now. “Then” was 1957 to the Bicentennial. “Now” is as recent as last September, when he revisited the Feast of San Gennaro for the umpteenth time.  Paging through his work, online now at duncanhartley.com, I am struck by the contrasts between despair and joy even in the supposedly halcyon days.  In black and white, a man in a tailored suit, nicely groomed, bent over bags of newspapers gleaned from trash cans.  Passing by a legless veteran playing the accordion in Times Square are two haughty women, described by Hartley, in the language of e e cummings, as having “comfortable minds.”

In contrast to the harried commuters and the desolate staircase at Grand Central Station and the man with the Armagedon sign — is the 1974 photo of an African American couple — he in bell bottoms, she in a kilt skirt, facing each other, holding both hands, titled “Loving Couple Enraptured.” And the 1976 color image of a jubilant crowd in the bleacher ready to welcome the tall ships — with the twin towers in the background.

Hartley documents the passage of time. At Grand Central, men look up phone numbers in the display of telephone books and we people watch at the now defunct Empire Diner. He shows us how Little Italy – with Canola Man and Pretzel Man — has gradually accessed Chinatown, by picturing a gaggle of girls from different ethnic origins and an elderly Asian couple lost in the San Gennaro crowd.

I take photos. I come from a family that placed a high value on photography. I grew up in Baltimore, where we revered the work of A. Aubrey Bodine. I like to take photographs of people. I like to think I have “an eye” for a good shot. And I am in complete awe of these pictures, each with its compelling story.

He shows us poignant. He shows us despair. He shows me that — no matter how fraught I think today’s political situation is — life will go on. New York will go on. We will all get through this.

Full disclosure: the photographer is a friend and compatriot at my church. But I am among the last and least in a queue of experts and luminaries who offer fulsome praise for his work.

Beethoven: An edge of aggression and danger

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For Princeton University Concerts today, the Takacs String Quartet played for a stage-full of people who came to meditate while listening to Beethoven. This session — free including sandwiches afterward — helped to celebrate the 6-concert Beethoven cycle. The quartet played the first movement of Beethoven’s Opus 18 #2 (it was on the first program, Tuesday) and the adagio from the E-Flat Major quartet, Opus 127, which is scheduled for the 4th program, January 19.

Princeton’s classical music audience is generally quite respectful. No unwrapping of candy, no shuffling of feet, coughers are embarrassed, sneezers more so. But rarely have I been in a listening group where everybody tried so hard to sit still. Today at Richardson Auditorium an overflow crowd filed into the auditorium, onto the stage, for Mindfulness and Music, a guided meditation. The posters overhead celebrated the Takacs quartet’s six-concert Beethoven cycle. The quartet was surrounded with people sitting on chairs and kneeling on pillows. Matthew Weiner of the Office of Religious Life explained the rules and struck a gong three times. Long silence. More long silence. We all meditated our hearts out. Than the quartet began to play.

First violinist Edward Dusinberre said later that it was a whole new experience to begin from silence — no entering with adrenaline pumping, no prep to get ready, just — lift the bow and break the silence. “It was a fragile moment,” he said.

Andras Fejer, cellist, confirmed that – with this meditation group, so receptive, in such an intimate space, the quartet felt they could just present the music, with no need garner attention by ramping up dramatic contrasts.

Geraldine Walther, the violist, was nearly overcome with emotion as she described how, as she played (and I hope I’m being accurate here), she feared for the values that she held dear. Yet she knew that these values have survived since Beethoven’s time, for 200 years, and she found comfort in that.

Mary Pat Robertson, one of my long-time friends in the dance community, had this response. It was so moving to be able to experience chamber music up close, and with a group of people coming to the experience with a specific desire and intentionality to their listening.”

Robertson offers a way to think about how Beethoven can help us get through what many of us believe will be a period of national and international turmoil:

“When we think about music to meditate to, we might think of anodyne “spa” music.  Beethoven’s music has an edge of aggression and danger that are far from that.  It is music made in a time of uncertainty and political instability, declaring the power of the individual soul.”

beethoven-poster-img_2213“We have been living (up until now) in a time of great peace and prosperity, relative to his era.  Those of us who shared this experience together took away a heightened sense of the risk-taking of great art, and the importance of sharing our emotions with each other with the materials of spirit that are uniquely given to each of us.” 

“As one of the quartet said, “we are only the vessels.”

 

Momentary Quartet October 29

jane-buttars-quartetExperience the excitement of music created live! The Momentary Quartet plays Saturday, October 29, at 7:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 50 Cherry Hill Road,  in Princeton. Tickets at the door, $15.   Experience the excitement of music created live! Jane Buttars, piano, Harold McKinney, trombone, Patrick Whitehead, trumpet, and Lin Foulk, horn, improvise in styles from classical to blues to world music. With Daniel Harris, poet, and Aurelle Sprout, dancer. 

To continue in this vein, Buttars offers a workshop on Sunday, October 30, 1-3pm.   Enjoy inventing music with others in a fun, supportive atmosphere. Beginners to professionals welcome. $10 donation suggested. 

www.MomentaryQuartet.wordpress.com, 609-683-1269, janepiano2@comcast.net