Wednesday, April 21, 2021
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Historic Train Bridge Steams Up Trouble

Bordentown City history enthusiasts want the state to reconsider its plans to replace the 1831 Farnsworth Avenue Stone Arch Carriage Bridge and Tunnel.

The conservation of one of Bordentown City’s most prominent historic sites — the Joseph Bonaparte estate — has made headlines from the Philadelphia Inquirer to the New York Times (and U.S. 1, too). But some local preservationists have their sights set on another landmark in the city.

Under the city, too.

The Farnsworth Avenue Stone Arch Carriage Bridge and Tunnel was slated to be replaced based on a plan proposed by the New Jersey Department of Transportation. The state cites shortcomings, including missing stones, water leakage, cracked and bulging walls, voids, and scaling. The tunnel’s inadequate vertical clearance, the state said, renders it functionally obsolete.

But residents and historians argue that the site, which dates back to the 1830s, should instead be preserved and restored.

“The state says it’s falling apart, but others say it’s not,” said Doug Kiovsky, vice president of the Bordentown Historical Society. “If anything, it should be rehabilitated, not destroyed. Once you do that, that’s history. That’s it.”

The Farnsworth Avenue bridge is the oldest carriage bridge constructed over modern railroad tracks made of rolled iron and inverted T-rails, wrote local train enthusiast Pierre Lacombe in a letter to the Department of Transportation.

It dates back to the Camden & Amboy Railroad, the state’s first permanent railroad and one of the first in the country. The bridge and tunnel is the largest manmade structure along the entirety of the C&A corridor.

“It’s a significant bridge,” Kiovsky said. “It’s kind of like a bookend. The John Bull locomotive went right under that tunnel. This was the first tunnel that the John Bull ever went under. Where’s the John Bull now? In the Smithsonian.”

The state proposed tearing down the existing structure and replacing it with a prefabricated archway in 2019. The plans also affect the veterans memorial that sits on top of the bridge, at the corner of Farnsworth and Railroad avenues.

Under the state’s proposal, the memorial would be removed, store,d and replaced with a new structure, said Stephanie Corbo-Pecht, a longtime Bordentown resident and member of the Bordentown City Veterans Memorial Committee.

“The artist’s rendering of the new design was representative of something you’d find in Bucks County, loaded with fieldstone as if it was built in 1700,” she said. “It was definitely not representative of the brick facade of the rest of Bordentown City. The possibility also existed that, because it would be the last stage of the project, the memorial would wind up not being replaced because of time or budgetary restraints.”

“That is the first bridge on Earth to have modern rail put underneath it,” Lacombe said.

And the reason the tracks go under the bridge instead of on top of it — like many historical finds in town — can be traced back to Joseph Bonaparte.

Robert Stevens, the president of the C&A Railroad, envisioned the line traveling over Black Creek, curving along the shoreline of Crosswicks Creek, snaking up Thornton Creek, then ending up behind what used to be the Ocean Spray plant.

“It would have been so much easier to cut a notch on the flanks of Crosswicks Creek and a notch going up Thornton Creek rather than digging that huge tunnel,” said Lacombe, a Florence resident and former geologist.

But that would have ended up on the far side of the pond located on the Bonaparte estate. Bonaparte objected to the plans. A trained lawyer with plenty of resources, he ended up suing the Camden & Amboy Railroad over its use of eminent domain. The agreement wasn’t for property being used by the state for the state, but a private entity for a private entity.

“He fought them by saying it was all just for profit,” Lacombe said. “[C&A] realized they were going to lose in court, so they settled. The settlement was — bingo. ‘Dig a trench through the center of Bordentown, and I’ll let you go across my property at Thornton Creek.”

After Lacombe learned about the DOT’s plans two years ago, he prepared a 68-page report outlining the historical significance of the site.

“I’m not a bridge engineer more than I’m anything else, but after reading engineering reports for so long, after a while, it was not really correct,” he said. “If I put together a critique of it, they’re not going to listen. However, if I lay out the scientific reasons why I think the facility should be considered a historical site, they can’t say, ‘Nobody told us. We didn’t know.’ They can’t use that as an excuse.”

Its original keystone marker, still intact, is dated 1831, and the original stone sleepers are still present around the tracks. Graffiti that goes back to the 1800s — likely the initials of the men who built the structure — can be found on the tunnel walls.

Another stone sleeper, he said, was used by a group of government officials, academics, and shipping industry professionals to determine the depth of the Delaware River after the Civil War — “all those issues that are important for navigation and transportation,” Lacombe said. They got together at the Navy base at Sandy Hook in 1883 and monitored sea levels consistently over five years.

“The benchmark down on the monument states that this place is 38.96 feet above the mean sea level at Sandy Hook,” Lacombe said. “Only one other was found, in Phillipsburg. It’s pretty neat.”

But these artifacts — and the structure itself — are just a slice of the whole C&A pie.

“The whole Camden & Amboy corridor is a historical site,” Lacombe said. “It’s accepted as being the first major railroad in New Jersey.”

And Kiovsky thinks that could be a big draw to Bordentown in the future — the 200th anniversary of railroading in New Jersey is 10 years down the line. He’d like to see the bridge become part of a rail trail or steam ride, similar to the locomotive in New Hope.

“To have something significant like the railroad bridge nominated and saved would help us out from a railroaders standpoint,” he said. “We’re not an Altoona. We’re not a Scranton. But we have some significance in that we have this old bridge that Scranton or Altoona may not have. You’d be very hard-pressed to find any railroad bridge in the United States that says 1831 or older.”

He also added that he has found items like original 1830s railroad spikes while out and working on something unrelated to the bridge. Visitors can compare the original rails to modern ones. There are scrape marks on the tunnel from old rail cars that outgrew the space.

The historical significance is there, he said. The state just needs to recognize it.

“It’s the largest manmade structure along the Camden & Amboy Railroad,” Kiovsky said. “I hope it’s still up in 10 years.”

 

To the Editor: 2021 Reflections on Earth Day

Bee balm. Photo by Tina Notas.

“People must feel that the natural world is important and valuable and beautiful and wonderful and an amazement and a pleasure.” — David Attenborough, Steward of the Earth

Dear Friends,

What a perfect time of year this is to celebrate the beauty and the importance of our life-sustaining Earth!

Newly greened trees, the songs of birds, colorful flowers that make us smile, and the rejuvenation of farm fields — all of these miracles create new hope.

This Earth Day, I find myself reflecting on the legacy of people who have cared for our Earth. For it’s in the little things we do every day, the causes we support, and the choices we make in how we live our lives, that we become integral to the Earth’s stewardship.

David Attenborough, Earth Steward, declares, “People must feel that the natural world is important and valuable and beautiful and wonderful and an amazement and a pleasure.” Here in central New Jersey, D&R Greenway remembers hometown heroes from our preservation family whom we have lost this year and whose impacts are longstanding: People like Bill Swain who, as an early trustee, shepherded our first land preservation transactions. Landowner Betty Wold Johnson who preserved her land to ensure forever-green open spaces in our community. D&R Greenway supporter Jody Kendall, who gave quietly to create special places including our labyrinth and Healing Trail. Leaders, at the top of the list Princeton Mayor and D&R Greenway Board Chair Phyllis Marchand, who led us all with her legendary energy and flair. Every name has a story behind it, each inspiring us to do our part.

Without Earth and the people who care for it, where would we be? Yes, we’ve landed on the Moon and Mars. But Earth is our home, sustaining life as we know it. Let’s use this Earth Day to recommit to its protection — every day.

Tell me (info@drgreenway.org) — what will you do to celebrate Earth Day?

Linda J. Mead

President & CEO, D&R Greenway Land Trust

Editor’s note: The D&R Greenway is itself marking Earth Day in part with the announcement that more than 60 species of healthy local plants are ready for its annual Native Plant Sale. Purchases may be arranged online through Wednesday, April 28. Visit www.drgreenway.org/shop/native-plants.

Pick-ups are scheduled for Thursday through Saturday, May 6 through 8. Planting natives enhances regional gardens in beauty as well as in usefulness to native creatures, especially pollinators.

D&R Greenway’s native trees, shrubs, perennial wildflowers, grasses, sedges, and ferns are grown either on-site or purchased from reputable local native-plant growers. Native Plant Nursery specimens are grown from locally sourced starter plants and are free of harmful nicotinoid insecticides. Planting natives that evolved locally requires less maintenance in terms of fertilizer, water, and pesticides.

The nursery is on the grounds of D&R Greenway’s Conservation Campus at the Johnson Education Center, One Preservation Place, Princeton. The land trust requests that purchasers arriving for pick-up be masked. Native Plant Sale proceeds support D&R Greenway’s preservation and stewardship mission. The Johnson Education Center’s barn is not currently open to the public. Plant advice cannot be offered at time of sale.

Tina Notas — the Greenway’s director of stewardship and the photographer responsible for the bee balm pictured above — says, “We are pleased that our proven online purchasing process allows regional gardeners to select vibrant native flora, transforming home landscapes into bountiful habitat for all seasons.”

“Our broad array of plants has been selected to benefit wild species specific to New Jersey’s unique ecosystem. Turning home gardens into habitat benefits locally evolved species, in both critical breeding and migratory seasons.”

Area Organizations Celebrate Earth Day

The warm spring weather has brought people outside to their yards, and while they are places for gathering and personal relaxation, they are also part of the local ecosystem and should be sustainably managed.

To educate the public how to go about doing that, Sustainable Princeton is presenting an outdoor Sustainable Landscaping Mini-Expo at the Princeton Shopping Center on Saturday, April 24, from noon to 3 p.m.

Attendees will have an opportunity to explore best practices in sustainable landscaping by checking out electric landscaping equipment, learning about organic lawn care techniques, and diving into native plants.

Quiet Princeton, a group focused on reducing the use of loud and environmentally wasteful leaf blowers, will provide advice on sustainable landscaping and mulching.

Native plant garden designer Judith Robinson will share her knowledge about native plants and show off a few that might work in your garden. In addition, The Watershed Institute, D&R Greenway, and Princeton’s Shade Tree and Environmental commissions will share additional best practices.

The Mini-Expo will offer several models of electric landscaping equipment for attendees to check out. A few “green” residents will be present to show off their favorite battery-powered mowers, blowers, tillers, leaf shredders, hedge trimmers, line trimmers, and more.

This event will be held outdoors in the courtyard of the Princeton Shopping Center to maintain social distance. Attendees are asked to wear a mask and stay home if they feel unwell. To encourage sustainable transportation, attendees are encouraged to bike to the free event. Princeton Bike Advisory Committee (PBAC) will be onsite hosting a bike valet near the Verizon store for all attendees.

In advance of the event, Sustainable Princeton is also hosting a webinar on Wednesday, April 21, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on Princeton’s “Changing the Landscaping: Healthy Yards = Healthy People” project. To register visit bit.ly/ChangingTheLandscape-2.

For more information on Sustainable Princeton visit www.sustainableprinceton.org.

The Mercer County Sustainability Coalition is also offering a series of events from April 24 to 30 in celebration of Earth Week. All events are free, but registration is required.

The annual storm clean-up at Colonial Lake in Lawrenceville takes place Saturday, April 24, from 10 a.m. to noon, coordinated by Public Works and The Watershed Institute.

On Sunday, April 25, at 3 p.m. Kathleen Biggins, founder of C-Change Conversations, presents “Climate Change and Energy” to learn about the science of Climate Change and its impacts.

At 4 p.m. artist Susan Hockaday, shows another way of seeing the impact of climate change. At 5 p.m. KerriAnn Lomardi and Michele Calabrese present NJ Clean Energy Plan incentives, which are designed to help reduce our energy and carbon footprint.

On Monday, April 26, at 7 p.m. the Hopewell Valley and West Windsor green teams present “Journey Toward Zero Waste” with tips for assessing the waste that your family generates and ways to reduce it.

Trenton’s Green Team hosts a panel discussion on Tuesday, April 27, at 7 p.m. on “Clean Transportation in the Capital City.” Learn about the EV car share initiative, bike projects, and other transit-oriented development plans.

Water Wednesday kicks off April 28 at 7 p.m. Learn why Mercer County is experiencing more flooding and what that means for water quality in a program hosted by the Friends of Colonial Lake and The Watershed Institute.

On Thursday, April 29, at 7 p.m. stormwater specialist Kory Kreiseder of the Watershed Institute presents “Green Infrastructure Resources” and discusses how we can use trees, plants, and soil to capture and clean the polluted stormwater runoff.

Friday, April 30, concludes Earth Week events with two Zoom sessions. At 2:30 p.m. Jillian Stark, land steward for Mercer County Parks, presents “ Spotted Lanternfly — Learn what to do.” And at 6:30 p.m. Mercer County Parks naturalist Christy Athmejvar presents the family-friendly program “Trees are Terrific.”

Visit www.mercersustainabilitycoalition.org/greening-together-2021 for more details on these events and to register.

 

Photo Project Asks Viewers to Pause and Reflect

Arts Council of Princeton artist-in-residence Robin Resch preparing for her ‘Taking Pause’ installation on view in Dohm Alley through October.

Arts Council of Princeton artist-in-residence Robin Resch says she likes the idea of using Nassau Street’s Dohm Alley as the setting for her current photographic exhibition, “Taking Pause.”

That’s because the exhibit’s name is also a desired reaction, for area residents and visitors to take a pause to view her collaborative visual meditation that asks subjects — and viewers — to reflect on things that are personally essential and irreplaceable — a provocation made more poignant during our COVID-19-challenged era.

Resch says the exhibition, on view through October, is based around a three-level approach that involves a subject, the irreplaceable, and a personal statement.

“It was very important to me as I started to work on this that each person is not a passing subject. They are a participant. They’re engaging in this project and engaging on few levels. Their voice is so important to me.”

She says the idea for a series featuring a meaningful portrait of a person through something that matters to them came from a personal experience.

“My mother has an old maritime painting that I love — crashing water and energy. It is something that will never be mine. So I thought how can I make it mine?”

Although she used photography, she says, “I deconstructed (the work) in a way, took moments from it, created other versions of it, and put it together on panels. Images were wood panels covered in caustic wax. So it doesn’t look like photographs. It looks different. This process became important to me.”

The approach also provided her with a method where she could work on a portrait that would convey the depth of the subject. Although, she says, it took a while for her to find the language to convey her intent.

“It isn’t ‘What is important to you?’” she says about communicating with the subject “But, ‘What is irreplaceable to you?’ Not everyone thinks about the question.”

The project began in 2018 when the Princeton-based professional photographer “reached out to a few people in town and bounced the idea off them. A few of those early people were my first participants.”

Eventually, she says, she had developed criteria for subjects or participants, “not a client, not a close friend, someone out of my comfort zone, not in my reach. I started with about eight people in here, New York, and Pennington, and I asked each person to help me” to find participants.

She says she chose to trust others to take her project seriously and to connect her with others who would do the same. “I was trusting them to help, and they did. Trust has been part of it.”

Resch’s portraits of people, the irreplaceable, and their statements now line the walls of Dohm Alley.

Resch followed recommendations with a letter inviting them to participate, including addressing the question regarding the irreplaceable, writing or sharing some thoughts regarding on it, and possibly connecting her to another participant.

The project eventually grew to include a four-month trip across the southern portion of the United States.

“I went to participant to participant, and sometimes they hosted me. Both of us were out of our comfort zone, and in certain cities I had a very generous host or hostess and stayed with them and worked in that community.”

When she returned home to address some professional and artistic needs, she says, “I was looking at what I did and what could happen, and then the pandemic hit. That put travel on hold, to put it mildly.”

However, she continues, “In New Orleans I got to work with a wide range of people that I would never have had to the chance to. And I realized that it would be great to work in a community. In a way that is what I’m doing now in Prince­ton.”

Since the pandemic thwarted planning for an indoor gallery exhibition, she and the ACP chose to present “Taking Pause” in the outdoor Dohm Alley — an art presentation space created several years ago by Princeton-based artists and now coordinated by Princeton Future.

Originally from Wilton, Connecticut, Resch came to Princeton to study architecture.

Describing her progression to an established commercial and fine arts photographer, Resch says, “Photography came first. I always had a camera since I was 16. I was given a camera by my dad and was always passionate. But architecture was something I wanted to study when I was younger. My father was an architect and thought it was a difficult profession. My mother thought so, too. Architecture was always something I wanted to do.”

After graduating from Wilton High School, where she was a yearbook photographer, she spent a year in Italy as a foreign exchange student and then attended the University of Michigan. “I chose to study art history because it encompasses a lot. Afterwards I still had a design interest and thought of fashion. I actually got accepted into a school in Paris, but my parents said try the fashion industry. So after college I went to New York and the fashion industry and then worked as a marketing director for several established companies.

“I met the man who I ended up marrying who is Belgian, and he was the program director at PS 1. He was asked to start a contemporary arts space in Holland.”

She continued to work in fashion but thought again of architecture and decided to study it in Holland. Although she learned the Dutch language to do so, she saw the program entailed “five years and mostly engineering only, not as much design as I wanted.”

After she and her husband separated, she turned to arts editing to support herself and her daughter and son.

When she and her children left Europe, she moved back to her parents’ home, decided to study architecture, and applied to several universities. “I got into all the programs, but Princeton made it irresistible, and it all worked out.”

That includes her engagement with another department. “(Distinguished American photographer) Emmet Gowin was in the visual arts department at Princeton, and I studied with him for several semesters. It was a very tactile approach — a way of thinking, being, and doing that I had never studied because I was self-taught.”

Of her interest in architecture, she says, “I think very fundamentally I’m interested in people and their environments and spaces. So at its most basic level, it’s that. I also think that architecture is an ability to make something and tell a story to say something — it was a language that I wanted to learn. It is also about design, and, at a core level, it is about who we are in our space.”

Drawn to contemporary or modern architecture, such as those buildings designed by Mies van der Rohe, she says another level of interest in studying architecture is that it is “encompassing. It’s about materials and space. It’s about the needs of the space. A good architect deals with so much more than the technical.

“When I applied to the architecture schools, I wanted the education not the profession. I went into it for the tool kit, the language.”

Additionally, she adds, “Princeton didn’t insist I use CAD. As long as I could convey my idea, it was okay. I learned visual skills that I didn’t have. The architectural education forced me to learn. I had a very amazing visual education with Gowin and a theoretical education in architecture. At Princeton I got the best of everything.”

Then turning to her life with a camera, Resch says she was drawn to photography by “the magic of the medium. It was the beauty of it. If you ever worked in a dark room — there is something magical. I was making pictures because I loved it and had not thought of doing it professionally.

“When I was in Holland, I took it more seriously. In the context of the people I was with, cutting edge and contemporary art work, I learned from all that and kept going. From there I felt the importance of doing it and what it meant to me.”

Resch says instead of seeing it as a career path, she saw it as a way of making something for others. “It meant to me that you can make something, that you can see something that others may not notice, and create something that can resonate. Something that can exist beyond what you made for yourself and could be meaningful to someone else. It’s the ability to perceive and notice something that others may not see. It has some sort of impact.”

Although she mentions photographers she appreciates — Walker Evans for “his eye and his attention to little moments and humor”; German photographer Thomas Struth’s “very beautiful” portraits — she says, “Generally speaking I don’t look to a lot of previous examples. I like different people’s work. But I don’t have a role model. There are so many beautiful moments in the history of photography. I love something by (Edward) Steichen and (Eugene) Atget.”

As a commercial photographer whose practice includes weddings, family portraits, and corporate promotions, Resch says she approaches them in a spirit similar to her fine art photography. “I am a curious person. And I am a visual person. I respond to certain moments. People trust me to see what they’re not seeing and bring that to them.

“The professional jobs that I love to do are weddings. You’re given access to a special event and share it from an angle that the bride and groom are never going to see. It is a great joy to do weddings. It is my job to see things that others may not see.”

With a portfolio that includes black and white and color, Resch says the following about the two approaches. “I love black and white. I started in black and white. I developed film myself and never learned color process. I love the power of black and white. In color, you focus on different things. Certain circumstances call for color. The color becomes so important that it is part of the story. It depends on the situation. Color is really powerful.”

She is also drawn to images that require a blend between the two, such as a scene of flowing water where the color was so muted that it appears to be black and white.

That image was one in a series where Resch set out to capture movement. “I started photographing kids — and I had my own kids — the movement of life. It just isn’t static. Movement and being out of focus — it is my own self-portrait mode. Life is fluid, and we’re going through it. What is the experience of this fluidity?”

She also demonstrates an interest in creating photographic images that push the limits of traditional photographic presentation, including painterly works where the color glows like stained glass or disfocused images to “bring an emotional feeling — an energy. Something I feel in the moment.”

Reflecting on the difference between being commissioned as a photographer or an architect, Resch says, “The reason people hire me is that they trust me. Compare it to architecture where the client is more involved. I am trusted for my eye. Architecture is a much more complicated process; it is less immediate. I am given a lot more control and independence.”

That independence allows her to see projects as “an invitation to see things” and create portraits of machines and photographing products to reflect the energy of the maker.

“I like that diversity, and I like that challenge,” she says.

Taking Pause by Robin Resch, April through October, Dohm Alley, 102 Nassau Street, Princeton. For more on Robin Resch, visit www.robinreschstudio.com.

Area Handbell Composer Ringing Sue’s Blues

Susan Nelson, right, with Marvin Rosen and Inna Lai in the WPRB studios for an episode of ‘Classical Discoveries.’

(Editor’s Note: With the guidance of the devoted host of WPRB radio’s Classical Discoveries, Marvin Rosen, U.S. 1 has started to reach out to area composers who are still creating despite the disruption of live concerts during the pandemic).

Handbell music composer Susan Nelson is a rock star in Estonia.

In this country near the Baltic Sea, hundreds of people come out for handbell choirs. But they also get together in substantial crowds for all kinds of other music, as well as performing and literary arts, even poetry readings.

That’s the power of the arts in Estonia, and Nelson got swept up in that love when she befriended the Campanelli Handbell Ensemble and its leader, Inna Lai, who embraced Nelson and her work.

“Estonian commitment to and love for music is amazing, in fact they like to say they sang themselves free from Soviet occupation,” Nelson says, adding, “Music is mandatory in education, there are statues of poets, writers, musicians, visual artists everywhere, it’s a very creative and artistic country.”

The Hamilton resident was invited to Estonia in October, 2013, by Lai, to attend an “author’s concert,” consisting entirely of her works. The composer knew her music was being performed in the Baltic country but was quite surprised when Lai reached out via e-mail and described the all-Nelson program, which would be titled “Sue’s Blues.”

The ongoing friendship with Lai led to more international collaborations, and handbells and hands reached back across the sea, when the Campanelli group and Lai came to central New Jersey in 2017, for “Sue’s Blues Too.”

“Campanelli’s U.S. tour was a great success,” says Nelson. “This grass roots, independent venture was managed by the Estonian Outreach Committee of Hamilton, consisting of four members: Bill Simon, Nancy Scanlan, my sister Cecilia Gilligo, and me.”

The Campanelli choir performed at the New York Estonia House in New York City, Our Lady of Sorrows Church, in Hamilton Township, St. Paul Lutheran Church in Beachwood, and the Washington Crossing Visitor Center in Pennsylvania.

She notes that “Sue’s Blues Too” was different in that half of the program was devoted to Estonian music and composers, in addition to her work. “Why bring 17 musicians all the way from Estonia without introducing audiences to their wonderfully creative music?” Nelson says.

“Miraculously we didn’t lose our shirts, and every cent of funds raised and proceeds from the concerts went to Campanelli to cover their expenses,” she says.

The volunteer group handled everything — fundraising, hotels, homestay lodging, bus transportation, car rentals, booking venues and getting backers, programs, advertising, press releases, bulk mailings, securing equipment, bells, performers, and other details. Nelson’s son Jonathan assisted with driving and errands.

“We even fit in a weekend trip to Niagara Falls,” Nelson says. “It was a wild ride, but we’ve all said we would do it again in a minute.”

Two years later, in 2019, Nelson would return to Estonia for “Sue’s Blues 3.”

Her career in composing, conducting, and performing with handbell choirs began more than 30 years ago, when Nelson was director of music and organist at the now shuttered Advent Lutheran Church in Trenton. To mark its 100th anniversary, the church purchased a two-octave set of handbells.

They turned to Nelson for instruction, which she was pleased to do. “I said, ‘Sure, but send me to school.’ So I took Saturday seminars at Westminster (with Katsumi Kodama) and learned everything I needed to know about how to start a bell choir. This was a no-brainer: I saw the opportunity and took it.”

Nelson was especially drawn toward handbells because of their lovely tonalities and almost angelic ambiance.

“Handbell choirs and music for the choirs are a whole universe in themselves,” she says. “Handbells just have this aura. They’re not only beautiful to listen to, they’re visually beautiful as well.”

Nelson recently retired after more than 20 years working in cataloging at Westminster Choir College’s Talbott Library. With the goal of pursuing composition full time, she also left her position as organist and director of music at St. Mark Church in Bristol, Pennsylvania, one of a string of directorships she has had throughout four decades.

Nelson has played piano, organ, harpsichord, handbells, recorder, guitar, flute, and the Renaissance double-reed instrument the crumhorn for more than 40 years.

Growing up in Ewing among a musical family, she was originally a pianist. Her dad and mom — a maintenance worker and legal secretary — insisted on private lessons.

“My parents grew up during the Depression, and their parents couldn’t afford to give them music lessons,” Nelson says. “So they made sure to give each of their children a musical education.”

Nelson earned her BA in music theory and composition from Rutgers University in 1979. She went back to school while in her 50s and in 2014 graduated summa cum laude with a master’s of music degree from the University of Valley Forge, PA.

The “Sue’s Blues” concert served as her graduate composition recital for the university, supported by a 200-page thesis, “A Ringing Evolution: An International Graduate Composition Recital.”

Naming Johann Sebastian Bach as her strongest influence (“I’ve loved him since I was about 10,” she says) Nelson focused on composition, which tickled her love of solving problems and putting things together.

“Composition is like a puzzle, and I love puzzles and crosswords,” she says. “I love to figure how things ‘tick,’ how to make things work, and that ties in with crosswords and whatnot.”

Nelson’s first original work was published in 1991, a piece she had written for a friend who had died. Titled “Appalachian Air,” it was dedicated to the memory of Timothy Gorman, who was director of music at the First United Methodist Church of Bristol, PA.

The budding composer had such affectionate feelings for the work, she almost didn’t submit it.

“I’m shy about sending stuff out, but I saw an ad calling for submissions, so I did it,” Nelson says. “I wrote it up as neatly as possible, gathered up my courage, and popped it in the mail, and I just about fell over when I got the contract. That first time was very, very hard, though. I felt like I was putting one of my children in the mail.”

Currently, her compositions are in print with 22 major publishers. Nelson’s works have been performed, recorded, and broadcast on six continents, and featured in festivals around the world, including in Scotland, Hong Kong, and of course Estonia, where her biggest “fan base” exists.

Nelson’s arrangement of the “Brian Boru March” was used for an Estonian TV commercial, her “Trumpet Voluntary” was the processional for the opening ceremonies of Estonia’s Independence Day celebration in 2017, and she continues to be the Campanelli ensemble’s personal composer.

She is also an innovative teacher, and as a clinician has taught composition, orchestration, music theory, and various handbell technique classes for more than 30 years. Nelson is the author of the innovative “KidzRing” series of books for children studying handbells.

She likes to say she’s pushing the envelope in her compositions, always looking for creative ways to enhance handbell literature, arranging for unusual instrumental collaborations, and writing in a wide variety of styles.

Unfortunately, concerts and tours came to a halt early last year, as the COVID-19 pandemic put life on hold, not just the performing arts.

Nelson hasn’t slacked, though, and has kept working and collaborating as best as possible.

“I had just finished a commission in February, 2020, when COVID exploded, and since no one is practicing — handbell or vocal choirs — I still haven’t heard the piece,” she says. “It was interesting because the woman who commissioned me plays Native American flute, so it was a fascinating piece to write.”

Nelson has also been figuring out ways her compositions and arrangements can be enjoyed and played while socially distancing.

For large-scale handbell works, playing together is not feasible, so most compositions of this kind are not selling right now. Nelson says what groups need and what is really working for social distancing are pieces for just a few “ringers” with proper separation, or music that can be shared virtually.

An excellent example is her arrangement of the traditional round, “Dona Nobis Pacem” (Give us Peace).

“It’s an easy arrangement of ‘Dona Nobis Pacem’ with a lot of options,” she says. “It’s playable as a handbell solo or for more ringers, or for a ‘C’ instrument, etc., plus an MP3 of the guitar accompaniment is included so they don’t even need an accompanist.”

“I’ve published this (and other works) out of my own company,” she adds. “People can just download a PDF, there are no shipping fees, and it’s not expensive at all. This way, people can have new work while there’s no money coming in.”

“I’ve been re-vamping my website so I’ll be able to get more (works) out there, but also, with things at a standstill, I’ve been giving (compositions) away,” Nelson says. “Think of Estonia: It’s so expensive for another country to get a piece of music. I continue to produce music, but if I’d like to hear if something works, I’ll give it away.”

This way the ensemble can rehearse, perform, and record Nelson’s music, stream it or create a CD, which the group can share with or send to her.

“You always get something back when you give a piece of music away,” she says.

Susan Nelson on the web: www.susantnelson.com

Todd Evans Serving Trenton Art Family Style

Todd Evans performing during a Levitt concert event in Trenton.

“I am an open mic host, community artistic event organizer, a bit of a poet, and run a community theater group — most, if not all, of my events are free,” says Todd Evans.

A ubiquitous presence at poetry readings and spoken word events from Trenton to Princeton, Evans says, “I have been doing this for quite a few years.”

Then the 56-year-old father of two biological sons, three foster sons, and four grandchildren adds, “I was looking to ‘retire’ from it, but when COVID came on and shut so much down artistically, the fire was lit to press on.”

While Evans resides in Willingboro with his wife of 34 years, Debbie (aka “a saint and the wisest person I know”), he was born in Trenton to a noted arts family and maintains that connection with the Capital City.

His mother, Francis Evans, was a Trenton teacher and a mezzo-soprano who had performed at the White House.

His father, Don Evans, was a nationally noted playwright whose work examined the lives of Americans of African heritage and included such titles as “Mahalia” (a musical biography of Mahalia Jackson), “One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show,” and “A Love Song For Miss Lydia,” the latter televised by New Jersey Network. He was also a Princeton High School English instructor and an adjunct professor at Princeton University and Rutgers University, where he taught and collaborated with the founders of Crossroads Theater.

Additionally Evans’ brother is Grammy-nominated jazz pianist Orrin Evans. His sister, Rachel Evans, is a poet/educator.

Although he calls his parents “a huge influence” and graduated from Notre Dame High School, he dropped out of Morgan State University, a historically Black institution in Baltimore, Maryland. “I tried to follow them but somehow got distracted in a bad addiction and street life that neither of them exposed me to.”

As tells it, he remembers his father producing new and classic Black plays in Trenton through the Players Company, seeing “all different kinds of folks coming together,” and recalling “the family vibe and unity,” and wanted to reconnect with that life.

“It took me quite some time to get back to ‘here,’ but I am back and have been serving the community ever since.”

The road back included a stint in the U.S. Army, an associate’s degree from Burlington County College, and a culinary certificate from Burlington County Institute of Technology — he’s a fulltime chef.

He says his reentry into the art world was helped by being “mentored and pushed” by Trenton artists who knew his parents. That included the late nationally known poet Doc Long, noted Cool and Gang trombonist Clifford Adams, influential Trenton music teacher and saxophonist Tommy Grice, and the late Players Company actor and director — and Evans’ godfather — Ken McClain.

“They saw (the potential) in me and guided me,” he says. “The only obstacle is being wary of my own lack of confidence and low self-esteem. I suffer greatly there, but I learned how to ‘fake it ‘till I make it,’ plus I have seen young people achieve from my events, so that is a great push as well.”

Recently included in a NorthJersey.Com newspaper article on influential Black leaders, Evans pays tribute to his father through the Don Evans Theater Company, recently presenting a reading of “A Love Song for Miss Lydia” at the Trenton City Museum.

His stage name, Son of Black, also references his father. The elder Evans was a pipe smoker fond of Captain Black tobacco. Brother Orrin also uses the reference for the name of his band.

About his own work, Evans says, “My writing themes started out always being about the horrors of addiction and the freedom of recovery. I wanted to send a message about how bad addiction is and how good recovery can be. But that has broadened into poems about growing up, getting old, and my (grandchildren).

“The underlying intent of my events is for folks to be able to express themselves affordably, and avoid the dreadful ‘cliquishness’ of some events. You don’t have to be the best at my events, but you can be. All are welcome.”

Evans says some of the events coming up include “The Doc Long Poetry Through Windows Festival,” the month of May I Am Trenton grant supported tribute to the poet that uses the posting of poems in the windows of Trenton establishments and a weekly Saturday open mic readings in front of Trenton’s Classic Books (noon to 2 p.m.).

“We are looking for interested establishments, please call 609 346-4329 if you’re interested in hosting a poem for a month,” he says.

There is also the monthly free Friday open mic at the Ellarslie, the Trenton City Museum, in Cadwalader Park. Evans says, “It is streamed live off (the museum’s) Facebook page, but the artists come and perform.” The April 23, 7:30 p.m. event features Trenton-born Margaret Brown, Bucks County-based Barry Gross, Trentonian Rejon Erin, and Trenton’s Tamika Somorin. To attend, visit www.facebook.com/watch/Ellarslie.

Old—-ER

by Todd C.C. Evans — The Son of Black

You ain’t really old….but your old . . . ER
If you eat this, then this goes up,
If you eat that then that goes down
If you drink this and that,
This and that go up and down,
Trying to lose weight as you gain weight’
Arguing with those about shit you KNOW u KNOW cuz you were there.
But they too young to remember . . . or even care
Not always wanting or appreciating what you worked hard to have.
Constantly wanting what you don’t have and probably wont get,
To confused to know whats good or bad for you, but u know u cant keep on going like u use to.
Missing so much when you was young and strong
But now you cool
and usually right
Back then u was oh so wrong
Finally realizing what a long road memory lane can be
People you know dying left and right
Now YOU say them prayers for you go to bed at night,
Body starting not to do or even look like it use to
Gaining wisdom while losing patience, things change, but stay the same
..and you don’t know why, but politicians still lie, we smoke drink and get high till we die
You have live long enough to see a brother in the white house to bozo da clown in da white house half the star trek gadgets become real, facebook and how you can download your upload to your mpwhatchamacalit after you tone down your cyberipod or whatever the frick young folk be talking about. The whole covid19roots 2020 scene
Watched YOUR music become THEIR music…and it’s o.k. cuz you aint really old…just old . . . ER, changing graciously every day

NJBAC Offers Webinar Series

The New Jersey Business Action Center (NJBAC), a program of the New Jersey Department of State, is hosting an interactive virtual learning series designed to provide New Jersey businesses and nonprofits with the latest information to support recovery from disruptions caused by COVID-19.

The series runs through May 13 and is free. Visit https://nj.gov/state/bac/bac-webinars.shtml to register. Topics include:

• “Government Procurement – Making Government Your Customer” on Thursday, April 22, at noon.

• “Technical Assistance Opportunities” on Tuesday, April 27, at noon.

• “Financial Resources” on Thursday, April 29, at noon.

• “COVID Safety in the Workplace” on Tuesday, May 11, at noon.

• “Let These Government Services Help You” on Thursday, May 13, at noon.

The webinars will be streamed live via Zoom. Guests will be invited to ask questions.

 

On the Move: Princeton University, LALDEF, and More

Gifts to Princeton Include New Dorm, Bloomberg Center

Princeton University has announced two major alumni gifts in recent weeks that will alter the campus landscape for years to come.

One gift came from Bloomberg Philanthropies and will establish the Emma Bloomberg Center for Access and Opportunity to bring together the university’s initiatives in college access and opportunity, serve as a hub for research and innovation in the field of college access and success, and inform and strengthen similar efforts at colleges and universities across the country.

Emma Bloomberg is a member of the Class of 2001 and the daughter for former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg.

“My years at Princeton were tremendously formative and inspiring, and my closest friends to this day remain my classmates. I am forever grateful to have experienced such an incredible opportunity, and I want young people across the world, regardless of race, class or geographic origin, to access the same resources and opportunities,” Emma Bloomberg said in a statement.

“But to achieve that vision, we know that getting students to college isn’t sufficient; we must do all we can to provide a more comprehensive support system for all who matriculate. This center will help make sure that students who are disproportionately affected by the current inequities in education are better able to access supports, resources and opportunities, and that lessons learned are shared broadly across the country.”

“Increasing educational access and opportunity is one of the University’s highest priorities, and support from Bloomberg Philanthropies will enhance and expand current programs that help more students thrive in college and beyond,” Princeton president Christopher Eisgruber said in a statement. “The Emma Bloomberg Center will make its insights and initiatives available to other institutions that share our commitment to increasing socioeconomic diversity on college campuses.”

Additionally, Lydia and Bill Addy, a member of the Class of 1982, have made a donation as part of Princeton’s planned expansion of the undergraduate student body. Addy Hall will be a dormitory in one of the two new residential colleges being built in the southern portion of the campus.

“As we write the next chapter in the University’s history and enrich the Princeton experience by inviting a larger number of talented students than ever before, new dormitory construction is essential,” said Jill Dolan, the dean of the college, in a statement.

“It fortifies the strong sense of community, collaboration and mutual respect the residential colleges aspire to cultivate. Knowing the Addys’ devotion to Princeton and their commitment to service, I am so pleased that future Princetonians will be able to call Addy Hall their home. ‘Addy’ will take its rightful place alongside the names of buildings that have been on this campus for generations.”

Addy earned his undergraduate degree in chemical engineering and later received an MBA from Harvard. After working with Boston Consulting Group he founded ISN Software Corporation in 2001.

PU Partners with Cancer Institute

Princeton University has entered a partnership with the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, an international collective of scientists.

Other branches of the institute are located at Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, Memorial Sloan Kettering, MIT, Stanford University, the University of California-San Diego, the University of Chicago, the University of Lausanne (Switzerland), and the University of Oxford.

At Princeton the branch will be led by chemistry professor Joshua Rabinowitz and will focus on cancer metabolism. Joining Rabinowitz are associate director Eileen White, a professor of molecular biology and biochemistry at Rutgers, and principal investigator Yibin Kang, a professor of molecular biology at Princeton.

“The new branch offers us the chance to capitalize on multiple areas where Princeton is a world leader and has world-leading technologies that haven’t yet been applied to cancer,” Rabinowitz said in a statement. “We want to continue to push the frontiers of those technologies, because ultimately technologies drive biological understanding, which opens up new avenues for cancer treatment and prevention.”

Specific areas of focus will include dietary strategies to prevent and treat cancer; how bodies inadvertently support tumor growth and metastasis; and the interplay between a patient’s metabolism, gut microbiome, and anti-cancer immune response.

Management Moves

Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund, 714-716 South Clinton Avenue, Trenton 08611. 609-688-0881. www.laldef.org.

The Trenton-based Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund (LALDEF) has named Cecilia Jiménez-Weeast as its executive director.

Lorraine Goodman, who had been filling the role in an interim capacity, will stay on as associate director in charge of development and communications.

“I am happy to report that we have identified an ideally suited person to fill the post of permanent executive director at LALDEF,” board chair Patricia Fernández-Kelly said in a statement. “Cecilia Jiménez-Weeast — known as Cecy — is the former director of Latinas Unidas at the YWCA and comes to us with more than 25 years of experience. She is well connected to our Latino/a community, speaks Spanish fluently, and has a stellar trajectory in management, accounting, and public relations. We are excited to have her join our LALDEF community.”

“I am thrilled to join the dedicated team of LALDEF to continue their commitment to providing vital services to the immigrant community of Mercer County,” Jiménez-Weeast said.

LALDEF’s mission is to promote the rights of all immigrants with a focus on the Latin American community in the Mercer County area.

Deaths

Sohaib Nazeer Sultan, 40, on April 16. He had served since 2008 as Princeton University’s first Muslim life coordinator and chaplain.

Bruce Bitler, 72, on April 9. He owned and operated Mattress Fair of Pennington and later worked for Sleepy’s.

Walter M. Krecicki Jr., 68, on April 9. He worked for ETS for many years.

Janice E. Watterworth, 85, on April 6. She worked as a librarian at Princeton University before spending 25 years with Mathematica Policy Research.

William Henry Powell on April 12. He was a past owner of the Candlelight Lounge in Trenton.