"In five years I foresee the festival extending no more than 17 days, with, perhaps, an event every night. Maybe in 10 years we’ll have multiple events each night,” said Princeton Festival director Richard Tang-Yuk seven years ago.
A quick look at the festival 10th season’s calendar shows that Tang-Yuk’s projections were pretty solid. This year’s festival — running now through Sunday, June 29 — fills most of the month with jazz, classical, and theatrical events and includes a week devoted to choral workshops for conductors and a concert.
Established in 2005 with the mission “to enrich our communities by providing an excellent array of performing arts and lifelong learning in the arts to audiences of all ages,” the summer festival has become an important part of the region’s cultural life and received a 2013 citation of excellence from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.
“The New World: Voices of the Americas” is this year’s theme and includes distinctly flavored styles performed by diverse groups.
“A Cappella Vocal Jazz” is the first big event, set for Saturday, June 7, at 8 p.m. This mini-festival of voice includes three accomplished groups that organizers say “present a varied program of vocal jazz arrangements from the 1950s to the 1990s.”
Featured are Round Midnight, an award-winning a cappella quartet of music educators from New York City who use mainly a barbershop style to different musical genres such as R&B, pop, jazz, and rock; Blue Jupiter blends pop lead vocals, jazzy a cappella harmony, and funky beat box rhythms; and West Side 5 weighs in with a “unique sound, highly original arrangements, complex harmonies, and outstanding musicianship.” The performance is set for Taplin Auditorium in Fine Hall Princeton University, $25. General admission seating.
The Greater Princeton Youth Orchestra also performs on Saturday, June 7. Under the direction of music director Kawika Kahalehoe and concert orchestra conductor Arvin Gopal, the orchestra presents a program with music by Mussorgsky, Johann Strauss, Mascagni, Mozart, Rimsky-Korsakov, and others. The presentation is set for 8 p.m., Richardson Auditorium, Princeton University. (Ticket prices not posted at press time).
The festival’s Piano Competition returns Saturday, June 7, and Sundays, June 8 and 15. The event is open to pianists ages 6 through 25 who choose solo works from a list of composers including Amy Beach, Barber, Chopin, Copland, Debussy, Ginastera, MacDowell, and Villa-Lobos. The preliminary rounds on June 7 and 8 are free and open to the public. The final round, Sunday June 15, at 3 p.m., is $25 general admission. Events are held at the Clark Music Center the Lawrenceville School.
Set for Sunday, June 8, at 4:30 p.m. is a jazz night with Martin Wind and the Martin Wind Quartet. A German-born bassist and composer, Wind is an internationally recognized sideman, studio musician, and New York University adjunct faculty member. He first attracted attention in 1995 when he celebrated a third place finish at the International Thelonious Monk Bass Competition in Washington D.C.
The quartet includes Scott Robinson, a baritone saxophonist who has performed in the big bands of Bob Mintzer and Lionel Hampton, as well as the Village Vanguard Jazz Orchestra; Teaneck-based pianist Bill Cunliffe, whose credits include performances with Ray Brown, Freddie Hubbard, Benny Golson, Joe Henderson, and Frank Sinatra; and percussionist Tim Horner, big band drummer for Village Vanguard Jazz Orchestra and accompanist for jazz legends Hank Jones, Mark Murphy, and Phil Woods. Wind gives a pre-concert talk at 4 p.m. Clark Music Center, the Lawrenceville School. $45, general admission seating.
The Concordia Chamber Players, a staple of the festival since its inception, returns with a concert of music by of Dahl, Ives, Gershwin, and Debussy on Saturday, June 14, at 8 p.m. Members of the New Hope-based group — violinist Sean Lee, clarinetist Igor Begelman, cellist Michelle Djokic, and piano — have distinguished individual careers and performed at such major music festivals as Tanglewood, Marlboro, and the Lincoln Center, and with the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the San Francisco Symphony. They perform at Miller Chapel, Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton. General seating tickets are $35.
Family fare is on the schedule for Sunday, June 15, at 2 and 6 p.m., when Paper Moon Puppet Theater presents “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” The show is a TV comedy-style update of the children’s tale and features a feisty Goldilocks and a rock ‘n’ roll-obsessed little bear. Performances at the Matthews Acting Studio, 185 Nassau Street, Princeton. General admission seating is $15.
Friday, June 20, welcomes Jose Conde y Ola Fresca. Called “one of New York’s most important Latin voices” by New York City entertainment guide TIMEOUT, the Cuban-roots singer and bandleader arranges music from the Latin, jazz, and American songbooks for his band Ola Fresca (Fresh Wave). Performance is at 8 p.m., Clark Music Center, the Lawrenceville School. $25, general admission seating.
Internationally acclaimed pianist Evan Wong arrives on Friday, June 21, 8 p.m., to present his concert “Europe Meets the Americas,” featuring works by Beethoven, Ravel, and Schuman; American composers Leon Kirchner and Frederick Tzewski; and Hector Villa-Lobos from Brazil.
Born in Evanston, Illinois, Wong received his early training in Taiwan, returning to the United States at age 15 to attend the respected Walnut Hill School of the Performing Arts. He is a graduate of the New England Conservatory, which he attended on full scholarship. Today he combines a professional career with work as a fellowship student at Juilliard. His performance is set for Taplin Auditorium in Fine Hall, Princeton University. General admission tickets are $25.
“Porgy and Bess,” George and Ira Gershwin’s celebrated 1926 American opera, marks the high point of the festival with performances on Sundays, June 22 and 29, and Friday, June 27. Festival coordinator Richard Tang Yuk directs the cast led by seasoned performers Richard Todd Payne (Porgy) and Janinah Burnett (Bess). Steven LaCosse, who staged last summer’s “The Flying Dutchman” returns to direct. Sunday performances are at 3 p.m. and Saturday at 8 p.m. Matthews Theater, McCarter Theater Center for the Performing Arts, Princeton. Tickets are $30 to $140.
The festival’s final Saturday, June 28, presentation is a concert by Keystone State Boychoir, conducted by Steven M. Fisher, a co-founder of Commonwealth Youthchoirs, associate music director of Keystone State Boychoir, and a composer of musical theater.
The concert — drawn from the repertoire for the festival’s Choral Conducting Master Class and the Youth Chorus Workshop — is an “eclectic program featuring various settings of the Lord’s Prayer by John Tavener, William Billings and Sven-David Sandstorm, plus music of Josquin Desprez, Stephen Paulus, and James MacMillan.” Other selections range from Broadway to popular music. Saturday, June 28, at 7:30 p.m., Trinity Church, 33 Mercer Street, Princeton, $10 to $20, general admission seating.
If as Tang-Yuk has noted, “Art is nourishment for the soul,” this summer’s festival, to borrow the phrase from the song “Summertime” (from “Porgy and Bess”), is making “the living easy.”
Princeton Festival. Through Sunday, June 29, at the Lawrenceville School and on Princeton University’s campus. For more information, go to princetonfestival.org or call 609-759-0379.