Artistic, musical, dance and theatrical events return to Metuchen
By Gloria Stravelli
METUCHEN – Months of planning in advance usually go into scheduling cultural events that take place in the borough, but COVID-19 restrictions have put the brakes on the Metuchen Arts Council process.
“Traditionally, the Jazz Fest is in June, but it’s an expensive event and we’ve been told we can’t muster a huge audience, so we postponed it until September,” said Grace Shackney, secretary of the. arts council.
“Usually we have chamber music concerts, Cornerstone Jazz events at the Old Franklin Schoolhouse once a month on Sunday afternoons. We had the Singer / Songwriters Circle that we had at school in the winter… but we just couldn’t do it Everything was closed.
Gov. Phil Murphy’s lifting of restrictions on public gatherings earlier this month, however, has sped up the planning process.
“It was on the job,” Shackney said on June 21. “We are meeting tonight and will discuss what plans we might have for next season.
“Metuchen is making a strong comeback this summer,” read a press release from the Metuchen Arts Council. “The cultural life of the community is not the least.
Here’s what’s in store:
In no time, the Arts Council announced a full program of arts and music events starting with the Piano Project, which will open at 7 p.m. on June 25.
According to the council, the Metuchen Downtown Alliance (MDA) public art team has commissioned artists to decorate three pianos that will be placed on the street “to bring art and music to downtown Metuchen.”
The pianos will be placed in three locations: Station Place behind Hailey’s Harp & Pub; New Street between Lotsa Balls and Sushi Suzuki restaurants; and on Main Street by Antonio’s Brick Oven Pizza.
Downtown restaurants and businesses were struggling due to the pandemic, Shackney said, so the borough allowed sidewalk seating.
“Our summer programs were canceled, we couldn’t attract audiences but wanted to attract clients to businesses,” she said. “We asked if we could make music on the streets and bring together musicians playing on New Street.”
Over the summer, the pianos will move to downtown locations and a schedule of performances will be released in advance, according to the press release.
Jazz Education Series
Presented in conjunction with the NJ Jazz Society, the free monthly live broadcast series “Dedicated to Enlightening the Public About Jazz” began June 13 with “Louis Armstrong 101” and will be available online Sundays at 3 p.m. .
The rest of the program is:
July 18 – “Jeru’s Journey: The Life & Music of Gerry Mulligan” with Sanford Josephson
August 15 – To be announced
September 19 – “Nat King Cole @ 100” with Will Friedwald
October 17 – “An informal survey of the great baritone saxophonists” with Frank Basile
November 21 – “Ellington and Strayhorn: Alone and Together, How Two Geniuses Transformed American Music” with David Hajdu
The series is free, with donations accepted, and will air live at 3 p.m. on the NJ Jazz Society website (www.NJJs.org) as well as the NJJS Facebook page and YouTube channel. Register at https://bit.ly/3iaEWqt
According to Shackney, many arts groups will continue to have an online presence due to an unforeseen benefit – this format has attracted a new audience.
“We have all of this online presence now,” she said. “Most will hang on to it because we have found that we are reaching an audience with disabilities that we have never reached before. People really took advantage of the shows online, it opened up worlds for them. “
Art and music festival
The festival will take place on June 26 from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Station Place at the patio Hailey’s Harp & Pub and will offer an art sale with 10 artists / suppliers; music by Jivestock on the outdoor stage and food and libation by Hailey’s and Asbury Park Distilling.
Student art exhibition
Scheduled to be held in mid-July, the exhibition will feature works of art by 2021 Metuchen High School graduates who will pursue art studies at the university. Their works will be exhibited in the Rotunda Gallery in Borough Hall, as well as in businesses in the city center. Guided tours and a meeting with the students are also planned.
According to Shackney, the exhibition is a collaboration between the arts council, the Metuchen High School Art Department and local businesses.
“The students suffered just like the city center suffered,” she said. “They couldn’t show their work and the head of the art department of the high school wanted to put on an exhibition of the work of the seniors.”
There will be guided tours, an art walk and a reception in July to meet the student artists, she added.
The dates and times of the activities will be indicated on www.metuchenartscouncil.com
Chamber music concert
Scheduled for July 31, the concert will feature local musicians. The time and location to be determined, and will likely be inside the Metuchen Public Library or Old Franklin School, Shackney said.
Metuchen rocks! Summer concert series
This long-term series will mingle with groups of regional and local musicians performing in the borough. The schedule is:
• Saturday, August 21, 7:00 p.m. – From Asbury Park, Tara Dante & the Blind Pilots, with special guest Renee Maskin, will perform original music in the Plaza at the corner of New and Pearl streets downtown.
• Sunday, September 26, 4 pm – The Lonesome Pines, a roots rock and alternative country band, will perform on the grounds of Bill’s Ineffable auto repair shop, 33 Jersey Ave., owned by bassist Jason Hopkins. The Roots-friendly Jivestock group will open its doors.
The Dragonfly Theater will present “Popcorn Falls” on August 27 and 28 at 6:30 pm and August 29 at 3 pm on the fifth floor of the Pearl Street Parking Deck. Two actors play more than 20 roles in the farce.
Tickets available at the entrance.
Bring a lawn chair.
Parking will be available at the lower levels of the parking lot.
Central Jersey Jazz Festival – Metuchen
Metuchen joins Flemington, Somerville and New Brunswick to host part of the festival on September 11 at 6 p.m. in the Plaza of New and Pearl Streets. The Metuchen Festival will feature the Marcus Printup Quintet with Riza Printup on harp, a pre-concert family jazz education multimedia program and a performance by the Metuchen High School Jazz Band.
The free program is open to the public and made possible by a grant from the County of Middlesex.
Mignolo dance project
Mignolo Dance Company will present “Visitor Parking” on October 7-8, an immersive and interdisciplinary contemporary dance piece that explores mental health issues and their implications. Audiences will walk through multiple levels of the Pearl Street Parking Deck with dancers, visual art installations, and original music created around the theme of mental health.
Show times and ticket information will be available at http://mignolo.art
Check for updates and announcements and sign up for the Arts Council’s e-newsletter at www.metuchenartscouncil.com
“We’re trying to form a community here for artists of different genres,” Shackney said. “We seem to be, the more you put it out there, the more you find out that there are so many artists out there that you didn’t even know.”