Jazz singer Hilary Kole sat at a grand piano before an awed-to-silence audience of 200 on April 28 as she crooned David Mead’s “Blackberry Winter:” “Waiting in Penn station she is treading pins and needles…rolling up the Hudson with her face against the window,” she sang. “Where do you go?”
Well, to the Chart House, of course, where the Hudson Riverfront Performing Arts Center (HRPAC) held its seventh annual gala fundraiser. Kole, who had just come from a cameo performance with the Florida Orchestra at the American Songbook Encores series, has a history with HRPAC’s President Bruce Sherman and the group’s frequent and well-known summer concert series headliner, Paquito D’Rivera.
“I think people have come to the conclusion that when they come to our concerts, they anticipate quality.” – Bruce Sherman
“I am so pleased because I got to play with my band and I’m a Jersey girl,” Kole said after her performance. “There is nothing like the power of good music.”
HRPAC Board Chairman and retired New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Marie Garibaldi reported that concert attendance has increased dramatically over the past nine years since the group began, with audiences nearing 900 this past summer.
“We’ve had over 100 concerts with Grammy and Tony winners,” she said. “The mission is to expand the arts in this area and to have fine quality entertainment. Every year it gets better, and more people become involved.”
Outreach: past and future
“I think people have come to the conclusion that when they come to our concerts, they anticipate quality,” Sherman said, “and I think that’s what makes them come no matter the genre.”
HRPAC’s two programs – the Summer Concerts on the Hudson and the UBS Atrium Series – provide audiences with a wide diversity of music that appeals to many demographics. Performers range from Zydeco to Broadway to Latin jazz, and one year they hosted the Four Tenors.
HRPAC oftentimes borrows its stellar performers and lends them to the community’s children.
“We use the Arts Center as a resource and an outreach,” Garibaldi explained. “Our entertainers go to the schools and perform, and it’s so interesting because they explain how the instruments are played and what it’s like to be in the field.”
In conjunction with Hartz Mountain and Roseland Properties, HRPAC is working to construct a new performance pavilion that will occupy the same site as the summer concert series. “It will be a great amenity for the town,” the organization’s Treasurer (and event photographer) Jay Savulich said. “I think the Weehawken waterfront location is fantastic.”
The pavilion, which is in the planning stages, comes at an opportune time, Sherman reported. It will potentially allow HRPAC’s performance repertoire to branch out into dance, theatre, or even a Shakespeare in the park type of event.
All of Weehawken’s a stage
“Weehawken is right across from one of the most famous music scenes in the world,” Savulich said. “People will leave here to go there, and this gives them a reason to stay.”
Hudson County is home to a large and thriving artistic community, fundraiser patron and local playwright Eric Conger explained. “I would love to see a theatre on the waterfront,” he said. “I’m here to support what Bruce and his friends are doing.”
“It’s for such a good cause,” Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner said. “Without this event and contributions from corporations, we wouldn’t have such wonderful concerts. We’re looking forward to another great season.”
Toward the end of the evening, Kole recounted a time when she was told by a fan who “studies the brain” that the worst emotion one can have is resentment, and the best to have is appreciation. “In the spirit of that,” she said, “I leave you with a song that is mostly true.”
To a crowd disappointed at an all-too-soon ending, Kole sang the final phrases of the timeless Oscar and Hammerstein tune, “Nobody Else But Me:” “I have my faults, he likes my faults…. I tell the lad that I’m grateful and I’m glad that I’m nobody else but me.”
With the funds raised for HRPAC that evening, the organization intends to continue their cultivation of a local appreciation for the arts and continue to showcase one-of-a-kind artists like Kole. For more information, visit www.hrpac.org.
Gennarose Pope may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org