Archive for the ‘Great Auditorium Musical Event’ Category



Gordon Turk. OG organist. Paul Goldfinger portrait. 2021.



By Paul Goldfinger,  Editor @Blogfinger


Thursday night was one of those remarkable classical events in the Great Auditorium.   An all string orchestra of about 40 pieces  (including one tympani player) assembled under the baton of Jason Tramm.  It was an ambitious program, given that it lasted only about 75 minutes.

There were two organ concertos and a hymn for organ and orchestra.  Heavy hitters of organ composers were featured including Hanson, Jongen and Poulenc. Gordon Turk was at the controls of that massive Hope-Jones organ. It was as if he were riding some sort of prehistoric musical mammoth.  Those 11,000 pipes produced so many different kinds of sounds that you didn’t miss the woodwinds or the brass.  There were low scary chords that roared and practically shook the building.  Then there were light and cheerful twinkly moments that transported the audience to a calliope on some boardwalk near the beach, and other times, the giant musical creature just purred.

The Francis Poulenc Concerto in G Minor, described by the organ curator John Shaw as a “war horse,”carried the audience to all sorts of moods and musical experiences. The tempo changed 7 times during the 20 minute concerto.   During the Poulenc, the steady rain outside became torrential. It created a constant sound, like white noise, as it cascaded off the roof of the Great Auditorium and hit the ground.  The doors were open, and the soft light outside revealed the water pouring down.  The sound of the rain became part of the concerto, and when the volume became pianissimo, you could hear nature blending with the orchestra.

Ronald Naldi, always an elegant and popular presence in Ocean Grove, strode onto the stage wearing a white dinner jacket with a black tie and black pants.  He performed an aria from Rigoletto composed by Giuseppe Verdi, who was born 200 years ago.  He also sang an aria from Tosca by Giacomo Puccini.   As expected, there were opera buffs in the house who whooped and hollered after each piece.

Ronald Naldi is so good, that one stares in disbelief to see him on the stage in Ocean Grove.


RONALD NALDI   from his album of Neapolitan and Italian songs  “Torna”



Current photo of Ronald Naldi in the Tabernacle. July 2022. Paul Goldfinger photo.




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the Great Auditorium . Saturday night, summer 2013. Paul Goldfinger photo ©

The Great Auditorium . A Saturday night, summer 2013. Paul Goldfinger photo ©






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Some of my neighbors way back in the GA where original wooden seats are located and where the view is grand. Paul Goldfinger photo ©

Some of my neighbors way back in the GA where original wooden seats are located and where the view is grand. Paul Goldfinger photo ©


By Paul Goldfinger, MD, Editor, Blogfinger.net   Re-post on Easter Sunday, April 17, 2022.


If you have never witnessed an Ocean Grove choir festival, it is an experience. I attended last night, but it was not a first for me. A large crowd was there to hear the huge massed choir  of about 1000 voices from 125  different churches, professional soloists, the Hope-Jones organ aired out from top to bottom, a number of skilled conductors, a brass ensemble, and a varied program consisting of Christian music. The only composer I recognized was Franz Josef Haydn who wrote the opening anthem, “The Heavens are Telling.”

But even if you don’t know this music and even if you are not Christian, this musical event is astonishing to see.

The Choir Festival is not a typical concert, because, as a number of speakers explained, this program is about prayer through music. As it says in Psalm 95:1 “Oh come, let us sing to the Lord.”  The program, in fact, stresses the words rather than the music. On the cover it says, “Wonderful Words of Life.”

Among the words offered last night was a prayer by the Camp Meeting Association COO JP Gradone who reminded us that living in the northeast was a challenge for those who promote religious principles to guide our lives. He hoped that our country could reconnect with the “values of America’s founders.”

But you can, as I did, attend to enjoy a marvelous musical event, while appreciating its religious significance. I like to sit way in the back, where the moms with infants locate along with others who enjoy the broad expanse of the unique sound and  visuals.

The soloists, with their trained voices, project out and can be clearly heard all the way in the back. They included Ronald Naldi, Monica Zigler, Martha Bartz, and Justin Beck. Plus, of course, there are the Director of Music Dr. Jason C Tramm  and our own Dr. Gordon Turk presiding over those 11,000 pipes.

Below is a sample of what the Choir Festival sounds like.   It is from “How Shall a King Come?” conducted by Dr. Cindy Bell and with soloists Monica Ziglar and Ronald Naldi.


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Freddie Paris (on top) with the Five Satins. Vintage 1950's

Freddie Parris (on top) with the Five Satins. Vintage 1950’s.


Freddie Parris died yesterday, 1/16/22  at age 85.

We don’t get to report about Doo Wop music in the Grove any longer, so here is a very special report/interview  regarding a remarkable and famous rock and roller who loved coming back to the Great Auditorium


By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger

We have to get one thing out of the way —there are only four Satins now, but they will be in the Great Auditorium for the Doo Wop extravaganza on June 22, 2013.and it is going to be a wonderful show.

I spoke by phone tonight with Freddie Parris, the lead singer and the guy who wrote one of the all-time best rock and roll songs ever—“In the Still of the Night.” That song is a classic story of a boy and a girl out together, a night in May, under the stars , hugging and hoping it all never ends.

But as simple as the story is, there is the marvelous and unforgettable musical composite of harmonies, rhythms, falsettos, shooby doos, Freddie Parris’s long notes, and a memorable tenor sax solo in the middle. All of that comes together into a mega-hit that never declines in popularity.

Freddie Parris, more recently. Lookin' good.

Freddie Parris, more recently. Lookin’ good.

Freddie has been performing his all-time-favorite song for about fifty years and he never gets tired of it. He wrote the song in Philadelphia while he was on leave from the Air Force. His inspiration was a girl friend who later left him, but her memory lives on in this song. Later he recorded “In the Still of the Night” with some friends in the basement of St. Bernadette’s Church in New Haven.

Over the years, the Five Satins have changed personnel and styles. In 1975, they took on a disco sound and became “Black Satin,” but later they returned to their roots.

Freddie Parris and the Five Satins have been performing all these years and they have played all kinds of music. In 1969 they were part of what was the first major “Oldies But Goodies” concert when they appeared on the same bill as the Coasters, the Comets, and Gary US Bonds.

He acknowledges that most of the original Doo Wop group members have passed on and that the current performers are mostly younger substitutes. We talked about how so many of these groups have changed their presentation with some developing Vegas style flashy acts and others finding new ways to present dated material.

An example is Barbara Harris and the Toys, who will be here on the 22nd.  She does a wonderful take-off on the girl groups of the ’50’s and ’60’s. Then there are the “tribute bands” which imitate huge stars like the Beatles and the Stones.

Freddie thinks that the Doo Wop phenomenon will eventually fade as did the big band era which was predicted to last forever. But meanwhile Freddie and the Five (oops four) Satins will continue to do their show. He always looks forward to these concerts where he gets to reunite with old friends like the remaining Drifters.

Freddie and the Satins have been featured several times before in the Great Auditorium of Ocean Grove, NJ, , and Freddie calls it a “wonderful and unique venue.” He loves the acoustics, the building and our historic town.

On June 22, The Five Satins will be arriving here with four Satins and a five piece band. He and Richie Freeman are original members of the group. Freddie is 77 years old, and he admits to slowing down somewhat, but he continues to travel and perform with his bandmates, one of whom is a woman. He loves the addition of that female voice, and it really helps with the high notes, especially the one at the end of “In the Still of the Night.”

The Five Satins are no one-hit wonders. They have recorded and hit the charts with many winners over the years, and we will hear some of them at the concert. Freddie hasn’t yet determined the program for his Ocean Grove segment, but he says that “every song has its place.” Meanwhile his motto seems to be, “Let the good times roll.”

That night we will also hear John Kuse and the Excellents, The Brooklyn Bridge, and Barbara Harris and the Toys. Hosting will be 101.5’s Big Joe Henry. Tickets are $35.00 reserved and $30.00 General Admission. Order online at http://www.oceangrove.org or by phone at 800 590 4064.


Good evening ladies and germs. Blogfinger presents Freddie Parris and the Five Satins with “In the Still of the Night” A great song like this is recognizable after one bar, so grab your significant lover, I mean other, because this is the ultimate slow dance.



Here’s the link to the BF article about the Excellents and “Coney Island Baby.”  Don’t miss this:

The Excellents

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The Great Auditorium in Ocean Grove. September 7, 2013. Click left for a thrill. Paul Goldfinger photo © The Great Auditorium in Ocean Grove. September 7, 2013. Doo Wops concert.   CLICK IMAGE  for a thrill. Paul Goldfinger photo ©


In 1954, an R & B group called the Chords wrote this song and were the first to record it.  Sh-Boom became the first Doo Wop song to make it to the top rung of the “pop chart.”  That same year, the Crew Cuts made a more sanitized version which became a hit.

This song and “Earth Angel” were the first rock and roll songs I ever heard. This music changed my life and that of all my friends at Rutherford High School where we all had crew cuts and thought about sex every 20 seconds.

We did, however, find time to see “Blackboard Jungle” (1955)  and to hear the soundtrack by Bill Haley and the Comets who performed  “Rock Around the Clock” (first recorded in 1954). It became a massive hit with the arrival of that film.


At the Doo Wops concert on Sept. 7, 2013,  in the GA, the Duprees performed Sh-boom. It was the only actual Doo-Wop selection in their set.  Mostly they offered a Vegas style show.   —-Paul Goldfinger. Blogfinger.net


Here is a re-mastered (2007) recording of the Chords’ version, from an album called “Atlantic Top 60:”

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Pat Brenan of Neptune has been attending every Planotone concert for thirty years.

Pat Brenan of Neptune has been attending every Planotone concert for thirty years, dressed as Kenny and his guys do. Paul Goldfinger photo © 9/7/13. Ocean Grove, NJ. Great Auditorium.



By Paul Goldfinger, who wrote the Book of Love, and Editor of Blogfinger.net


2013:   The official count for last night’s Doo Wops concert was 2,700, but it sure looked like more than that—downstairs practically all seats occupied, and the balcony seats about 1/3 full.  The crowd was wide awake, alive and well.  We lost count of the standing O’s, whistles, shouts and applause.

Each of the three performing groups thanked the audience for helping to keep a musical era alive—an era of nostalgic, romantic and understandable music.  This was music that you could dance slow with, under low twinkling lights in gyms decorated with crepe paper.

That music, in OG last night, clearly was attracting some people who were born after the actual Doo Wop times of 1950’s going into the ’60’s when it helped form the basis for rock and roll. The Beatles found inspiration in performers including Little Richard, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Drifters and many others.

Last night, the show opened with the Duprees–not my idea of a Doo Wop act, but they are polished performers. The Duprees have had many hits during their 50 year history (1962-2012) and they do put on a musically excellent show. Unfortunately the loudness of their presentation sometimes made the music a bit muddy.  The personnel of this group has changed many times over the years. The current group are all fine singers.

The Duprees are celebrating their 50th anniversary with a new album, and I did like their rendition last night  of the Bobby Darin hit “Beyond the Sea” from that album.


THE DUPREES, from their 50th anniversary album:   “Beyond the Sea.”


Shirley Alston Reeves, age 72, came on stage with two young women backup singers and her band.  She is the real deal,  and, although she did some girl group songs by the Supremes, the Chiffons, etc, which the audience loved, she really came alive when they did music by her old group:  The Shirelles.

“Will You Love Me Tomorrow”  undoubtedly broke a few hearts again in this audience.  One item that kept eyes on the stage were the two backup singers who, by some magic, managed to keep those low cut red gowns aloft.  Shirley also wore red, but her outfit was wisely  more demure.


THE SHIRELLES: “Will You Love Me Tomorrow”



But, the Great Auditorium came really alive when Kenny Vance and the Planotones were introduced by Big Joe Henry for act II.  Their entrance set the stage as they came on doing the Planotone walk.  Kenny, who is now 69, has revised his show and made it funnier, edgier and musically more interesting, while retaining the infrastructure of his best hits and perfect falsetto.

Those guys, in their black suits, their porkpie hats and shades—always not taking themselves too seriously—lit up the place with their presence and the quality of the music.  Johnny Gale, the guitarist and musical director, was superb, as usual, in multiple rolls on bass, guitar, and vocals.  He even did some fine blues.

The group  opened with an old favorite, but one that I had never heard before by them:  It was the Five Satins’  “In the Still of the Night” which the Planotones did in a totally unique way.  But later, Kenny again mesmerized an audience with his version of “Gloria”


Here’s a link to the Blogfinger article about that song and its importance to Doo Wop history, and you can hear Kenny Vance sing it.


Gloria link


And here is a song that Kenny seems to do at every concert.  Angel Baby is beautiful, but he always gets the audience to sing along, and that is especially poignant when  a few thousand people participate in the Great Auditorium.





—Paul Goldfinger, Music Editor @Blogfinger.net

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Choir Festival in the Great Auditorium. By Paul Goldfinger. © To order metallic coated professionally made prints, contact Blogfinger@verizon.net. Choir Festival in the Great Auditorium. By Paul Goldfinger. ©  Undated.


We have learned from a CMA official that the events mentioned above will return this season “as they were before the pandemic.”

We don’t know if that means no distancing, masks, etc, but there will still be some constraints coming from Trenton this summer.

However, this is good news assuming it is all done according to Health Dept. guidelines.



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Carl, Sophia and Danny (no relation to Danny and the Juniors who performed last night) Paul Goldfinger photo ©

Carl (OG) , Sophia (Mt. Arlington)  and Danny  (Boca Raton—-no relation to Danny and the Juniors who performed last night) Paul Goldfinger photos © This re-post recalls happier times in the Great Auditorium 2014.


Karen and Eddie Faust of OG

Karen and Eddie Faust of OG


New Doo Wop fan made it through the first half.

New Doo Wop fan.  She made it through the first half.   ©


The Anzaldi's of Franklin Twp (L) and the Peters of Pt. Pleasant. ©

Ronni and Ross Anzaldi  of Franklin Twp (L) and Mary and Jim Peters of Pt. Pleasant. ©

Lisa Gabor. Med student from Rutgers U. ©

Lisa Gabor. Med student from Rutgers U. ©


THE CHIFFONS   with a song for a guy who was on his way out.

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Graduation Day (Neptune High School) at the Greatest Auditorium. Jean Bredin photo for Blogfinger.net June, 2018. ©. Re-post 2020.

By Paul Goldfinger,  Editor @Blogfinger.net

Each June, the Township of Neptune honors the Scarlet Flyers with a lovely graduation ceremony in the Great Auditorium.  The students and families at NHS look forward to what has become a multi-generational tradition.

Blogfinger has been present to photograph an event filled with joy. You can search our archive box. (top right) to see some of those images.

Unfortunately, the event had to be cancelled this year because of the virus risks.

Here is Edward Elgar’s magnificent “Pomp and Circumstance.”  At Rutherford High School, where I learned reading, writing and the facts of life, we always went down the aisle in the Rivoli Theater.

I recall my junior year when I was in the pit with fellow bandsmen to play this piece for the graduating seniors. There was a beautiful alto sax solo in our arrangement, and I played it into a microphone with the sound echoing throughout the theater.  Music has such power to cause goosebumps, and sometimes the musicians get them also.





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Coney Island. By the famous photographer Andreas Feininger. 1949

Coney Island. By the famous photographer Andreas Feininger. 1949


Coney Island beach

Coney Island beach

This is Eileen. She was 16 years old when I took her under the boardwalk at Coney. Silver gelatin darkroom print.  Leica film camera with Tri-X.   Paul Goldfinger photograph ©


2013 re-post:

CONEY ISLAND:  Nathan’s hot dogs. (“baloney on a roll” **, Steeplechase Park, on top of the boardwalk, under the boardwalk, freak shows, barkers, Tuesday night fireworks from a barge in the ocean, Shatzkin’s Knishes, the Parachute Jump, the Cyclone, the Wonder Wheel where the cars moved in and out, the beach where it was so crowded that somebody might bite your tuna sandwich, riding the waves, holding the ropes and dunking yourself, changing clothes in the back of a car, and searching the surf for the Coney Island whitefish.

There were guys trudging through the hot sand wearing pith helmets and carrying heavy freezers over their shoulders while yelling, “Hey, get your ice cream here.” And there were always couples “making out” on their beach blankets. But I was a little kid, so other things were more interesting.


I could go on and on about one of my favorite places on Earth.  We would come from Jersey. We never went to the Jersey Shore except once when my Aunt Marion and Uncle Al rented a place in Bradley Beach.  They shared a kitchen and fridge with other renters.  But it couldn’t  beat Coney Island.

Sandy zapped  Coney Island , but not too bad.   Unlike in Seaside Heights, the Cyclone stood fast.  Nathan’s just re-opened (they cut a ribbon of hot dogs), and many millions of dollars have been spent on the Coney Island recovery.

I associate music with Coney Island, and there is one song “Coney Island Baby” which will be sung in Ocean Grove on June 22 in the Great Auditorium by the Excellents.  It seem that a certain kind of girl came from there–like the Jersey Girl.

“Under the Boardwalk” by the Drifters makes me think of Coney Island, but it really isn’t about that.   The memory there is that there was an actual city under the Coney boardwalk with stores and attractions. It was always dark, damp and exotic to a little kid.    I thought that people lived in that subterranean place and never emerged.

That Saturday night, we will hear The Brooklyn Bridge, Freddie Parris and the 5 Satins, Barbara Harris and the Toys, plus John Kuse and the Excellents.  Big Joe Henry from 101.5 will preside. It’s sad, but he stepped on a dog’s tail, and the dog died. (Yikes!).  And also, Barbara Harris and her two young Toys  do an amazing set featuring covers of the big time girl groups of the day. Don’t miss it.

—Paul Goldfinger  2013.

THE EXCELLENTS:  “Coney Island Baby.”

This song brings tears to my eyes; not for any romantic reason but because of the aromas, the sounds, the sights, the foods, and the family.    Even though the beach was crowded, I would lie on my stomach and contemplate counting the grains of sand.  Those moments quickly dissolved into thin air, and then I would race into the water, getting salt up my nose and sand in my shorts.

This summer, take a ride there and visit Nathan’s. Then walk on the boards and hear Russian being spoken, men, with their shirts off reading Yiddish or Russian newspapers, and gaze at the myriad of sights, still present, but just a remnant of another world.   And don’t forget Woody’s movie “Wonder Wheel” set at Coney.  Here’s a link to our review:

BF review of Wonder Wheel


**Go to Coney and eat baloney on a roll” Is from the Rodgers and Hart classic “Manhattan”

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