Archive for the ‘Great Auditorium Musical Event’ Category

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.  Re-post from 4 years ago.

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 full, 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 our 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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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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Side view.  Ocean Grove, NJ. Paul Goldfinger photo ©  Click to enlarge.



KATHRYN GRAYSON and the cast.     “We Open in Venice” from the movie soundtrack of Kiss Me Kate.


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The Great Auditorium by a Blogfinger staff photographer. June, 2018.


Paul Goldfinger, Editor@Blogfinger.net

It took almost as long to perform the Messiah (2 1/2 hours) as it did for George Frideric Handel to write it (24 days.)  But the large crowd present was enthralled, and the piece is so beautiful and well done, that the time was not an issue.   Of course, these days people stay standing for a 3 hour Springsteen concert, so 2 1/2 hours for this Handel event is quite acceptable.

Dr Jason Tramm created a masterpiece  as he put together this Messiah under difficult and complicated circumstances.  He was conducting choral rehearsals practically until the performance began.  Many singers in the Great Auditorium Choir were quite familiar with the work, having their scores all marked up like ancient sheet music from prior performances, but others came through despite not being so familiar with the difficult score.   The Choir was wonderful in their white uniforms.

All the participants were brilliant including the soloists and the marvelous MidAtlantic Symphony Orchestra. The instrumentation was interesting as there were hardly any brass except two trumpets  (one soloist and one with a long horn—anybody know about that?)   The trumpet soloist JoAnn Lamolino was fabulous for her part late in the piece.; her tone was gorgeous.  And there were several woodwinds: two oboes and one bassoon; no mention of a flute, and I didn’t see one.

I’m always interested in  the orchestra, and I couldn’t help but notice two of the main first chairs were occupied by women:   the concertmaster—-Susan Heerema)–violinist,  and the  principal cellist  Molly Aronson.   In fact, about half of the ensemble were women.

There were no tubas or euphoniums, but the bass line was thrilling as provided by two standup bass players.  One timpanist came on board in the second half of the concert.

And of course, Gordon Turk, on the Hope-Jones organ, was spectacular throughout the entire piece.  What an amazing instrument that is, especially in his hands  (and feet.)

The soloists were superb.  There was Mister Incredible–Ronald Naldi (tenor), Monica Ziglar whose soprano voice was just lovely,  Emily Geller with her mesmerizing low pitched  mezzo voice, and the baritone-bass Justin Beck who did the heavy lifting with those low notes.

And lets not forget the Great Auditorium with its world famous acoustics.  There was only one interruption, and that is when two brief fireworks displays happened due to a big rock and roll event at the Stone Pony–but Jason Tramm just kept going, even though his orchestra did not contain a single shrieking, ear busting electric guitar.   While the Handel continued, we could all see the display through the open doors.   Also we could hear a helicopter flying low overhead–probably doing aerial videos, but not of the GA.

And a round of applause for the Camp Meeting Association for providing such concerts.  Amazingly, this one was free—an unbelievable offering for the 150th anniversary of Ocean Grove. Where in America could one find an event like this, especially in a small town like ours?

After a standing ovation, the crowd filed out, crossing the street to the Pavilion where the Auxiliary offered soft drinks and cookies.  Hooray for them, providing a sugary reward to the audience which  just sat through the Messiah. 

And it’s good Blogfinger is ending this review, because we have emptied our bag of adjectives.



Refreshments in the Auditorium Pavilion. Blogfinger photo. Click to enlarge.

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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.   

Reposted from June, 2013.   We don’t get to report about Doo Wop music 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 extavaganza 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.”

The Excellents

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Garrison Keillor in Michigan, 7/29/156 by Alex McDougal. MLive.com ©

Garrison Keillor in Michigan, 7/29/15 by Alex McDougal. MLive.com ©

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor   @Blogfinger.net

Last night in the Great Auditorium, a large crowd watched a 72 year old man in a seersucker suit with red shoes talk and sing for nearly 3 hours straight.  Garrison Keillor has been doing his famous radio show Prairie Home Companion for 41 years and has entertained millions of people.  He stopped in Ocean Grove as part of his nationwide America the Beautiful 41st Anniversary Tour, traveling the country in a bus with 5 fabulous musicians, an  impersonator who can do anything including a chicken playing a banjo, and some technical workers.

Keillor is a raconteur, a professional singer with an engaging  bass-baritone voice, a comedian, a writer, and a philosopher.  He brought us news from the fictional Minnesota town where he was raised (Lake Wobegon) along with his “spontaneous” musings (scripted, but so what) about everything from computers to music, to  religion to sex. His ideas flow from topic to topic so fast that you really need to pay attention.

I knew that his music would be wonderful and it was.  He leans heavily on old Christian hymns, patriotic tunes, traditional old songs like “Red River Valley” and country/western pieces served up by 2 mandolin/guitar/fiddle players, a string bass, a versatile keyboard musician and a percussionist.  Most of the musicians also sang, creating beautiful harmonies.  This ensemble has been polishing this show for years, but always with Keillor at the center.

Below is a link from a Michigan web site which does a superb job in reviewing the July 29, 2015 outdoors sold-out concert which for them was essentially identical to ours. This review is by Jeff Kaczmarczyk of MLive.com.

But the thing that blew my socks off was when intermission time arrived;  Keillor did not leave the room.   Instead he grabbed a mike and began to slowly stroll up and down the aisles, with a spotlight on him, singing old hymns while urging the standing audience to join in.   By some miracle, beautiful voices emerged from all over the Auditorium including the upstairs sections, magically knowing the words to all the songs.  If I didn’t know better, I would think the whole thing was staged, and Keillor bussed in a professional choir of 500 people.

No one actually left the hall at “intermission.” The sound of that “out-of-the blue” choir, softly singing, with their voices gently echoing off the wood walls and ceiling of the Auditorium was captivating. It was a musical surprise that captured that large audience and kept them on their feet for the entire mini-concert within a concert.  Keillor seemed mesmerized himself.  He clearly was enjoying this special musical moment in a very special venue which did not require much more than people sharing a musical wave of emotion and  beauty. There were at least two Jews in the audience who found the hymns to be moving. I wish I had this choir at my bar mitzvah.

The Prairie Home Companion is a show that has held up over time because it is so unique and so excellent. We must mention a beautiful young woman, Sarah Jarosz, an accomplished  musician who plays several string instruments, but especially a mandolin.  She is on stage the whole time, and  her most special contribution is when she sings harmonies with Keilor.  Just lovely!

REVIEW FROM MICHIGAN:          www.mlive.com/entertainment/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2015/07/meijer_gardens_sees_beginning.html

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Phil Smith played "You Made Me Love You" with the Imperial Brass

Phil Smith played “You Made Me Love You” with the Imperial Brass. Paul Goldfinger photo ©  Click to enlarge

By Paul Goldfinger

The concert last night was brilliant.  There were about 25 wonderful brass musicians on stage.  Imagine an ensemble with 5 flugelhorns?  

The pieces chosen for the event were varied—some obscure (at least to me), some complex, and some familiar, but they were all performed with a high degree of professionalism, emotion and care.  Despite some problems with clarity of the microphone, it only affected speech.   

The music, performed with  exquisite clarity and musicianship, was unamplified and enhanced by the great skill and respect afforded it by these musicians.

Phil Smith, of Ocean Grove, former principal trumpet with the New York Philharmonic, not only played, but he conducted as well, although not simultaneously.  His gorgeous  tone resonated with the wooden interior of the Great Auditorium.  His technique was superb, and he got to show it off along with cornetist Mitch Brodsky in an intricate rendition of the “Cornet Duet” by Peter Graham.

This concert, the first of the 2015 Summer Stars series of classical music in the Great Auditorium, was well attended.   

The Summer Stars recitals occur on Thursday nights at 7:30 pm. On July 9 is Yun-Chin Zhou, an acclaimed pianist; on July 16  Maksim Shirykov and Misuzu Tanaka—clarinet and piano duo; and on July 23, is the Solisti String Ensemble.

On July 30 will be a very special event:  Gordon Turk, organist and Jason Tramm conducting the Summer Stars Festival Orchestra with “Grand Orchestra and the Great Organ.”

PHIL SMITH  “Someone to Watch Over Me”.  Gershwin



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Summer Stars Clasical Flyer_web2015



ELISABETH GANTER with  The Pilsen Radio Symphony  Orchestra.  Mozart’s  Concerto in A major for Clarinet and Orchestra, K622: II, Adagio.


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Hydrangea busting out in an OG garden on Asbury Avenue. Blogfinger photo June 20, 2015.

Hydrangea busting out in an OG garden on Asbury Avenue. Blogfinger photo June 20, 2015.

Now that June is busting out all over, we have had some garden and horticulture talk, including a debate about the boardwalk urns and discussion regarding the 2nd Annual People’s Garden Tour which happened yesterday, June 20.

We received a comment from Shamrocklil which was of interest, because she is focusing on one kind of flower in the Grove and on her own insightful take about gardens in town:

Congratulations and thanks to all the Grovers who opened their gardens to these lucky people. I often suggest to visitors that, when they return to the Grove, they wander off Main Avenue and just walk up and down the outlying streets to enjoy seeing their many colorful gardens and yards.

“I explain that since we have such small areas to plant on, they are cultivated with great love and care and there are secret surprises throughout the Grove.

One of my favorites are the multi-colored humongous hydrangea bushes now
 resplendent in one upper Broadway yard.”

Editor’s Note by Paul Goldfinger, editor @Blogfinger.net

Last May, Blogfinger gardening columnist Pegi Costantino (aka Miss Pegi) wrote an article for us called “The Unfortunate Fate of the Fabulous Hydrangea.” In it she discussed how much winter damage had occurred to these beautiful plants which are found all over Ocean Grove. She recommended that they be severely pruned back, and so we all were deprived of those blossoms  last Spring.


But Miss Pegi was right, and not surprisingly, because she is an author and radio host regarding gardening. (See the info about her in the article linked above.)   Now many of us who took her advice have seen how the fabulous hydrangeas have come back again in full glory this spring.

As for Shamrocklil’s suggestion that we explore the highways and byways of our small town, she is so right. If you take the time to smell the roses around here you will find wonderful architecture, decor, history, and gardens, all of which create the landscape for a very special quality of life.

DALIDA   “Dans le Bleu du ciel Bleu   ( This song is about a dream of flying high above the seas, into the blue sky, towards the sun.)


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