There has been music at every successive celebration, including performances by classic crooners Connie Francis and Pat Cooper, as well as famed doo-wop groups The Drifters and The Duprees. The musicians set to play this week will ensure that the beat goes on for this year's festival.
Salsa star Johnny Ray, pop cover band The Nerds, rock group Stratospheerius, and hometown favorite Cristina Fontanelli are all part of the lineup for the festival's three stages. This year's festival opens Friday, July 20 and runs until July 26. Performances will begin at 8 p.m. every night, and will feature different styles of music, from soul to standards to show tunes.
New stage for new music
In recent years, festival organizers have begun to mix modern music in with the traditional. This year, it has led to a collaboration with the Monroe Arts Center on a new third stage, called "Artists' Row." Festival Co-Chair Marie Totaro said the stage will feature modern rock, jazz, fusion and funk, among others and will also feature art work by local artists.
The New York-based band Stratospheerius will take to the new stage on July 21. Their music is a mishmash of influences. The band's My Space page describes their sound as "psycho jazz electric fiddle trip funk," and front man Joe Deninzon said progressive rock, jazz, funk and even a little hip hop can be heard in the group's music.
The band is made up of Deninzon, along with Mack Price, Bob Bowen and Lucianna Padmore. This is their first time playing at the festival, though Deninzon, who knows St. Ann's musical director Jeremy Beck, has played during Christmas mass at the church. Deninzon, who lives in Dumont, said that he and the band are looking forward to playing the festival, which will be their first gig in Hudson County.
"I'm looking forward to the wonderful food and the wonderful people that I've met in the past that are involved with the church," Deninzon said.
This year, music, religion, food and fun will continue to converge during the seven days of the festival. Besides the acts on "Artists' Row," the festival's "café under the stars," set up in the church's back parking lot, will also have a small stage. Organizers have scheduled several nights of karaoke - on Friday, Sunday and Tuesday. Live acts include duet C.O.A.L. G, and Hoboken native Patrick Jude, who played the role of Judas in Broadway's "Jesus Christ Superstar."
The festival's main stage on 7th and Jefferson Street features an exciting lineup. Friday night kicks off with Latino night (salsa performed by Johnny Ray and his Orchestra).
On Saturday, "Uncle" Floyd Vivino headlines a group of traditional singers for Italian Night. Sunday is a celebration of Motown music with Dr. K's Motown review.
On Monday, popular act The Nerds will cover everything from Abba to Sinatra. And on Tuesday, Joey Dee and the Starliters, famous for the song "The Peppermint Twist," will perform hits of the 60s along with Bobby Valli, brother of Frankie Valli.
On Wednesday, Barbara Merkle & Friends will sing songs from the 1940s to the present, and on Thursday Cristina Fontanelli will close out the festival, singing standards, show tunes and more on the feast day.
Fontanelli, whose grandparents settled in Hoboken and whose mother still lives in town, has been performing at the festival since 1995. "There's a lot that happened for me in Hoboken," said Fontanelli, who used to sing at St. Ann's Christmas mass when she lived in Hoboken in the early 1990s.
She explained that she recorded one of her first albums in Hoboken. And when she performed at her first St. Ann's Festival in 1995, it was right around the time that she was launching her musical career. She has played almost every festival since then, and was given the key to the city by former Mayor Anthony Russo.
Family connections also make the festival special for Fontanelli.
"My grandparents came from Bari, Italy to settle in Hoboken, so it really touches me to sing there," she said.
Fontanelli is based in New York and has traveled as far as the Middle East for performances. Her repertoire includes old standards, show tunes, Italian classics, as well as international music.
She laughed as she recalled what happened one year when she strayed from singing only traditional Italian tunes. "My mother got calls," Fontanelli said, explaining that people called to ask why she didn't sing more Italian music.
No trip to the festival would be complete without a warm bag full of the festival's famous zeppoles. The festival's fried dough treats covered in powdered sugar are so special that the women of the Saint Ann's guild have a secret recipe that they don't divulge.
Along with sweets, there will be other traditional Italian fare, as well as international food such as gyros and crepes.
St. Ann's Festival will be held from July 20 through July 26. Musical performances begin at 8 p.m. every night. For more information, visit www.st-annchurch.com, or call (201) 659-1114. Comments on this piece can be sent to email@example.com
Acts on St. Ann's Main Stage
Friday, July 20, Latino night, Johnny Ray
Saturday, July 21 Italian Night "Uncle" Floyd Vivino
Sunday, July 22 Dr. K's Motown Review
Monday, July 23 The Nerds
Tuesday, July 24 Joey Dee and the Starliters
Wednesday, July 25 Barbara Merkle and Friends
Thursday, July 26 Cristina Fontanelli and the Jordon Thomas Orchestra
The festival is one of the city's oldest traditions. For 97 years, the parishioners of St. Ann's Church, located at 7th and Jefferson Streets, have celebrated the feast of Ann, the mother of the Virgin Mary. St. Ann is the patron saint of women and fertility, and every year many young women join the procession through the streets of the city to pray to the saint, as the 600 pound statue is carried through the streets by female devotees. - MF