Sourland Conservancy brings together 25 naturalists and musicians on October 10 to celebrate and save Central Jersey’s great forest.

On October 10 at 8pm, The Sourland Conservancy will present a free, hour-long program combining nature documentary and music festival to raise public awareness and funds to address a serious threat to the Sourland Mountain region, which is the third largest forested area in New Jersey in central New Jersey and home to several threatened and endangered species.

“We are losing over 1 million trees. That’s devastating,” said Sourland Conservancy Executive Director Laurie Cleveland.  “Over 20% of the Sourland trees are ash, the highest concentration in New Jersey, and all these trees will be killed within the next few years by an invasive insect, the emerald ash borer. We are working to develop a reforestation plan in partnership with local, state and national organizations that recognize the ecological importance of the Sourlands – and the impact of ash decline on our forest’s ability to clean our water and air, sequester carbon and provide critical habitat.”

The Sourland Conservancy’s popular Sourland Mountain Festival was canceled due to COVID-19, so Conservancy staff, volunteers, sponsors, partner organizations, as well as local municipalities worked together to create a new event to safely engage the community in the effort to restore the forest.  

The signature performance will feature more than a dozen musicians who were recorded performing in iconic Sourland settings and then combined as one in the studio of Music Director, Cliff Wilson of Princeton. Wilson also co-produced the original documentary upon which the event is based, The Sourlands: A New Jersey Treasure. Each musicians recorded original songs alone or with a household partner, surrounded by beautiful Sourland landscapes including St. Michaels Farm Preserve, Hunterdon County Sourland Mountain Preserve, Baldpate Mountain, Hidden Spring Lavender Farm, and Unionville Vineyards.

Featured musicians include:

  • Hopewell native Danielia Cotton, who has appeared at previous Sourland Mountain Festivals and has recently released an EP album, A Different Kind of War.
  • Abbie Gardner and her husband Craig Akin of Jersey City, who premiere a new song, Cypress Tree. Gardner has a solo career and is part of the Red Molly band.
  • Stacey and Alan Schulman, the As Is Jazz duo, of Llewellyn Park who have been hailed for “hot scat singing, heated guitar playing” on their Here’s to Life album.
  • Jonathan Tetelman, a rising opera star, who is a native of Titusville, and has been described in the New York Times as “a total star.” 

Approximately half the program will be a documentary focusing on the beauty and ecology of the Sourlands, as well as the serious threats facing the forest, as described by nearly a dozen naturalists and scientists, including Jim Amon, Rush Holt, Sharyn Magee, Jennifer Rogers, Hannah Suthers, and foresters from the New Jersey Forest Service. They will focus on the importance of the Sourlands in terms of wildlife protection, water quality, climate, history, and recreation. 

The program will premiere for free on YouTube at 8pm on October 10, followed by an “After Party” at 9pm on Zoom. People can visit Sourland.org/solofest for additional information, to purchase event merchandise and After Party tickets, to preview music performances, or to donate funds for planting native trees and shrubs in the Sourlands. 

“The Sourlands are one of the great natural and recreation assets of New Jersey and it needs our help,” said Brad Fay, the producer of the SoloFest and founder of an agritourism initiative, Discover Central New Jersey. “Regardless of your familiarity with the Sourlands, this event can serve to deepen your love for this region, or to help you make the first acquaintance.”

NJ.com is the presenting sponsor of the Save the Sourlands SoloFest. Other major sponsors include the Witherspoon Media Group, Discover Central New Jersey, Green Power Energy, Hegedus Law, Hidden Spring Lavender Farm, Kilbourne & Kilbourne, Michelle Baker Design, Northfield Bank, Sourland Pet Health, Union Line Garage, and Unionville Vineyards.

Submitted by the Sourland Conservancy, which is a 501(C)(3) member-supported nonprofit organization whose mission is to protect, promote, and preserve the unique character of the Sourland Mountain Region. For more information, visit www.sourland.org. The Save the Sourlands SoloFest presented by NJ.com will air October 10 from 8-9pm. For more information, to donate or to watch the event, visit www.sourland.org/solofest.

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