The Sourland Conservancy will present a free, hourlong program combining nature documentary and music festival to raise public awareness and funds to address a serious threat to the Sourlands, home to several threatened and endangered species in central New Jersey.

The program will premiere for free on YouTube at 8 p.lm. on Oct. 10, followed by an “After Party” at 9 pm 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.

Musicians recorded original songs alone or with a household partner, surrounded by 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, who has recently released an EP album, A Different Kind of War.

  • Abbie Gardner and her husband Craig Akin of Jersey City, who premieres 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, an opera singer from Titusville who has been described in the New York Times as “a total star.”

The signature performance features an ensemble of more than a dozen musicians who were recorded performing alone and 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. 

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 Sourlands are one of the great natural and recreation assets of New Jersey and it needs our help,” says 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.”

More than 20% of the trees in the Sourland region trees are ash, and all ash trees are at risk to be killed within the next few years by an invasive insect, the emerald ash borer.

“We are losing over 1 million trees. That’s devastating,” says Sourland Conservancy Executive Director Laurie Cleveland.

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

The Sourland Conservancy is a nonprofit organization whose stated mission is to protect, promote, and preserve the unique character of the Sourland Mountain Region. For more information, visit www.sourland.org.