red boatAlgonquin Hosts Cecelia Foundation Benefit on May 29 at 3 p.m.

PHOTO: Seashore-themed paintings by Stephan Silipigni including “Red Boat” will be projected above the Orchestra during the May 29 benefit concert ‘By The Sea.’

MANASQUAN (May 4, 2016) – Maestro Father Alphonse Stephenson is conducting a veritable boatload of local talent on May 29 at 3 p.m. at Algonquin Arts Theatre in a benefit for The Cecelia Foundation.

The Cecelia Foundation was founded nearly 30 years ago by the “must-see maestro” to gift professional instruments and scholarships to deserving young Garden State musicians.


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The 3 p.m. celebration at Algonquin Arts Theatre will feature six former recipients playing alongside the celebrated 45-member Orchestra of St. Peter By The Sea. In addition, the audience will share the excitement when other young New Jersey musicians are named as new recipients of the foundation’s gifts.

Father Alphonse reports that the first half of the themed “By The Sea” program will welcome summer with beloved sea-related songs – from the “Banana Boat Song” popularized by Harry Belafonte, to “Beyond the Sea” sung first Bobby Darin and Otis Redding’s “The Dock Of The Bay.” As a special treat, paintings of water scenes by artist Stephan Silipigni will be projected onto a screen above the orchestra while the music plays.

The second half of the matinee will feature classical music inspired by water, including Handel’s “Water Music” and Strauss’ “Blue Danube.”

During intermission and after the concert, audience members are invited to the adjacent Victoria J. Mastrobuono Studio to meet artist Silipigni and see his work. A landscape painter from Washington, D.C., the primarily self-taught artist holds degrees in Philosophy and Theology.

Algonquin Arts Theatre has donated the use of the theatre space for the performance and is supporting promotional efforts to allow for the maximum proceed from the event to go toward the foundation. Tickets for this magical matinee start at $43 for adults, $40 for seniors and $33 for students and can be reserved by calling (732) 528-9211, going online to and by visiting the Algonquin Box Office at 173 Main Street in Manasquan. Discounts are available for groups of 12 or more.

Cecelia Foundation gifts instruments and scholarships to NJ’s deserving young musical talents

Since he created The Cecelia Foundation, Father Alphonse has “given away violins, violas, cellos, basses, flutes, trombones, drums…you name it,” he said. The new instruments are awarded during a concert as a surprise to their young recipients. “It is always an emotional moment for everyone at the event,” Father Alphonse stated.

Primary funding for the Foundation have been from sales of the Orchestra’s recordings and through the generosity of the Paul F. Zito M.D. Foundation and an Arts and Cultural Grant from the OceanFirst Foundation.

The gifting criteria includes a recommendation from the musician’s teacher, a respectable academic record and financial need.

“Financial cutbacks in school are the order of the day,” Father Alphonse said. “Arts programs are often among the first to be cut, and family budgets are strained, and the quality of instruments available to aspiring musicians through school systems often discourage the student from practicing. As the student begins to gain a certain degree of proficiency, an instrument capable of responding to the evolving talent serves as an encouragement to the growing musician.”

Father Alphonse’s unique multi-faceted calling as a Roman Catholic priest has included being conductor of the Broadway production of “A Chorus Line” for thousands of performances and leading the Orchestra he founded to performance at Carnegie Hall. Until his recent retirement, Father Alphonse also served as an Air Force Chaplain of the Air National Guard and Brigadier General. Posted at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., Father Alphonse was the Director of the National Guard Joint Chaplaincy.


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Allan Dean

Allan Dean is editor, publisher, and founder of the Atlantic Highlands Herald. Published since 1999 and selected in 2000 by the Borough of Atlantic Highlands as one of their official newspapers, making...