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White Pine Festival to offer music, poetry, food in St. Croix Valley

If you want to hang out with musicians and poets in a river-town setting, this is your week.
The White Pine Festival runs Wednesday through Sunday in Stillwater and Hudson, featuring poetry, workshops, dining opportunities and — oh, yes — a heap

If you want to hang out with musicians and poets in a river-town setting, this is your week.

The White Pine Festival runs Wednesday through Sunday in Stillwater and Hudson, featuring poetry, workshops, dining opportunities and — oh, yes — a heap of music.

It’s also shaping up as the farewell appearance by former Minnesota Orchestra Concertmaster Jorja Fleezanis, who ended her tenure with the orchestra last week and is appearing in a recital on Friday with pianist Karl Paulnack that features Ernest Bloch’s Sonata No. 1. The performance also includes commentary by Fleezanis’ husband, the eminent (and inspiring, I think) musicologist Michael Steinberg.

In case you haven’t heard by now, Fleezanis and Steinberg are leaving the Twin Cities to take positions at Indiana University.

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This is the third year for the festival, which bills itself as a series of “artistic and intellectual events.”

“Actually, it started about five years ago as an idea that was floating around in the minds of lots of people in the St. Croix Valley,” said Matt Thueson, a digital media specialist for Minnesota Public Radio who is president of the nonprofit’s board. He’s also a violist.

“We really try to have a lot of opportunities for audiences to engage with the artists,” Thueson said, referring to the dinners, happy hours and workshops that surround the five evening concerts during the five-day festival. To see a list of events, go here.

Once again, the festival’s host is poet Roger Bonair-Agard, a national poetry slam champion. He’ll be joined in readings and workshops by another New York poet, Matthea Harvey.

The musical “acts,” in addition to Fleezanis & Co., include pianist Angela Jia Kim, the Texas-based Miro Quartet, and the Charles Lazarus Group, a jazz ensemble led by the Minnesota Orchestra trumpeter.

A unique event will take place Thursday, when St. Paul Chamber Orchestra keyboardist Layton James participates in a multimedia performance of Tchaikovsky’s “The Seasons” that has been put together with Jon Cranney, the former artistic director of the Children’s Theatre Company. Cranney developed a similar media event a few years ago during a festival honoring composer William Bolcom that took place in Orchestra Hall.

The festival is very affordable. A combined ticket for all five evening performances costs $60. Tickets range from $15 to $25 ($10-$18 for students) for individual concerts. The festival’s website is loaded with information and details.