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SPCO, musicians to resume talks on Thursday

Issues of artistic control are among the subjects of negotiation in the SPCO contract talks.

SPCO Musicians
Courtesy of the SPCO
St Paul Chamber Orchestra musicians at the Ordway

Management and musicians of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra return to the negotiating table on Thursday and Friday. We spoke yesterday with Carole Mason-Smith, bassoonist and chair of the musicians’ negotiating committee.

MinnPost: Are you bringing new proposals to the table?

Carole Mason-Smith: We’re still in the process of reviewing [management’s] red-lined proposal. The reason it’s taking so long is we were initially given a summary that was quite incomplete. Then we were verbally given at least 20 other items. As you know, the devil is in the details. We wanted to see everything in writing and ended up with a 94-page document.

MP: One of the musicians’ big concerns is losing artistic control. Everyone knows that salary cuts are involved, but many aren’t aware that this is also an issue.

CM-S: We [the musicians] have formed cooperative committees that help decide about programming, guest artists and guest conductors. These are built into our last two contracts. What has been proposed [by management] is that these committees become purely advisory.

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In the absence of a music director – we have artistic partners instead – the scope of the entire season has been determined by the artistic vision committee. That has been in effect for five years, and it’s in jeopardy now.

There are other issues of artistic control. We’ve been in control of our audition procedure and our tenure procedure. In the last contract, there were problems with the tenure procedure being superseded by management. We want to put that back into the hands of the musicians. We also have an artistic review process we think should be handled by musicians. Now management has a large hand in that. When you don’t have a music director and it’s not the job of the artistic partners to be part of any artistic review, management ends up making decisions they have no background for.

MP: What about ticket prices?

CM-S: We are the cheapest ticket price in the Twin Cities, if not the nation. You’ll pay more for your baby-sitter or your parking. Part of our proposal is to raise ticket prices. Also, the orchestra hasn’t run an endowment drive in three years. We would like to have a three-year contract at status quo so we can retain our musicians and our quality while they mount an endowment campaign.

MP: Are you feeling hopeful?

CM-S: The public’s awareness, and the pressure being put on management, makes me hopeful. We’re getting letters all the time. People nationwide, particularly musicians and music lovers who know the SPCO, are astounded that this is happening here. Plus we’re playing and talking. 


bye bye birdie
Photo courtesy of Chanhassen Dinner Theater/Tom Sandelands
Frank Moran in Chanhassen’s ‘Bye Bye Birdie’

What’s the story, morning glory? “Bye Bye Birdie” is in previews at the Chanhassen and opens Friday, Oct. 11. This is the first time in the theater’s 44-year history that this evergreen Tony winner has come to its stage. Fun fact: The musical was inspired by Elvis Presley’s entering the U.S. Army in 1957. FMI and tickets. “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” returns in April 2013. The Tim Rice-Andrew Lloyd Webber collaboration has a solid track record at Chanhassen, with successful runs in 2007 and 2009. The same creative team will mount it next year, so if you loved it then, you’ll love it again. Tickets are on sale now for groups of 12 or more; call 952-934-1547. Individual tickets go on sale Dec. 1.

As promised in Friday’s column, we braved the Soap Factory’s Haunted Basement over the weekend. Like the Daily Planet’s Jay Gabler, we were in the first group on opening night; unlike Gabler, we hadn’t experienced past years, so we had no idea what to expect. First, you sign a waiver and learn the safe word (“uncle”) that will result in immediate removal. Then it’s down the stairs into inky darkness. From there, you encounter a series of disturbing scenes directed by Noah Bremer, who must have horrible dreams. Strobes flash, doors slam, floors squeak (as if you’re stepping on something small and squishy and alive), and it’s way too easy to get lost. If that happens, one of the actors gives you an invisible shove or whispers unseen in your ear. They can touch you, but you can’t touch them, and you’ll be touched more than once. Is it scary? Scary as heck. Comments overheard afterward: “Peed my pants.” “Freaking awesome.” “Very f***** up.” Over 40 actors, all volunteers, take part each night, working from 4 p.m. until midnight. 10,000 tickets are sold each year; on opening night, just 500 remained. As of Monday morning, the show was sold out. Check Craigslist.

Jazz fans will gnash their teeth to learn that trumpeter Terence Blanchard slipped in and out of the Twin Cities last weekend, giving a VIP donors’ performance at the newly renovated Mairs Concert Hall in Macalester’s Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center. We plebes can check out the hall and hear music this weekend. On Sunday, Oct. 14, Vienna-born pianist and renowned Beethoven interpreter Anton Kuerti will give an all-Beethoven concert of bagatelles and sonatas. 1600 Grand Ave., St. Paul, 3 p.m., free. FMI.

Now that King Carl Gustav and Queen Silvia of Sweden have left the building, things are returning to normal at the American Swedish Institute. Good news for those of us who love Nordic crime fiction: On Wednesday, Oct. 10, ASI will host a panel discussion with Swedish author Helene Tursten (the Inspector Huss series) and Danish authors Agnete Friis and Lene Kaaberbol (“The Boy in the Suitcase”). 7 p.m. at the ASI. Reservations at 612-871-4907. On the topic of Their Majesties, we expect something big from Minnesota Monthly’s Tim Gihring, who spent the weekend following them around and having his backpack searched by the Swedish Secret Service.

If the Coen Bros. are more your style, head to Subtext: a Bookstore in St. Paul for a discussion of “The Big Lebowski: An Illustrated, Annotated History of the Greatest Cult Film of All Time” with author Jenny M. Jones. Clips will be shown and dudes will abide. 7 p.m. Wednesday, 165 Western Ave. N., St. Paul, beneath Nina’s Coffee Café. 

Heads up, artists: Applications are due 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 24, if you want to be in the running to create next year’s Minnesota State Fair commemorative art. The annual art is used on the fair’s poster and other merchandise. It’s the next best thing to being a butter head. View this year’s art and download an application. See a gallery of past winners. To apply, you must be a Minnesota resident age 18 and older working primarily in two-dimensional media. No entry fee.

NYC ballet MOVES
Courtesy of the Northrop
New York City Ballet MOVES launches the 2012-13 Northrop Dance Season

New York City Ballet MOVES comes to the Orpheum Oct. 23 and 24, launching the 2012-13 Northrop Dance Season. On the program: works by Christopher Wheeldon, George Balanchine, William Forsythe, and Peter Martins. FMI and tickets. Considered the greatest choreographer of our time, Balanchine was a founder of the NYCB, and if you want to learn more about him before the performance, here’s your chance. Dance critic and scholar (and former MinnPost writer) Camille LeFevre is teaching a class called “Before and After Balanchine: Decoding the Ballet Mystique” through the U’s College of Continuing Education. Three two-hour sessions, Oct. 11, 18, and 25. Participants receive a 20 percent discount on tickets to New York City Ballet MOVES. FMI and registration.

Art and life can intersect in weird ways. On Sunday, Park Square Theatre held its final performance of “Red,” a fascinating portrait of artist Mark Rothko during the time he was working on the Seagram commission, a series of murals for Manhattan’s Four Seasons restaurant. He ultimately decided not to let the restaurant have them (the play is over, so this doesn’t count as a spoiler), and the murals ended up in three locations including London’s Tate Modern gallery. On Sunday, a vandal defaced one of the Tate’s murals, tagging it with black paint.

“Red” was a powerful start to Park Square’s 2012-13 season, which continues Oct. 19 with a new production of “King Lear” set in the Prohibition era, with Raye Birk (most recently in “The Sunshine Boys” at the Guthrie) as the flawed and failing king. Peter Moore directs. FMI.

Sculptural Environments by Ann Klefstad
Courtesy of Gallery 13
Sculptural Environments by Ann Klefstad features photographs superimposed onto sculptural forms.

Ends Sunday (Oct. 14) at Gallery 13: “Living Room: Sculptural Environments by Ann Klefstad.” Duluth artist Kleftstad spends a lot of time outdoors, in the woods and on the waters of Lake Superior. “I live in the room with no ceiling,” she says. “The sky above, the lake all around, is home.” She takes photos of the lake from her sailboat or kayak, then prints them on 8-foot strips of galvanized steel that descend to the floor like waterfalls. She draws inspiration from the woods, sculpting steel deer and wolves and stainless-steel forests. She paints scenes in tar on plywood panels, then links them to form environments. As you walk through her exhibit, looking becomes inhabiting. Klefstad was the founding editor of and is a former arts reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. She has lived on the North Shore for 20 years.

If you want to see Kurt Elling when he comes to the Dakota on Thursday, Oct. 23, act now. We had a bit of trouble getting into the 7 p.m. set, which will be full of Gusties – alums of Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, where Elling majored in history and minored in religion. Try for the 9 p.m. set. Tickets online or by phone at 612-332-5299.

We’re surprised that tickets are still available for Vince Gill at the State this Saturday (Oct. 13). The 20-time Grammy-winning country music superstar has the voice of an angel. When he sings a love song, you get weak in the knees. He’s never been a hat act, a strutter or a poser; he plays his guitar, sings his songs and wraps you in all kinds of wonderfulness. But we gush. FMI and tickets.