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Five Grammy nominations have Minneapolis ties; more holiday shows

ALSO: ‘Grinch’ sells out; Union Depot Holiday Swing Dance; a sing-along “Fiddler on the Roof”; and more.

The Minneapolis-based Okee Dokee Brothers received a Grammy nod for their album “Can You Canoe?”
Courtesy of the Okee Dokee Brothers/Alex Johnson

Osmo Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra have earned a Grammy nomination for “Sibelius: Symphonies Nos. 2 & 5.” Happy news, and more fuel for the musicians in the ongoing labor dispute. The Okee Dokee Brothers, a Minneapolis bluegrass duo that makes music for kids and families, received a Grammy nod for their album “Can You Canoe?” Here’s a video of the title track. And U of M School of Music alum Ryan Truesdell drew three nominations – Best Large Jazz Ensemble, Best Instrumental Arrangement, and Best Arrangement Featuring a Vocalist – for “Centennial: Newly Discovered Works of Gil Evans.” Listen here. Truesdell is the first person outside the Evans family to be granted full access to the composer’s musical archives. He now lives in NYC and works closely with jazz composer Maria Schneider, another U of M alum (and two-time Grammy winner) and Evans’ protégé. The Okee Dokee Bros. will play at the Cedar on Dec. 15. FMI and tickets. What will they wear on the red carpet?

UPDATE: Thanks to a reader in Moorhead, we’ve learned of another Grammy candidate. “Life and Breath,” a recording of choral works by Concordia Choir conductor and composer René Clausen, was nominated for Best Engineered Classical Album, Best Choral Performance and Classical Producer of the Year. Here’s a video about the CD.

Ryan Truesdell
Courtesy of the University of Minnesota
Ryan Truesdell drew three nominations – Best Large Jazz Ensemble, Best Instrumental Arrangement, and Best Arrangement Featuring a Vocalist

The Minnesota Orchestra board met yesterday behind closed doors.  A press release that afternoon disclosed a deficit of $6 million for its fiscal year ending August 2012, the largest operating loss in the orchestra’s history. “These results reveal the serious financial challenges facing the Minnesota Orchestra,”  said MOA board chair Jon R. Campbell.  “At the most fundamental level, our expenses continue to grow and our revenues cannot keep pace.” Paula DeCosse told MPR’s Euan Kerr that she and her husband, Cy DeCosse, have halted their annual donations and removed the Orchestra from their wills. 

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On Tuesday following its board meeting, the SPCO reported a deficit of $895,000 for its fiscal year ending June 2012. No surprises there; as the Pi Press’ Ross Raihala reports, “the figure falls within the $750,000 to $1 million expected shortfall that management announced last December at the organization’s annual meeting.” Management continues to call for $1.5 million in savings from its musicians, an amount it wants to achieve by lowering salaries and reducing benefits. On Monday, the musicians sent management a letter suggesting another way to save: by reining in the budget for extra players and replacements.

Lately, we find ourselves wondering (perhaps you do, too) if SPCO management is simply unwilling to consider alternative solutions to the financial crisis. We also wonder why Minnesota Orchestra management won’t agree to the independent financial analysis its musicians keep asking for. If that’s what it would take to get a counterproposal from the musicians and bring everyone back to the table, why not just do it? Or have both managements determined to wait their musicians out? The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s monthlong lockout ended in September when the musicians took the $5.2 million in pay cuts its management demanded. As one arts blogger put it, “Atlanta lockout is over as players cave in.” Will concerts be canceled through January? We’ll know soon enough.

Courtesy of the Children’s Theatre/Dan Norman
All remaining performances through Dec. 30 of The Children’s Theatre’s “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas” have sold out.

If you want to see “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas” at the Children’s Theatre, you’ll have to join the rush line. All remaining performances through Dec. 30 have sold out. Directed by Peter Brosius, with book and lyrics by Timothy Mason, it’s adorable with a capital A. (We squeezed in on Wednesday night.) As Cindy-Lou Who, second grader Natalie Tran, the smallest person on stage, is a mighty mite of a scene stealer. Brandon Brooks as Young Max is a dog I would adopt in a heartbeat. Reed Sigmund as the Grinch is as mean as can be without crossing over to scary; he made the children in the audience laugh and squeal with delight, but no one was carried out screaming in terror. David Kay Mickelsen’s costumes are plump, padded, furred, fringed, and feathered Technicolor marvels, complete with tails. The play mostly speeds along for 75 minutes with no intermission – just long enough. We loved it, although I agree with the young reviewer I heard talking with his mom on the way out. She asked, “Did you like it?” and he said, “Yes! Except there was too much singing.” Rush line seats are obstructed view; you can’t see the Grinch in his cave. But you can see everything else, and there’s plenty to see. Check the schedule, pick a time, arrive early, and have a plan B in case the limited number of rush tix go quickly.

Many of the holiday shows included in an earlier Artscape continue. Here’s a second selection of events we like for various reasons – because they seem like sure things, because they’re quirky, or because they sound like fun. We’re sticking with our Shop Local theme.

Tonight (Dec. 7) through Sunday (Dec. 9): “VocalEssence: Welcome Christmas.” Featuring the VocalEssence Chorus and Ensemble Singers, chamber orchestra, and soprano Maria Jette, led by Philip Brunelle, the annual holiday concert includes works by Menotti, Argento, and Respighi, familiar and traditional carols, and the winning carols selected through the annual Welcome Christmas Carol concert co-sponsored with the American Composers Forum. Three locations. FMI and tickets

Tonight (Dec. 7) at the newly remodeled Union Depot, which officially opens this weekend after a $243 million remodeling: “The Union Depot Holiday Swing Dance.” Part of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls RADD Jazz Series, featuring the UWRF Jazz Ensemble led by the excellent David Milne, here’s your chance to swing dance in a place everyone is dying to see. The music will be a mix of Big Band-era tunes and holiday songs. The evening includes a dinner buffet from Christos Greek Restaurant, swing dance lessons, lots of dance time, and dessert. 6:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. Tickets at the door. General admission $25, UWRF faculty/staff $15, all students $5.

Dec. 9 at the Capri Theater: Capri Big Band Holiday Concert. Jazzy holiday music and standards by the Twin Cities’ “biggest big band.” 3 p.m. Free and open to the public; donations appreciated. FMI.

Dec. 9 at the Cedar: “Trashy Little Xmas Family Matinee.” Trailer Trash, famous for its weekly show at Lee’s Liquor Lounge, presents its most kid-friendly, honky-tonkin’ Christmas tunes. All ages (for real; kids under 2 get in free). A seated show with room for little ones to jump around. FMI and tickets.

Dec. 10-11, 17-18: Evil Xmas at the Trylon. Need a palate cleanser after an overdose of holiday sweets? The neighborhood microcinema is screening “Bad Santa,” with Billy Bob Thornton as an oversexed St. Nick, and “Rare Exports,” a wicked tale about a group of hunters who unearth an evil Santa. Ho-ho-bwah-hah-hah. FMI and tickets.

Dec. 13-17; “Christmas with Cantus: Lessons and Carols for Our Time.” The men’s vocal ensemble Cantus meets Minnesota Center for Book Arts in a richly creative holiday collaboration. Cantus has built its annual concert on themes from MCBA’s 2012 Winter Book, “Lessons for Our Time,” a contemporary artists’ book with texts by many writers (Louis Jenkins, Thomas McGrath, Elena Cisneros, Emily Dickinson, James Baldwin, Saymoukda Vongsay, and others), edited by poet Patricia Kirkpatrick and illustrated by Anna Boyer. Five concerts, four locations. Some are already sold out. FMI and tickets. A publication celebration for “Lessons,” which was inspired by the medieval tradition of the Book of Hours, is set for Saturday, Dec. 15, from 2 p.m. – 5 p.m. at MCBA’s studios. Free and open to the public; RSVP to 612-215-2520. FMI about the book and how to order.

Dec. 14-15 at the Artists’ Quarter: Laura Caviani and Lucia Newell. The pianist’s pianist and singer’s singer will perform new arrangements of holiday classics, original works, and selections from their “Angels We Haven’t Heard” release. With Jay Young on bass, Dave Schmalenberger on drums. This will be lovely. 9 p.m. both nights, $10 cover.

Dec. 14 at Central Presbyterian Church: Handel’s “Messiah.” Presented by the Oratorio Society of Minnesota, led by U of M music professor Matthew Mehaffey, this concert features 16 professional singers and a professional chamber orchestra playing period instruments. The choir is close to the size Handel had at his “Messiah” premiere; each singer will perform one of the arias. No listener will be more than 50 feet from the performers. It’s Handel’s music as you might have heard it in the composer’s day. Hallelujah! FMI and tickets.

Dec. 15 at the Richard G. Hardy Performing Arts Center in Cambridge, MN: “Let It Snow! Vintage Holiday Songs with Maud Hixson.” Seasonal songs from the early to mid-20th century, sung by the always elegant Hixson. With film clips from the collection of famed Minnesota film historian and preservationist Bob DeFlores. FMI and tickets.

Dec. 15 in the Guthrie’s Dowling Studio: “The Muppet Christmas Carol.” A one-night screening of the 1992 family favorite film, for ages 4 and up. Tickets $5. FMI and tickets, or call 612-377-2224.

Dec. 17 at the Penumbra: “Hot Chocolate.” A hit at the Park Square last December, this musical holiday treat is being restaged at the Penumbra as a fundraiser. Written and directed by Austene Van, with Julius Collins III, Sanford Moore, and Thomasina Petrus. If the concessions stand is selling Thomasina’s heavenly Cashew Brittle, you’re in luck. One night only. FMI and tickets.

Dec. 18 at the Hopkins Center for the Arts: Alison Scott Holiday Concert. The soulful singer will perform her hits, songs from her newest release “Chinese Whispers,” and holiday songs. Here’s “Smash and Grab” from “Chinese Whispers.” FMI and tickets.

Through Dec. 21 at the Bryant Lake Bowl: “Christmas: Impossible.” When a sinister global conspiracy of puppets threatens to steal all the world’s toys, just one man can stop them: Secret Agent Santa. A new holiday comedy for the whole family. FMI and tickets.

Dec. 20-23 at Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church: “Black Nativity: A Soulful Noel.” With Dennis Spears, Latonia Hughes-Kendrick, Sanford Moore, and the Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church Mass Choir, with narration by Penumbra Theatre’s Lou Bellamy. A benefit for Fellowship Missionary and Penumbra. FMI and tickets.

Through Dec. 23 at the History Theatre: “Christmas of Swing.” A musical reimagining of the Andrews Sisters’ Christmas Eve 1944 USO show, with real letters from WWII soldiers and swing versions of holiday songs. A celebration of music, family, and patriotism. The Andrews Sisters were Minnesota girls. FMI and tickets.

Dec. 22-23 at the James J. Hill House: Victorian Christmas Carols. Performed in the Gilded Age mansion by costumed singers, a pianist on a Steinway grand, and a narrator. The opening song features the Hill House’s three-story pipe organ. Light refreshments and house tours follow each concert. FMI and registration.

Dec. 24 at the St. Paul JCC: Sing-Along “Fiddler on the Roof.” You know these songs – “Tradition, tradition!” “If I were a rich man, ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.” Costumes are encouraged; props, lyric sheets, and a light dinner (of Chinese food, go figure) will be provided; the famous 1971 film (with Topol as Tevye) will screen; and the audience will sing. 5:30 p.m., free. All ages. Advance registration requested; call 651-698-0751. You’ll need a photo ID to enter the JCC.

Finally, three off-the-path holiday shopping suggestions:

Tonight (Friday, Dec. 7) through Sunday: Holiday No Coast Craft-o-Rama. Designers, artists, crafters, and other creators of handmade goods. At the Midtown Global Exchange. FMI.

Courtesy of the Saint Paul Fire Foundation
Pick up copies of the St. Paul Firefighters 2013 Calendar and have them autographed by the city’s finest.

Sunday, Dec. 9 at Camp Bar: Pick up copies of the St. Paul Firefighters 2013 Calendar and have them autographed by the city’s finest. (Firefighters are, by definition, hot.) Calendars are $15 and proceeds go to the Saint Paul Fire Foundation. 6:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. 490 N. Robert St., St. Paul. FMI and photos.

Through Monday, Dec. 24: SOOlocal’s Holiday Pop-Up Shop. Art and gifts by  local artists and makers. At 3506 Nicollet Ave. S. FMI.