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Remembering Sue McLean: ‘Live music is good for your soul’

ALSO: Penumbra’s new season; Vincent Kartheiser is Guthrie’s Darcy; Judy Onofrio’s new show; and more.

Paul Metsa with Sue McLean at 2011 signing for his book, "Blue Guitar Highway."
Photo by John Whiting

We were deeply saddened to learn that concert promoter Sue McLean died Friday from cancer. She was 63. We saw many of her concerts over the years at the Guthrie, the Zoo and the O’Shaughnessy and were utterly charmed by her on the few occasions we met. And we loved that she was here among us: the world’s most successful independent female concert promoter, an example of doing well by doing what you love in a field of mostly men. Jon Bream wrote a tender remembrance of her for the Star Tribune; read it online and watch a video of McLean recalling some of her favorite musicians and bands. Her niece, Patricia McLean, will take over the business and the shows will go on. Think of Sue this summer as you enjoy music under the stars at the Minnesota Zoo, a concert at the Guthrie, and/or the Basilica Block Party. As she liked to say, “Live music is good for your soul.” Mass of Christian Burial Friday, May 24, 11 a.m. at the Basilica of St. Mary. Visitation at the church before the mass, reception after.

We returned from a short break to find a huge heap of arts news and season announcements – so many that we’ll save some for Friday.

After a challenging time that began last September with staff cuts and the suspension of its programing, Penumbra Theatre has announced a full and enticing 2013-14 season that includes the return of the “Black Nativity” holiday concert; a three-day festival of student performances; the Claude Edison Purdy Individual Artist Festival, named for a founding member of Penumbra, featuring work by James T. Alfred and Debra Ehrhardt; “The Ballad of Emmett Till,” written by Ifa Bayeza and directed by Talvin Wilks, about the brutal murder of a 14-year-old boy in Mississippi in 1955; and “The Mountaintop” by Katori Hall, an intimate fictional portrait of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the eve of his death, directed by founder and artistic director Lou Bellamy and presented at the Guthrie. The season also includes “Let’s Talk Theatre,” “Bookends” and “Reel Talk” events hosted by associate artistic director Sarah Bellamy. FMI and tickets. Welcome back, Penumbra.

The Minnesota Chorale is hurting. Almost all of its earned income stems from performances with the Minnesota Orchestra, which, as we all know by now, has been locked out for the entire 2012-13 season. With its survival at stake, the 40-year-old Chorale has slashed staff hours and pay by 50 percent effective July 1, reductions that will stay in place until the lockout ends. Still another reason for management and musicians to get back to the table pronto.

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We’re trying to imagine hateful, horrid Pete Campbell of “Mad Men” as romantic heartthrob Mr. Darcy of “Pride and Prejudice,” and it’s hard. Really hard. But wait: Vincent Kartheiser succeeds in making Campbell an icky, manipulative, sneering, sexist jerk because he’s a good actor. So maybe he can pull off Darcy after all. The Guthrie just cast him in that plum role, and we can see how he does it starting July 6, when the previews begin. Minnesota native Kartheiser first trod the (old) Guthrie’s boards at age 7 as Tiny Tim in “A Christmas Carol.” Based on the novel by Jane Austen, adapted for the stage by Simon Reade, directed by Joe Dowling, “P&P” is the final show of the Guthrie’s 50th anniversary season. Opens July 12, runs through Aug. 31. FMI and tickets.

mad men still
Courtesy of AMC
Vincent Kartheiser as Pete Campbell in “Mad Men”

The American Composers Forum on Friday announced the 2013 McKnight Composer Fellows. Four Minnesota artists will each receive $25,000 in unrestricted funds; two visiting composers will receive $15,000 each. This year’s fellows are St. Paul jazz/classical composer/pianist Randy Bauer; Maple Grove’s Scott Miller, a composer of electroacoustic, orchestra, chamber, choral and multimedia works; composer and percussionist Joshua Musikantow of St. Paul; and Minneapolis composer David Evan Thomas, who has written (so far) music for orchestra and wind ensemble, 40 chamber works, numerous choral works, keyboard pieces and an opera. Philadelphia’s Chris Coyle will lead music appreciation and hands-on engagement workshops at day-care centers in Minneapolis that serve people with mental and intellectual disabilities; Jin Hi Kim of Bridgeport, CT, will be in residence at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, conducting Cross-Cultural Music Meditation workshops.

Tradition, tradition! Chanhassen Dinner Theatres is bringing back an old friend. “Fiddler on the Roof,” CDT’s most-requested show and a nine-time Tony winner, will return Sept. 27 and run through Jan. 25, 2014. Did you know its title comes from Marc Chagall’s painting “The Fiddler”? News to us. “Fiddler” was last seen on Chanhassen’s main stage in 1993, 20 years ago, when it marked the theater’s 25th anniversary. Which makes this CDT’s 45th year. Group tickets are now on sale; call 952-934-1547.

Club Book, the series of free readings by bestselling, award-winning authors, has unveiled its Summer/Fall 2013 season. June 5: poet and memoirist Li-Young Lee (“The Winged Seed,” “The City in Which I Love You”). June 27: novelist and children’s book author Carl Hiaasen (“Strip Tease,” “Bad Monkey”). Aug. 17: young adult novelist Will Alexander (“Goblin Secrets,” winner of the 2012 National Book Award). Sept. 17: writer and blogger Emily Rapp (“Poster Child,” the blog “Little Seal”). Sept. 26: investigative journalist Eric Schlosser (“Fast Food Nation”). Oct. 9: memoirist, blogger, and organic farmer Atina Diffley (“Turn Here Sweet Corn”). Oct. 14: novelist Sarah Stonich (“The Ice Chorus,” “These Granite Islands”). Oct. 24: crime novelist Erin Hart (“Haunted Ground,” “The Book of Killowen”) and accordionist Paddy O’Brien. Nov. 4: artist and MinnPost columnist Andy Sturdevant (“Potluck Supper With Meeting to Follow,” to be published by Coffee House Press this fall). Dec. 2: Poet Ed Bok Lee. Events are scheduled at various times in locations (mostly libraries) throughout the metro area. FMI.

The Old Log Theater, which was recently acquired by software developer and theater buff Greg Frankenfield and his wife, Marissa, has announced its eighth annual Sounds for Summer series of a dozen concerts starting June 3 and ending Aug. 19. Highlights include an evening with Jearlyn Steele (June 10), the Monroe Crossing Buegrass Band (June 24), Sopranorama! with Janis Hardy, Maria Jette and Molly Sue McDonald (July 1), the Minnesota Jazz All Stars (Aug. 5), and Bruce Henry’s tribute to Steve Wonder (Aug. 19). All concerts are on Mondays at 7:30. Let’s hope the new owners update the website soon to include information about the series.

architecture photo
Photo by Paul Kelly
Roald Gunderson designed Myrick Hixon EcoPark Nature Center in LaCrosse, Wis.

Minnesota-trained, Wisconsin-based architect Roald Gundersen has received the 2013 Margot Siegel Design Award given by the Goldstein Museum of Design. Founder, co-owner and principal architect of WholeTrees Architecture + Structures in Stoddard, WI, Gunderson received his B.S. in Architecture and Environmental Science from the University of Minnesota in 1984. His specialty is exploring and experimenting with natural building and the architecture of small-diameter round timber. He will be presented with the $2,000 award on May 29 in Florida.

Tour the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden on your computer, smart phone or tablet. The Walker last week launched a new website that helps you navigate the Garden using GPS, learn about the sculptures on view, explore histories of the Garden’s past, and hear personal reflections on its iconic status by Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and others. The Walker is calling the mobile version a “downloadable app,” which it isn’t, not exactly – it’s a mobile-optimized version of the website, but we won’t quibble too much because it’s cool and it works. Take a look at the website first, and if you want it on the go, type into the browser on your phone or tablet, then add the site to your home screen (you’ll be prompted to do so). Easy breezy.

With longtime Twin Cities arts journalist Matt Peiken leaving for a new job in Cincinnati, his informative, innovative and useful classical music website, MNuet, is up for sale. Launched in Sept. 2012 as a partnership with member artists/organizations, functioning as an online magazine and calendar, MNuet has followed the orchestra lockouts and much more. Peiken will discontinue publishing at the end of May. Anyone want to step up and make this happen? Contact Peiken by email.

Our picks for the week

Tonight at Wayzata Community Church: ¡Cantare! Community Concert. Each year since 2008, VocalEssence has paired select Twin Cities choral youth groups with composers-in-residence from Mexico to study that nation’s musical heritage and compose original pieces. This year’s students collaborated with Mexican composers Gerardo Cárdenas and Novelli Jurado. The 130-voice VocalEssence Chorus will join students from schools in Minneapolis, St. Louis Park, St. Anthony, Blaine and Hopkins for a musical celebration that includes two world premiere performances. 6 p.m. (elementary school choirs) and 8 p.m. (high school choirs). Free. Tickets are available at the church, the Consulate of Mexico in St. Paul, Latino Communications Network in Minneapolis and the Neighborhood House at Wellstone Center in St. Paul.

Tonight at the Soap Factory: the first event in the gallery’s new music series, Sound On-Site, which promises “the best in experimental live music, sound, and DJs – both local and international – across a wide range of genres.” Called “Rock Forward: A Night of Music to Support the Fight Against Anti-LGBTQ Violence,” tonight’s concert brings together a stellar line-up for a good cause. Dane Stauffer will host Maria & Razz & The Baptism River Ramblers, Annie and the Bang Bang, FAYE Goulet, Chan Poling, Marc Perlman, Jacques Waits, Hugo Klaers and special guest Wendy Lewis. Proceeds benefit performer Ron Spiess, who is recovering from a recent assault. Doors at 6:30, show at 7. Tickets here ($12). 

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Tonight at the Charles A. Lindbergh Historic Site in Little Falls: “Lindbergh: The Shocking, Turbulent Life of America’s Lone Eagle.” Screening on the 86th anniversary of Lindy’s historic flight, the award-winning documentary traces his life in archival footage, photographs, and interviews with family members. 7 p.m., free. 1620 Lindbergh Dr. S., Little Falls.

Tonight at the Dakota: Charles Lazarus Quartet with Connie Evingson. Take Minnesota Orchestra trumpeter Lazarus, add Tommy Barbarella on piano, Jeff Bailey on bass, and Craig Hara on drums, top it off with Evingson’s silky, swinging voice and impeccable phrasing, and what you have is a tasty night of music in a beautiful setting. 7 p.m. FMI and tickets ($25).

Courtesy of Thomas Barry Fine Arts
“Spin” by Judy Onofrio. Opening reception is Thursday.

Wednesday at the Cedar: Pokey LaFarge. Born Andrew Heissler in Bloomington, IL, nicknamed Pokey by his mom, LaFarge plays early 20th-century roots-style music with brio and without irony. We checked him out because we like his name, ended up watching his Tiny Desk concert for NPR, and now we’re kind of hooked. His next album comes out in June on Jack Black’s label. Doors at 7 p.m., music at 7:30. Al Scorch opens. FMI and tickets ($12-$15).

Wednesday at the Black Dog: Lowertown Reading Jam. The Saint Paul Almanac recently won a Midwest Book Award in the Culture category. On Wednesday, its 2012-13 season of Lowertown Reading Jams continues with “If You See Something, Say Something,” an evening of “suspicious poetry and drumming.” Hosted by Mizna, the Twin Cities’ Arab literary arts organization, it will feature spoken word and poetry performed by Arab-American and Muslim writers including Robert Fared Karimi, Moheb Soliman, and Kathy Haddad. 7 p.m. All ages, no cover, donations accepted.

Opening Thursday at Thomas Barry Fine Arts: “Judy Onofrio: Full Circle.” Onofrio is known for her lively, colorful, lavishly embellished mixed-media sculptures. Her new work is radically different. Made from found animal bones, these abstracted assemblages are powerful, fragile, and compelling. Opening reception 6:30-9 p.m. Through Aug. 29. Exhibition hours “by appointment or chance.”