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Sense of urgency being felt over Minnesota Orchestra plight; local bands to play Target Field

ALSO: Isabel Allende at the Fitz; Old Log sold (but will remain a theater; Science Museum to host Omnifest; and more.

A photo of the Minnesota Orchestra musicians on their Facebook page shows “ghosts” representing unfilled positions — musicians who have left or are leaving.
Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra

When will the Minnesota Orchestra lockout end, and how can it possibly end well? It’s said that in a successful negotiation, nobody’s happy with the result, but it’s hard to imagine a worse situation than we’re in right now, or a positive outcome. 

A photo of the musicians on their Facebook page shows “ghosts” representing 24 unfilled positions – musicians who have left or are leaving. Last week, music director Osmo Vänskä threatened to quit, and Burt Hara announced that after 25 years as principal clarinet, he had taken a new position with the LA Philarmonic. (More top players will very likely follow.) A full-page “Open Letter to the People of Minnesota,” published in Sunday’s Star Tribune and paid for by the musicians, called for readers to contact board leaders Jon Campbell and Richard Davis and “urge them to step aside.” An editorial Saturday urged (that word again) Minnesota governor Mark Dayton “to use the influence of his office to prevent a catastrophe at Orchestra Hall.” On Saturday, New Yorker music critic Alex Ross, who once said that “the Minnesota Orchestra sounded, to my ears, like the greatest orchestra in the world,” wrote on his blog, “The Minnesota Orchestra … is veering toward catastrophe” (that word again) and wondered aloud if “the board and management actually wish to destroy the Minnesota Orchestra.”

Maybe it’s time for the people of Minnesota to pick up their torches and pitchforks. If this orchestra is lost, it will be a cultural catastrophe for our state, and if our leaders sit passively by and allow it to happen, shame on them.

In other news: the Old Log Theater will be sold, but it won’t be razed and replaced by cabins or condos. The theater and its property are being acquired by Excelsior Entertainment, owned by Greg and Marissa Frankenfield. He’s cofounder and CEO of Magenic Technologies; both are theater enthusiasts and producers who plan to continue the Old Log’s tradition of professional, live theater. So it’s less of a sale, more of a torch-passing, which should make a lot of people happy — including 95-year-old Don Stoltz, who bought the Old Log in 1946.

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Minnesota now has three more James Beard Media Awards, which look kind of like Olympics medals. At Friday night’s ceremony in New York City, Andrew Zimmern took Outstanding Personality/Host for “Bizarre Foods America,” seen on the Travel Channel. Daniel Klein and Mirra Fine won Best Video Webcast, On Location for “The Perennial Plate,” their online weekly documentary series. MSP magazine food writer Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl lost to Mike Sula of the Chicago Reader for the MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award. Don’t worry, Dara, there’s still plenty of time. On Saturday night, Zimmern and Tony Bourdain (who also won a Beard for his PBS program, “The Mind of a Chef”) will share the stage at the State in a program called “Guts and Glory.” Maybe they’ll wear their new medals. FMI and tickets.

tornado alley photo
Courtesy of the Science Museum of Minnesota
Omnifest: Big movies on big screens at the Science Museum

Love big movies on ginormous screens? From May 10-June 20, the Science Museum hosts its popular annual tradition, Omnifest. Five films will run in rotation on the Omnitheater’s 90-foot domed screen. This year’s films: “Tornado Alley,” about storm chasers, who are about as crazy as a bag of hammers; “Wild Ocean,” about what happens when billions of sardines migrate up the coast of South Africa toward a hungry crowd of sharks, dolphins, and whales; “Jane Goodall’s Wild Chimpanzees,” a Science Museum original production; “Lewis & Clark: Great Journey West,” a story of exploration and discovery; and “Antarctica,” a film about ice and snow, as if we need reminding. FMI and tickets.

The Minnesota Twins and K-TWIN are bringing local music to Target Field. Starting May 15, every Wednesday home game from May-August will feature Minnesota bands performing original songs live from the left-field balcony during pregame, inning breaks, and pitching changes. Here’s the line-up: May 15, The 4onthefloor; May 29, GB Leighton; June 12, Jack Knife and the Sharps; June 19, Hitchville; July 3, P.O.S.; July 31, Rocket Club; Aug. 14, Trampled by Turtles. The Aug. 20 game against the Kansas City Royals will present the winner of “The Sound Factor” contest, open to all local bands beginning May 15. FMI on that. 

The Minnesota Ballpark Authority voted last week to spend up to $300,000 on public art for spaces near Target Field where Hennepin County plans to build a transit interchange. It’s expected that a Public Art Selection Committee will soon be formed and a RFP sent out. The Strib had the story (a short one) on Sunday. 

Minnesota Citizens for the Arts has compiled a list of pending arts bills to care about. They include the Legacy and General Fund arts funding bills and three nonprofit tax issues: the ticket tax, and expansion of taxes to services done by nonprofits; street maintenance fees (will there be an exemption for nonprofits?); and a proposal to change how charitable giving is treated in Minnesota. One thing MCA would like you to do now: Send your legislator a quick email asking him or her to dedicate 50 percent of the Arts Legacy fund to the Minnesota State Arts Board and the Regional Arts Council. This way, that money will go towards arts activities in every corner of the state, which is what we voted for in the first place.

For artists: Springboard for the Arts is hiring an Artist Organizer to help the Cornerstone Group with the redevelopment of the Lyndale Garden Center site into a new Town Center for Richfield. The part-time position pays $30,000, with access to up to $25,000 for art projects. Information sessions are set for Monday, May 13 (6:30-8 p.m.) and Saturday, May 18 (10-11:30 a.m.) at 6334 Lyndale Ave. S. in Richfield. Download a job description, application and FAQs here.

May is National Chamber Music Month. Now that the SPCO lockout is settled and our magnificent chamber orchestra is officially playing again, you might want to act quickly to score your tickets to an upcoming concert.

April was National Poetry Month and National Jazz Month, and we’re idly wondering why there’s no National Bacon Month.

Our picks for the week

Tonight (Tuesday, May 7) at Pillsbury House Theatre: “Once in a Blue Moon.” Ten short plays written by professional playwrights (including Carlyle Brown and Jeffrey Hatcher), directed by professionals, and acted by top Twin Cities’ theater artists and neighborhood kids. Come for the plays, stay for the cookies and milk. 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., free.

Tomorrow afternoon (Wednesday) in downtown St. Paul (St. Paul workers, this is for you): the Cherry Spoon Collective plays an outdoor concert on Kellogg Boulevard across from City Hall. Michelle Kinney, a member of the multi-generational, multi-instrumental, multi-genre mini-orchestra, says they’ll be “improvising and grooving like a rock band, but not playing rock music.” Plans are to amplify the string section through a solar power system operated by sound designer Tim Donahue; if skies are cloudy, they’ll add bicycle power. It’s an hour, it’s outdoors, it’s free, it’s Food Truck Wednesday. What else do you want from us? Noon – 1 p.m. UPDATE: Due to the chance of thunderstorms, the show will move to the Amsterdam at 6th and Wabasha.

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Wednesday at the Fitz: Isabel Allende. A spring addition to the Talking Volumes series of literary conversations. Born in Chile, Allende is the author of “The House of the Spirits,” among many other novels and four memoirs; her latest is “Maya’s Notebook.” 7 p.m. FMI and tickets.

Wednesday at the Trylon: “Queen: Days of Our Lives.” Not the Queen, that Queen: Scaramouche, Galileo! Director Matt O’Casey tells the band’s colorful story in newly discovered archival film and interviews, with an extensive soundtrack of Queen hits and unheard studio outtakes. Part of the ongoing Sound Unseen festival of films about music. 7:15 and 9:15 p.m. FMI and tickets.

Thursday at the Bryant Lake Bowl: “Country Roads: Dennis Curley Sings the Music of John Denver.” Seriously, who doesn’t love John Denver? (“Take me home, country roads!”) Backed by members of local bands Blazing Saddles and the Galactic Cowboy Orchestra, Curley is wrapping up a two-month BLB engagement of old favorites and less familiar Denver tunes. Closes May 11. 7 p.m. FMI and tickets.

Thursday at Shepherd of the Valley Church in Apple Valley: the SPCO performs their first official concert since the lockout ended. Thomas Zehetmair conducts; Steven Isserlis plays Robert Schumann’s Cello Concerto. It’s a sure bet the audience will give them a very enthusiastic welcome. 7:30 p.m. Act quickly if you want tickets; only a few remained on Monday.

pottery bowl
Courtesy of the Minnesota Potters of the Upper St. Croix River
Pottery bowl by Delores Fortuna of Galena, IL.

Starts Friday: the 21st Annual Pottery Studio Tour & Sale by the Minnesota Potters of the Upper St. Croix River. Short version: pots! Seven local pottery studios will host 50 top potters from 15 states (and one from Scotland). All are within a one-hour drive of the Twin Cities; each is a short drive from the others. So depending on how involved you get in looking at pots, talking with potters, and checking out what other people are buying, it’s possible to visit all of the locations in one day. Or just take the weekend, as  a lot of collectors do. Whether it’s the cup that holds your morning coffee, the platter that serves your Thanksgiving turkey, or your favorite noodle bowl, handmade pottery is just better — like live music. Visit the link for a list of potters, a tour map, and lots of photos.