Forum hopes to orchestrate progress in musician lockout; time for big fairs

Alan Fletcher
Aspen Music Festival and SchoolAlan Fletcher

Musicians, board members and management, locked in a bitter dispute for more than a year. A president given a symbolic vote of no confidence; a big-name music director angry enough to quit. Bickering, open hostilities, a growing deficit, and donors withholding their dollars. Sound familiar?

No, we’re not describing the Minnesota Orchestra, but the Aspen Music Festival and School just a few short years ago. Today, led by president Alan Fletcher, Aspen is thriving, the music is playing, and the campus is undergoing a $65 million building program.

Fletcher, who referred to our two orchestras in his annual convocation address on June 24, will give the keynote speech Tuesday at a Community Forum held by Orchestrate Excellence at Westminster Presbyterian Church in downtown Minneapolis.

Formed in January, co-chaired by Laurie Greeno and Paula DeCosse, Orchestrate Excellence describes itself as “a coalition of individual and organizational partners dedicated to preserving the artistic brilliance of the Minnesota Orchestra while finding a path toward a secure financial future.” Its goal: “to provide a positive voice to help end the lockout.”

In his Aspen address, Fletcher said:

“Classical music in the United States depends on four groups working together: musicians, donors, administrators, and listeners. No one of these groups ‘owns’ the music, and no one or even two of them can keep the music going without the others.”

That’s likely a clue to the direction his speech will take. Following the keynote, attendees will take part in breakout groups, then share ideas in a large-group session facilitated by Richard Carlbom. As campaign manager for Minnesotans United for All Families, which led the fight to defeat the constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and then pass the same-sex marriage bill, Carlbom knows a thing or two about difficult conversations and deeply divisive issues. Watching him work is reason in itself to attend the forum.

By Thursday afternoon, more than 250 people had sent RSVPs. Among those expected to attend are Minnesota Orchestra board members and musicians, members of the Friends of the Minnesota Orchestra (formerly WAMSO) and the Young People’s Symphony Concert Association (YPSCA, a program formed to support the Orchestra’s Young People’s Concerts), and representatives from MacPhail, the U of M School of Music, and Classical MPR. Beverages and light appetizers will be available starting at 6, and the program begins at 6:30. RSVP here if you’d like to go; the forum is free and open to the public. Plans and expectations are for an evening of civil discourse. 

Meanwhile, Graydon Royce reports for the StarTribune that a second proposal designed to open a window for mediation between management and musicians has been rejected, this time by management. (An earlier proposal from management was rejected by the musicians.) Former Senate majority leader George Mitchell continues to work with both sides. And the New York Times blogs about an open letter sent by 91 composers to the orchestra’s musicians, administrators, and board, plus Gov. Mark Dayton and mayors Chris Coleman and R.T. Ryback, calling for the end of the lockout so the Minnesota Orchestra’s annual Composer Institute can resume. The signers include Philip Glass, Nico Muhly, John Corigliano and 2012 Pulitzer Prize winner Kevin Putz.

Renaissance Festival joustersPhoto by Jennifer ArochaRenaissance Festival jousters begin dueling this Saturday.

The big fairs are fast approaching. Which means summer is coming to an end. (No, it isn’t. Is. Isn’t!) The Minnesota Renaissance Festival starts Saturday in Shakopee. New food, new entertainment, new attractions, new artisan booths — and a daily Mead Social, with various flavors of honey mead available to sample and swig. Mead is a precursor to beer, and Minnesota is all about craft beer these days (we were recently named the No. 10 craft beer state by the Brewers Association), so it’s good to see Ren Fest going with the flow.

The Godzilla of fairs, the Minnesota State Fair, opens Thursday. (Well, geez, summer really is ending.) Go here for descriptions and photos of new attractions and exhibits (our fave: Arts A’Fair, a series of pop-up showcases in celebration of the arts), here for new food (mmm, lobster mac & cheese), here for the complete line-up of free entertainment (more than 900 shows, many of the best at the Leinie Lodge, including Robert Randolph & the Family Band on Aug. 30-31), here for the Grandstand Concert Series (Depeche Mode, Tim McGraw, the Internet Cat Video Festival), here for information on the State Fair app for your iPhone or Android. And here for all the Zubaz currently listed on ebay.

Because the Walker is undergoing construction (hence the fence) and because several galleries are closed for installation of the upcoming “Claes Oldenburg: The Sixties” show, it’s waiving the price of gallery admission for everyone through Sept. 21. This is your chance to see “Abraham Cruzvillegas: The Autoconstrucción Suites,” “Painter Painter,” and the newly opened “Fritz Haeg: At Home in the City” for free. Also: Artist-Designed Mini Golf in the Sculpture Garden, which was scheduled to end Sept. 9, has been extended through Sept. 29. If you haven’t yet putt-putted through the French chateau or seen the foosball trolls, there’s still time. Here’s a taste.

Now that the entire fall season of “A Prairie Home Companion” has sold out, Garrison Keillor, tall and apparently tireless, has announced a new variety show — not for broadcast like APHC, but for fun. “The Rhubarb Show” will be (in Keillor’s words) “a club version of the radio show,” with guests from the broadcasts, local talent, APHC sound-effects man Fred Newman, magician Bill Arnold, and musical guests. Shows are scheduled for 9 p.m. Sept. 21 and 28 and Oct. 5 at the Fitzgerald Theater. Tickets are on sale now through Ticketmaster, in person at the Fitzgerald box office (10 E. Exchange St., St. Paul), or by phone to MPR members only at 651-290-1200.

Brant Miller in the title role of "Four Humors’ Lolita: A Three Man Show."Courtesy of Four Humors TheaterBrant Miller in the title role of “Four Humors’ Lolita: A Three Man Show.”

Starts tonight at the Jon Hassler Theater in Plainview (about two hours southeast of Minneapolis): the first-ever Adventure Theatre Festival. Two weekends, 14 performances, five companies. One of the plays is “Four Humors’ Lolita: A Three Man Show.” When we saw it at the Fringe (where it was the fourth highest-selling show), the man seated beside us laughed so hard we thought he might permanently injure himself. It’s one of those plays that feels like it’s falling apart, or is about to fall apart, or maybe it has fallen apart already. We’d see it again in a heartbeat. Adult language. FMI and tickets.

Brooklyn RiderPhoto by Sarah SmallBrooklyn Rider

Starts next week: the eighth annual Stillwater Music Festival, organized by the New York-based string quartet Brooklyn Rider. Members Nick Cords, Colin Jacobsen and Eric Jacobsen all have deep Minnesota roots, and they honor them each year by bringing in a lineup of artists who don’t normally pass through Stillwater, pop. 18,000 or so. This year  features pipa (Chinese lute) virtuoso Wu Man of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road ensemble, tabla master Sandeep Das, and clarinetist/composer Evan Ziporyn. The three concerts include music by Mozart, a free family concert and the world premiere of a work by Ziporyn. Aug. 22, 26, and 27. Here’s the schedule.

Tom Rush
Photo by Bill CampbellTom Rush

Revered folk singer/songwriter Tom Rush’s Aug. 8 show at the Cedar was canceled because of last-minute travel problems. Tickets have been refunded and are on the block again for Saturday, Sept. 7. Rush got his start in mid-1960s in Boston/Cambridge. His second album, “The Circle Game” (1968), has been called the record that ushered in the singer-songwriter era; on it, Rush sang songs by then-unknowns Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne and James Taylor. He recently released a new live CD/DVD, “Tom Rush Celebrates 50 Years of Music.” At the Cedar, he’ll perform songs from his book of covers, his back catalog of originals, and material from his most recent studio album, “What I Know.” Here he is singing “No Regrets.” This has all the signs of being a wonderful evening. 8 p.m., 416 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis. FMI and tickets ($40/$30).

Did you know there’s a ballroom at the top of the Historic Turnblad Mansion, the American Swedish Institute’s castle? Last spring, Theatre Coup d’Etat presented Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” there — the first theatrical performances held at ASI in decades. They’ll return this fall with Ibsen’s “Ghosts.” Previews Oct. 14-15, opening night Oct. 16; through Nov. 3. Tickets on sale now ($30); order by date. Tempting: the prix-fixe, dinner-at-FIKA-first option.

For you, drummers: Guitar Center has launched its 25th annual Drum-Off, a national competition with a huge prize package. (The Grand Prize Winner receives $25,000 cash; a Roland TD-30 electronic drum kit and SPD-SX, whatever that is; a write-up in Modern Drummer magazine; a complete set of Sabian, Zildjian, or Meinl cymbals; and more.) Sign up between now and Sept. 10 at Minneapolis’ Guitar Center, 3650 Hazelton Road, Edina.

For 20- and 30-somethings who enjoy the arts, or think they might if they knew more about them, or don’t want to go to arts events alone: today is the application deadline for Theoroi, the Schubert Club’s Arts Ambassadors Program. (Full disclosure: this writer has been involved with Theoroi since 2011, speaking to the group on occasion and publishing members’ writing here.) Any arts organization with half a brain has a young professionals group, because that’s where future audiences come from, but Theoroi is different because it’s not only about the Schubert Club.  Members attend ten different events during the year – music, dance, theater, opera – and each is coupled with an insider opportunity: a conversation with an artist, composer, or director, a backstage tour, a Q&A. The membership fee averages out to $15 per event, a big savings over actual ticket prices. It’s a smart, friendly, social group of people you’d probably want to meet anyway, if your paths crossed; Theoroi crosses them for you. Here’s the story, and here’s the schedule of events for 2013-14.

On sale today at 10 a.m.: Famed for their note-for-note live renditions of Beatles’ songs, the Fab Four yeah-yeahs at the State on Jan. 25. On sale Friday at noon: Chris Cornell (Soundgarden, Audioslave) brings his Songbook Solo Acoustic Tour to the O’Shaughnessy on Oct. 30. His first Songbook tour in 2011 sold out in minutes. Also on sale at noon Friday: Ricky Skaggs, Bruce Hornsby, and Kentucky Thunder travel to the Burnsville Performing Arts Center on Nov. 2.

Jazz on sale now at the Dakota: Ravi Coltrane Quartet, Sept. 19; Dave Holland’s Prism, Sept. 28-29; New Gary Burton Quartet, Oct. 2-3; José James, Nov. 12-13. Here’s a recent gets-it review of James at the Birchmere in Washington, D.C. Call 612-332-5299.

Craig Ferguson, the late-night talk show host with the enchanting Scottish accent, has his own live act on the national comedy circuit, selling out places like Carnegie Hall and Radio City Music Hall. He’ll perform at Mystic Lake on Friday, Oct. 11. FMI and tickets.

While perusing City Pages earlier this week, we came across Melissa Wray’s list of the Top 15 books set in Minnesota. It was published in February, but we’re thinking summer reading. There’s still time for summer reading, right?

Our picks for the weekend

Friday at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts: opening reception for Parts of a Whole: New Work from MCBA’s Artist Community. Artists’ books, broadsides, prints, installations, and other bookish artistic endeavours by 67 members of the MCBA artist community — faculty, co-op members, recent artists-in-residence, fellowship and mentorship grant recipients, and others. 6-9 p.m. at Open Book, 1011 Washington Ave. S., First Floor, Minneapolis.

Courtesy of the Center for Book Arts

Game of Chance (2012) by Erica Spitzer Rasmussen

Saturday: Cass Gilbert Tour. One of America’s greatest architects, Cass Gilbert (1859-1934) was born in Ohio. His family moved to St. Paul when he was 9, and he launched his career here, designing railroad stations, private homes, churches, office buildings (including the Endicott Bldg. in St. Paul), and the Minnesota State Capitol. He also designed the Woolworth Building in New York City and the U.S. Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C., among many others. Presented by the Minnesota Historical Society and the Cass Gilbert Society, this bus tour offers unprecedented access to several Cass Gilbert works, including privately owned homes. Pick-up and drop-off at the Minnesota History Center. 9 a.m. to noon or 1 to 4 p.m. Tickets here ($35/$30).

Saturday and Sunday at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum: Art Crawl through the Gardens. If you haven’t had enough art fairs, and even if you have, this sounds like a winner: exhibitors and art scattered in clusters along the Arboretum’s Three-Mile Drive. Walk, drive, or hop the Arboretum Circulator to meet the artists and see their pots, prints, photos, bags, suncatchers, paintings, birdhouses and more. Saturday 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., Sunday noon – 4 p.m. 3675 Arboretum Drive, Chaska.

The SteelesThe Steeles perform Sunday evening at the Dakota.

Sunday at the Dakota: The Steeles. We’re still thinking about their a cappella performance of “Without a Song” at Jeanne Arland Peterson’s funeral in July. If you haven’t heard the Steeles live — J.D., Fred, Jearlyn, Jevetta and Billy — you’re missing a quintessential Twin Cities gospel experience. 7 p.m., 1010 Nicollet Mall. FMI and tickets.

"Pee Wee's Big Adventure"© 1985 – Warner Bros. All rights reserved.“Pee Wee’s Big Adventure” will be the final film in this summer’s Walker’s Summer Music & Movies series.

Monday in Loring Park: Music by Zoo Animal, Aby Wolf and Grant Cutler plus “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.” The final installment (sob, sniff) of the Walker’s Summer Music & Movies series. Let’s get right to the point. “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure” is the best movie ever made. Music at 7 p.m., movie at dusk. FMI.

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