SPCO to open season; MN Orchestra players reject offer

Courtesy of Edo de Waart
Edo de Waart will conduct the SPCO this weekend.

The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra will open its 2013-14 season tonight. After a contract dispute and lockout gutted the 2012-13 season, the SPCO is back – much changed by the loss of several musicians to retirement (the new contract included a special incentive for musicians over age 55), but still the SPCO. We have faith in this great orchestra. Bruce Coppock has returned as president, and the administration now includes two musicians, principal second violinist Kyu-Young Kim (who was talked into returning after taking a position at the New York Philharmonic) and retired violinist Tom Kornacker. Tonight and Saturday at the Ordway are sold out, but as of yesterday afternoon, there were still a few tickets available for Sunday at the Ted Mann at 2 p.m. The program: Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven’s Fifth, conducted by Edo de Waart. The SPCO has given the month of September to Beethoven; check the concert calendar for dates and program information.

On Thursday, the musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra officially and unanimously rejected management’s latest contract offer. In a second vote, they unanimously urged management to reconsider and accept a proposal made earlier by mediator and former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell. In a statement issued later that day by the orchestra, president and CEO Michael Henson noted that “the mediator’s confidential proposal is not a contract proposal – it was only suggested as a means of getting musicians to come to the bargaining table.” Save Our Symphony Minnesota, a citizens’ group of audience members and donors, will hold a rally and media event starting tonight at 5 p.m. on Peavey Plaza at the corner of Nicollet Mall and 11th St. in Minneapolis, in front of Orchestra Hall. A press release says that the rally and media event will “precede the ‘Private Patron Party’ which will be held at Orchestra Hall following this event … The SOSMN event is to emphasize the point that now is no time for Minnesota Orchestra supporters to be partying.” 

Macalester’s New Music Series is barely a series – concerts happen twice, maybe three times a year – but it’s a jewel. The main reason the artists are here is to work with Mac students in classes and master classes. The public performances are a gift to the rest of us. Past artists have included guitarist Bill Frisell (who played to a packed house in February), the genre-defying vocalist Theo Bleckmann and jazz composer/bandleader Maria Schneider. The series continues Tuesday, Sept. 10, with the pioneering New York-based string quartet ETHEL. They’ll play a program called “Grace” with music by area composer Mary Ellen Childs, jazz pianist/composer Vijay Iyer, singer/songwriter Jeff Buckley, film score composer Ennio Morricone (“The Mission”), contemporary classical music composer Nico Muhly, and ETHEL member, Berklee graduate and Minnesota native Kip Jones.

ethel
Courtesy of ETHEL/James Ewing
ETHEL from Left to Right: Ralph Farris, viola; Tema Watstein, violin; Kip Jones, violin; Dorothy Lawson, cello

Some of us will remember Jones from nights at Studio Z, Barbette, the Black Dog, the Nomad, Café Maude, and other places around the Twin Cities. His performances are memorable for many reasons. He uses viola strings on his violin to more closely match his own voice, because he often sings along (sometimes in Korean). He describes his music as “experimental folk” — music from regions or people that don’t exist. Unpredictable, high-energy, sometimes otherworldly, it’s flavored with his extensive travels across the Americas and Asia with his wife, Noelle, a teacher in the Twin Cities; his encounters with nomads and migrant laborers; his performances in subway systems and a cave in Laos; and his studies at Berklee and in Mumbai with Hindustani violinist Kala Ramnath.

We’ve seen Jones play several times and took the chance to catch up before Tuesday’s concert.

MinnPost: When did you join ETHEL?

Kip Jones: July 2012. I found out I got the gig while traveling by horseback in Mongolia. We had celebratory bottles of Jalam Khar, the only good Mongolian beer.

MP: How has your life changed?

KJ: I’m not very good at being busy, but I’m figuring it out. I’m playing a lot more amazing music and meeting a lot of amazing people. There’s a toll and a workload, but the payoff is great.

MP: The hardest/most challenging part?

KJ: Being away from my wife and family without the satisfaction of international travel. Traveling for work is still work.

MP: The best/most satisfying part?

KJ: We play such unique, great music, and all the ETHELs are such great folks. I couldn’t imagine being in a band with better (or wackier) people.

MP: You’ve always been a traveler. Did that help to prepare you for life with ETHEL?

KJ: It certainly prepared me for the pleasures and discomforts of travel. I’ve had to do a lot of catching up on classical violin technique, and traveling for such long periods definitely allowed those specific skill areas to atrophy a bit.

MP: What’s happening with your own music?

KJ: I write a lot for the quartet and am working on a new solo violin outing. At the moment I can’t decide whether or not to incorporate electronic processing. I’ve been getting into looping and techno, using open-source software, and there is a real frontier in live electronics processing with acoustic instruments. Only a handful of folks are doing it in a meaningful way.

MP: Do you still consider yourself an artist “based in Minnesota”?

KJ: I am certainly still based in Minnesota.

MP: Are you still using viola strings on your violin?

KJ: Nope! On my Minnesota-made Folland/Soltis fiddle with my Minnesota-representing CodaBow, I am strung up classical as they come.

ETHEL plays Tuesday, Sept. 10, at 7:30 p.m. in the new Mairs Concert Hall in the Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center, 1600 Grand Ave. St. Paul. Free and open to the public. No tickets, no reservations. First come, first served. Doors at 7. 

Our picks through Thursday, Sept. 12

Tonight at the Jungle: “Fool for Love” opens. Sam Shepherd’s Obie-winning, Pulitzer-nominated play is one of the Jungle’s most-requested productions. Designed and directed by Bain Boehlke, set in a seedy motel on the edge of the Mojave desert, it’s a tale of transient lovers, doomed love and loss. Terry Hempleman reprises his role as Eddie, with Jennifer Blagen as May. This is probably not a great choice for a first date. 8 p.m. tonight, 2951 Lyndale Ave. S. Through Oct. 20. FMI and tickets.

fool for love
Photo by Michal Daniel
Eddie (Terry Hempleman) and May (Jennifer Blagen) in the Jungle’s “Fool for Love.”

Saturday, Sept. 7 at the Basilica of Saint Mary: The Rose Ensemble Season Opening Concert. An hour of medieval and Renaissance repertoire in a spectacular setting. Arrive early to peruse the silent auction; proceeds support the Rose Ensemble. 8 p.m., 88 No. 17th St., Minneapolis. Free, but donations are welcome. 

Saturday, Sept. 7 at the Soap Factory: The 3rd Minnesota Biennial Exhibition opening reception. An immersive, interdisciplinary exhibit of emerging contemporary art made in Minnesota by 38 artists whose work spans visual and sonic art, performance, writing and interactivity. No title, no theme but “trust the platform.” And the artists. Reception 7-11 p.m., 514 Second St. SE, Minneapolis. Through Nov. 3. On Sept. 15, 22, and 29 and Oct. 13 and 20, MinnPost writer Andy Sturdevant (The Stroll) will lead artist panels.

Sunday, Sept. 8 at Plymouth Church: An exhibition of works by Eyenga Bokamba opens. Bokamba’s works have been widely collected by public libraries, universities and collectors. An artist reception will be held at the church on the following Sunday, Sept. 15. 1900 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis.

Tuesday, Sept. 10 at Westminster Presbyterian Church: Cantus rehearsal. The stellar men’s vocal ensemble is opening some of its rehearsals to guests. Watch upcoming concerts “A Place for Us” (about the meaning of home), “Christmas With Cantus,” and “Dvorák: Going Home” take shape. Cantus rehearses and performs without a music director; their music is a true collaborative process. At the end of the hour, the singers take a break for introductions and questions. 5-6 p.m., 1200 Marquette Ave., Minneapolis. Free and open to the public, but reservations are recommended. Call 612-435-0046 or email info@cantussings.org. Go here FMI and a list of open rehearsals through Jan. 2014.

Thursday, Sept. 12 at Union Depot: “Station to Station: A Nomadic Happening.” Artist Douglas Aitken’s train-turned-kinetic-sculpture is traveling from New York to San Francisco, making ten stops along the way, and we’re one. The evening includes performances by Patti Smith and Jackson Smith, Eleanor Friedberger, No Age, BodyCartography, and more, plus sculptures, artworks, moving images, and printed matter by dozens of artists. FMI and tickets. One night, one chance to take this in.

map
© 2013 Doug Aitken
Station to Station map.

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Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by C S on 09/08/2013 - 10:45 pm.

    Puplar enough to SUPPORT a world class orchestra?

    I’m not sure the Orchestra is popular enough in this market to support a world class orchestra anymore.

    It can’t seem to take in enough money via tickets or donations in recent years in order to pay for its costs, without severely drawing down the endowment. That is the recipe for death of the institution.

    I think we may have to face the fact that we have enough patrons for a Good/Great orchestra, but probably no longer a world class orchestra, as the best of the best musicians seek $$$ elsewhere in organizations that generate more revenue.

    Possibly we could sustain higher salaries and outflow by more ‘popularizing’ the orchestra, such as something like the Boston Pops… but that may be to the displeasure of the current audience, donors and musicians.

  2. Submitted by Karen Sandness on 09/09/2013 - 08:40 am.

    Do you know the full background?

    About how the Minnesota Orchestra Association kept saying that the Orchestra’s finances were just fine as it raised $50 million to remodel Orchestra Hall?

    That’s right. It raised $50 million for a non-urgent remodel while making only token efforts to raise money for the actual Orchestra.

    In fact, some of the people who donated to the remodeling project now say that they would not have done so if they had known that the Orchestra itself was in trouble. They would have preferred to have their donations go to current operating costs and replenishment of the endowment, but they were not told that finances were shaky.

    But management kept saying that everything was fine until September 2012, when they blindsided everyone by locking out the musicians.

    Meanwhile, a grassroots group called SOS Save Osmo has raised over $600,000 in pledges from large and small donors who will release the money if the lockout ends before Osmo resigns.

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