All’s quiet on Orchestra front, for now; ‘MN Original’ returns; French honors for Coens

MinnPost photo by Corey Anderson
Silence doesn’t mean that nothing is happening behind the scenes and out of the public spotlight.

The Minnesota Orchestral Association has been awfully quiet lately. We haven’t heard a peep since board Chair Jon Campbell and President Michael Henson issued a statement Oct. 1 about music director Osmo Vänskä’s resignation earlier that day. Silence in the media might not be a bad thing, since months of both sides battling in the open did little to end the lockout, now 18 days into its second year. And silence doesn’t mean that nothing is happening behind the scenes. Let’s hope.

Meanwhile, Rep. Phyllis Kahn (DFL-Minneapolis) announced that she’ll sponsor a bill in the next legislative session (which starts in late February) that would lead to public ownership of the orchestra. Basically, the state would form a corporation and sell stock. MPR launched a survey of how the dispute between management and musicians is affecting the way we see the Minnesota Orchestra. What would have been the first-ever residency by a U.S. orchestra at the prestigious BBC Proms (in 2015) was canceled.

Save Our Symphony Minnesota (SOSMN) issued a press release questioning the size ($202,500) and timing (March and December 2011) of bonuses Henson received in the same year the MOA issued a new strategic plan calling for “further expense reduction strategies.” Orchestrate Excellence posted “A Tale of Two Orchestras,” a benchmarking report comparing the 2008-2012 revenue trends experienced by the Minnesota and the Cleveland orchestras, on its website. OX had shared the report privately with MOA management and musicians last spring to spur conversations and broaden thinking. They took it public “in hopes that it will convey the message that there are possible solutions to the dilemma we face.” 

And the Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra finalized the details of their upcoming self-produced concerts on Nov. 14 and 15, to be conducted by Stanislaw Skrowaczewski at the Ted Mann Concert Hall. With guest artist Lydia Artymiw on piano, the program will include works by Wagner, Mozart and Brahms. FMI and tickets ($60-$20).

We asked orchestra spokesperson Gwen Pappas for an update from the MOA’s perspective.

MinnPost: Why haven’t there been any official announcements of concert cancellations?

Gwen Pappas: Because we have not yet sold tickets to the 2013-14 season. The season has been fully planned … however, out of respect for patrons who stood by throughout the past year of canceled performances, we made the decision that we would only announce season plans and ask patrons to purchase tickets once a contract with musicians has been negotiated and the organization can guarantee the concerts will be performed. As soon as a settlement is in place, the 2013-14 season will be announced and on-sale.

MP: Any response to Rep. Phyllis Kahn’s proposed legislation?

GP: Michael’s comment was to reiterate the board’s priority: “The Orchestra board continues to focus on talks with musicians that will lead to a negotiated settlement that can restart the Minnesota Orchestra’s season as soon as possible.”

MP: What is the MOA’s next move?

GP: To continue trying to negotiate to a settlement.

MP: Is a search under way for a new music director?

GP: Musicians are involved in a music director search, so this will not begin until a contract is in place … As soon as there’s a settlement in place, concerts will be rolled out.

MP: With no music director?

GP: With guest conductors, as there are in every orchestral season.

MP: Have any more musicians announced their retirement or requested a leave of absence?

GP: We’ve had one additional request for leave. [Clarinet/Bass Clarinet] Tim Zavadil has a short-term contract in St. Louis and has requested a leave through June [2014].

 ***

MN Original,” TPT’s award-winning weekly series about the arts in Minnesota, is back with brand-new programs. This Sunday’s episode, airing at 6 p.m. and again at 10 p.m., features husband-and-wife public artists Amy Baur and Brian Boldon, painter Gary Welton, physician-turned-sculptor Fawzia Khan, and Anglo-rock quartet Greycoats. If you want, you can watch it online starting today. We love “MN Original” because it casts a big net. In the future, people will marvel at this definitive portrait of the arts at a particular time in our state’s history.

Courtesy of Greycoats
This Sunday’s “MN Original” features Anglo-rock quartet Greycoats.

The Coen Brothers have cool new ribbons to wear. On Wednesday, St. Louis Park natives Joel, 58, and Ethan, 56, were each made a Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters, France’s highest cultural honor. (Because everything sounds better in French: Commandeur dans l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres.) Previous honorees include fellow Minnesotan Bob Dylan. Joel told the French news agency AFP, “Sometimes life plays jokes on you … This is one of the most fortunate jokes I think that life has played on us.” Earlier this year, the Coen Bros. won the Grand Prix at Cannes for their new film, “Inside Llewyn Davis.”

Three more Minnesotans are up for big prizes. As of this writing, Chef Sara Johannes of Shoyu, the Japanese noodle and sushi shop at the airport, hasn’t yet been told to pack her knives on “Top Chef.” St. Paul native Ashley DuBose has made it past the battle round and advanced to the knockout round on “The Voice.” And Minnesota poet Matt Rasmussen is a finalist in the National Book Awards for his debut collection, “Black Aperture.” Rasmussen is a 2012-13 McKnight Artist Fellow and winner of the Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets. He teaches at Gustavus Adolphus.

First Avenue will host a Tribute to Sue McLean on Saturday, Nov. 23. We don’t yet know the musical line-up, but it will include singer-songwriter Eric Hutchinson. The event is a benefit for McLean’s daughter, Lilly, with online and live auctions featuring items from McLean’s personal music memorabilia collection. The largest independent female concert promoter in the world, McLean died of cancer in May. Tickets go on sale at noon today ($50/$150 VIP).

Another First Ave event goes on sale at noon today: the 34th Annual John Lennon Tribute and “Minnesota Beatle Project Vol. 5” release party featuring Curtiss A. Has First Ave previously combined the Lennon tribute with a “Beatle Project” CD release? If not, it’s a marriage made in heaven. $15.

Camille LeFevre has been named managing editor of The Line, succeeding John Spayde. The Line is a weekly online magazine of original stories about the new economy in the Twin Cities — creative people and business, new development, and more. LeFevre is a college professor, communications strategist, arts journalist and author who has lived in the Twin Cities for more than 20 years, so she knows who’s who and what’s what. She has written for several Twin Cities publications including MinnPost.

Our picks for the weekend and Monday

Tonight (Friday, Oct. 18): Indie neo-classical composer Jherek Bischoff at the Fitzgerald Theater. Here are our six reasons to see this show. Ticketing information here.

yo yo man
Photo by Travis Anderson
Yo-yo man David Harris

Tonight and Saturday: “Portrait of the Artist as a Yo-Yo Man” at Dreamland Arts. By age 14, David Harris already knew what he wanted to be when he grew up: a professional yo-yo player. An audience pick at the most recent Fringe Festival, this autobiographical acrobatic comedy is about yo-yos, obsessions, learning new tricks and redefining oneself as an artist. Written and performed by Harris, it also features 16-year-old drummer Sam Mistry. Here’s Harris’ Fringe preview. For age 13 and up. 7:30 p.m., 677 Hamline Ave. N., St. Paul. FMI and tickets (pay what you can, $5-$20).

Saturday: Kelly Rossum Quartet + Marimba at MacPhail. Trumpeter and composer Rossum has been much missed since he left his position as jazz coordinator at MacPhail for warmer climes. He returns for a concert with his compadres Bryan Nichols (piano), Chris Bates (bass) and JT Bates (drums) and Dr. Annie Stevens, Virginia Tech professor of percussion,  on marimba. 8 p.m., Antonello Hall, $25 adults, $15 students/seniors. Call 612-767-5250 to buy tickets in advance.

dance
Photo by Edward Bock
Aparna Ramaswamy

Saturday: Aparna Ramaswamy’s “Sannidhi (Sacred Space)” at the Cowles. The new solo performance by acclaimed Bharatanatyam dancer and choreographer (and Ragamala’s lead dancer) celebrates the guru, the divine, the natural world and the richness of human relationships. It has been winning raves on tour; the New York Times called it “rapturous and profound.” Aparna dances to live music by four Carnatic musicians, including her mother, Ranee. Preview here. 7:30 p.m., $28. FMI and tickets. Or call 612-206-3600.

Saturday and Monday: National Theatre Live’s “Othello” and “Macbeth” at the St. Anthony Main Theatre. Co-presented by the Film Society and the Guthrie, this series features knockout stage performances from the U.K. Both of these are major new productions, and they look fantastic. “Othello” (Saturday, 1 p.m.) stars Adrian Lester as Othello, Rory Kinnear (“James Bond: Skyfall”) as the duplicitous Iago in a contemporary setting. Trailer here. (Ignore the dates in the trailers.) “Macbeth” (Monday at 7 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 26, at 1 p.m.) features Kenneth Branagh (“My Week with Marilyn,” “Henry V,” “Hamlet”) in his first Shakespearean performance in over a decade, with Alex Kingston (“ER”) as Lady Macbeth. Trailer here. $20/$15 (Film Society members). FMI. Tickets.

decruck
Photo by Hélène Decruck
Fernande Breilh-Decruck at London Terrace in New York, NY c. 1947.

Sunday: Classical saxophone recital at St. Mark’s Cathedral. There was little chance that French composer Fernande Breilh-Decruck’s music would ever be performed. She was a woman, and she lived and worked in Occupied and Vichy France during WWII. Twin Cities saxophonist Scottie W. Wright has spent much of his professional life researching Breilh-Decruck; a 2004 recital in Red Bank, N. J., led to a correspondence with the composer’s granddaughter and the discovery of largely forgotten works. So we can promise this is something you’ve never heard before. With Leah Siltberg on piano, the program also includes music by Libby Larson, Barry Cockruft and Debussy. 3 p.m., 519 Oak Grove St., Minneapolis. Free.

Sunday: Open house at the Cowles. Never been inside the metal-clad building on Hennepin? Want a peek at the Twin Cities dance scene? Stop by the free community open house. Take a self-guided tour of the building; meet the staff; enjoy refreshments from Mason’s Restaurant; check out performances by James Sewell Ballet, TU Dance, Zenon Dance Company and B-Boy J-Sun; and try a dance class. Bring the kids. 1–4 p.m., 528 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis.

Sunday: Victorian Ghost Stories at the James J. Hill House. Terrifying tales by Edgar Allan Poe, Edith Wharton, the Brothers Grimm and lesser-known authors, plus some “true” ghost stories, all told by costumed actors in the dimly lit parlor of the Hill House. Hot cider will be served, and the presentation will be followed by a tour. For ages 8 and up. 6 and 7:30 p.m., $12/$10 (Minnesota Historical Society members). Reservations recommended; call 651-297-2555. Can’t make it this Sunday? The program repeats Oct. 27.

Monday: Graphic novelist Gene Luen Yang at the U’s McNamara Alumni Center. Indy comics star Yang made a splash in 2006 with the publication of “American Born Chinese,” the story of a boy who moves to a new neighborhood with his family and learns that he’s the only Chinese-American at his new school. It was a National Book Award finalist and the first graphic novel ever to win the prestigious Printz Award from the American Library Association for excellence in young adult literature. His latest, “Boxers & Saints,” is a pair of books about the Boxer Rebellion, each telling the story from a different side. Yang is here to give the College of Education and Human Development’s annual Book Week lecture. 6:30 p.m., 200 Oak St. S.E., Minneapolis. Free and open to the public.

Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Sarah Nagle on 10/18/2013 - 10:38 am.

    So the MOA’s next move . .

    Is to “To continue trying to negotiate to a settlement”? Given that Jon Campbell has said that the pressure is off and they are going to basically do nothing for the next few months, does that mean that they are going to sit on their hands until the next year? Wow.

  2. Submitted by Neal Gendler on 10/18/2013 - 03:13 pm.

    Public ownership!

    Public ownership is an interesting idea, particularly because if there’s not the funding for the musicians to incorporate themselves (Doug Grow column) and play in a different performance space.
    It seems clear that the MOA’s management has disqualified itself from any ethical right to continue operating. Not only has it badly bungled contract negotiations and deprived musicians of their income and our community of their (our) music, but the earlier decision to spend tens of millions of dollars on a fancy lobby (and more restrooms) and then stiff musicians shows complete ignorance of the reason people come to concerts: to hear one of the nation’s best orchestras.
    Yes, many of us still may enjoy performances that are “good” or even “excellent,” but we had “superb,” thanks to a decade’s affectionate collaboration between musicians and conductor. Now the conductor is gone, many musicians have, left, and with them, they may have taken the “superb.”

  3. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/19/2013 - 07:35 am.

    Mean managers

    Public ownership is now an idea that’s out there. Personally, I have little desire to own an orchestra. This labor dispute demonstrates what a headache managing an orchestra can be. For myself, I would consider some sort of public subsidy. We wrote a check for a half billion dollars to the Wilfs to secure the Vikings for our community. We could get the orchestra back for much less. And dollar for dollar, the Minnesota might be a better, or perhaps much less worse, investment in our community.

  4. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/19/2013 - 10:55 am.

    Transparency

    I note that despite all the complaints about lack of transparency, apparently management has provided enough information for its critics to make the point that it has been outperformed by the Cleveland orchestra managers.

  5. Submitted by Amy Adams on 10/26/2013 - 03:20 pm.

    Hiram, I have a question for you…

    Is this an example of “mis-info” (false information unwittingly put forward); “dis-info” (a deliberate use of known false information)…or simply a rabbit hole, diverting discussion yet again? (On Doug Grow’s article of October 11, you contribute nearly half of the comments.)

    The Orchestrate Excellence report was based on publicly available information. Management made no effort to help OX examine its performance.

Leave a Reply