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MN Orchestra turns 110; Edina Film Festival coming up

Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society
First violin section of the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra in 1903.

One-hundred-ten years ago today, the Minneapolis Symphony played its first concert, led by its founder and first conductor, Emil J. Oberhoffer. As the Minnesota Orchestra’s website points out, Nov. 5, 1903, was shortly after baseball’s first World Series (Boston – then the Boston Americans – won against the Pittsburgh Pirates) and shortly before the Wright Brothers made the first powered, sustained and controlled airplane flight. Orville Wright flew 120 feet in 12 seconds, a lot more ground than the orchestra’s management and musicians have been able to cover in the 12 months and 36 days of the lockout.

Meanwhile, MOA board member Ken Cutler wrote a letter to the Minneapolis Star Tribune restating the importance of protecting the endowment, lest the orchestra end up like the New York City Opera (which might not be dead after all). The newly renovated Orchestra Hall sits empty except for rentals. The Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra have formed a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and are presenting their own season of concerts. Up next: “Skrowaczewski Conducts Titans of the Romantic Era,” with pianist Lydia Artymiw, Nov. 14 and 15 at the Ted Mann. And then: “Eiji Oue Returns – A Tchaikovsky Spectacular!” with pianist Jon Kimura Parker, Dec. 14 and 15 at the Minneapolis Convention Center Auditorium. FMI and tickets for both are on the musicians’ website.

Garrison Keillor had this to say during Sunday’s broadcast of “A Prairie Home Companion,” live from the State Theatre in downtown Minneapolis: “The bad news is that the Minnesota Orchestra is not playing. They’ve been locked out of Orchestra Hall now for more than a year. After Orchestra Hall carried out a $50 million renovation project and the year after their CEO was paid $619 thousand in salary and bonus, they didn’t have enough money left to pay musicians, and so they’re not playing, and we miss them in Minneapolis.” Thunderous applause.

If you have a spare million or so, maybe you can be the new owner of the sunburst Fender Stratocaster Bob Dylan played on July 25, 1965, at the Newport Folk Festival, the day he “went electric.” The audience booed, Dylan was called a traitor to folk music, Pete Seeger swung an ax at the sound system (OK, that part isn’t true, but he reportedly said that if he had an ax, he’d use it), and American music changed forever. The guitar goes up for auction Dec. 6 at Christie’s in New York City. For the past 48 years, it has been with a New Jersey family, who took possession after Dylan left it on an airplane. The pilot was the current owner’s father. Attempts were made to return the guitar, but Dylan never responded. Also up for auction: handwritten and typewritten lyrics found inside the case. That would be a fun auction to attend, just to see who else shows up. It would be great if Dylan’s Strat went to the National Museum of American History, like Tito Puente’s timbales and Prince’s Yellow Cloud guitar.

St. Paul’s City Art Collaboratory, a new art-science program of Public Art Saint Paul, held its first official public gathering on Friday, Nov. 1, at St. Paul’s historic City House. Susannah Schouweiler of mnartists.com was there to hear reports about projects-in-progress and plans for the future. The Collaboratory brings artists and science professionals together to engage with the urban environment and each other in creative conversations about sustainability. A 2009 city ordinance mandates that St. Paul involve artists in every major capital project. In other words, artists aren’t just about sculptures and murals; they’re about city government, city life, and city projects. It’s a mind-blowingly good idea.

Our picks for the week

Tonight (Tuesday, Nov. 5): Ensemble Dal Niente at the SPCO Center’s Music Room. The latest installment in SPCO’s Liquid Music series features the smart and fearless Chicago-based contemporary music collective in a program of music by Rebecca Saunders, John Cage, Ashley Fure, Stefan Prins, Enno Poppe, and the world premiere of “The Universe is made of stories, not of atoms” by Minnesota composer Noah Keesecker, who describes his new work as “anxious and frenetic music poured over a thick pulse of lethargy.” And synched video. Series curator Kate Nordstrum promises “wild rides for everyone in the room.” 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets. This is a good week for new music in the Twin Cities; see Zeitgeist’s New Music Cabaret below.

dal niente
Courtesy of the SPCO
Ensemble Dal Niente plays Tuesday at the SPCO Center’s Music Room

Tonight: “The Invisible Lighthouse,” a film and live performance by Thomas Dolby at the Cedar. Most of us know English New Wave pop star Dolby for his catchy 1982 hit, “She Blinded Me with Science.” Forget all about that. Tonight is about the life and death of a lighthouse on the Suffolk coast. Dolby grew up there and watched its lights from his bedroom window. DJ Jake Rudh (Transmission, the Current) opens a night of personal art and storytelling. Presented by First Avenue. Doors at 7 p.m., show at 8. FMI and tickets.

Tonight through Saturday: The Twin Cities Horror Festival II continues at the Southern. Ten days, seven plays, 40 performances. Think Fringe, but smaller-scale, in one place, with a horror theme. We saw Four Humors’ “The Murderer Did It!” on Halloween night. The Southern was the ideal setting for a fast-paced, twisty-turny Clue-type mystery set in the sub-basement of a London office building. When the lights go down in the Southern, it’s really, really dark in there. Among tonight’s offerings, a one-night-only free performance of the improv show “K.A. Byrtr: Mayor of the Last Twin Standing” by The Theater of Public Policy (T2P2). 11:30 p.m. FMI, schedule and tickets here.

Wednesday at The Bookcase in Wayzata: P.S. Duffy reads from her new book, “The Cartographer of No Man’s Land.” Historical fiction set in Nova Scotia and France, Duffy’s debut novel is being compared to Charles Frazier’s “Cold Mountain” and E. Annie Proulx’ “The Shipping News.” We love it when a Minnesota author gets this kind of attention. Duffy lives in Rochester, where she’s the science writer for the Mayo Clinic Neural Engineering Laboratory. 7 p.m., free.

Thursday: The Edina Film Festival begins at the Edina Cinema. You didn’t know Edina has its own film festival? That’s OK; this is only the third year. The eclectic line-up, a mix of new films and classics, starts tonight at 6 with “The Fabulous Ice Age,” a film by Minneapolis photographer Keri Pickett about the great American touring ice shows (“Ice Follies,” “Ice Capades,” “Holiday on Ice”) and continues at 8 p.m. with “Ghost Light” from local filmmaker John Gaspard. It ends Saturday with “The Big Lebowski,” the 1998 Coen Brothers classic that abides. FMI, schedule, tickets and trailers here.

Thursday: Zeitgeist’s New Music Cabaret begins at Studio Z in Lowertown. It’s year five for this annual celebration of local new music performed live. Open your ears wide and crack your wallet only slightly; the Cabaret – four nights, 14 performances, 11 different groups and bands – is the bargain of the year. Pay $10 per night or $25 for all four. Performers include Dean Magraw’s Red Planet, Patrick Harison and Josh Granowski, Renegade Ensemble, the Zacc Harris Group, the Nathan Hanson Saxophone Choir, and Zeitgeist, the new music chamber ensemble of four fine musicians: percussionists Heather Barringer and Patti Cudd, woodwind player Pat O’Keefe, and pianist Julie Sweet (stepping in for Shannon Wettstein, who’s on a leave of absence). FMI, schedule, and tickets here.

Thursday: Gallery Conversation at the Bell Museum. What’s the difference between a woodcut and a wood engraving? How are prints made from copper plates or lithographic stones? How did John J. Audubon make his fantastic bird prints? As part of the Bell’s exhibition “Audubon and the Art of Birds,” printmaker, book artist and educator Jody Williams leads a discussion of printing methods and shows examples of different printing plates, blocks and tools. 5:30 p.m. in the West Gallery. Free with museum admission. Go early, if you can, and see the show. The Bell owns a rare double-elephant folio edition of Audubon’s “Birds of America.” Thirty-three restored prints are now on display.

homes of summit
Courtesy of Big Picture Press
Peek inside two dozen of St. Paul’s grandest homes.

Thursday: “Great Houses of Summit Avenue and the Hill District” book launch at Common Good. Peek inside two dozen of St. Paul’s grandest homes – historic mansions designed by Clarence Johnson, Cass Gilbert, and many others. (The F. Scott Fitzgerald home is among them.) Architectural photographer Karen Melvin and her coauthors will be joined by many of the homeowners whose houses are featured. Garrison Keillor wrote the foreword. 7 p.m., free.

Thursday: Zagreb Saxophone Quartet and Lydia Artymiw at the Ted Mann. You can see award-winning pianist Artymiw when she performs with the Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra on Nov. 14 and 15. And/or you can see her for free when she plays with the Zagreb Saxophone Quartet. Presented by the U of M School of Music, where Artymiw is on the faculty, the program will include music by Mozart and Shostakovich. 7:30 p.m. Seating is general admission.

Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma
“Mary T. and Lizzy K.” at the Park Square Theatre

Friday: “Mary T. and Lizzy K.” at the Park Square Theatre. This is closing weekend for writer/director Tazewell Thompson’s look at the close relationship between Mary Todd Lincoln and her dressmaker, Lizzy Keckly, a freed slave. Park Square nabbed the regional premiere of a play that had its world premiere earlier this year at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., and received the Edgerton Foundation New American Plays Award. Part fact, part fiction, it moves back and forth in time, from the day of Lincoln’s assassination to a day 10 years later, when Mary Todd Lincoln has been institutionalized. It’s a talky play, and there were moments when we wished it had been a bit shorter, but the language is beautiful and the acting superb. Linda Kelsey is a mercurial yet sympathetic Mary Todd Lincoln, Sha Cage a powerful, purposeful Lizzy, and Stephen D’Ambrose an achingly human, bone-weary Lincoln. As Lizzy’s assistant, Ivy, Nike Kadri rises above the horrors her character has experienced. The costumes, borrowed from Arena Stage, are fabulous. Tickets are tight for Friday; if you can, try Saturday or Sunday.

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Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 11/05/2013 - 10:44 am.

    110?

    That kind of assumes that the Minnesota Orchestra still exists. That’s debatable right now.

  2. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 11/05/2013 - 12:22 pm.

    The letter

    Looking at Mr. Culter’s letter, it seems to me that the board, even at this late date, has failed to come to grips with reality. First, the job of the board and of the MOA isn’t to preserve the endowment, it’s to present orchestra concerts. There just is no point at all in having an orchestra endowment, without an orchestra, one that plays music. And if in presenting concerts, if the endowment runs out, so be it. Secondly, and I think this is a function of the bunker mentality the board now suffers from, is that they are unable to understand that they are unable to understand that in their efforts to save the orchestra, they have already destroyed it. There seems little doubt that the long lockout, which has cost the orchestra it’s world class conductor, and critical members, has put the future prospects of the orchestra in just as much jeopardy than if they had reached an early unfavorable settlement with the musicians.

    We are quickly coming to the point where the Minnesota Orchestra Association is just a zombie entity. It has managers who are paid hefty salaries who don’t manage anything. It has an expensively renovated where music isn’t played. It’s an endowment fund, that has nothing to endow. When will board members like Mr. Cutler realize this, and put an end to it before it’s too late?

  3. Submitted by Arthur Horowitz on 11/05/2013 - 01:28 pm.

    110 years and now this

    Its ironic that the Minnesota Orchestra board’s new “business model” no doubt formulated by Mr. Henson with the strong support and encouragement of misters Davis and Campbell may accomplish what 2 world wars and the great depression could not, the destruction of our Orchestra.

    Let us hope the musicians can keep it going and perhaps the “Board” will have a change of direction and turn the management of the “New Symphony Orchestra of Minnesota” over to the musicians and people who actually attend the concerts on a regular basis.

  4. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 11/06/2013 - 05:32 am.

    Business model

    There is little point in having a business model if you don’t have a business. Currently, the orchestra model seems to be to pay managers to manage an orchestra that does not play music, one that may not even exist anymore. How can that possibly be considered an appropriate use of endowment funds entrusted to them?

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