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Once-in-a-lifetime McLean tribute/benefit; Minnesota Orchestra’s pops & projects director is leaving

ALSO: Louise Erdrich has won an American Book Award for ‘The Round House’; BNW’s ‘I Saw Daddy Marry …’; Jeremy Denk to perform with SPCO; and more.

The BoDeans were one of a parade of bands playing in memory of Sue McLean on Saturday.
Photo by John Whiting

First Avenue on Saturday night was a once-in-a-lifetime scene of celebration and generosity. A parade of bands and a big crowd came to honor Twin Cities concert promoter Sue McLean and benefit her 12-year-old daughter, Lilly. “American Idol” winner Phillip Phillips, who opened later that night for John Mayer at the Target Center, stopped by the VIP room just long enough to get his picture taken a zillion times. On the main stage, Molly Maher, Marc Perlman and Tim O’Reagan of the Jayhawks, Eric Hutchinson, Paul Metsa, Mick Sterling, the BoDeans, Soul Asylum, Rogue Valley, Haley Bonar and more made it a night to remember. If you’ve never heard Metsa and Patty Peterson sing “I Shall Be Released,” that was probably your only chance. Running over five hours, the whole affair was a heartfelt and rocking tribute to McLean, who died of cancer in May after a long career of bringing exceptional music to the Twin Cities. The silent auction remains open through Dec. 2. Here’s a photo set on Flickr, if you want to take a look.

crowd photo
MinnPost photo by Pamela Espeland
The crowd enjoyed a heartfelt and rocking tribute to McLean.

The Birchwood Café in Minneapolis will expand and remodel, upgrade its refrigeration and HVAC, and buy and serve more food from local farmers, thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign that exceeded its funding goal. The much-lauded, crushingly popular yet casual Birchwood was an early leader in the local food movement in the Twin Cities, and one reason we’ve become such foodie towns. At the third annual Charlie Awards earlier this month, the Birchwood was named Outstanding Neighbor and its owner, Tracy Singleton, was awarded Community Hero. Birchwood’s Kickstarter goal was $100,000; with 980 backers, it raised $112,126. One of the perks offered for pledging at the $150 level was something we looked at longingly: Thanksgiving dinner for 8-12 delivered to your home. Two days before TG, that tops our Wish-We-Had-Done-That-But-We’re-Dumb-And-We-Didn’t list.

Lilly Schwartz

Lilly Schwartz is leaving the Minnesota Orchestra for a new position as associate producer at SFJAZZ in San Francisco. Schwartz has been the Orchestra’s director of pops and special projects since September 2006. She started the Jazz at Orchestra Hall series, brought in New Orleans trumpeter and bandleader Irvin Mayfield as the artistic director, formed a relationship with the Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant a block away (often, after shows at Orchestra Hall, jazz headliners walked down Nicollet Mall for a late-night set at the Dakota), produced shows with Sarah Hicks, the orchestra’s principal conductor of pops, and worked closely with Pulitzer Prize winner Aaron Jay Kernis on the Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute. Kernis resigned the same day as music director Osmo Vänskä. Schwartz starts her new job Dec. 16. Orchestra president and CEO Michael Henson praised Schwartz’s tenure here. “Over the last seven years,” he said in a statement Monday, “Lilly Schwartz has done a brilliant job in engaging new artists and producing new programming to broaden the Minnesota Orchestra’s pops and presentations series for audiences and to raise it to new levels of visibility … We will miss Lilly’s contributions greatly.”

Louise Erdrich has won an American Book Award for “The Round House,” her novel abut a vicious crime and a boy’s coming of age on a North Dakota reservation. Last November, “The Round House” won the National Book Award, and in April the Minnesota Book Award. A program of the Before Columbus Foundation, founded by author-poet-playwright Ishmael Reed, the American Book Awards honor diversity and promote multicultural literature.

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Is mass government surveillance harming freedom of expression in the United States? According to a recent survey by PEN America, one in six writers has avoided writing or speaking on a topic they thought would subject them to surveillance, and another one in six has seriously considered doing so. Worried that the NSA is listening in – which we now know is not as paranoid or crazy as it once might have seemed – writers are self-censoring. Twenty-eight percent have curtailed or avoided social media activities; 24 percent have deliberately avoided certain topics in phone or email conversations. Writers are reluctant to research certain subjects and to communicate with sources or friends abroad for fear they will endanger their counterparts by doing so. These results and more are found in “Chilling Effects,” a report released by PEN American Center on Nov. 12 and based on a survey of 520 writers conducted by The FDR Group. One writer noted, “Even taking this survey makes me feel somewhat nervous.” Here’s the whole report. Read it and weep.

Chanhassen Dinner Theatres’ new owners (as of spring 2010) have bought the land under its sprawling complex from the theatres’ founding family, Bloomberg Companies. The financial details were not made public, but the purchase “reflects the increased levels of success we’re having at the theatre,” investor Jim Jensen said in a prepared statement. “Most importantly, it puts us in control of our future.” Meanwhile, MPR reported that the Capri Theater in north Minneapolis will expand into three neighboring properties, provided the Minneapolis City Council approves the sale of city land to the Plymouth Christian Youth Center, the Capri’s owner and operator, for $161,650. The former movie theater on West Broadway, where Prince played one of his first big concerts, was renovated in 2007 and has since become an anchor in the North Minneapolis community and draws audiences from around the metro. Next up at the Capri: “A Christmas Gift Concert” featuring Greta Oglesby, Thomasina Petrus, Regina Marie Williams and Sanford Moore. FMI and tickets ($20).

bnw production photo
Courtesy of Brave New Workshop
“I Saw Daddy Marry Santa Claus” at Brave New Workshop

Brave New Workshop has mounted a mostly hilarious holiday show. Full of the topical references we love (a Comcast mention got one of the night’s biggest laughs), “I Saw Daddy Marry Santa Claus” begins with a jolly song about Santa’s two “beards” (one is Mrs. Claus) and gallops on through a series of sketches, loosely linked by cast member Andy Hilbrands as Morgan Freeman, who acts (sometimes) as narrator and also reads bits from “Fifty Shades of Grey.” There’s a bit about Santa’s reindeer and the reason Rudolph’s nose is red, a bit about OSD (Online Shopping Disorder), a bit about a creepy neighbor with a collection of Christmas trees, a bit about a nursing home, a bit about the NSA. The small, hard-working, fast-moving cast also includes Taj Ruler, Matt Erkel, Tom Reed, and Lauren Anderson, who could easily be one of the funniest people on the planet. The finale, a reprise of the BNW fave “12 Days of Christmas,” is a howler. Through Feb. 1. FMI and tickets ($26-$36, discounts available).

Our picks for the week, including Black Friday

Artscape is taking Friday off to clean up after the Thanksgiving dinner we could have let Birchwood Café prepare for us, if we weren’t such dunderheads.

Wednesday at the American Swedish Institute: After Work Wednesday. Stop by Party Central – sorry, we mean the American Swedish Institute, the venerable arts & cultural center and museum – for happy-hour drinks and food specials from FIKA, a tour of its decorated holiday rooms including Sweden, Norway, Finland, Iceland, Denmark, and Mexico (yes, Mexico, that little-known Scandinavian country), and “The Dinner Party,” an original short play by Minneapolis playwright Lily Crooks that imagines a dinner table conversation among Ingrid Bergman, Edvard Munch, Carl Larsson (Sweden’s Norman Rockwell) and Icelandic poet Snorri Sturlusun. Showings at 6 and 7 p.m. in the ballroom of the Turnblad Mansion. It’s all included with museum admission. The ASI is open until 8 p.m. on Wednesdays. Can’t make it this Wednesday? There’s also Dec. 4, 11 and 18.

Swedish christmas room
Courtesy of the American Swedish Institute
The Swedish Christmas room at the American Swedish Institute.

Black Friday: We would rather be keelhauled than go to a mall on Black Friday. But these alternatives sound like fun. 1) Head for the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, which open four hours earlier than usual – at the astonishingly non-museumish hour of 6 a.m. From 6 until 7, the newly redesigned Museum Shop will give away boxed note sets, posters, and other surprises while supplies last. Enjoy free coffee and a treat from Dogwood and Rustica until 10 a.m. Check out the Northern Grade pop-up market. Visit “The Audacious Eye” exhibition for free. Stay longer if you want; regular hours start at 10. 2) Visit the Mill City Museum or Minnesota History Center, both of which also open at 6 a.m. Both are offering themed giveaways to the first 200 adults and History Hound giveaways to the first 300 kids, plus live music, and all galleries are open. FMI. 3) If you must shop, consider your friendly neighborhood record store, which celebrates “Back to Black Friday” with limited-edition vinyl records, CDs, DVDs, box sets and trading cards.  Here’s a list of exclusive and first releases. (“Linus and Lucy” by the Vince Guaraldi Trio on 7″ vinyl? Hmmmm…) And here’s where you can find a list of participating stores.

girls in the band poster

Friday at the St. Anthony Main Theatre: “The Girls in the Band.” If you missed this award-winning documentary when it came to the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival in 2012, here’s another chance. Judy Chaikin’s eye-opening, entertaining film tells the story of women trying to make it as jazz musicians, which is still pretty much a man’s world. Except for a brief, shining moment called the Swing Era, jazz has never been about stardom or celebrity, so even if you’re successful it’s an uphill battle. Chaikin travels chronologically from the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, an interracial all-female band that traveled the South during Jim Crow, to pioneering jazz pianist and longtime NPR radio host Marian McPartland, who smiled when a clueless TV host called her “decorative,” and today’s accomplished women artists including Maria Schneider, Terri Lyne Carrington and Esperanza Spalding. Here’s the trailer. FMI and tickets. Through Dec. 5.

Friday and Saturday at the Artists’ Quarter: Pat Mallinger and the Bill Carrothers Trio. As the clock ticks down to the AQ’s closing January 1, owner Kenny Horst is bringing in some of his favorite headliners. Pianist Carrothers is one of the exceptional artists who play at the AQ (when he’s not in Europe) and nowhere else in the Twin Cities. In September, he spent a week at the Village Vanguard with the Dave King Trio. Saxophonist and Chicago resident Mallinger has shared the stage with Herbie Hancock, Ramsey Lewis, and other greats. 9 p.m., $15 at the door.

Friday through Sunday: “Denk Plays Mozart and Brahms.” Acclaimed pianist and newly minted MacArthur fellow Jeremy Denk is back for more music with the SPCO, performing Brahms’ Piano Quintet in F minor and Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 25. (He played the Mozart two weeks ago at Carnegie Hall.) Denk recently recorded Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” and talked about them with NPR, if you want to read an interesting interview. We’ve been listening to his “Goldbergs” nonstop for the past week. 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Ordway, 3 p.m. Sunday at St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church in Mahtomedi. FMI and tickets.

Friday through Sunday at the Fitz: “Gulliver Unravels.” Master storyteller Kevin Kling and singer/songwriter Chastity Brown put their own spin on the classic tale by Jonathan Swift. Weaving in stories from Kevin’s life and songs from Chastity’s repertoire, directed by Theater Latte Da’s Peter Rothstein, this program is aimed at ages 9-99, so it’s a good family event for TG weekend. 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday afternoon. FMI and link to tickets (Ticketmaster).

All day Saturday at indie bookstores everywhere. Authors will become booksellers on Indies First day, a.k.a. Small Business Saturday. They’ll sign their own books, if you want, and try to hand-sell you other books they love. Nancy Carlson will be at Red Balloon in St. Paul, Andy Sturdevant at Magers & Quinn in Minneapolis, Benjamin Percy at Monkey See, Monkey Read in Northfield, Erin Hart at Valley Bookseller in Stillwater – you get the idea. You can check the map here or just show up at your favorite indie bookstore and be surprised.

Sunday: KFAI’s Brass Bash at the Amsterdam. Trumpets and trombones and tubas, oh my. Get brassed with three Twin Cities ensembles at this fundraising benefit for KFAI, Fresh Air Radio. The Jana Nyberg Group (with trumpeter Adam Meckler) starts, followed by the quintet Parham, Anderson, Schimke, Boettcher and Washington (which needs a shorter, snappier name pronto). The mighty Jack Brass Band closes out the night. 6 – 10 p.m., $10 suggested donation.

Next Tuesday (Dec. 3) at the Ritz: “Tastemakers.” Stephanie March and Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl of Mpls. St. Paul magazine co-host what’s sure to be a lively discussion of the local food biz. The panelists are Jacquie Berglund of Finnegans, Zoe Francois (“Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day”), and sheep milk cheese crafter Jodi Ohlsen Read. Apparently they’re all steamed that a recent “Gods of Food” article in Time magazine didn’t list a single female chef, so expect a few comments on that. 6 p.m. FMI and tickets ($10). Includes appetizers, cocktail samplers and a cash bar.