Soprano Maria Jette didn’t know what she was getting into when she agreed to perform Shostakovich’s darkly comic “5 Satires” last August at the Alexandria Festival of the Lakes. “I’d heard the Satires sort of accidentally, on a CD of [other Shostakovich songs] I was re-learning a couple of years ago, and I recalled thinking, ‘Wow – those are cool. Sort of cabaret-esque.’ ” When the score arrived later, it was written in Cyrillic and German, with no transliteration. “Not only that – it looked like Gilbert and Sullivan, with a million syllables and extremely sprightly tempi.”
She found a transliteration, but it wasn’t especially helpful. Looking around for English translations, she discovered several in CD booklets, but none were singable. So she decided to create her own English version. “Using a word-by-word literal translation and three CD booklets’ sometimes dramatically different versions, I did one song pretty easily, and tried it out on [pianist] Sonja Thompson. We both agreed that the odds of the performance being both intelligible and actually entertaining were dramatically increased.”
Jette went on to complete the whole song cycle. “Rather than being a nerve-wracking 20 minutes of mystifying Russian performed by a stressed-out non-Russian, it turned out to be a really fun piece to perform, and seemed to be a hit with the crowd, although I think it was a lot spicier than what they thought the nice lady was going to sing for them.” About the spice: There’s a lady wearing a corset who’s no lady, a twilight encounter between a poetess and a lusty young man, a buxom servant with shapely legs and some kissing. Nothing the kids can’t handle, and how nice to hear it all sung instead of reading along in the program notes.
Jette will sing her new translation Sunday at Plymouth Congregational Church, at a concert benefiting the Alexandria Festival of the Lakes, a long-running, high-caliber chamber music series that takes place each year about two hours outside the Twin Cities. Sunday’s “Satires, Elegies and Dreams” is a repeat of the festival’s Aug. 3 concert and also includes Rachmaninov’s sensual “Six Romances,” Glazunov’s “Elegie” for viola, and Dvorák’s Piano Quartet in E-flat. With Sonja Thompson, Jill Olson Moser (violin), Tamas Strasser (viola), and Kirsten Whitson (cello). There is no charge for admission, but a free-will offering will be taken to benefit the festival. 5 p.m., 1900 Nicollet Ave. at Franklin.
If you missed clarinetist Martin Fröst’s already-storied SPCO debut last month, the orchestra has just added selections to its online Listening Library, including the Mozart Clarinet Concerto and the encore, a klezmer dance by Martin’s brother Göran. The concert was recorded by Classical MPR, and the rest – the Grieg and Beethoven – will be available later. And if you don’t know the Listening Library, you’re missing one of our great music resources: more than 250 recordings by composers from John Adams to Bernd Alois Zimmermann. It’s easy to search, easy to navigate, and you can stream it all on your computer. Get the free app and you can listen on your iPhone, iPad or iTouch.
The latest issue of “American Craft” magazine, published by the American Craft Council, the national nonprofit based in Minneapolis, pays tribute to the enormous influence American potter Warren MacKenzie has had on others who practice the craft of clay. In brief but illuminating statements, 15 of his protégés including Maren Kloppmann, Jeff Oestreich, Michael Simon, Dick Cooter, Mike Norman, Mark Pharis and Guillermo Cuellar explain what their relationship with MacKenzie has meant to them. Each is a testament to what good teachers do: guide without forcing, help when help is needed, demand integrity, let people find their own creative selves. Take a look, and be sure to see the photo gallery.
On Monday (Nov. 24), St. Paul will officially co-name the section of Franklin between Berry and Eustis Ave. “Dave Ray Street.” The late bluesman was born in St. Paul; Franklin & Berry was the location of the insurance business he took over from his father. Ray was a member of the Twin Cities folk blues trio Koerner, Ray & Glover. Red House recently issued a 3-CD retrospective of his career, “Legacy,” with extensive notes by Glover. The naming ceremony happens at 1 p.m., if you want to stop by.
Tonight at Maple Island Brewing in Stillwater: Doug Hennes presents “That Great Heart,” his biography of I.A. O’Shaughnessy. The 13th child of a Stillwater bootmaker, O’Shaughnessy became the largest independent oil refiner and the largest benefactor of Catholic higher education in the United States. Hennes is the vice president for university and government relations at the University of St. Thomas, where four buildings are named O’Shaughnessy. 7 p.m. Free.
Tonight through Saturday at the Southern: Only a Dim Image Dessert Theatre presents “The Philadelphia Story.” Calyssa Hall directs Phillip Barry’s classic play, which led to the 1940 romcom starring Cary Grant, Kate Hepburn and Jimmy Stewart. 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($23 adults, $18 students; includes dessert). Ends Saturday, Nov. 22.
Saturday at Northrop: The 53rd Annual Marching Band Indoor Concert. Nothing warms the blood like a marching band, especially if you don’t have to sit outside to hear it. This program packs a double whammy: the magnificence of the new Northrop and the fantastic sound, precision, and enthusiasm of the Pride of Minnesota, a 120-year-old organization whose members come from all majors and disciplines within the U. (They commit over 500 hours each semester to the band. No wonder they sound so good.) Tim Diem, Craig Kirchhoff, and Jerry Luckhardt conduct a program of half-time favorites and other rousers including “Hail! Minnesota,” “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and “The Star-Spangled Banner.” 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. FMI and tickets ($20–$30).
Opens Saturday at History Theatre: “Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story.” Nicholas Freeman is the hiccuppy Holly in a part-bio, part-rock-concert play about his life. Alan Janes’ play, a History Theatre favorite, follows Holly’s brief career from rebellious country singer to the day the music died. A collaboration with McNally Smith College of Music, with dancers from the St. Paul Conservatory of Performing Artists, the show features 24 hit songs (“Peggy Sue,” “That’ll Be the Day”) and a live band. 8 p.m. FMI and tickets ($25–$45, students $15, 18 and under $10). Through Dec. 21.
Monday at the Guthrie: Leo Kottke. The great fingerpicker’s traditional Thanksgiving-week concert draws top musicians to hear one of their own. Kottke’s career spans more than 40 years and 40 albums including his legendary 1969 debut “12 String Blues.” Here’s a set he performed at the City Winery in New York earlier this year. He’ll have a bit more room on the Guthrie’s main stage, but you can expect similar warm, crowd-pleasing banter and virtuoso playing. Nellie McKay opens, which is also pretty terrific. Doors at 7 p.m., music at 7:30. FMI and tickets ($39 and $44).