British Arrows: surprises, wit and wondrous animation

Courtesy of British Arrows 2014
Martin Granger’s “An American Coach In London” for NBC Sports Premier League

Watching the British Arrows advertising awards is a wild ride. You laugh, you cry, you laugh some more, you’re moved and sometimes mystified. (What’s Marmite?) For 28 years, the Walker has aired the Arrows over the holidays, and they’re always a big draw. Opening tonight, the 2014 reel offers the surprises, the hilarity and the gut punches we’ve come to expect, along with the short-form storytelling, high-end cinematography, wit and wondrous animation, all in quick succession. Only the British could make a weepy dog-food commercial, and no, the dog doesn’t die.

Since much of the fun is in the twists, we won’t give away too much, but here’s a sampling of what this year’s Arrows cover: a platypus who collects vinyl, tighty whiteys, hops growers, women’s self-image, sports, travel, first aid, ex-offenders, end-of-life care, people with disabilities, roomy Volkswagens, cyberbullying, character, beans on toast, cancer survivors and domestic abuse. If you watched “The Killing” on television, you probably already know it was an American remake of a Danish series, which will help when you see the gritty ad about holiday jumpers (sweaters, in non-Brit English). There’s even a local connection; you’ll recognize a famous voice when you hear it. (Oh, OK, it’s Garrison Keillor.) This year’s most memorable tag line: “Nothing beats an astronaut.” 

Tonight is sold out, but plenty of screenings remain (in both the McGuire Theater and the Walker Cinema) between now and Jan. 4. Just don’t wait until the last minute. FMI and tickets ($12/$10). Tickets include free gallery admission valid for one week after.


We’re a state full of people who love to sing, and next spring we’ll have a new monthlong, statewide, Fringe-like festival of singing. From April 10 to May 10, the Northern Voice Festival will feature some 120 to 180 events in eight different venues in Minneapolis and St. Paul, including the Ordway’s new Concert Hall.

Nine headlining groups were announced last week: Bloomington’s Angelica Cantanti Youth Choir, Minneapolis’ Exultate Chamber Choir and Orchestra, Minneapolis’ From Age to Age, Golden Valley’s Great River Chorale, St. Paul’s One Voice Mixed Chorus, the Saint Peter Choral Society, Minneapolis’ Singers in Accord, the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus, and St. Paul’s VocalPoint.

Two days (Saturday, April 11, in Minneapolis and Saturday, April 25, in St. Paul) have been designated Festival Days and will feature up to 46 community-based singing ensembles in all styles. The festival has extended an open invitation to singing groups (two or more people, formal and informal, all styles) to propose programs that will be selected at a public lottery in January.

“Minnesota’s singing culture extends well beyond the traditional choir,” executive producer Randall Davidson said in a statement. “We are looking for barbershop quartets, jazz vocal ensembles, rock, a capella, music theater revues, folk singers, gospel choirs, community sing-alongs, doo wop … the list is as long and wide as Minnesota.”

Davidson was formerly administrative director of the National Lutheran Choir, one of the new music festival’s five founding members. The others are The Singers, Minnesota Choral Artists, the Minnesota Chorale, the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus and VocalEssence. All but VocalEssence have offices in the Cowles Center, and the idea for Northern Voice came out of informal conversations.

Festival Day proposals are due Dec. 22. Singers, go here to learn how to submit a proposal. Everyone else, stop by to find out more about the festival and skim the long list of choirs that have shown an interest in participating. This seems like an altogether fabulous idea and it will be fun to see it take shape.


Springboard for the Arts will receive $800,000 from the Kresge Foundation over three years for general operating and growth capital support, Springboard announced yesterday. The funding will support storytelling and resource-sharing among artists and communities, evaluation and research (in partnership with organizations like the Wilder Foundation), health programs and connecting artists’ projects to local organizations and businesses.

“Springboard exemplifies the kind of approach that our Arts and Culture Program … seeks to support and illuminate,” Kresge president and CEO Rip Rapson said in a statement. Springboard’s executive director Laura Zabel said, “To have this broad investment enables us to be flexible, responsive and entrepreneurial in the work we do supporting artists and cultivating vibrant communities.”

Charitable giving in Minnesota increased as the economy recovered, according to a report released Thursday by the Minnesota Council on Foundations. Individuals, foundations and corporations gave $5.7 billion in 2012, up 2 percent from 2011. Individuals gave the lion’s share: over $4.1 billion of the total.

Education got the most grant dollars (29 percent), followed by human services (23 percent), public affairs/society benefit (16 percent), arts, culture and humanities (13 percent), and health (10 percent). The largest arts grantmakers were Target Foundation and Corporation ($24.8 million), Robina Foundation ($18 million), the Minneapolis Foundation ($14.4 million), the Saint Paul Foundation and Minnesota Community Foundation ($10.6 million), and the McKnight Foundation ($10.5). The largest arts grantees in the state were the Walker Art Center ($14.8 million), Twin Cities Public Television ($4.7 million) and Minnesota Public Radio ($2.5 million). Most of the arts dollars went to the performing arts and museums. Nearly half stayed in the state. Go here to view and download the full report, “Giving in Minnesota, 2014 Edition.”

The Picks

Saturday at Mu Performing Arts Studio: Asian Adoptee Story Circle. In October we mentioned that Minnesota theater artists Leah Cooper and Alan Berks are creating a new play about the adoption experience. They’re gathering their material – with participants’ permission – at a series of story circles held in various locations. If you’re an adoptee, an adoptive parent, a birth parent, sibling, foster parent, or someone who works within the adoption process, this will be of interest to you. Go here to learn more, view a schedule of upcoming story circles, and RSVP to participate.

Sunday at Hamline’s Sundin Music Hall: The Musical Offering. The program of rarely performed chamber works includes Wenzel Thomas Matiegka’s Notturno, Op. 21 for flute, viola, and guitar (with guest guitarist Christopher Kachian) and Johann Nepomuk Hummel’s Septet No. 1 in D minor, Op. 74, performed by an assortment of winds, strings and piano. Hugo Wolf’s “Italian Serenade” for string quartet opens. 3 p.m. FMI and tickets ($25/$10).

Monday at Saint Anthony Park Library: Silent Films, Live Music. Three short comedies starring Buster Keaton (“The Balloonatic,” 1923), Laurel and Hardy (“Big Business,” 1929), and Charlie Chaplin (“The Cure,” 1917) will screen to live music by accordion/saw duo Dreamland Faces. Presented by the Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library. 7 p.m. Free.

Holiday Fare

Starts tonight (Friday, Dec. 5): VocalEssence: Welcome Christmas. This year’s celebration is a Nordic Christmas, with carols from Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland. The program also features the world premiere of a new Christmas cantata by British composer Allan Bullard, “A Light in the Stable,” with narration by Katherine Ferrand, and the premieres of two carols that won the Welcome Christmas Carol Contest, both accompanied by folk fiddler Sara Pajunen. Philip Brunelle conducts. Tonight’s concert is at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church in Apple Valley at 7:30 p.m. Four more performances are scheduled: Saturday, Dec. 6 in Stillwater, Sunday, Dec. 7, in Minneapolis, Saturday, Dec. 13, in Edina, and Sunday, Dec. 14, in Minneapolis. FMI and tickets ($10-$40). Tickets are sold by Orchestra Hall.

Saturday at Ramsey Middle School: 20th Annual Art at Ramsey Holiday Art Fair. You can shop the malls, or you can buy one-of-a-kind holiday gifts (and a little something for yourself) from the artists who made them. This is a good fair, one of our favorites: carefully curated, manageable in size, with really nice things. Some 80 local artists will be showing and selling baskets, clay, fiber, glass, jewelry, leather, paintings , drawings, photographs, prints, sculptures, wearables, and more. 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Free admission.

Saturday at the Mill City Museum: Star Tribune Holiday Cookie Contest Winners. The winners of this year’s contest were announced on Wednesday. On Saturday they’ll bake their winning recipes in the Mill City Museum Baking Lab. Meet the finalists, learn about the recipes, get baking tips and sample the winning cookies. 1-3 p.m. Included with museum admission ($11/$9/$6). FMI.

Saturday at the James J. Hill House: Hill House Holidays. A one-hour dramatized tour of servant life and Christmas preparations in the Gilded Age mansion, led by costumed actors. The script is based on letters and oral histories of people who worked for the Hill family. Every half-hour from 1 to 3:30 p.m. Can’t make it this Saturday? Tours are offered every Saturday and Sunday through Dec. 21. FMI and tickets ($12/$10/$8).

Monday, Dec. 8 at the Heights Theater: 15th Annual Holiday Shows. The first five shows sold out; this is the sixth and final (really and truly). Harvey Gustafson plays the WCCO Wurlitzer, cool and elegant singer Maud Hixson and dapper pianist Rick Carlson perform a live concert of holiday songs, there’s a vintage follow-the-ball sing-along, and then the film “White Christmas” screens. Sounds about perfect. 7 p.m. Tickets here ($10) – unless the web page says “sold out.” 

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