Weeklong song festival at MacPhail; Cedar gets grant for Somali music events

Photo by Wendy Schreier Photography
Timothy Lovelace, Adriana Zabala and Maria Jette at last year’s Source Song Festival.

Among the reasons for starting a music festival, travel fatigue probably isn’t the most common. But it sparked the Source Song Festival, which returns to MacPhail Center for Music for a second year starting Monday. 

Pianist Mark Bilyeu and mezzo-soprano Clara Osowski were flying home to Minneapolis after a summer of song festivals when the idea struck somewhere over the Atlantic. Osowski remembers thinking, “Why are we traveling to all of these festivals when we have the perfect audience and so much talent in our own backyard?”

True, Minnesotans love song and poetry, which together make up the art song, the festival’s focus. And MacPhail’s intimate, lovely, acoustically sweet Antonello Hall is “tailor-made for the art song,” Osowski said. And pianists love its Steinway.

“There’s a place for art songs in the Twin Cities,” Osowski said. “Especially by our Minnesota composers.”

Starting Monday, Aug. 3, MacPhail will host a full week of workshops, master classes, and evening performances. All are ticketed and anyone can attend.

If you want, you can learn about French art songs from François LeRoux, director of the Académie Francis Poulenc and professor of voice at the Paris Conservatory. Or how to sing in Russian from baritone Anton Belov. Or how to set a text to music from Libby Larsen. Or you can hear a panel discussion with David Evan Thomas and other composers on the joys and challenges of composing songs. Scan the event calendar FMI.

Michael Dennis Browne

The main events for most of us are the public performances, which begin Monday with an evening of music by Stephen Paulus and Libby Larsen. The program that night includes Larsen’s “My Antonia,” based on the novel by Willa Cather, and three works by Paulus: “A Heartland Portrait,” “Bittersuite” and “All My Pretty Ones,” with text by poet Michael Dennis Browne, who will be there to tell us about it. Since this is the festival’s opening concert, a champagne reception will follow. 8 p.m. FMI and tickets ($30/$25/$20).

Tuesday’s concert is a recital of songs and words by American composer Virgil Thomson. On Wednesday, LeRoux and Montreal pianist Olivier Godin will perform music by Lalo, Faure, Dutilleux, Ravel and Poulenc.

Thursday features a free recital of songs by Minnesota-based composers Edie Hill (composer in residence for the Schubert Club), Timothy Takach (co-creator with Peter Rothstein of “All Is Calm,” among many other musical works), Paul John Rudoi (composer and tenor vocalist with Cantus) and David Evan Thomas (a much-commissioned McKnight fellow). Later on Thursday, local artists will perform works by emerging composers chosen by Larsen.

On Friday, there’s a free recital by vocal-piano duos, followed by a closing recital of Russian art songs (Varlamov, Glinka, Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Rubinstein, Tchaikovsky and more) performed by baritone Belov and pianist Arlene Shrut.

An announcement about next year’s Source Song Festival is expected at Monday night’s concert.


The Cedar Cultural Center has received a $150,000, two-year grant from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation to continue MIDNIMO, a program of the Cedar and Augsburg College that builds knowledge and understanding of Somali-Muslim culture through music. MIDNIMO features multi-week residencies with Somali artists from Minnesota and around the world; residencies include public performances, workshops, discussions and activities on the Augsburg campus and in the community.

Rob Simonds, the Cedar’s outgoing executive director, also credited foundational support from the Minnesota State Arts Board’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. “Without that state support, which is ongoing, MIDNIMO would never have been possible.”

The Cedar is located in North America’s largest Somali diaspora community. Way to be part of your neighborhood, Cedar.

The picks

Tonight (Friday, July 31) at Stafford Photography: Six Projects Album Release Party. Six fragment-based compositions by electronic musician Mike Olson, spanning 13 years, are being released as a single CD by Innova, the label of the American Composers Forum. The party will include a live set by Olson with real-time interactive projected visuals by Paul Christian, plus electronic artwork by Lynn Fellman and photography by Dale Klaus. 7 p.m. Free.

Saturday at Father Hennepin Bluffs Park: Owa’mni: Falling Water Festival. A celebration of indigenous Minnesota culture at a site sacred to the Dakota people and the Ojibwe. Back for a second year, the event features music by Scatter Their Own (an alternative rock duo of Oglala Lakota ancestry from the Pine Ridge Reservation), Bluedog (an award-winning blues/rock band from Minneapolis), and Wade Fernandez (vocals, guitar, native flute and drumming; Fernandez is from the Menominee nation of Wisconsin).  An arts fair will feature contemporary and traditional work by Anishinaabe, Hochunk and Dakota visual artists, and there will be lacrosse demonstrations (lacrosse is an indigenous sport). The Sioux Chef, Sean Sherman and Tatanka food trucks will sell local, organic, traditional game with a modern twist. 4 – 8 p.m. Free. FMI.

Saturday at Common Good Books: Mark Winston discusses “Bee Time: Lessons from the Hive.” There’s been so much buzz about bees it’s hard to keep it straight. Mark Winston has spent three decades studying them, and why they matter, and what we can learn from them about interacting with each other and the natural world. Plus we love science writers who can write beautifully, which Winston does. Co-sponsored by the U of M’s Bee Squad. 7 p.m. FMI. Free.

Saturday at the Ted Mann: Oratorio Society of Minnesota: “Great Opera Choruses.” Opera can go on and on and on, and then there are the choruses where everyone sings, the orchestra swells and the hair stands up on the back of your neck. Those are what the 160 voices of the Oratorio Society will perform this weekend, with a line-up of young soloists and a full orchestra. The program includes the Grand Finale II from “Aida,” “Polovtsian Dances” from “Prince Igor” (sound familiar? It’s the basis of the song “Strangers in Paradise”), “Habanero” from “Carmen,” “Anvil Chorus” from “Il Trovatore,” “Bridal Chorus” from “Lohengrin,” “Humming Chorus” from “Madama Butterfly,” and the Act I Finale from “Pirates of Penzance.” All are tunes you’ll find in “All-Time Greatest Works of Classical Music” collections because they are. Artistic director Matthew Mehaffey will share conducting duties. 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($10-$15). TIP: Fringe has taken over the Rarig next door, so give yourself some extra time.

Courtesy of the Oratorio Society
The Oratorio Society’s recent “Summer Chorus” project
Tickets please, better hurry

Now that Garrison Keillor has announced his retirement, and he really, really means it, you might want to get tickets to the next season of “A Prairie Home Companion” while you can. The Sept. 19 season opener is already sold out, though it will be piped live onto the street in front of the Fitz. FMI, including dates and tickets.

The Riverview hosts the annual “Can’t Stop the Serenity” browncoat screening on Thursday, Aug. 6. (“Browncoats” are fans of Joss Whedon’s short-lived, cult-classic Fox TV space western “Firefly.” “Serenity” is the feature-film continuation, starring the same cast. And “Can’t Stop the Serenity” is a global annual benefit for Equality Now, which works to protect and promote the human rights of women around the world.) Doors at 8:30 p.m., “Dr. Horrible Sing-A-Long Blog” at 9:30, screening at 10:30. Tickets here ($10).

The Heights screens a rare 35MM Technicolor dye-transfer print of “The Wizard of Oz” on Tuesday, Aug. 11. It’s being billed as “the ultimate Oz experience,” and unless you were at a theater in 1939, it probably is. 7:30 p.m. All seats $8.

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