Five wildly different concerts in 4th Schubert Club Mix season; musicians and playwrights win McKnights

Courtesy of the McKnight Foundation
Violinist Francesca Anderegg of Northfield was named a 2016-17 McKnight Fellow.

When a venerable classical music organization launches a new series that “takes the formality out of classical music,” it’s easy to read that as code for aiming squarely at younger, more diverse crowds. And hopefully, down the line, bringing them into the concert hall for the main events.

In creating Schubert Club Mix, Barry Kempton, the Schubert Club’s artistic and executive director, didn’t see it that way.

One of the nation’s oldest arts organizations, founded in 1882, the Schubert Club is best known for its glittering International Artist recital series. But Mix is “not a feeder series,” Kempton said in conversation Monday. “The premise is that there are people who like music, who want to go to live performances, but just aren’t convinced by formal presentations in more formal concert settings.”

Not that there’s anything wrong with attending a Mix event at a nontraditional venue (events in the first three seasons were held at Aria, Bedlam and the Hill Center), then deciding to catch Renee Fleming or Gil Shaham at the Ordway. “It’s more important to offer a diversity of presentations and be glad that some people like it one way and some people like it another way,” Kempton said.

Fifty percent of Mix ticket buyers “aren’t in our system,” meaning they have probably never attended a Schubert Club recital or a Music in the Park concert. Kempton sees that as validation: “The premise — that it’s a series that will broaden our service to music lovers in the Twin Cities — has proven to be true.” Most Mix concerts have sold out or nearly sold out. “People are happy to be challenged with artists, ensembles and styles of music that they’re not necessarily very familiar with. Because of the concert style, there’s a willingness to go along with curiosity and be surprised.” The relatively moderate ticket prices – $25 for subscribers, $30 for individual tickets – don’t hurt.

The series’ fourth season, announced today, includes five concerts (one more than 2015-16): three at Aria and two at TPT’s new Street Space in St. Paul. “Aria has the ambience we’re looking for, and also the location in the [Minneapolis] North Loop.” TPT has the technology for multimedia events and the potential for live streaming, which is something Kempton is looking at for the future.

The five concerts are wildly different. “It’s a fun series to program, because the limitations are few,” Kempton said. “I think most people have broader taste than we give them credit for.” Here’s what’s coming:

Thursday, Oct. 13 at Aria: Tembembe Ensamble Continuo: “Un fandango barroco.” A five-member instrumental and vocal ensemble from Mexico, with music of the Hispanic Baroque guitar and contemporary Mexican and Latin American culture. And dancing.

Jan. 19, 2017 at TPT: Tim Fain: “Portals: A Multi-Media Exploration of Longing in the Digital Age.” Spoken word, choreography and dance films, and live music, including a work for solo violin by Philip Glass written for violinist Fain. March 16: tenThing. A ten-person, all-female brass ensemble led by Norwegian trumpeter Tine Thing Helseth.

Photo by Bonica Ayala
Roomful of Teeth

April 5, 2017, at Aria: Roomful of Teeth. Co-presented by the Schubert Club, Walker Art Center and the SPCO’s Liquid Music, the Grammy-winning vocal ensemble will perform a world premiere of a new commission by experimental pop artist Nick Zammuto and the Minnesota premiere of group member Caroline Shaw’s Pulitzer Prize-winning composition “Partita for 8 Voices.” (This could be dumbfoundingly great.)

May 11 at TPT: Christopher O’Riley. The pianist and NPR host plays Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” and music by Philip Glass. Will he interleave them, like David Greilsammer did with Scarlatti and John Cage in his Mix concert at the Hill Center last December? “No,” Kempton said. “He believes in the sanctity of the ‘Goldberg Variations’ to be played on their own.” So the Glass will come before the Goldbergs.

Three- and five-concert packages are on sale today. Single tickets are available starting Aug. 1. All concerts are general admission. FMI and tickets.

Musicians and playwrights win McKnights

Four Minnesota musicians have been named 2016-17 McKnight Fellows, MacPhail Center for Music announced today. Violinist Francesca Anderegg of Northfield, jazz pianist Javier Santiago of Minneapolis, vocalist Pooja Pavan of Minneapolis and vocalist Tracey Engleman of Maple Grove were each awarded a $25,000 fellowship.  Five finalists will each receive $1,000: vocalist and musician Aida Shahghasemi, piano duo Sara and Amy Hamann, guitarist Yigitcan Eryaman, pianist Bryan Nichols and vocalist/guitarist Wendy Lewis.

The Playwrights’ Center announced its new McKnight Fellows and Core Writers late last week. Francine Volpe received the McKnight National Residency and Commission for the creation and development of new works, a prize that includes a $14,000 commission, $5,750 in workshop funds, and travel and housing stipends. McKnight Fellowships in Playwriting – a $35,000 stipend, $2500 to support play development and other professional expenses, and $1,400 in travel funds – went to Minnesota-based playwrights Andrew Rosendorf and Rhiana Yazzie.

Six Core Writers were added: Larissa Fasthorse, Martyna Majok, Jason Gray Platt, Gabrielle Reisman, Harrison David Rivers and Mat Smart. All will receive play development workshops and professional support for a three-year term that runs through June 2019. They join 23 continuing Core Writers, a group that includes Lee Blessing, Carlyle Brown, Philip Dawkins, Christina Ham, Jeffrey Hatcher, Aditi Brennan Kapil, Marion McClinton and Kira Obolensky.  

Bike to Orchestra Hall, save on concerts

All roads leading anywhere in the Twin Cities are a mess, so you might as well bike to Orchestra Hall. In fact, the Minnesota Orchestra’s musicians and staff (many of whom are avid bikers) want you to two-wheel-it there.

Starting with the Sommerfest opener on July 8, if you show your helmet or bike gear at the box office, you’ll receive a card with a promo offer for a 50 percent discount to select concerts. Plus the Orchestra will soon install more much-needed bike racks. And yes, it’s okay to attend a concert wearing bike gear. For a quarter, you can park your helmet in a locker inside the hall. FMI. (Eligible concerts will be listed there starting July 8.)

Claudia Rankine talk is canceled

Claudia Rankine, the award-winning writer and Graywolf author whose books include “Citizen: An American Lyric,” will not appear Thursday at the Humphrey School due to illness. Rankine was to speak in this year’s NOMMO Author Series presented by the Givens Foundation. Refunds for ticket holders will be processed this week.

This was Givens’ second try at Rankine; she was originally scheduled for March 10, 2015, but canceled due to illness. Givens Foundation director Tana Hargest tells us that NOMMO will return in the fall, speaker TBA.

The picks

On sale now: Tickets to this year’s Mill City Summer Opera presentation, “Sweeney Todd.” A for-sure snooze-and-lose: the summer opera in the Mill City Museum Ruin Courtyard  always sells out, and fast. Yes, this is the Sondheim show Theater Latté Da did last year as a musical (and brings to the Pantages next March), but Mill City is doing it as an opera, with opera singers, so it will be totally different. FMI including show dates.

Tonight (Tuesday, May 17) at Magers & Quinn: Sun Yung Shin presents “A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota.” What is it like to live as a person of color in Minnesota? How can we brag about being such a great state when we have some of the nation’s worst racial disparities? In a provocative, conversation-starting and hopefully change-inspiring anthology from the Minnesota Historical Society Press, 16 Minnesota writers offer their perspectives. For tonight’s event, Shin will be joined by Kao Kalia Yang, Ibé, David Mura, Venessa Fuetes and Diane Wilson. 7 p.m. Free.

Tonight at the University Club of St. Paul: Carol Connolly’s Reading by Writers. Come to the classy club on Summit Ave., hear good words by Rebecca Ramsden, John Wenstrom, Susan Thurston, Richard Rousseau, Katrina Vandenberg, David Shove, Cheri Register (whose new book is “Big Marsh”) and Tom Cassidy. 7:30 p.m. Free, but if you’re so inclined, you can drop a little money into the hat for “Saint Paul Almanac.”

Wednesday at SubText Books: Vijay Dixit presents “One Split Second: The Distracted Driving Epidemic: How It Kills and How We Can Fix It.” This is bound to be a preaching-to-the-choir kind of event; idiots, um, people who use their cell phones while driving won’t show up unless it’s part of their parole agreement. So we might suggest that parents insist their teenagers attend or be grounded for the next six months. (On a very sobering note: Dixit and his wife, Rekha, lost their daughter Shreya to a distracted driver in 2007.) 7 p.m. Free.

Thursday at the Walker: Cinema of Urgency: “Trapped.” Forty-three years after Roe v. Wade, what’s left of a woman’s right to choose? Dawn Porter’s eye opening, Sundance award-winning documentary chronicles the fight for – and against – women’s reproductive rights. The title is a reference to the Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws that limit access to abortion. A discussion follows between Michael R. Drysdale of Dorsey & Whitney and Angelica Perez of Whole Woman’s Health EmpowerLine. 7 p.m. Free. Pick up tickets at the Hennepin Box Office starting at 6 p.m. Remember: construction is everywhere. 

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