Arts forum has sober vibe; VocalEssence’s new season

MinnPost photo by John Whiting
Left to right: Kevin Smith, Rep. Betty McCollum, Randy Reyes, Graydon Royce, Laura Zabel, Uri Sands

Last April at the Cowles Center, the first annual Star Tribune Arts Forum brought Mia’s Kaywin Feldman, the SPCO’s Kyu-Young Kim, the Walker’s Olga Viso and the Guthrie’s Joseph Haj together for a public conversation about building and engaging audiences for the arts. Moderated by Graydon Royce, it was a mostly upbeat, occasionally wonky talk among the leaders of strong flagship organizations, during which Feldman suggested that if we really want to help the arts, we should “vote for a president who’s a known arts supporter.” Well, duh, of course we will, thought probably everyone there.

That didn’t happen, so Monday’s second annual Arts Forum, held at the Children’s Theatre, had a different vibe. The topic was “Arts in the Crossfire.” The participants were the Minnesota Orchestra’s Kevin Smith, TU Dance’s Uri Sands, Mu Performing Arts’ Randy Reyes, Springboard for the Arts’ Laura Zabel and U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, the Minnesota congresswoman and champion for the arts. The mood was on the bleak side, through no fault of the group or returning moderator Royce. It’s the moment.

The National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (which funnels money to NPR and PBS) all have targets on their backs. (So does the Institute of Museum and Library Services, which wasn’t mentioned but should not be forgotten.) The current president thinks they should be eliminated, their relatively puny budgets zeroed out. We don’t know what will happen, though based on the past 97 days, hope is a thing with bedraggled feathers.

Bright spots at the Forum included Sands’ and Zabel’s perspectives on the urban-rural divide and their efforts to do something about it: opening a Springboard office in Fergus Falls, and TU’s rural arts residencies. Also Reyes’ wry comments on nearly everything. In response to remarks on how arts organizations should open their doors to everyone, he said, “We don’t have a door.” Mu’s next show will take place at the Guthrie’s Dowling Theater in May.

After the conversation, at a mic set up for questions, Minnesota Citizens for the Arts’ Sheila Smith urged us to write and call our representatives in Washington and St. Paul and tell them which side we’re on. You can do that now, if you want.

JazzMN, VocalEssence announce 2017-18 seasons

Nothing says optimism like season announcements.

JazzMN Orchestra’s 20th season will begin Oct. 20 at the Ordway Concert Hall with guest Wycliffe Gordon. A frequent Jazz Trombonist of the Year, Gordon – also a composer, conductor, arranger and educator – is a former member of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and the Wynton Marsalis Septet. Gordon’s 28 CDs to date include 20 solo recordings. On Dec. 8, JazzMN will move to the Chanhassen for its holiday show featuring guest vocalist Connie Evingson.

March 10, 2018, will find JazzMN back at the Hopkins High School auditorium, its usual swinging stomping grounds, for “The Commission Project,” premiering new works by David Berger, Michael Philip Mossman, John Wasson and other composers. The 2017-18 season will conclude with Grammy-nominated saxophonist Bill Evans, who began his career with Miles Davis. Season tickets are on sale now.

VocalEssence will kick off its 49th year on Sept. 24 with “Finlandia Forever,” featuring music by Sibelius, Rautavaara, Mäntyjärvi and Sariaho, performances by famous Finns Osmo Vänskä and Sara Pajunen, and an audience sing-along to a chorus of “Finlandia.” A “Bach & Bluegrass Jamboree” on Nov. 10 will pair the VocalEssence singers with special guests Monroe Crossing in a program of Bach, gospel bluegrass and the regional premiere of Carol Barnett’s “Bluegrass Te Deum.”

The annual “Welcome Christmas” concerts (Dec. 2-10) will salute Minnesota composers and the 20th anniversary of the Carol Contest. The WITNESS concert on Feb. 18, 2018, will honor the Harlem Renaissance in song, poetry, hip-hop and dance. The VocalEssence Youth Choral Arts Initiative will make its debut, and William Banfield’s chamber symphony “I Trust Harlem Is Still There,” based on the letters of Langston Hughes, will have its world premiere. On April 21, the eve of VocalEssence’s golden anniversary, John Rutter returns to conduct “Feel the Spirit” and a new piece written for VE’s 50th.

Courtesy of VocalEssence
John Rutter

In among the subscription shows are a Bach’s Mighty Fortress Community Sing (Nov. 11), the “Star of Wonder” family holiday concert (Dec. 9), a free “Together We Sing” festival (Jan. 13, 2018), a community sing with Rutter (April 21), a “River Songs and Tales Tour” across Minnesota, with Don Shelby as Mark Twain (April 4-8), and the “¡Cantare!” 10th anniversary bilingual community concert. Season subscriptions are on sale now.

The picks

Tonight (Wednesday, April 26) at the Loft at Open Book: Lesley Nneka Arimah Book Launch: “What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky.” Is there any publication that hasn’t yet given this debut collection a rave review? A new literary star in our midst, Arimah lives in St. Louis Park. Many of the stories in her first book are speculative fiction, aka science fiction or sci-fi. We are dying to read it. Here’s a profile Laurie Hertzel wrote for the Star Tribune. Here’s part of what NPR said: “She crafts stories that reward reading, not because they’re unclear or confusing, but because it’s so tempting to revisit each exquisite sentence, each uniquely beautiful description.” 7 p.m. in the Performance Hall. FMI and tickets ($10).

Now at Pillsbury House Theater: “The Great Divide: Plays for a Broken Nation.” The world premiere of a clutch of 10-minute plays by local playwrights, written in response to our postelection world. Benjamin Benne, Alan Berks, Christina Ham, Katie Ka Vang and James A. Williams wrote the plays; Tracey Maloney, Audrey Park, Mikell Sapp and Ricardo Vazquez play multiple roles; DJ Chamun makes the music. A postshow discussion follows. 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, Sunday at 3 p.m. Ends April 30. FMI and tickets ($25; pick-your-price $5-20).

Thursday at St. Mary’s Lake Calhoun Event Center: Hokyoji Zen Practice Community Presents Peter Coyote. Registration was requested by April 12, but tickets are still available to this fundraiser for the community, and it sounds so interesting it’s worth a try. For $20, you can attend a 5:30 p.m. reception with hors d’oeuvres, beverages and live music by Dean Magraw, Doan Brian Roessler and Marc Anderson; at 6 p.m., Emmy-winning actor and Zen priest Hosho Peter Coyote will present a program based on his memoir, “The Rainman’s Third Cure: An Irregular Education.” The event will raise funds for a new Practitioners’ Hall at Hokyoji. Register here.

Thursday at the Fitzgerald: “National Geographic Live! Exploring Mars with NASA Engineer Kobie Boykins.” A dynamic young engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Boykins is on the front line of Mars exploration. He’s been gung-ho Mars since 1997, when he worked on the “Pathfinder” mission. He designed the solar arrays that power the Mars rovers “Spirit” and “Opportunity.” Check out his Twitter feed. Boykins thinks we people of Earth should – and will – go to the Red Planet one day. 7 p.m. FMI and tickets ($15-55).

Saturday at the Dakota: Bill Charlap. The New York-based, Grammy-winning pianist is a true master of the great American songbook. He and his trio – Peter Washington on bass, Kenny Washington on drums – have been together for 10 years. This will be sublime. Their latest release is “Notes from New York,” and you can listen on Spotify. FMI and tickets ($20-30).

Monday at Crooners: Delfeayo Marsalis. Last September, the trombone-playing member of the Marsalis clan released a new CD called “Make America Great Again!” Recorded with his Uptown Jazz Orchestra, it’s part protest, part get-up-and-dance, full of the sounds and flavors of Marsalis’ hometown of New Orleans. He won’t bring his band, but he’ll be in good company: Rick Carlson on piano, Nathan Norman on drums and Steve Pikal on bass. 7 p.m. in the Dunsmore Room. FMI and tickets ($25/$50 dinner show).

Hot tix

Superstar soprano Renée Fleming is not quitting opera, as was earlier reported. But the Met’s new production of Richard Strauss’ “Der Rosenkavalier” is her farewell to one of her signature roles, the 18th-century princess Marschallin. No wonder tickets are selling fast for the Met Live at the Opera broadcast on May 13, her final performance. An encore screening (not live) is scheduled for May 17. Mezzo-soprano Elina Garanca is Octavian, the 17-year-old count. Go here and enter your ZIP to find your nearest movie bigaplex.

You can also learn about all our free newsletter options.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply