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Osmo Vänskä named music director of Seoul Philharmonic; Northfield student wins Poetry Out Loud

ALSO: Pen Pals season announced; Matilda the Musical, St. Paul Cinco de Mayo celebration; and more.

Osmo Vänskä
Osmo Vänskä
Courtesy of the Minnesota Orchestra

The first thing to know about the Minnesota Orchestra maestro’s new position is it won’t change a thing here at home. He will still be based in Minneapolis. He will still lead the same number of concert, tour and recording weeks with the orchestra.

Second, it’s not at all uncommon for music directors to hold multiple leadership posts. Currently Vänskä also serves as principal guest conductor of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra and conductor laureate of the Lahti Symphony Orchestra in Finland. Gustavo Dudamel leads both the L.A. Philharmonic and Venezuela’s Orquestra Sinfónica Simón Bolivar. Marin Alsop heads the Baltimore Symphony and the São Paolo State Symphony Orchestra.

And third, MSP airport recently added a direct flight to Seoul. So Vänskä will spend less time in the air and waiting around airports to make connections.

He’ll begin his new position in January 2020, with a contract that extends for three years. His Minnesota Orchestra contract will end in 2022. He announced in December that he would step down as Minnesota Orchestra music director at that time.

In a video on the Seoul Philharmonic’s website (and YouTube), Vänskä says, “I have guest conducted the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra maybe three or four times, and I have always had a great time. The orchestra is full of enthusiasm, full of high skills and this kind of will to make music. So I’m super-excited to be able to start working with that group of musicians.”

According to Gwen Pappas, the orchestra’s communications director, “From Osmo’s perspective, he has commented on how pleased he is to consolidate his conducting weeks ‘away’ to one primary location and how he hopes to build connections between the Minnesota Orchestra and the musicians in Seoul.”

Northfield student wins Poetry Out Loud

A Minnesota student is the 2019 Poetry Out Loud national champion, the National Endowment for the Arts announced Thursday.

Isabella Callery, a senior at Arcadia Charter School in Northfield, won the title and the $20,000 prize at the finals held May 1 at George Washington University for her recitation of Charles Lamb’s “Thoughtless Cruelty.” Watch it here.

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During the competition, Callery also performed poems by Joy Harjo and Natalie Diaz. “Being able to find a huge variety of Native American poets and having someone who represents you makes a difference,” she said. “This has made me realize there’s a poem for everyone.”

Isabella Callery
Photo by James Kegley
Isabella Callery, a senior at Arcadia Charter School in Northfield, won the title and the $20,000 prize at the finals held May 1.
More than 275,000 students competed this year. The national finals included students from every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Second and third places went to Scottlynn Ernestine Ballard (Illinois) and Alejandro J. Campo (Georgia).

Poetry Out Loud is a partnership between the NEA, the Poetry Foundation and state arts agencies. More than 3.8 million students have taken part since the competition began in 2005.

23rd Pen Pals season to include Susan Orlean, Tommy Orange

The Twin Cities’ longest-running literary series will return in October with Susan Orlean, a New Yorker staff writer whose best sellers include “The Orchid Thief.” She’ll talk about her latest, “The Library Book,” on Oct. 10 and 11. It tells the story of the Los Angeles Central Library in 1968, when it burned, and today. Said the New York Times, “Susan Orlean has once again found rich material where no one else has bothered to look for it.”

Pen Pals is not a readings series. It’s a lecture series, without the heaviness that word implies. A Pen Pals event is entertaining and illuminating. The new season is a diverse line-up of five distinct personalities.

On Oct. 24 and 25, Ann Patchett will be here; her latest novel, “The Dutch House,” comes out in September. Perhaps best known for “Bel Canto” (a novel we read more and more slowly as we neared the end, wanting it to last forever), the PEN/Faulkner Award winner also co-owns a bookstore in Nashville, Tennessee. Maybe some of the anecdotes she shares will come from there.

Dec. 9 and 10 will bring Esi Edugyan, a Canadian writer whose parents emigrated from Ghana. She reimagines classic literary genres through the eyes of black characters. Her latest, “Washington Black,” in which a slave escapes a Barbados sugar plantation by hot-air balloon, was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize and won Edugyan’s second Giller Prize.

On Feb. 13 and 14, 2020, we’ll see religious scholar Reza Aslan, author of “God: A Human History,” “No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam,” and the No. 1 New York Times best seller “Zealot: the Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth,” which will long be remembered for Aslan’s notorious Fox News interview with Lauren Green.

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The final author for 2019-20 will be Tommy Orange, whose best-selling “There There” chronicles the lives of urban Native Americans. The book won a National Book Critics Circle Award and a PEN/Hemingway Award. Orange is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma. He’ll be here April 30 and May 1. (And before then, at the Loft’s Wordplay festival on Saturday, May 11.)

All Pen Pals programs take place at the Hopkins Center for the Arts. Season subscriptions (starting at $200) will go on sale Monday, May 6. Download an order form or call 612-543-8112. Individual tickets ($45-55) will be available starting Wednesday, Aug. 7.

The picks

Tonight (Friday, May 3) and Saturday at the Walker: Bi Gan: “Long Day’s Journey into Night.” Screening in 3-D, China’s biggest arthouse hit includes a climactic 55-minute tracking shot. Set in the director’s native province of Guizhou in southwest China, the story of a solitary man (Jue Huang) is experienced as real life and dreamscape. Here’s the trailer. 7 p.m. FMI and tickets ($10/8). Also next Friday (May 10) at 7 and Saturday (May 11) at 2 p.m.

Opens tonight at the Children’s Theatre: “Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical.” This new Children’s Theatre Company production of the mega-hit Broadway musical features a cast of 17 young actors including Lillian Hochman, Audrey Mojica and Sofia Salmela as a triple-cast Matilda Wormwood and Alejandro Vega as Bruce. CTC company members Dean Holt and Autumn Ness are Matilda’s dreadful parents. Peter Brosius directs; the projections by Jorge Cousineau had help from Circus Juventas. Runs 2 ½ hours including a 15-minute intermission. For ages 6 and up. FMI and tickets ($15-74; dynamic pricing). Closes June 23.

Saturday on St. Paul’s West Side: 20th Annual Cinco de Mayo. Same event, new footprint: on Cesar Chavez between Wabasha and Robert, and on Wabasha from Cesar Chavez to Congress. It’s a full day of family fun, with cultural activities, events, a parade (starts at 9:30 a.m.), Lucha Libre Live wrestling, a car show, a jalapeño eating competition, and live music and entertainment on two stages. 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. FMI.

Doomtree's van, photographed by Dessa.
Courtesy of the History Center
Doomtree's van, photographed by Dessa.
Opens Saturday at the History Center: “First Avenue: Stories of Minnesota’s Mainroom.” Video, photographs, artifacts and events tell the story of the legendary Minneapolis club from its first performance by Joe Cocker in 1970 to the memorial items left there after Prince’s death. See big-name bands from their earliest days at 7th St. Entry; step inside the re-created 1980s-era office of long-time manager Steve McClellan; check out Doomtree’s van. The exhibit draws from Star Tribune music writer Chris Riemenschneider’s book, “First Avenue: Minnesota’s Mainroom,” published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press. Here’s the trailer. FMI. Included with museum admission ($12/10/6, members free). Saturday’s opening party will feature DJ sets and book signings by Riemenschneider, Daniel Corrigan and Danny Sigelman (“Heyday: 35 Years of Music in Minneapolis”), Martin Keller and Greg Helgeson (“Hijinx and Hearsay: Scenester Stories from Minnesota’s Pop Life”) and Cyn Collins (“Complicated Fun: The Birth of Minneapolis Punk and Indie Rock, 1974-84”). 10 a.m.-4 p.m. FMI and schedule.

Sunday at Crooners: Chris Lomheim, Michael O’Brien and Jay Epstein “Triage” CD release. A valued part of the Twin Cities jazz scene since the 1990s, Lomheim is a pianist of elegance and restraint. He’s also a composer of eloquence and feeling. A new album by him is a rare treat worth waiting for, though he usually makes us wait a really long time. “Triage” took a while to come together. Lomheim, O’Brien and Jay Epstein have been talking about it since 2006, when O’Brien moved from Minneapolis to New York. It’s finally here, out today on the Minneapolis label Shifting Paradigm, and it’s a beauty. With 11 original compositions (eight by Lomheim, three by O’Brien), “Triage” is everything we love about a great piano trio: melody, musicality, and moments where each musician stretches out among equals. In the intimate Dunsmore Room. 8 p.m. FMI and tickets ($15).