Begun by alums of St. Olaf College who missed playing music in a large ensemble – a really good large ensemble – the Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra is now in its 38th year. They perform in various locations in and around the Twin Cities, and all of their concerts are free.
The MSO is an amateur orchestra with a stellar reputation and an adventuresome spirit. Over the years, it has taken on several works by the late Dominic Argento, including the world premiere of his “Ode to the West Wind.” Argento, who was appointed the MSO’s Composer Laureate in 2016, gave them the nickname “One Damned Fine Symphony Orchestra.”
Their 2019-20 season, announced Thursday, includes a work by Argento. Each concert will feature a piece by a living composer. There will be four premieres (two are MSO commissions) and three works by women (two are premieres). All concerts will be led by William Schrickel, the MSO’s music director since 2000.
Oct. 13: Kevin Kling Channels the Brothers Grimm. “The Twelve Dancing Princesses,” the world premiere of an MSO commission by Victor Zupanc and Kevin Kling, narrated by Kling, will be paired with Shostakovich’s First Violin Concerto.
Nov. 24: Music for the Opera, Ballet, Theater & Concert Hall. The world premiere of the large orchestra version of John Orfe’s “Oyster,” plus Argento’s witty ballet score, “Royal Invitation – Homage to the Queen of Tonga” and two suites by Bizet, “Carmen” No. 1 and “L’Arlesienne” No. 2.
Feb. 8 and 16, 2020: The Composer Is Dead! A murder mystery that cleverly (and hilariously) introduces the audience to the instruments of the orchestra, Nathaniel Stookey’s composition, with text by Lemony Snicket, will be narrated by musician, actor, composer and friend to the MSO Jake Endres. The concert will end with John Williams’ “Star Wars” suite, with music from the final scene of the first film.
March 29: Nazaykinskaya Premiere, Mahler 5. The world premiere of the large orchestra version of Russian composer Polina Nazaykinskaya’s “Fenix” and the massive Mahler 5, together on one mighty program. This will be the fifth Nazayinskaya composition to be performed by the MSO.
May 10: Shakespeare & Chaminade. The world premiere of the MSO-commissioned “Will’s Ladies,” a set of soliloquies by five of Shakespeare’s women (Portia, Juliet, Ophelia, Lady Macbeth and Cleopatra) set to music by Carol Barnett, with soliloquist Christina Baldwin and mezzo-soprano Clara Osowski. The program will also include French composer Cécile Chaminade’s rarely performed Concertstück for Piano and Orchestra and Tchaikovsky’s “Romeo and Juliet.”
Tickets will go on sale never, but donations are requested. FMI.
Tonight (Friday, Aug. 16) at the Ordway: Los Lobos. The three-time Grammy winners and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominees are touring behind their 24th album, “Gates of Gold,” which (to quote NPR) “practically bursts with the spirit of exploration that has marked Los Lobos’ best work over the years. Musically and culturally, the band speaks to its audience in a way few others have or could.” Most of the band members are children of Mexican immigrants. 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($48-79).
On sale today: Gregory Porter at the Fitzgerald. A superstar vocalist with a gorgeous baritone, the big man has a big gift: He can sing to a crowd of thousands and make you believe you’re the only one. A two-time Grammy winner (for “Liquid Spirit” and “Take Me to the Alley”), Porter draws on jazz, soul and gospel to sing about love, relationships, and life. FMI and tickets ($49.50-79.50).
Opens tonight at the Lagoon: “Cold Case Hammarskjöld.” Danish documentarian Mads Brügger won the World Cinema Documentary Directing Award at Sundance for his unconventional investigation into the still-unsolved mystery of Dag Hammarskjöld’s death. The U.N. secretary general’s plane went down in 1961 in what was then Northern Rhodesia; all 16 people on board were killed. More than 50 years later, Denmark’s Michael Moore and Swedish researcher Göran Björkdahl went looking for answers. The New York Times called it “an excavation of international intrigue”; the Wall Street Journal said “gonzo.” FMI including trailer, times and tickets.
Saturday in Mears Park: St. Paul Food Truck Festival. Go for brunch, stay for lunch, dinner, and a late-night snack. With more than 40 food trucks, live music, craft beers, lawn games, and giveaways, this can easily be an all-day affair. (The music schedule: Jacuzzi Puma from noon-3 p.m., Riverside Hitmen from 3:30-6:30, Alex Rossi from 7-10). Proceeds from wristband sales benefit Feed My Starving Children. 12 noon-10 p.m. FMI. Free.
Monday at the Southern: “Good Night at the Southern.” Pay what you can for an evening of local artists sharing new ideas, works in progress and previews of upcoming performances. The latest installment of the monthly series will feature Queen Drea, Jennifer Mack, Brenna Moser Dance Works and Eric Larson/Toot. Just saying we’ve seen Queen Drea a couple of times now – once with Black Label Movement and once at the Cedar, hosting a Sun Ra night – and she’s pretty great. Doors and bar open at 6:30 p.m., show at 7:30. FMI and tickets.