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Spotlight Series and Bach Ensemble gearing up for new seasons

Mischa Santora
Photo by Leslie Plesser
The first Spotlight concert, “Roaring Twenties,” with artistic director Mischa Santora, will be in Austin, Minnesota’s historic Paramount Theatre tomorrow night, Friday, Oct. 18.

Mischa Santora, a former associate conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra and a frequent collaborator with the orchestra and the SPCO, has officially moved to Boston, where he was named music director of Boston Ballet in 2018. But he’s still a big part of the Twin Cities music scene.

Santora continues as artistic director of the MacPhail Spotlight Series, which launches its 2019-20 season this weekend. Earlier this year, he succeeded Andrew Altenbach as artistic director and conductor of the Minnesota Bach Ensemble, which starts its season next weekend. His adventuresome Minneapolis Music Company is on hiatus for now, but he hopes to bring it back.

Meanwhile, most Spotlight concerts and all MBE concerts will take place in MacPhail’s Antonello Hall in downtown Minneapolis.

The first Spotlight concert, “Roaring Twenties,” will be in Austin, Minnesota’s historic Paramount Theatre tomorrow night, Friday, Oct. 18. A blast from the past, it will include songs and instrumentals performed by a four-piece jazz band and two vocalists. Austin is one of MacPhail’s many locations. The music starts at 7 p.m.


Spotlight will return to MacPhail on Nov. 16 with “Locally Sourced,” a celebration of our local arts scene with music created and performed by Gregory Theisen, Fred Steele and J.D. Steele, and Libby Larson, with a few Prince covers just because. The music will be accompanied by stories, photos and videos.

Saxophonist, teacher and composer Christopher Rochester, MacPhail’s new jazz coordinator, curated the Feb. 8, 2020 Spotlight concert, “The World Through Jazz,” in which MacPhail jazz faculty will journey through the sounds and rhythms of bossa nova, Afro Cuban, flamenco, reggae, Irish music and other styles.

On Feb. 13, Spotlight will move to the Basilica of St. Mary for “Reverberations,” an exploration of space, time, music and spirituality. The program will include the world premiere of “Songs for a Cavernous Space,” a new work by Santora based on poems by Eliot, Rilke and W.S. Merwin.

The 2019-20 Spotlight season will conclude on April 4 in Antonello Hall with “Anatomy of Genius,” which will celebrate Beethoven’s 250th birthday with performances of three of his major works. Santora will link them together with excerpts from Beethoven’s letters and contemporary accounts of his performances.

Spotlight concerts feature MacPhail teaching artists and other musicians from our local scene.

The Minnesota Bach Ensemble’s eighth season begins Saturday, Oct. 26, with “Bach & Co.,” which features the music of Johann Sebastian and his two composer sons, Carl Philip Emanuel and Wilhelm Friedemann. The tale of how C.P.E. and W.F. found new paths forward is exciting and rarely told. 3 p.m. The concert, which will repeat on Monday, Oct. 28, at 7 p.m., will feature soprano Linh Kauffman, baritone Philip Zawisza and Minnesota Orchestra’s principal flute, Adam Kuenzel.

On Sunday and Monday, Feb. 16 and 17, 2020, the MBE will explore highlights of Handel’s great opera “Giulio Cesare” with soprano Linh Kauffman and mezzos Nerea Berraondo and Christina Christensen. The season will close April 5 and 6 with “Italian Seasonings,” with a pair of concertos from Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons,” works by Marcello and Locatelli, and soloists Jorja Fleezanis (violin), Basil Reeve (oboe) and Tom Turner (viola).

The picks

Tonight (Friday, Oct. 18) at Our Lady of Victory Chapel at St. Catherine University: Shannon Gibney and Kao Kalia Yang. Gibney and Yang are the editors of “What God Is Honored Here? Writings on Miscarriage and Infant Loss by and for Native Women and Women of Color,” just out from the University of Minnesota Press. So this reading and reception won’t be a festive event, but you can call it essential for those in search of community and healing, and those who seek an understanding of experiences that disproportionately affect marginalized women. Gibney and Yang will also be among the readers. 6-8 p.m. Free.

A still from the movie "The Troupe."
Courtesy of the MSP Film Society
A still from the movie "The Troupe."
Tonight and Saturday at the Film Society’s St. Anthony Main Theatre: Hungarian Film and Cultural Festival. What’s up with film in Hungary? Five films screening over two days will give you a good idea. Winner of several international awards, “Trezor” is set immediately after the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. “Bad Poems” is a highly subjective view of Hungary today. In “Brazils,” a small village prepares for a local soccer tournament – and a potential trip to Rio de Janeiro. “The Troupe” is a Hungarian Reform Era drama about a touring acting company. “Genesis” tells the story of a young Roma boy and a series of racist murders. The final film will be followed by a cultural festival and reception on the third floor above the theater. Presented by the Creative Cultural Exchange and MSP Film Society. FMI including trailers, times and tickets ($8/6/5).


Friday and Saturday at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts: New Editions. The annual shindig of new artist book publications – printed books, photo books, chapbooks, zines, broadsides and hand-printed work – starts Friday with a preview party and continues Saturday with a public sale. The preview party is a ticketed event ($65), with food and drinks, a raffle, swag (a limited-edition tote bag printed on site) and the event’s first-ever Book Arts Story Slam. 7-10 p.m. Friday. The public sale is free. 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday. FMI and tickets.

Saturday and Sunday: The Singers: “Journey Home.” Led by Matthew Culloton, the Singers will start their 16th season with music on themes of belonging, immigration, empathy and home. The program will feature the Minnesota premiere of Philadelphia-based composer Melissa Dunphy’s “American DREAMers,” about five young DACA immigrants; the world premiere of composer-in-residence Timothy Takach’s “At Home”; and Abby Betinis’ “Journey Home,” written with help from a St. Paul high school student. 7:30 p.m. Saturday at House of Hope Presbyterian Church in St. Paul, 3 p.m. Sunday at Church of the Annunciation in Minneapolis. FMI and tickets ($22-36).

Kenny Werner
Courtesy of the artist
Kenny Werner
Sunday at Crooners: Twin Cities Fall Jazz Festival. The day-long jazz party kicks off with a screening of a classic jazz film by film historian Bob DeFlores. Then the music begins – on two stages, so you’ll have to choose. Performers include the great pianist and composer Kenny Werner; singer, songwriter and actress Ann Hampton Callaway, touring behind her very new album, “Jazz Goes to the Movies” (its official release date is Saturday, Oct. 19); 16-year-old Golden Valley saxophonist Sophia Kickhofel, who spent part of the summer with the National Youth Orchestra (NYO); longtime Jazz Fest friend and favorite Jon Weber; and local greats Dennis Spears and Patty Peterson with the Jazz Women All Stars. It’s a good line-up, you’ll have fun, parking is free and Crooners is a supper club, so you can eat and drink on site and don’t have to leave until Callaway sounds her final notes. FMI and tickets ($40 general admission).

Tuesday at Westminster Town Hall Forum: Jim Sciutto: “Inside Russia and China’s Secret Operations.” As CNN’s chief national security correspondent and co-anchor of “CNN Newsroom,” award-winning journalist Sciutto knows a thing or two about U.S. national security, the military, foreign policy, the intelligence community and the Russia investigation. He’ll also answer questions submitted by the in-house, radio and online audiences. At Westminster Presbyterian Church. 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. FMI. Free.

Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Sarah Nagle on 10/20/2019 - 10:38 am.

    I totally nerd out for concerts which show the “progression” of music (Bach pere to Bach fils). Also, Handel!

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