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SPCO expands Northside Celebration; Audubon Animated to open at the Bell Museum

ALSO: Jewish Humor Festival at Sabes JCC; Schubert Karaoke at the Black Dog; and more.

Northside Celebration
Images from the 2017 Northside Celebration
Photos by Uche Iroegbu

In its 10th year of partnering with Minneapolis’ north side community, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra will do something it hasn’t done before: hold a concert with north side residents at its home in the Ordway Concert Hall.

Along with two more concerts at North High.

The SPCO’s partnership with north Minneapolis began in the 2010-11 season with pop-up concerts at the Capri Theater on West Broadway, where Prince played his first solo shows in 1979. Since 2013-14, the SPCO has presented consistent annual programming at the Capri, including a chamber music series and free family music programs. (For the 2019-20 season, these concerts have moved to Sanctuary Covenant Church while the Capri is undergoing expansion and renovation.)

In March 2017, at the suggestion of Dennis Spears, singer, actor and artistic director for the Capri’s long-running Legends series, the first Northside Celebration took place at North High. It wasn’t just the SPCO performing for the community. It was the SPCO and the community making music together. The program included the world premiere of “True North,” a new work for community choir and chamber orchestra by north side resident Timothy C. Takach, commissioned by the SPCO. Both performances at North High played to capacity crowds.

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Co-presented by the Capri, led by Sanford Moore, the Northside Celebration returns this weekend with three concerts instead of two. The first will take place at 8 tonight (Friday, Jan. 24) at the Ordway Concert Hall. The others are scheduled for 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. tomorrow (Saturday, Jan. 25) at North High. All will feature gospel choir music, orchestral music and spoken word.

The Northside Celebration Choir, formed for these concerts, will sing, and the Courtland Pickens Community Youth Choir, and soloist Greta Oglesby. Moore will conduct and play piano. Other musicians will include Jeff Bailey on bass, Deevo on guitar and Brandon Commodore on drums. Amani Wilson and Malik Watkins (MaLLy) will be the spoken word artists.

A string quartet of SPCO musicians Eunice Kim, Nicholas Tavana, Hyobi Sim and Joshua Koestenbaum will perform Michael Abels’ “Delights and Dances.” The program will include music by Bach, Charles Albert Tindley, Donnie McClurkin and other composers; Sherri Orr will lead the Northside Celebration Choir in her own “Arise and Shine.” All concerts will begin with the traditional hymn “Walk with Me” and end with “Joyful, Joyful,” set to Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” melody.

Dennis Spears promises, “It will be electric!”

FMI and tickets. Both North High performances are free, but reservations are required. Tickets to the Ordway Concert Hall performance start at $12. (For 50% off, use code NORTH50.)

The SPCO will return to Sanctuary Covenant Church on April 3 for a concert of quartets by Mozart and Arensky. On April 4, “Xplorchestra! Calling All Horns!” will introduce kids and families to the horn section.

The picks

“The Audubon Experience” includes a selection of recently conserved prints from the Bell’s precious and rare double elephant folio of Audubon’s “Birds of America.”
Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society
Botanical art at the James J. Hill House shows Minnesota trees vulnerable to climate change.
Now at the James J. Hill House: “Art from the Edge of the Boreal Forest: Reflecting Biodiversity.” The Empire Builder’s magnificent Summit Avenue home boasts sweeping staircases, lots of dark wood, great views, and an art gallery. The current exhibition features works by 10 local botanical artists. Consulting with climatologists, naturalists and other specialists, they identified 10 northern Minnesota trees that are most vulnerable to climate change, then created traditional botanical art depicting each one. Also on exhibit: vessels made by woodturner Bob Carls from wood harvested from each type of tree. FMI. Gallery-only admission free; site admission $6-10. Closes June 21.

Opens tonight (Friday, Jan. 24) at Artistry: “The Bridges of Madison County.” Based on the best-selling romance novel by Robert James Waller, which became an Oscar-nominated film starring Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood, this Tony-winning musical chronicles the brief, passionate affair between a National Geographic photographer and an Italian war bride in rural Iowa. Benjamin McGovern directs a cast that includes Eric Morris as Robert Kincaid and Jennifer Baldwin Peden as Francesca Johnson. Becca Hart, who lights up every stage she’s on, appears as Marian/Chiara. Book by Marsha Norman, music by Jason Robert Brown (“The Last Five Years”). 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($17-46).

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Saturday morning at the Black Dog in Lowertown: Schubert Karaoke. You could sit around in your jammies on Saturday morning. Or you could join the Lied Society for a Franz Schubert sing-along. (According to the Lied Society, Schubert’s lieder were the pop songs of the 19th century.) Classical MPR’s Steve Staruch will host; pianists and sheet music will be provided. A full brunch menu and bar will be available. 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Free.

Audubon Animated features works by 10 local botanical artists.
Courtesy of the Bell Museum
The Audubon Experience (promotional still), OLO creative farm, Bell Museum, University of Minnesota
Opens Saturday at the Bell Museum: Audubon Animated. Three reasons not to miss this: “The Audubon Experience,” a walk-in, immersive experience featuring 20 different Audubon birds (some now extinct or threatened) as they fly, hunt and preen in a virtual habitat; a selection of recently conserved prints from the Bell’s precious and rare double elephant folio of Audubon’s “Birds of America,” one of fewer than 120 in the world; and  Bell resident artist Donald Thomas’ “A Bird’s-Eye View of Climate Change,” which Thomas will create during the exhibition. FMI including related events. Hours and admission ($12/10/9; UMN students free). Closes May 1.

Starts Saturday: Twin Cities Jewish Humor Festival. The weeklong celebration of Jewish humor will open at the St. Paul JCC with James & Eli, creators and stars of the award-winning “Yiddish-ish” web series “YidLife Crisis.” It will end at the Sabes JCC with Queer Night and the El-Salomons – comedians Jess Salomon, Jewish-Canadian, and Eman El-Hussieni, Palestinian-Canadian, married since 2016. In between, Alan Zweibel, a humorist and writer on the original cast of “Saturday Night Live,” will present his new book “A Field Guide to the Jewish People” (“how come they carry each other around on chairs?”) and Emmy-winning TV producer, writer, and novelist Matt Goldman (“Seinfeld,” “Ellen”) will explain how to write funny. Through Monday, Feb. 1. Here’s the lineup and links to tickets (prices vary). Most events will take place at the Sabes JCC; Goldman will appear in St. Paul.

Sunday at the Dakota: Irv Williams Tribute. Beloved Twin Cities saxophonist Irv Williams died Dec. 14 but will long be remembered for his music, his signature tone, his wit and his sweetness. Over his 100 years, “Mr. Smooth” made a lot of friends, and the Dakota is hoping for a good turnout on Sunday for a musical celebration of his life. RSVP your seat by calling the box office at 612-332-5299, then pay what you can at the door. 100% of the donations will go to the Irv Williams Fellowship for young musicians, established last year at MacPhail.