Founded in 1932, the Bach Society of Minnesota was one of the first organizations in North America to take Bach as a starting-point for performance. Bach is generally considered the greatest composer of all time (most recently by 174 of the world’s leading composers, for BBC Music Magazine), though he is sometimes bumped out of the #1 position by Beethoven.
Most musicians and composers have to deal with Bach at some point, and many will return to him again and again. People spend their whole lives studying and playing Bach’s music, sometimes turning it upside-down. There are countless recordings and interpretations of the Goldberg Variations, the Brandenburg Concertos, the Well-Tempered Clavier and the St. Matthew Passion.
So it’s not likely that BSM will let a little virus get in the way of its mission, “to build a diverse community of music lovers who perform, promote, and appreciate the music of J.S. Bach and those he inspired.”
BSM is calling its 2020-21 season, its fifth with Artistic Director Matthias Maute, the Vagabond Season. For one week in fall (Sept. 14-20) and another in spring (May 10-16, 2021), BSM musicians will perform a series of mobile mini-concerts, outdoors and safely distanced.
Starting in November, three livestreamed events will bring BSM into your home. On Sunday, Nov. 15, Maute will lead a tour of the Bach Society concert archives. On Sunday, Jan. 17, “All Roads Lead to Bach” will feature Margaret Humphrey on violin and Asoko Hirabayashi on harpsichord. On Sunday, Feb. 21, “Bach, Banter, and Badinerie” will spotlight soprano Sarah Brailey and Maute.
The month of April will be spent on tour with Cantus, as BSM and the men’s vocal ensemble give a series of performances of Bach’s “Til Eulenspiegel,” a work about a man who traveled widely throughout the Holy Roman Empire. Fingers crossed, these concerts will be performed at Westminster Presbyterian Church, Colonial Church of Edina, Trinity Lutheran Church in Stillwater, Wayzata Community Church and the Ordway Concert Hall.
Season subscriptions are available now ($90 adults, $80 seniors, $20 students). Concerts with Cantus tickets will go on sale in a few months.
Cantus’ new season is ambitious, optimistic
As COVID rolled in like a tidal wave, the men’s vocal ensemble Cantus kept making music. Its small size (eight singers), a cappella performance style (no need for an orchestra), built-in expertise (bass Chris Foss is a wiz at audio/video, tenor Jacob Christopher at editing) and access to Westminster Church and its new state-of-the-art music venue, Westminster Hall, allowed them to do what many ensembles, choirs and choruses could not: sing together safely and socially distanced.
Its COVID-19 Sessions, a collection of 19 songs recorded on March 17, 19 and 20 at Westminster, is a musical document of our time. First released on YouTube and Facebook in spring 2020 as individual tracks, the gorgeous, emotional, meaningful songs by composers including Sibelius, Ysaÿe Barnwell, Eric Whitacre and Abbe Betinis earned millions of views. Each song is sung directly from the heart. Please, someone give them a Grammy. Go here to learn more about this project and watch the videos. The COVID-19 Sessions are now being released on the Signum label.
Cantus also recorded three new concerts that will stream this fall to launch its 2020-21 season. They quarantined for two weeks, were tested regularly for COVID-19, and rehearsed and recorded together in Decorah, Iowa, at what they called “Camp Cantus.”
The first new program, “There Lies the Home,” about the perilous journeys undertaken by millions to find a home, will premiere online October 2-4. The second, “Brave” (Nov. 6-8), examines what it means to identify as a man in a society that prizes conformity over authenticity. “Lessons and Carols for Our Time,” a contemporary take on the British Christmas tradition, will be offered in two parts, Lessons 1-5 (Dec. 1-13) and Lessons 6-8 (Dec. 18- 20).
For spring 2021, Cantus has planned a series of three live and in-person concerts they will actively tour to several locations. For “Legends & Lies: The Story of Till Eulenspiegel” (April 8-23), they’ll be joined by the Bach Society of Minnesota at Westminster Hall, Colonial Church of Edina and other venues throughout the metro. “Covers: The Music of Elton John” (June 3-12) will continue Cantus’ tradition of covering songs by popular songwriters.
Closing the season, “Fields of Wonder” (July 3-16) will explore the relationships between composers and poets. The program will include a newly rediscovered setting of a cycle of Langston Hughes’ poetry with music by Margaret Bonds.
All online concerts are pay-what-you can, with a suggested price of $20 per household per concert. Tickets will go on sale as the concerts approach. Tickets for the in-person concerts will go on sale on Dec. 1, 2020.
V is virtual, L is live and in-person.
V Now available online: “CoroNation: A Film by Ai Weiwei.” In the first feature-length documentary about the coronavirus in Wuhan, dissident Chinese Ai Weiwei explores how China’s state machinery swung into action and how ordinary people in Wuhan coped with the disaster. The film was made in secret. Ai Weiwei directed it remotely from Europe, and friends in Wuhan sent him footage. Rent or buy through Vimeo on Demand or Alamo On Demand ($6/18). If you’d like to see an installation by Ai Weiwei in Minneapolis, drive by the Minneapolis Institute of Art. His work “Safe Passage” – thousands of life jackets worn by refugees – covers the pillars on the front of the building.
L Friday (Sept. 4) at Icehouse: Pavielle. Grab one of the few remaining general admission tickets for a night in Icehouse’s courtyard with the powerhouse vocalist and her mighty band. Buy your ticket in advance ($12), wear a mask and enter via the patio. And if $12 seems like not very much, you’re right. Help keep Icehouse alive by buying drinks and food. Their menu has been simplified; it’s mostly sandwiches, and the pulled pork sliders and Cubano are generous and delicious. FMI and tickets.
L Fridays in September: Drive-In Music & Movies at Bohemian Flats Park. In the 1950s and ’60s, there were more than 4,000 drive-in movie theaters in the United States. They were killed by VCRs, shrinking cars during the oil crisis, property taxes and digital films. Who’s sorry now? We are! Catch at least one night of family fun when the Star Tribune and City Pages team up to present four family-friendly films: “A League of Their Own” (Friday, Sept. 4), “Grease” (Sept. 11), “Top Gun” (Sept. 18) and “Space Jam” (Sept. 25). Each night will start with a DJ set. 6 p.m. doors, 6:30 p.m. DJ, 8 p.m. movie. For tickets, visit the Facebook page, scroll down to Details and click the Purchase Here links.
L First Thursdays and Open Saturdays at the Northup King Building. The Northrup King is home to more than 300 artists and creatives. Not all will be in their studios, and not all studios will be open, but these are good times to browse, shop, and explore the massive building, the largest art complex in Minnesota. Thursday, Sept. 3: Extended hours, 5-9 p.m. All four Saturdays, noon-4 p.m. Stay distanced and wear a mask.
L Next Wednesday and Thursday (Sept. 16 and 17) at Crooners: Davina and the Vagabonds. Some tickets are already selling out for this event, so if you want to go, get on it. Seeing Davina and her band live is always a genuine pleasure. She’s bluesy, soulful and authentic, sometimes shy and nervous in front of a crowd – which she freely admits, just before belting out her next song and raising the hairs on the back of your neck. Choose table or car drive-in seating. FMI and tickets ($45) here and here.