The Minnesota Orchestra has already performed once this year to an empty hall. On March 13, the day COVID shut everything down, the orchestra played Rachmaninoff’s Concerto No. 2 and Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7, “Leningrad,” with guest conductor Juanjo Mena and piano soloist Kirill Gerstein. Broadcast live over Classical MPR, the concert became the sound of a giant door closing. When would we hear the orchestra – the whole orchestra – play again? Because nothing compares to that immersive experience.
Six months later, we still don’t know the answer to that question. But we do know that starting Oct. 2, we can hear and see parts of the orchestra – up to 25 musicians at a time – play six Friday-night concerts to an empty hall. All will be broadcast live on TPT’s MN channel and streamed at the Minnesota Orchestra’s website. Most will also be broadcast on Classical MPR and its website.
All will be hosted by Sarah Hicks, principal conductor for Live at Orchestra Hall. Two will be led by Music Director Osmo Vänskä.
The newly revised concert season is a far cry from the original 2020-21 season announced in mid-April. The plan then was to resume live performances in early August, picking up five weeks of indoor concerts rescheduled from 2019-20, when that season was cut short by COVID. The new season would open in grand style in late September.
In early July, the orchestra canceled everything through Sept. 5 and added 24 small-scale outdoor concerts on Peavey Plaza. The four final concerts in that series were cut after civil unrest erupted in downtown Minneapolis.
It has never been harder to schedule anything resembling a season in the performing arts, and props to the Minnesota Orchestra for returning again and again with a new strategy and renewed determination to bring music to its audience. In June, the musicians and leadership took salary cuts, and the orchestra is still contending with an operating deficit for FY 2019.
President and CEO Michelle Miller Burns considers the orchestra’s latest move part of its gradual phased return to concert performances. “Our goal, as we move concerts indoors for the fall, is to enable audiences to easily access the Orchestra on the platform of their choice – online, on TV or on the radio,” she said in a statement. “In the next phase, we will roll out best practices for inviting limited audiences back to Orchestra Hall.”
So we won’t see the full orchestra, and the orchestra won’t see any of us. But we’ll keep taking steps toward each other.
The concerts are scheduled for Oct. 2, Oct. 23, Nov. 6, Nov. 20, Dec. 4 and Dec. 18. Performances will be available for free on-demand access at the Minnesota Orchestra’s website. Concert dates in January 2021 and beyond will stay on the calendar and will be adjusted as needed as the time approaches.
Major shows of quilts by women of color on the way
Part comfort, part canvas, a quilt is a powerful storytelling tool, and never will that be clearer than in the next several months. Sparked by the nationwide protest movement that followed the death of George Floyd, the Textile Center and Women of Color Quilters Network (WCQN) have together created a multi-venue exhibit that will spread across the Twin Cities.
In Mazloomi’s words: “George Floyd’s cry to his Mama for maternal help mirrors a symbolic guttural cry for help from the belly of our nation. Our citizens are crying out for protection, comfort, and education. … Quilting has long served as an act of self-determination and community support within African American history. The creativity and support manifested by enslaved women through quiltmaking directly informed the work of the quilting bees of the ’60s and ’70s whose work funneled social, financial and education resources into the fight for freedom and civil rights. As cultural stewards in today’s fight for justice, our mission is no different.”
Four shows have been scheduled, with three more to follow. Here’s what we know so far:
Sept. 10-Nov. 1 at the American Swedish Institute: “We Who Believe in Freedom.” The Minnesota premiere of WCQN’s 2016 exhibition in honor of the 55th anniversary of the Freedom Riders.
Sept. 15-Dec. 24 at the Textile Center: “Gone but Never Forgotten: Remembering Those Lost to Police Brutality.” A national juried exhibition featuring 28 new quilts selected by Mazloomi, a former aerospace engineer turned tireless advocate for African American quilt artists.
Sept. 29-Dec. 24 at the Textile Center: “I Wish I Knew How It Feels to Be Free.” A collection of quilts by Dorothy Burge, one of Chicago’s strongest voices for police accountability and reparations for survivors of police torture.
March 26-June 12, 2021 at the Textile Center: “Racism: In the Face of Hate We Resist.” A second national juried exhibition, this one with 61 new quilts curated by Mazloomi.
Select quilts will be presented later this winter and spring at other locations around the cities including the Weisman, Homewood Studios and St. Catherine University’s Apparel, Merchandising and Design Gallery. A series of Zoom talks TBA will introduce the quilters and focus on issues portrayed in the quilts.
All seven exhibitions will be free and open to the public. Timed reservations may be required due to the pandemic. All exhibitions will also be presented virtually on the Textile Center and WCQN websites. A list of hours will be posted at the Textile Center’s site.
V is for virtual, L is for live and in person.
V Today (Wednesday, Sept. 9) at 7 p.m.: Frank Theatre: “Frankly Speaking: What’s Up With That?” Led by founder and artistic director Wendy Knox, Frank Theatre has never pulled a punch. You can count on Frank to be provocative and, well, frank, and their productions will stay with you long after you leave the theater. The last Frank show we saw pre-COVID was Danai Gurira’s “The Convert,” and it still seems as fresh as yesterday. Which is a roundabout way to say that if Frank is starting a series of monthly conversations between theater artists “about the critical issues facing the arts, culture, and society,” it’s worth tuning in. Tonight, three local white theater leaders – Joel Sass (Open Eye), Suzy Messerole (Exposed Brick) and Knox – will talk about whiteness in Twin Cities theater, the harm caused by white supremacy and how white leaders of small theater companies can shift the culture to center BIPOC artists. This is meant to be a conversation among white panelists, without asking BIPOC to do the work of explaining. Maria Asp will moderate. A Q&A will follow the discussion. Free and live on Frank’s Facebook page.
V Thursday, Sept. 10, at 7 p.m.: “Hippocrates Café: Reflections on the Pandemic.” Based on the live show developed at the University of Minnesota Medical School by Dr. Jon Hallberg, medical commentator on MPR’s regional “All Things Considered,” this new TPT program combines performing arts with medicine. Co-hosted by Hallberg and Dr. Renée Crichlow, featuring 23 local artists and four national performers (look for Gao Hong, Daniel Newton, Nachito Herrera, Kevin Kling, Kao Kalia Yang, T. Mychael Rambo and more), it’s filled with music, art, animation, photography, story, poetry and dance. Says Hallberg, “There are times like now when the arts may be the most helpful way to make sense of what we are experiencing. In that way, the arts really are a form of medicine.” The show will air on TPT this weekend, but why not see it before everyone else and stick around for a panel discussion after? Free. Register here. Broadcasts Sunday, Sept. 13 at 8 a.m. (TPT 2) and 7 p.m. (TPT MN).
L Sunday, Sept. 13, at 7 p.m. at Icehouse: Delphia Cello Quartet. Does everything sound better on a cello? It’s possible. Icehouse’s stone courtyard is an ideal setting for an evening of classical crossover played by four female cellists. Based in Minneapolis, featuring Julia Floberg, Nora Doyle, Rosa Thompson-Vieira and Patricia Ryan, Delphia performs original compositions and reinvents pop songs from the Beatles to Billie Eilish. FMI and tickets ($10 advance, $12 doors).
L Starting in mid-September: Fall Color Drives in Minnesota. The sudden plunge in temperature is a reminder that the leaves will soon be changing color. That’s especially poignant this year, and it seems even more important to take advantage of this singular gift of seasonal beauty. Come midwinter, we can close our eyes or scroll through photos and remember. If you can get away for a day or a weekend, here are some exceptional drives recommended by Explore Minnesota. Don’t want to leave the cities? See #8.