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SPCO to resume livestreams; remembering Barbara Field

ALSO: The 20th Annual Bicycle Film Festival – Minneapolis; a live reading of “The Fisherman’s Wife”; and more.

St. Paul Chamber Orchestra musicians will perform chamber music repertoire for small ensembles, for physical distancing reasons.
St. Paul Chamber Orchestra musicians will perform chamber music repertoire for small ensembles, for physical distancing reasons.
Courtesy of the SPCO

Five concerts streamed live from the Ordway Concert Hall stage, 10 works by living composers, and five world premieres of newly commissioned music are among the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra’s plans for spring, starting March 20, less than a month from now.

The SPCO will return to its home stage at the Ordway after a fall 2020 series of six livestreamed concerts was interrupted by safety concerns. Three of the six concerts had been broadcast, including one with Canadian pianist Stewart Goodyear, when the orchestra suspended the remaining three in November after deciding that “the risk of continuing our livestreamed performances is just too high.”

As in the fall, the musicians will perform chamber music repertoire for small ensembles, for physical distancing reasons. COVID protocols will be in place for the musicians, stage crew, support staff and video production team. Musicians and support staff will be tested before livestreamed weeks.

Musicians collaborated to curate the livestreamed concerts, and musicians will serve as virtual hosts. All concerts will be free.

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The spring series will also include the SPCO’s third annual Musician Appreciation Concert and a rebroadcast on Good Friday of the 2019 performance of Bach’s “Saint John Passion.”

The spring 2021 concerts will be rebroadcast on the Thursdays after they livestream. But mark your calendars if you want to see these performances in real time. Which, strangely, still matters. Even though there’s no apparent difference between a livestream and a rebroadcast, just knowing it’s a livestream makes it special.

Saturday, March 20, 8 p.m.: “Lamentations.” A program centered on grief but anchored in hope, with music by Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson (“Lamentations,” Black/Folk Song Suite for Solo Cello), Richard Strauss and Brahms.

Saturday, April 10, 8 p.m.: “Sounds From Home.” The world premiere of “Elegy for Solo Oboe,” written by Chinese American composer Chen Yi for SPCO principal oboe Cassie Pilgrim, plus music by Florence Price, John Novacek, James Lee III, and Dvorák (String Quintet No. 3, “American”).

Saturday, May 8, 8 p.m.: Bach, Cuong, Frank and Mozart. Bach’s “Brandenburg” Concerto No. 3, music by Gabriela Lena Frank, Mozart’s Divertimento in B-flat for Two Horns and Strings, and the world premiere of a new work for oboe and cello by American composer Viet Cuong.

Saturday, May 22, 8 p.m.: “A Brighter Tomorrow.” Not yet fully programmed, this concert will include works by Rachmaninoff and the world premiere of a new work for solo flute by American Indian composer Brent Michael Davids.

Saturday, June 12, 8 p.m.: Season Finale. The world premiere of a new work for clarinet and bass by Clarice Assad, the world premiere of a new work for solo clarinet by Michi Wiancko, Pulitzer Prize winner Caroline Shaw’s string quartet Entr’acte, and music by Beethoven and Mendelssohn.

All concerts will be presented online at the SPCO’s Concert Library, where you can also find concert programs. In addition to serving as a streaming platform, the concert library is an ever-expanding treasure of concert recordings, on-demand and free.

The Musician Appreciation Concert, begun as a way for SPCO fans and supporters to show some extra love to the musicians, will be a virtual program of past and new performances by musicians and a chance to get to know the orchestra better through interviews, demonstrations and conversations throughout the two-hour event. FMI.

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Barbara Field, 1933-2021

Barbara Field, who died on Sunday, Feb. 21, three days before her 88th birthday, was an accomplished playwright whose adaptation of “A Christmas Carol” for the Guthrie ran for 35 years. If you saw “A Christmas Carol” at the Guthrie anytime before 2011, you saw her version. Field also wrote “Playing With Fire,” adapted from “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein,” most recently seen in a revival on the thrust stage in 2019.

She was one of five co-founders of the Twin Cities-based Playwrights’ Center, and the only woman. Today the center serves more playwrights in more ways than any other organization in the country. It has helped launch the careers of artists including August Wilson, Carlyle Brown, Lee Blessing, Christina Ham and Jeffrey Hatcher.

Barbara Field
Barbara Field
On a Barbara Field memory page on the center’s website, playwright John Olive has written, “The world without Barbara is a poor place and I don’t know what I’m gonna do.”

Field’s plays were seen across the United States, Canada and Europe. From 1974-81, she was the Guthrie’s playwright-in-residence. Her “Christmas Carol,” which also became part of the Actors Theatre of Louisville and Missouri Rep seasons, was seen by millions of people.

She translated and adapted many more plays and wrote several of her own, including “Neutral Countries” (Best American Play, 1983), “Coming of Age,” “Boundary Waters” (winner of a 1992 DramaLogue Award) and “Off the Ice.” She wrote the libretto for “Rosina,” an original opera composed by Hiram Titus and produced by Minnesota Opera in its 1981-82 season.

Jeremy Cohen, producing artistic director for the Playwrights’ Center, said in a statement, “Barbara was a brilliant writer, mentor, and advocate for playwrights. She was active as a Lifetime Core Writer and a former Board member, continuing to support writers well after official duties at the Center ended. We have all benefited from her vision and steadfast commitment to the art of storytelling.”

In a 2017 interview with playwright Kristin Idaszak, Fields shared her advice to a playwright who’s just starting out: “Craft. Learn what style fits the material. I think imitation is the sincerest flattery. Thinking about style. Thinking about craft. Thinking about voice. And adapting. If someone will pay you.”

In partnership with the center, Field’s family has announced the Barbara Field Memorial Fund to support the development of new and diverse playwriting voices. Plans for a memorial for Barbara will be announced later at

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The picks

V is for virtual, L is for live and in person.

V Friday, Feb. 26, 8 p.m.: Walker Art Center: “Expanding the Frame Live.” Watch as two Twin Cities-based artists meet virtually and create a spontaneous live performance film in real time. Musician and sound artist Jay Afrisando will be in his home studio, interdisciplinary artist Lee Noble on the stage of the Walker’s McGuire Theater. Go here to watch. Free.

V Friday, Feb. 26, 7 p.m.: Walker West Music Academy: Duncan & Friends: Tribute to Debbie Duncan. A music learning community rooted in the African American cultural experience, Walker West is celebrating Black History Month with a series of concerts. This week is devoted to honoring jazz legend Debbie Duncan, who died in December. Free, with registration required.

V Starts Friday, Feb. 26: Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota and Our Streets Minneapolis: 20th Annual Bicycle Film Festival – Minneapolis. A 90-minute program of short films that celebrate the bicycle. Begun in 2001, the Bicycle Film Festival has become an international phenomenon, holding sold-out events in 90 cities around the world and giving a big boost to the urban bike movement. This year, of course, it’s virtual. Each city’s film is curated for that city, with an international point of view. A panel discussion will feature local activists and bicycle experts. FMI and tickets ($10-20 choose-your-price). Through March 7.

An image from “Mixtape Part IV: Now Streaming.”
Photo by Bill Cameron
An image from “Mixtape Part IV: Now Streaming.”
V Friday and Saturday, Feb. 26 and 27: Cowles Center: “Mixtape Part IV: Now Streaming.” With an original soundtrack by Stefon “Bionik” Taylor, videography by V. Paul Virtucio, and five new dance pieces choreographed by Darrius Strong, Averie Mitchell-Brown, J-Sun Noer, Andy Asong-Morfaw and Herb John III aka JDot Tight Eyez, this celebration/exploration of Street and Hip Hop dance was made to be seen on a screen. FMI and tickets ($25). Note: Ticket sales end two hours before the show begins, so don’t wait until the last minute.

V Friday through Sunday, Feb. 26-28: Ten Thousand Things Theater: Live reading of “The Fisherman’s Wife.” Timothy Mason’s new play explores the stories we tell each other to make meaning of our lives, rejoice together in our joys and survive the pain we suffer. The reading will be directed by Leo Geter and performed by Bob Davis, Michelle O’Neill, Jason Rojas and Thallis Santesteban. Part of “TTT 3 x 30,” a program of three projects featuring 30 artists aimed at reaching isolated audiences (that’s us!) and providing employment for artists. Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m., Sunday at 4 p.m. Free, with reservations required.

Harrison David Rivers
Harrison David Rivers
V Saturday, Feb. 27, 7 p.m.: 2021 MN Opera Virtual Benefit. When you’re an opera company and you can’t have your usual in-person gala, what can you do? Call it a benefit, move it online, commission a new opera for the occasion and let anyone in for free. Written by playwright Harrison David Rivers (“Five Points,” “This Bitter Earth,” “To Let Go and Fall,” etc.), composed by B.E. Boykin and directed by Theater Mu’s Lily Tung Crystal, “Art is a Verb” will have its world premiere at this event. If you feel moved to make a donation, no one will stop you. FMI and registration. Preshow at 6:30; silent auction ends at 9 p.m.

V Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 27 and 28: Full Circle Theater: Staged readings of selected scenes from “Atacama” by Augusto Federico Amador. Full Circle planned to produce Amador’s play in May 2020; that has now been bumped to spring 2022. Set in Chile’s Atacama Desert, it focuses on the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile and serves as a reminder that democracy must be defended. Each reading will be 30-40 minutes, followed by a discussion featuring Amador, cast members Lara Trujillo and Pedro Bayon, and other guests. Saturday at 7 p.m., Sunday at 3 p.m. Free, with registration required.