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Live, in-person concerts at Orchestra Hall; Train Days at Union Depot

ALSO: The SPCO at Mears Park and Como Pavilion; art and farmers market at Franconia Sculpture Park; and more.

Jon Kimura Parker
The Minnesota Orchestra earlier this week announced a slate of July and August concerts, a summer season that will feature Jon Kimura Parker in his new role as creative partner for summer programming.
Photo by Tony Nelson

On the long list of things we missed during the past 15 months, live music is near the top, edged out by seeing family members and friends. We caught a few patio and front-yard concerts and events in Crooners’ tent and are deeply grateful for those, but our concert halls – Orchestra Hall, the Ordway, Northrop – have remained closed. We haven’t heard music played by a lot of people for a lot of people since Feb. 7, 2020, aka forever ago.

Northrop opened briefly last week for a concert by University organist Dean Billmeyer, who gave the restored Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ a workout, filling our ears and rattling our bones. We’re waiting to hear from the Ordway about its plans and are told that will happen very soon.

Orchestra Hall will reopen June 11 for in-person concerts with reduced capacity audiences – 20%, or about 400 people. The concerts will take place over two weekends, June 11 and 12 and June 25 and 26. Both Friday concerts will be streamed and broadcast live, continuing the “This Is Minnesota Orchestra” series that began last October with smaller, distanced ensembles and carried us through the long winter into spring.

Both weekends will be conducted by Music Director Osmo Vänskä. The second weekend will include the world premiere of an overture he composed during the pandemic. Like the rest of us, he had time on his hands.

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Raring to go, the orchestra earlier this week announced a slate of July and August concerts, a summer season that will feature Jon Kimura Parker in his new role as creative partner for summer programming. Grand plans had been made for last summer’s festival – no longer Sommerfest, but renamed Summer at Orchestra Hall – when all fell to the pandemic.

This summer won’t be the weeks-long, Beethoven-infused festival last summer would have been, with crowds on Peavey Plaza and artists from around the world. But it will bring four guest conductors, the return of large-scale orchestra repertoire and larger audiences. All concerts will take place in Orchestra Hall, where capacity will increase to 50%. For the first time since March 2020, we’ll hear the full orchestra play in a room with 1,000 other people. Households will be separated by one empty seat, like middle seats on airplanes.

The in-person concerts and increased capacity are happening sooner than anyone had reason to hope, but the orchestra was ready. As it prepares to welcome live audiences next Friday, it’s also putting the finishing touches on a full 2021-22 season, Vänskä’s last as music director.

These are the concerts planned for July and August:

Friday and Saturday, July 16 and 17: Summer Opening With Jon Kimura Parker. Works by Berlioz, Florence Price and Richard Strauss, led by Dima Slobodeniouk with Parker at the piano. Parker will perform Price’s Piano Concerto for the first time in his career and in the orchestra’s history.

Friday through Sunday, July 30-Aug. 1: American Musical Heroes. Ken-David Masur will make his Minnesota Orchestra conducting debut, with Parker at the piano, in a program that honors musical heroes (George Gershwin, John Williams, William Grant Still, Amy Beach, Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson and more) and hometown heroes. Friday’s concert will be an invitation-only gift from the musicians to downtown Minneapolis front-line workers. It will also be livestreamed.

Friday and Saturday, Aug. 13 and 14: Dvorák’s New World Symphony. Natalie Stutzmann will lead the orchestra in Smetana’s “The Moldau” and Dvorak’s “From the New World.”

Friday and Saturday, Aug. 27 and 28: Summer Finale: Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 4. Karina Canellakis will conduct, with Parker at the piano for selections from Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21.

Tickets are available now for subscribers. They will go on sale to the general public on Tuesday, June 8. Buy online or call 612-371-5656 or 800-292-4141.

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The picks

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

V Now through June 20: Red Eye Theater: New Works 4 Weeks Festival. Buy a festival pass and dive into new performance works and works-in-progress by 10 artists. Red Eye’s long-running annual incubator is online this year, so everything is at your fingertips: films, live broadcasts and web-based interactive projects, dance, poetry and theater, audio-visual storytelling, myths and more. Some events happen at specific times, others when you want them to. One happens on the phone, another arrives in the mail. Be sure to check the schedule and read the descriptions. Artists include Lela Pierce, Eric Larson/Toot, Rebekah Crisanta de Ybarra/Lady Xøk and Alana Horton and Patrick Marschke. The festival pass is pay-what-you-wish ($50-150 suggested). There are no tickets to individual performances.

V Tonight (Thursday, June 3), 7 p.m.: Twin Cities Jazz Festival: Jazz Fest Live: The Larry McDonough Sextet: Kind of Blue Revisited. Miles Davis was born on May 26, 1926; if he were still around, he would be 95 today and still hanging with the cool kids. In 1959, he recorded an album with John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Bill Evans, Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb that is widely considered one of the best albums (not just jazz albums) of all time. Jazz pianist and singer McDonough will bring his own sextet to the Dakota’s stage for a livestream of this timeless music. The performance includes poems by Richard Terrill. Free. Register here or watch on the Twin Cities Jazz Festival website, Facebook or YouTube.

Courtesy of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra
The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra has added outdoor concerts to the end of its 2020-21 season.
L Friday, June 4, 7 p.m. and Sunday, June 6, 2 p.m.: The SPCO outdoors. Join musicians of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra for about an hour of music at Mears Park (Friday afternoon) or Como Lakeside Pavilion (Sunday afternoon). The program will include “Summer” from Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons,” Handel’s “Water Piece,” the world premiere of an SPCO commission by Viet Cuong, a selection from George Walker’s “Lyric” and selections from Beethoven’s Septet in E-flat. Both concerts are free and open to the public. Bring chairs or a blanket for seating. Note: A concert scheduled for tonight (Thursday, June 3) on the new Plaza @ the Capri has been canceled.

V Saturday, June 5, 6:30 p.m.: Minnesota Orchestra: Midsummer Melody: A Virtual Symphony Ball. Especially for large arts organizations, fundraisers and benefits tend to be grand affairs with ticket prices to match. During the pandemic, many organizations have thrown open their virtual doors to anyone who wants to come. The orchestra promises a video of performances by musicians, conducting by Osmo Vänskä and interviews with partners, donors and friends. There’s no cost to attend, but you’re welcome to donate. RSVP here. Note: The Guthrie’s virtual benefit, An Evening with Leslie Odom Jr., will take place on Friday, June 25.

Union Depot
One of the locomotives on display during Train Days.
L Saturday and Sunday, June 5 and 6, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.: Union Depot: Train Days. It’s corny to say “All Aboard!” so we won’t, but if you love trains, this is a fun, family-friendly day. Awesome train equipment will be open for tours and viewing (like the freshly-painted locomotive shown here). Inside Union Depot, you’ll find model trains, concessions, a train photography exhibit, kids’ activities, and a showcase of the 2020 Virtual Train Days mini-series (also viewable here; scroll down). We don’t know what this year will be like, as we all creep out from beneath COVID’s heavy cloud, but Train Days usually draws train buffs and rail fans, people young, old and in-between who are loco for trains, so the crowd-watching is also enjoyable. FMI. Free.

Franconia Art & Farmers Market
Courtesy of Franconia Sculpture Park
Franconia Art & Farmers Market
L Sunday, June 6, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.: Franconia Sculpture Park: Franconia Art & Farmers Market. Don’t forget the sunscreen as you head for Franconia’s 50-acre outdoor museum and monthly market. If you’re new to the park or want to catch up on what’s new since you were last there, show up by 2 p.m. for the free, one-hour public tour, offered every Sunday. No registration required. FMI.