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The return of Liquid Music; ‘Sherwood’ opens at the Yellow Tree Theatre

ALSO: JXTA breaks ground on its new campus; Red Wing’s Anderson Center hosts children’s book festival; SOLO at the Cowles; and more.

Composer, vocalist and producer Julianna Barwick’s pandemic-era record is a meditation on sound, reverb and the voice.
Composer, vocalist and producer Julianna Barwick’s pandemic-era record is a meditation on sound, reverb and the voice.
Photo by Jen Medina

Prepare the toasts, ready the confetti and pop the corks: Liquid Music is back. Starting in November, continuing in March through June 2022, six events will take place at the Parkway Theater, with more in development for next fall and as far ahead as 2024.

The groundbreaking, genre-flexing, boundary-flouting, always surprising, occasionally confounding new music series was created by Kate Nordstrum, sponsored by the SPCO for seven seasons and cut loose in May 2019 due to shifts in corporate funding. By January 2020, Nordstrum had turned Liquid Music into an independent LLC, owned by her.

Kate Nordstrum
Photo by Cameron Wittig
Kate Nordstrum
In mid-January, Liquid Music presented an evening with Finnish violinist/conductor Pekka Kuusisto and American composer/pianist Nico Muhly at the Parkway. It was sold out and breathtaking. Projects were scheduled for March and April with the Big Ears Festival and National Sawdust, the Kennedy Center and the National Gallery of Art. COVID kicked them all to the curb.

Luckily, Nordstrum had accepted a new position in December 2019 as executive and artistic director of the Great Northern, a winter festival of diverse programming that includes music and performance. She had a stable salary. While working on the Great Northern, which in 2021 became a destination for intelligent arts events (most virtual, thanks to the pandemic), she also had time to think, plan and organize. Live music wasn’t happening anywhere anyway.

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“It’s really important to me to still be doing this work, where new music is central,” Nordstrum said by phone on Thursday. “Even though I’m able to flex this muscle within the Great Northern to a certain extent, I still want a dedicated series that is focused on new music exclusively, and on exploring these different sound worlds together with an audience we’ve built up over the years that I know is hungry for it. It’s something I continue to be passionate about.”

Partly because of the pandemic, the Liquid Music Salon Series — “salon” because the series will take place at a single, intimate home venue, and the shows themselves will be smaller in scale — will be a bit different from all previous Liquid Music seasons. Instead of featuring all new projects or works in progress, four of the six scheduled performances will be live presentations of music composed or released during the pandemic.

“I wasn’t the instigator for these,” Nordstrum explained, “and Liquid Music wasn’t the developer, but I felt that we needed to provide a place for the live incarnations of this important and visionary music that was created during a time when we couldn’t gather and couldn’t experience it live.

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“It’s important to understand what’s needed in the moment. Over Liquid Music’s history, what has been most needed is the series being a partner to make dream projects get to their premiere. We will continue to do that. But I want to acknowledge work that was written or released during the pandemic, that is reflective of a time and needs its platform to shine. … I don’t want to be like ‘Hey, let’s pretend the last year and a half didn’t happen.’ Creating a release during this time was a monumental feat.”

Nordstrum will have her chance to play matchmaker — “bringing together new collaborators and disparate ideas, putting them together and working with them for a long development period, from the ground up” — with the other two performances.

Here’s the series in brief. We won’t go into detail now about each individual performance. We’ll save that for later, as each one approaches. Meanwhile, you can find more information on the website.

Terence Blanchard
Photo by Cedric Angeles
Terence Blanchard
Nov. 3, 2021: Terence Blanchard: Absence Featuring the E-Collective and Turtle Island Quartet. Blanchard is a five-time Grammy-winning trumpeter/composer and two-time Oscar nominee. “Absence,” his latest album, released in Aug. 2021, is an homage to the staggeringly influential composer and saxophonist Wayne Shorter. The E-Collective is Blanchard’s band. In terms of people on the Parkway’s stage, this will be the largest concert in the season.

March 12, 2022: Erika Dohi: “I, Castorpollux”; David Friend and Jerome Begin, “Post-”. A double bill of music from two innovative piano recordings. “I, Castorpollux” is Osaka-born, New York-based pianist Dohi’s debut solo album. “Post-” is a collaboration among pianist David Friend and pianist-composer Jerome Begin.

Arooj Aftab
Photo by Diana Markosian
Arooj Aftab
April 10, 2022: Arooj Aftab: “Vulture Prince.” In her latest record, the Pakistani composer/vocalist revisits “places I’ve called mine, places that don’t necessarily exist anymore.”

April 23, 2022: Adam Tendler: “Inheritances” world premiere. This is one of two projects Nordstrum was involved with from the start. It features commissioned music by a clutch of composers including Devonté Hynes, Nico Muhly, Meredith Monk, Ted Hearne, Missy Mazzoli, Sarah Kirkland Snider, Timo Andres and more whose names will ring bells with Liquid Music fans

May 13, 2022: Julianna Barwick: “Healing Is a Miracle.” Composer, vocalist and producer Barwick’s pandemic-era record is a meditation on sound, reverb and the voice. French electronic musician Malibu opens.

June 17, 2022: Ariana Kim: “Plucked.” Grammy-nominated violinist/composer and educator, co-artistic director (with her father, Young-Nam Kim) of the Chamber Music Society of Minnesota, Kim will present a new project that spotlights Minnesota-based Asian American visual art and music.

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What else would Nordstrum like us to know? “I want to encourage people to come with open ears and open minds, and explore music and musicians they may not have encountered before. My hope is that this takes you into different musical corners, and from these experiences, you’ll continue exploring and diving deeper. So it’s a springboard for continued exploration.”

Want a glimpse at the next season? In development for Fall 2022: The world premiere of Nashville-based Lambchop’s “Showtunes,” with an eight-piece band including Andrew Broder and Bryan Nichols. And a series of brand new composer/filmmaker pairings. Nordstrum promises “filmmakers and composers of the highest caliber. It will be a pretty big deal when it is announced. We’re not doing away with these types of ambitious projects.”

Like we said, Liquid Music is back.

Series tickets are on sale now. Single tickets will go on sale next Friday, Sept. 24, at 8 a.m.

The picks

After a hard and horrid 18 months, we’re still in a pandemic. Most venues now insist on proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID test. That’s what it takes to get through most doors. Before you buy a ticket to anything anywhere, check the protocols so you’re not disappointed, whatever your own expectations might be.

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

An architect's rendering of the new Juxtaposition Arts campus.
4RM+ULA Architects
An architect's rendering of the new Juxtaposition Arts campus.

L Today (Friday, Sept. 17), 5 p.m. at Juxtaposition Arts: JXTA Campus Groundbreaking and Community Celebration. Founded in 1995 by Roger and DeAnna Cummings as an after-school program, Juxtaposition Arts (JXTA) is the only Black-led arts organization in north Minneapolis. A teen-staffed art and design center, gallery, retail shop and artist studio, it puts young people’s creativity to work. Today it will break ground and start construction on a new $12.9-million campus. The community celebration will include performances, food, a ribbon-cutting ceremony and special announcements. 2007 Emerson Ave. N., Minneapolis, Free.

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In August, Forecast Public Art announced that it will donate its vast public art library – over 2,000 print, digital and multimedia materials – to JXTA, where it will become part of the new facility and a valuable resource for youth, staff, alumni and the broader community.

L Tonight (Friday, Sept. 17), 6:30-9 p.m. at Highpoint Center for Printmaking: Opening reception for “A Contemporary Black Matriarchal Lineage in Printmaking.” The first national exhibition curated by Black women printmakers highlighting the experimental prints of Black women printmakers. The show will include recent work by 12 printmakers. Ends Dec. 4. FMI. Free.

A scene from “Sherwood: The Adventures of Robin Hood.”
Photo by Tom Wallace
A scene from “Sherwood: The Adventures of Robin Hood.”
L Starts tonight (Friday, Sept. 17), 7:30 p.m. at the Yellow Tree Theatre: “Sherwood: The Adventures of Robin Hood.” Let the swashbuckling begin. Yellow Tree’s first season with Austene Van as producing artistic director starts with the Minnesota premiere of Ken Ludwig’s take on a legend. It’s a lighthearted tale of merry men, the fight for justice and a whip-smart Maid Marian. Ends Oc. 17. FMI including times and tickets ($27/29/31).

L Saturday, Sept. 18, 12 noon-5 p.m. at Red Wing’s Anderson Center at Tower View: Minnesota Children’s Book Festival. Face-painting, stilt-walking, storytelling, artmaking, puppets, balloon animals and more, plus eight award-winning children’s and YA authors reading, signing, meeting-and-greeting. Authors include Kao Kalia Yang, Molly Beth Griffin and David LaRochelle. 163 Tower View Drive, Red Wing. FMI. Free.

L and V Saturday, Sept. 18, 7:30 p.m.: Cowles Center: SOLO: Six World Premiere Dance Films. Winners of the McKnight Dancer Fellowships may have new works created especially for them by choreographers of their choosing. The result is an evening of world premiere solo performances. In 2021, these exist as dance films. Watch in person, livestreamed or on-demand as 2018 and 2019 fellows Renée Copeland, Sharon Mansur, Yeniel “Chini” Perez Domenech, Erin Thompson, Joseph “MN Joe” Tran and Elayna Waxse inhabit dances by their chosen choreographers.  FMI and tickets ($20-25).

L Sunday, Sept. 19, 7 p.m. at the Dakota: Zacc Harris Group: “Small Wonders” Album Release. Originally Harris on guitar, Bryan Nichols on piano, Chris Bates on bass and JT Bates on drums, the Zacc Harris Group has expanded to include John Raymond on trumpet and flugelhorn and Brandon Wozniak on saxophone. What was really good to start with is now even better. This is an album where everything works. The tunes, all by Harris, are melodic and inviting, the playing clean and tight, with that coveted communication among all the members. Favorite track: “Apple Jacks.” With the Bates Bros. providing a rock-solid NOLA-flavored rhythmic foundation, Harris’ joyous solo leads the way for Raymond and Wozniak’s playful conversational and unison passages splashed with Nichols’ piano. The sound throughout is exceptional. This is not a pandemic album. It was completed before the pandemic, then waited patiently for the live audience it deserves for its release. At Sunday’s event, Aaron Hederstrom will step in for Wozniak, who had another commitment. FMI and tickets ($20/15).