#MNOrchTour: First Stop: Minneapolis

It’s four minutes to midnight.

One of the reasons I love blogging is that I can chew through my own thoughts at my own pace. However, covering a whirlwind European tour in real time does not lend itself to lengthy rumination. So tonight, after the Minnesota Orchestra’s farewell pre-tour concert in Minneapolis, I’m setting a timer to see how long it takes to describe the night. Let’s see if I can replicate this schedule on the trip.

It’s two minutes to midnight.

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The First Entry of European Tour Coverage ‘016!

And so it begins! The Minnesota Orchestra leaves on its European tour a week from yesterday (!), and now seems like a good time to start writing.

I’ve decided to head entries with the date they were written. I won’t always be able to post them as I write them, but I will get them online as soon as possible. (Entries will also be supplemented – Internet connection permitting – with short videos and images and status updates and Tweets on social media.) I may also cluster shorter entries together, like I’m doing below. I’ll be experimenting and learning as I go along, so your patience is appreciated!

As for hashtags, the Minnesota Orchestra is using #MNOrchTour, so I’ll be following their lead.

If you want to contribute financially to making the coverage happen, I’m not going to stop you. ;)  Link to the Gofundme here. A hearty thank you to everyone who has donated. I’m so frickin’ moved by your generosity.

If anyone has any questions about what the tour is like, feel free to ask!

HERE WE GO!

– E

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Song of the Lark is Going to Europe!

I’m going to Europe to cover the Minnesota Orchestra’s 2016 tour, and I want you to be a part of it.

How’s that for a hook?

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Yes, I’m BEYOND EXCITED to announce that Song of the Lark is going on the road – or, more accurately, taking to the skies – August 18 to August 30, covering the Minnesota Orchestra’s first international tour in…recent memory, let’s say.

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The Best Show of the Season

This past weekend, the Minnesota Orchestra held its sixtieth annual Symphony Ball to celebrate the end of an ambitious 2015/16 season…and to raise money for the next one. It was a fun and fascinating experience. One could go to the dinner (expensive), and/or the dancing after (expensive, but less expensive) (and what I chose to do). Attendees were encouraged to dress in 1920s attire, so I had fun slinking around in a beaded capelet, bringing out antique family jewelry, and pretending I’m way cooler than I actually am. The live auction was a veritable thunderstorm of generosity, with folks pouring out thousands upon thousands of dollars for ultra-glamorous prizes. “If you have five thousand,” the auctioneer chirruped, “you have six thousand!” Afterward I consoled myself as to my economic status by eating cupcakes with sparkly lemon frosting and listening to the after-party band, the Wolverines, blast out The Lady Is A Tramp (Life without care / she’s broke, and it’s oke!). CEO Kevin Smith was his usual charming, reassuring, welcoming self. Violinist Rebecca Corruccini’s black feather hairpiece stole the show. The orchestra played Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue (with Minnesotan Andrew Staupe on piano) and Ravel’s La Valse. My dark side wholeheartedly approves of whoever programmed a piece about the death throes of European society at a light-hearted fundraising gala. Osmo and the orchestra finished up with Diamonds Are Forever, which I can only interpret as a timely endorsement of Swiddleston. A board member won the chance to conduct the orchestra in Stars and Stripes Forever, and he did so with a commitment that rivaled Osmo’s during a Mahler climax. After the orchestra was done playing, I listened to the Wolverines and wished I knew how to dance, because my jumping and fringe-shaking at rhythmic intervals did not feel particularly historically accurate (although it did inspire commentary from onlookers). I didn’t leave the lobby until one in the morning, which was when the crew started turning the lights up and disassembling tables. All in all, an evening well-spent. I hope the orchestra raised oodles of money.

It was a fitting way to celebrate the end of an exhilarating season, and it got me feeling sentimental. Then I realized: hey, I can indulge those feelings, because it’s time for an end of season review!

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Mahler in Minnesota

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Alma Mahler

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In January 1918, Alma Mahler Gropius saw writer Franz Werfel at a performance of her dead husband’s fourth symphony.

During the concert, Alma and Franz exchanged long, lingering glances.

At intermission, she brought him home, cheating on the man she had cheated on Mahler with.

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May Link Roundup!

I’ve been busy, but it hasn’t shown much on the blog. So I thought it was time for a link roundup. Yeehaw!

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No, not this kind of roundup, but this does make for an intriguing preview image

First off, I’ve started a series of essays for Interlude.hk about the early lives of composers, and how those early lives affected their later creative output. My first two subjects were Gustav Mahler and Rebecca Clarke.

I also wrote a major essay for Frank Almond’s “A Violin’s Life” volume 2 recording. Frank, as you surely know, is the concertmaster of the Milwaukee Symphony, and he recently Kickstartered an amazing recording to document the history of his storied (stolen) Strad. The recording includes the ebullient violin sonata in B-major by Amanda Maier-Röntgen. Click here, then on the name Amanda Maier-Röntgen for my essay, which gives a broad outline of Amanda’s life and muses about the role women’s works (should?) have in our canon. Frank’s recording is great, and you should really check it out.

I also had the honor of giving the intermission talk at the Mother’s Day Musical Offering concert at Hamline University on May 8. The works of Germaine Tailleferre and Louise Farrenc were on the program, and they were given gorgeous performances. At intermission, co-artistic director Susan Billmeyer and I discussed why the works of women aren’t performed more frequently. Why are we still surprised to see them on programs even in 2016? Everyone in the organization welcomed me warmly into the fold. It was a heartwarming way to spend the day. Thanks to all those who came out… I hope you enjoyed yourself as much as I did.

I’m booking several pre-concert talk appearances for various Minnesota ensembles for the 16/17 season, and when the time is right, I’ll share that information with y’all. It might be difficult to find an orchestra willing to program work by women, but thankfully, local chamber music ensembles are picking up the dropped baton. There’s a lot to look forward to next season. Stay tuned.

If you want me to come gab at your event, let me know, because apparently that’s a thing I’m doing nowadays.

I also learned and performed the first movement of Maddalena Laura Sirmen’s sixth violin concerto with my amateur string orchestra this month. I wrote my own cadenza and everything. I hope to get around to writing about the experience, but if I don’t, I want to give a shout-out to the String Connection orchestra in Eau Claire for being way more adventurous in their programming than the biggest American orchestras. *thumbs up*

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RIP Jane Little

Jane Little, a bass player in the Atlanta Symphony for 71 years, collapsed at a concert this afternoon. She later died. I pray that her passage was a gentle one: that in her final moments here she felt no pain, only passion burning for her art.

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I never knew Jane Little, and it feels presumptuous to say too much about her. All I can do is extend my deepest, truest, most heartfelt condolences to her friends, family, and colleagues…and listen to what they have to say about her extraordinary life and career.

That being said…

I have a ticket sitting in will-call at the Minnesota Orchestra box office.

I will be over a thousand miles from where Jane Little started, made, and ended her career.

But I will enter Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis. The players will come onstage. (The concertmaster will be a woman.) (Her stand partner, too.) And I will see the Minnesota bass section, headed now by Kristen Bruya (principal) and Kate Nettleman (acting associate principal).

I will look up to Kristen and Kate as they share a stand. I will watch their eyes fiercely criss-crossing the music, their gazes snapping up intently to follow the conductor. (On Friday, the conductor will be a woman.) They will lose themselves in the sound for us. The bass section is the section that brings the orchestra to life. They will make a mighty rumble.

And even though I never met Jane Little, in that moment, I will think of Jane Little. And I will silently thank her, and celebrate the legacy she left for all of us.

Here is a profile on Jane Little from the AFM.

“I thought now why would any girl want to play that big thing, but when I started playing the bass, it was just…I just fell in love with it.” – NBC Nightly News

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A Concert to Save Lives

I have a very Midwestern fear of bothering anyone, but when I found out that various Twin Cities musicians were putting together a benefit concert for Safe Hands Rescue this spring, I immediately began bothering event organizer (and Minnesota Orchestra sub violist) Jen Strom to let me write the program notes. Jen said yes, and so I spent a few amazing afternoons last month learning and writing about the repertoire…and the composers, most of whom were animal lovers themselves.

Jen Strom is not only a fabulous viola player and the organizer of this event, but a talented photographer who volunteers regularly to take pictures of the rescued Safe Hands animals. I emailed her to talk about the concert, photography, and why we musicians love animals so much!

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Review: Minnesota Orchestra at Carnegie Hall

Gray concrete. Distant sirens. Half-heard conversations. Bicyclists sailing down avenues. Tangles of pedestrians caught at stoplights, overflowing into crosswalks. Defiant bray of taxi horns. Spring wind whistling past storefronts. Dark low murky clouds. Glowing yellow lights stacked to the sky. Hurried, impatient clack-clack-clack of heels.

Midtown Manhattan at night. There were too many impressions to absorb at once.

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Tickets for the Minnesota Orchestra’s March Carnegie Hall show went on sale last August. I had a reminder on my calendar to buy them first thing that morning. I was up by nine, but I should have set my alarm for six. The Carnegie website was creaking under the demand, and the only seats left at that point – I repeat, the morning they went on sale – were in the balcony.

So it was that, precious tickets in hand, my friend and I set out to climb to the rafters of Mt. Carnegie.

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Listen to the Minnesota Orchestra at Carnegie

What the headline says. Here’s a link to WQXR’s recording.

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The view from my seat

90% of the batsh*t insanity of the audience is probably me, so…you’re welcome. lol

Let me know what you think of the performance! Once I swim through the phlegm of my New York induced cold, I’ll be back to blogging about the trip, so keep an eye out.

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