#MnOrchTour: Triumph in Lahti


The process of entering the Minnesota Orchestra’s concert in Lahti was extremely casual. The doors were opened, then patrons lined up and flashed their tickets to the ushers, who chanted “kiitos kiitos kiitos” at each person as they passed. No ticket stubs were collected, no bar-codes brandished. The Finns really seem to enjoy making things simple. And so I enjoy the Finns.

Inside the auditorium, I was immediately struck by the conviviality and camaraderie of the crowd. It reminded me so much of what we see nowadays at Orchestra Hall: folks waving at friends from balconies, acquaintances clustered in aisles chatting, rowmates leaning over each other to talk. As I sat down, the woman next to me told me something in Finnish and then giggled. I laughed back.

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#MnOrchTour: Prepping for Lahti


This morning the Minnesota Orchestra bid farewell to cosmopolitan Helsinki and traveled north to Lahti, Finland. The first bus left earlier in the morning; the second, closer to concert time. If a musician took the early bus, he would have more time with the instrument he hadn’t seen since the night of the 16th, as well as a chance to over-practice and over-think. On the other hand, if she took the later one, she might feel rusty or rushed. It seems to me that without adequate mental discipline, the timing of either bus could encourage musicians to play mind-games with themselves.

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#MnOrchTour: Adventures in Helsinki


I nearly puked during the descent into Helsinki. Which was weird, because I’ve never been airsick before. But something about the exhaustion, the time difference, the pressure change, the thin canned air, the claustrophobia, the unsteady descent, the blindingly bright sunshine, the hunger, and the multiple layers of clothing I had arrayed on my lap all conspired to roil my guts.


Thankfully, the nausea subsided after we stopped moving, and I joined the musicians at the baggage carousel, maybe a little paler than usual, but otherwise recovered. My suitcase was the first one out, and then the carousel just…stopped. I volunteered my toothbrush as a communal grooming device, but it turns out Icelandair had not actually lost every piece of luggage besides mine, and soon everyone was reunited with their bags.

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#MNOrchTour: Thoughts From Over Reykjavik


As I type, we’re between times and days. It’s three-thirty in the morning in Reykjavik and ten-thirty at night in Minneapolis. The in-flight entertainment system reports that the temperature outside is seventy below, and we’re creeping toward the Labrador Sea. I just finished watching an arty Icelandic movie about two estranged brothers who both raise sheep. Scabies hits the farms in the valley and complications ensue. The brothers eventually decide to reconcile and work together to save their breeding stock. The film ends with their flock escaping in a blizzard, and the brothers clinging to each other naked in an ice cave that one of them dug while seeking protection from the wind. I’m beginning to get a sense of the pathos that awaits us in Scandinavia. For the flight from Reykjavik to Helsinki, I’m planning on lighter entertainment fare. (Namely, Fargo.) (“Prowler needs a jump!”)

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#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!


– 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?


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


Alma Mahler


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!


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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