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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
What the headline says. Here’s a link to WQXR’s recording.
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.
How do you get to Carnegie Hall?
- Practice practice practice, ~OR~
- Use the Minnesota Orchestra’s first post-lockout performance in New York City as an excuse to fly in from Minneapolis and creep out native New Yorkers with your girlish, shockingly unprofessional enthusiasm!
I chose the second option. Practicing can be a drag, and I’m good at screaming in concert halls.
The Minnesota Orchestra and guest soloist Hilary Hahn take the stage at Carnegie Hall on Thursday, March 3rd. This past weekend, they performed the program they’ll be bringing on tour. I went on Friday and Saturday nights to get a sense of how the orchestra is sounding in this benchmark repertoire.
The program begins with Sibelius’s underplayed third symphony. Osmo recently described the piece in a Minnesota Public Radio interview: “I love all of the symphonies, but in this context I would like to give something which is almost totally unknown piece, but great piece of music.”
The Minnesota Orchestra performed Jean Sibelius’s Kullervo last weekend, and I still haven’t recovered.
Music is always difficult to describe, but this piece verges on impossible. It’s long, for one. Its scope rivals a DeMille-directed Biblical epic. It is a glimpse into the very heart of terror and savagery and ice. It enshrines the ghost of a young Sibelius. In Kullervo, Sibelius began to chop a road through a dark and snowy forest. He may have abandoned that road, ultimately preferring another path of tighter, leaner construction. But his decision makes the road untaken all the more fascinating. As listeners, we stand at the edge of Kullervo and peer into the vast unexplored darkness beyond.
A year ago today my mother was diagnosed with cancer, and six weeks later she was dead. I try to hold her hand in my memory, but it’s not working; it’s not working. Every day she becomes less human, more ethereal. I signed a lease on an apartment in St. Paul recently. It has bay windows and French doors and a glass porch. A young person’s first place has no right to be so beautiful.
The juxtaposition of the two events is jolting and sad. Numbing.
I hear you’re not supposed to “put a timeline” on grief. But I want to. Because grief hurts and whips and drains like a motherfucker, and I want to be done with it. Or at least be able to regard it knowingly, and from a great distance.
Sometimes I feel like I’m making progress. Like I’ve come through intact. But then every time I’ve caught my balance, I trip on something else.
Sometimes I don’t even know what I’m feeling until it’s too late. Then I realize I’ve been putting on a facade for other people.
Or, more likely, putting on a facade for myself.
Yesterday I got a call from Minnesota Orchestra bass player Kathryn Nettleman. (Well, Kate Nettleman. It feels weird to call our Kate “Kathryn.”) She wanted to make sure I heard about the big news.
The Minnesota Orchestra has had a lot of big news lately. In January 2014, the sixteen-month lockout of musicians ended. The CEO and board chair departed. Former music director Osmo Vänskä, who had resigned during the lockout, was re-hired. He married concertmaster Erin Keefe, who had been a leading candidate for the New York Philharmonic concertmaster seat. She decided to stay in Minnesota. The organization hired a new temporary CEO, Kevin Smith, who quickly became a long-term CEO. Recording sessions started up again. The third disc in the Grammy-winning Sibelius cycle was finished, and we’re waiting on the release date now. There was a trip to Cuba, planned and executed in record time. Then within a few days of the orchestra’s return to America, it was announced that musician contracts had been negotiated two years ahead of schedule (with modest raises), and that Osmo himself had signed on until at least 2019. Major multi-million dollar gifts were announced. The organization just posted its first surplus in a while (using a prudent endowment draw rate, no less).
If you take a step back, you realize what a veritable barrage of good news there has been here lately. Apparently we’re living in an era of sparkly unicorn rainbows. Thanks to a spirit of collaboration and mutual respect, the Minnesota Orchestra is proving that it is an organization on the move.
But Kate was calling me with even more big news to share. I didn’t know what to expect. Some kind of series devoted to the history of women in music? The construction of the Kevin Smith Room within Orchestra Hall, from which Kevin is never allowed to leave? (He would be fed well.) The first orchestra tour to the moon? After the past two years, nothing seems impossible.
As she spoke, I realized that one vestige of the lockout still remains: the musicians’ independent 501c3. This was the organization that the musicians used to self-produce concerts during the lockout.
“We’re dissolving it,” Kate said.