Moving Forward
21 May 2012
Inside the Classics

It’s been a tough few weeks for the orchestra and our extremely hardworking staff, as you might have heard, so if you don’t mind, I’d like to once again steal Bob Collins’ excellent tradition of starting the new work week with an inspirational song…

The Mary Ellen Carter – Stan Rogers

Yeah, that’s better already. The last verse of that song pretty much got me through high school, and all you need do to know the power of Stan Rogers is to say his name to a native Canadian of a certain vintage, and then sit back and listen to the stories that pour forth.

The orchestra’s on the move this week, setting up camp in the charming hamlet of Willmar, in west central Minnesota, for another of our “Common Chords” residencies. (The first was last fall, up in Grand Rapids, and if you don’t remember hearing anything about it, you owe it to yourself to go read this post and watch the accompanying video. I still get chills every time I see that first pair of girls stand up and start singing.)

The infiltration will begin with a string quartet and a brass quintet who will be playing at various events, community centers, schools, and VFW halls early in the week. Sarah will be there all week, as well, working with school orchestras, appearing on local radio station KWLM, and leading a well-honed presentation she does called The Art of Conducting for a group of local business leaders. That lot will be joined on Wednesday by eight other musicians playing a concert for the preschool/kindergarten set, an extension of the hugely popular series we call Kinder Konzerts here in Minneapolis.

Finally, the full orchestra will show up on Thursday to play three separate concerts in two days. The first will be a family concert built around a truly ingenious staging of Peter and the Wolf created by the folks who used to be known as Theatre de la Jeune Lune. The second will be a slightly retooled Inside the Classics concert that Sarah and I debuted last season, featuring Ravel’s ballet score to Daphnis & Chloe, with a La Valse kicker.

And then, on Saturday night, we’ll play a full-length orchestral concert at the Willmar Education & Arts Center, featuring a set of Copland songs performed by Willmar native Andrew Wilkowskie, and closing with the timeless wonder that is Brahms’ 2nd Symphony. The price of admission to the Friday and Saturday night shows will be $5. Everything else the orchestra does in Willmar this week will be free of charge.

Due to circumstances beyond my control, I won’t be a part of the small ensembles that will be invading Willmar later this very afternoon. (There are close to 100 musicians in the Minnesota Orchestra, and we all have to take turns at these outreach opportunities, and it’s not my turn at the moment.)  Still, I’m keeping tabs, and I’m planning to blog the full Common Chords experience as it happens this time around. I’ve always liked this town: we’ve played one-off concerts there several times in the past decade, and in addition to having one of the better Scandihoovian gift shops I’ve ever traipsed through adorning its downtown, Willmar boasts a road-trip worthy chocolatier on its outskirts, and a bustling little indie coffee shop that has brightened my morning more than once over the years.

What made our first Common Chords trip to Grand Rapids so memorable, though, wasn’t the amenities of the town itself, or even the ovations we received at our concerts there. It was the unconditional embrace we received from the town and its residents, the warmth and generosity they showed us wherever we went, and the unmistakable sense of pride that a little town on the edge of the Range had somehow managed to wrangle a nearly-free weeklong festival out of a major international orchestra.

Willmar’s nowhere near the Range, of course, and I’m sure the experience this time around will differ in all sorts of ways from our week in Grand Rapids. But if I know Willmar (and I like to think I do,) that sense of warmth and welcoming will be on display the moment we cross the town line. I can’t wait to see what develops.

<January 2020>

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