Happy Thanksgiving to all the Artistic World

Sam Black

May this Thanksgiving Week be fully special in your own life this week. That would be my wish for all of my readers during this late November when music, drama, and literature are in full bloom (so to speak) in Duluth, MN.

Student productions vs. Faculty productions

One very curious observation I have made over the past twenty years has to do with newspaper-posted reviews of arts events in the Arrowhead Region. Basically, theatrical productions by UWS, CSS, and UMD students are reviewed in the local press. Equivalent musical concerts by students are not reviewed. Recital presentations by faculty at the three universities are not generally reviewed either. I don’t understand the modus operandi, but I live here, attend as much as I can, and reflect about the experience.

We love you, Charlie Brown

“You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown” was a delightful presentation by the theatrical students at The College of St. Scholastica. Everyone in the cast was clearly a college student, gradually developing their skills as stage performers, and creating multiple roles for a live audience. In general, the performance was middle of the road, so to speak. These were clearly students, not professionals, but the evening was quite entertaining. High points included Linus - Landon Hall -  singing ‘My Blanket and Me,’ and Alissa Lieder - Snoopy - wowing the audience with ‘Suppertime.’ The Book Report on Peter Rabbit, at the end of Act One, was also a real treat to tap along with. College productions lure us all into wondering where the next generation will go with these theatrical productions. I hope you were there.

UMD Wind Faculty at their best

Meanwhile, the UMD Woodwind Faculty offered a stunning recital on 16 November in Weber Music Hall. In Duluth/Superior, faculty recitals are as powerful as any visiting artist(s) can provide. Please support them.
Paula Gunderson, flute, Laurie Van Brunt, oboe, Theodore Schoen, clarinet, Jeffrey Campbell, bassoon, and James Pospisil, French Horn, offered a powerful concert of three selections for woodwind quintet. Music by Peter Mueller and Alvin Etler made it clear that significant music by lesser known composers was important. This is music rarely heard in Duluth, and worth every minute of listening. They also included ‘La Cheminée by Darius Milhaud, a suite from a movie score with lots of musical notions from the late 1930s bursting all over the room. Once again, local faculty recitals are absolutely world-class performances. Be sure to include them in your concert attendances.

Amazing new family discovery

Lutheran pastor Heidi Neumark was surprisingly made aware that her grandparents were Jewish, and caught up in the Nazi concentration camp world during WW II. She was in Duluth recently, sharing her story, ‘Hidden Inheritance,’ published by Abingdon Press in 2015. Her words are deep and meaningful, and her awareness was transforming. Explore her story, if you are interested.

LULU is an opera that defines the 20th century

For my present tense, the Metropolitan Opera presented ‘Lulu,’ an opera by Alban Berg, on this past Saturday matinee performance. Soprano Marlis Petersen has championed the role of Lulu for the past eighteen years in ten different productions around the operatic world. I hardly know what to say. In one attendance, the visual, musical, dramatic, power was too much to absorb. Life in the 1930s in Europe was far too dysfunctional to comprehend in one sitting. All the same, the Met Opera is what it is:  magnificent live opera, available live to thousands of people world-wide in movie theaters with HD equipment. There are six more HD productions this season, presented by the Duluth Cinema. If you love opera, watch for the next feature.

Messiah, in Duluth this season

The DSSO and its Chamber Series is presenting three renditions of excerpts from Messiah, by George Frederic Handel. Tuesday December 01 will be at The Depot, while special performances will be held on December 04 at Christ the King Church in Superior, WI, then again on December 05 at Pilgrim UCC in Duluth. If you enjoy Handel and his choral music, mark your calendars and come enjoy his music.