Celebrating the end of 2015 with the DSSO

Sam Black

For the past fifteen years or so I have spent New Year’s Eve as part of the audience at the DECC, with the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra performing on stage. For the most part, the DSSO chooses to drop back into the middle of the twentieth-century to celebrate the relentless manner in which the clock moves us all forward into new years, decades, and centuries. I’m not sure I understand the principle at work here, but I’m capable of enjoying the music.

Another aspect of these concerts amuses me year after year. I’ve written this before, but never for The Reader:  how do 2,000 people so obediently sit still in their auditorium seats, while the orchestra overflows with two hours of totally danceable music? That’s a mystery to me, but the numbers are real - for the first time since November, 2014, (Bizet’s Carmen) the DSSO experienced a sell-out experience at the box office. I am always pleased when Duluth events are filled to the max.

A man with the recognizable name of Frank Sinatra was born in New Jersey in 1915. He would have been 100 years old on December 12, except he died back in May of 1998. Along comes singer/band-leader Michael Andrew (born in the middle year of 1965) to share tuneful memories of Sinatra, Bobby Darin, and Dean Martin, bringing 2015 to a close in Duluth, Minnesota.

Music Director Dirk Meyer and Andrew work very well together. They have performed in Orlando, and they are quite comfortable with each other’s musical energies. Andrew is a magnetic performer, for sure. His voice in neither Sinatra, Martin or Darrin, but quite pleasing with all the styles he shared. I was most amazed at his vocal energy and clarity at the close of this very demanding performance. He seemed as fresh as he was at the onset.


For me, As Time Goes By, Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime, I’ve Got You Under My Skin, The Summer Wind, One for My Baby (And One More for the Road) were the highlights of a rich evening. Andrew has lots of emotional variety in his voice, from tender to downright aggressive, and he shared the whole perspective. When pianist Alex Sandor had solo passages, the stage felt like an exclusive bar, with the soft keys blending with easy drinks and a rich baritone crooning people into his arms.

Long ago(!) in a galaxy far away . . .

I also ended 2015 by re-watching A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and The Return of the Jedi. You might recognize the titles from the world of Star Wars. My purpose was to prepare for The Force Awakens, which I attended on the first Saturday of 2016, right here in the middle of Duluth, USA.

I am an intrigued novice, for sure, but I like the emotional content of all these movies. As an aside comment, I personally always read the last chapter of a book first, so I know what to pay attention to as I read the story!

I was thoroughly hypnotized by the new film. It comes as no surprise to me that the deliberate evil perpetrated by The First Order is totally male driven, for example. One pleasing surprise, however, is that General(!) Leia now finds hope in the young woman, Rey, who clearly has The (Good) Force deeply embedded in her body chemistry. As Duluth, MN, inaugurates its first female Mayor, Emily Larson, the next generation of Jedi leadership in The Force will be female driven.  Amen, so be it!

Lovely art in the the dining room

Lastly, I dined at The Scenic Cafe this past weekend, and was happy to enjoy the displayed artwork of about three significant Duluth visual artists. I happened to be sitting in the midst of a very blue collection of watery oil paintings by painter Holly Fearn. The waves, the flowers, the fields, were all very pleasing to study while I enjoyed my wine and my dinner. I am really pleased by restaurants that celebrate local artists. Head out for a great meal, watch Lake Superior, and delight in very creative artists just a few minutes east of the edge of Duluth.

Happy 2016 to all who embrace us with weekly copies of The Reader.