The Arts Go Marching On

Sam Black

This past week was as busy as I predicted, though the next couple of weeks don’t seem to show any indication of letting up. Next thing you know, it will feel like Spring, and the world of Nature will begin blooming as rapidly as the cultural world of Duluth.

Hints of the activity at the Duluth Playhouse

Broadway Bound, the 1986 play by Neil Simon had a good run at the Duluth Playhouse this past two weeks. I attended the production on Saturday, February 27, and came away with a lot of respect for the character portrayals by the principal actors. I particularly enjoyed the way Tim Komatsu (as Eugene) slid back and forth between the role of author/narrator and the role of son/brother. Andy Roemhildt, as brother Stanley, kept the relentless anticipation of writing success front and center. Christine Winkler Johnson, as mother Kate, was tough until the moment she accepted the invitation to dance lovingly with her son Eugene. As the brothers succeeded, and the family fell apart, hilarity and nostalgia took turns as mood of the evening.
If you want music along with your humor, catch the performance of Iolanthe, or the Peer and the Peri. This Gilbert & Sullivan mockery of the English parliamentary world of 1882 will have four performances only, March 3 - 6 at The Underground, a lively part of the Duluth Playhouse scene. Local singer/actor Jeffrey Madison will be directing and sharing in this delightful piece of rapid-paced entertainment.

Choral music continues to flourish in the Twin Ports

On Friday evening, February 26, the 25 singers in the Twin Ports Choral Project, directed by Bret Amundson, shared a rich musical program titled Spirit, Moving Over Chaos. Choral music from the seventeenth to the twenty-first century was sung from the stage of Mitchell Auditorium at CSS. Many of these pieces represented musical attempts to bring peace and compassion to scenes of tragedy. Consequently, there was an abundance of absolutely beautiful singing. A poem by Wendell Berry, The Dark Around us, Come, was set exquisitely by Giselle Wyers. All the voices created harmonies that slid back and forth across each other, imagining that all creation on planet earth had united in a single household. Composer Alberto Grau tried to share his thoughts about saving planet earth with a rhythmic, hand-clapping anthem with a repeating text: Kasar mie la gaji – The earth is tired. Mark Saturday evening, April 23, for Cantus Vernus at First Lutheran Church.

Chamber music delivered with passion

On that same Friday, clarinetist Theodore Schoen brought four of his UMD colleagues/friends to the Weber Music Hall stage for a performance of very intense chamber selections. The Suite No. 2 for Clarinet, Bassoon and Piano by Alec Wilder was unique in featuring clarinet/piano only in the lovely second movement, then bassoon/piano in the rolling waves of a fourth movement. All three instruments shared the other sections. The main course for the evening was the three movement Quartet for Clarinet, Violin, Cello and Piano, by Paul Hindemith. This rarely performed quartet has a first movement with all four instruments sharing similar themes, but rarely at the same time. A slow movement follows, which had some very beautiful melodies, while other instruments offered quick musical themes as decoration. The finale was an emotional surge from beginning to end. I happen to be a devoted Hindemith fan, so hearing this quartet live was a real treat.

Matinee Musicale hosted Karl and Liesl Doty, double-bass and violin, along with pianist Jeanne Doty on some selections. While the program began with a 19th century piece in a solid Romantic tradition, most of the evening was of a hybrid variety. The two string players offered three movements from an extended duet by American double-bassist Edgar Meyer. As expected, this music is fascinating, ranging from Bach to bluegrass without a blink of an eye. They brought Jeanne back on stage to share all Four Seasons in Buenos Aires, a set of tangos by Astor Piazzolla. This exuberant music offered moods for everyone in the room. They closed with several fiddle tunes that made the audience definitely want more.

Upcoming spectacular musical opportunities

This coming Saturday features Puccini’s tragic opera, Manon Lescaut as the Matinee HD production from the Metropolitan Opera, starting at noon at the Duluth 10 Theaters. Saturday evening, the DSSO will feature an excursion through Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle of operas, only without words. The Norse story will be shared, and musical highlights will provide the drama from the stage of Symphony Hall. Next Tuesday, a variety of wind instruments will provide a Chamber Concert by DSSO players, taking place in The Duluth Depot. As always, there is more going on in Duluth than can be shared in one column. Enjoy!