Music and Drama for Our Non-Spring May in Duluth, MN

Sam Black

An Orthodox View of Sergei Rachmaninoff

I begin this column with an invitation to come listen to unaccompanied choral music composed by S. Rachmaninoff in the early months of 1915, only two years before the Bolshevik Revolution turned the Russian world completely upside down. Though not growing up in a religious atmosphere, Rachmaninoff spent many summers at his Grandmother’s home in Novgorod. She was quite religious, and entertained choral directors and other musicians during the summer months when Sergei was present.
Sergei Rachmaninoff was a complete genius, as pianist and composer. He remembered everything he heard, and he knew how to write down what he wanted to remember. So he composed an All Night Vigil, Op. 37, with fifteen different selections from the Psalms, using melodies that were part of the Orthodox Church of his time. While excerpts of this music were performed in 1916, Rachmaninoff was dead before a complete performance of this music occurred in the early 1960s.
You can hear a complete rendition of these fifteen pieces of choral music this coming Sunday (22 May) beginning at 3pm at First Lutheran Church on Superior St. in the center of Duluth. Our local Arrowhead Chorale will be joined by several dozen Winnipeg singers to make this a memorable performance. Yuri Klaz - Winnipeg choral conductor- knows this music intimately, and will be conducting the double choir. If you want to hear some of the best choral music ever written, join us on Sunday afternoon for a presentation of the All-Night Vigil for the Orthodox Church.

Effervescence from Early Beethoven

On the musical scene, Maestro Dirk Meyer led approximately thirty-six musicians in a sparkling sharing of Beethoven’s Symphony # 2 this past Tuesday evening in the Great Hall of The Depot arts center. While I celebrate the innovations Beethoven brought to the world of orchestral and piano music, he is not high on my listening list. I make exceptions for the Symphonies # 2, 7, and 8, however. Meyer led #2 with brilliance Tuesday evening. Surprisingly, the position of the orchestra highlighted the strings and woodwinds, while the lower instruments were not overbearing in the world of The Depot. Meyer’s energy is quite exciting. The DSSO members responded warmly to Meyer’s choice of tempos. Between the delicious melody of the second movement introduction to spring, and the boisterous last movement with all its energy, this is Beethoven the way he was meant to startle and shake people’s music imagination around enough to prepare for the musical changes that were about to come.

Do You Really Want to be a Writer?

Then again, in the world of serious drama, Theresa Rebeck created a play called Seminar in 2011. Four aspiring writers hire a published writer with an editor’s acerbity and set about improving their individual styles. The results were upending. Renegade Theater Company produced this play powerfully this past few weeks. Zach Stofer was the pompous writer/teacher who attacked with venom at the beginning of the play, but found a soft place for the writing of Martin (Tim Komatsu) and ultimately helped him find his voice for a professional writing image.
In the meantime, Leonard (Stofer) abuses both women writers, and criticizes extremely the work of Douglas(Cory Anderson), creating tensions that never really get resolved. Writing is like that. Mary Fox and Chelsea Campbell are both enticing, and Leonard is attracted to them both, but not because of their writing. This was a riveting performance last Friday, and the potential relationship between Leonard and Martin seemed very positive and rewarding for both of these talented artists. I hope you came to watch these personal developments.