Choices Are The Dilema Of Duluth

Sam Black

I attended artistic events on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday this past few days, and I realize that many of you don’t move at that sort of hyper-speed. I guess I do, because I keep wanting to see what Duluthians are producing. I definitely miss more events than I attend, which is to say I am very mortal, and can only do what I choose to do. I would love to hear from you about events you attended that I chose to skip:  you can always reach me at

Viva Liberace!

Friday night, David Saffert was back at UWS, bringing us the world of Liberace from the 1950s and beyond. Saffert is obviously quite happy being the center of attention, and nowadays, he is engaged in music programs with Bo Ayars, a gifted musician who spent more than a decade in the musical presence of the pianist Liberace himself. With Jillian Snow Harris, (aka Bernadette Peters or Liza Minelli) they offered a brilliant program back home in Superior, WI. Lots of the glitz and personal communication, which was so typical of Liberace, was front and center throughout the show. Talking and singing with audience members kept the evening alive and bubbling.


Confrontation with implications,  photo by Nicole Modeen
Confrontation with implications,  photo by Nicole Modeen

What Goes On in the Hospital World We Never Comprehend?

On Saturday night, I attended It Runs in the Family, a hilarious play by British writer Ray Cooney, on stage at The Duluth Playhouse. I hardly know what to share. This 1992 comedy-farce by Cooney is more than I can understand. Luke Moravec as the primary Dr. Mortimore is precisely on target at every moment. Michael Pederson, as Dr. Bonney is equally hilarious as surgical colleague with a very straight face when necessary. Cheryl Skafte as Nurse Tate, mother of Leslie, tries to keep some logic in the embarrassing situation.
What happens is the general collapse of a series of relationships because of the overlapping relationships they have created. Doctors and nurses have been playing together. Administrators and doctors and nurses have also been enjoying each other in a variety of unclothed situations. All this seems to indicate that the world of medical professionals is quite human, regardless of what you might want to believe. Either side of the Atlantic Ocean is obviously engaging in the same activities.
This was absolute FARCE, with all the lines jumping in on top of each other perfectly. You can only laugh, and wonder at what it means to work in a modern hospital these days. The show runs through October 2 at The Playhouse, but only go if you are capable of laughing for nearly two hours straight.

Music For Strings after 30 Years Together

On the classical side of the weekend was the recital by seven superb musicians at Weber Music Hall on Sunday afternoon. The celebrated occasion was the 30th anniversary of The Highland String Quartet - Steve Highland, Laurie Bastian, Ron Kari, and Betsy Highland Husby. They shared music from their first performances thirty years ago. They were joined by Brian Buckstead, violin, Jean R. Perrault, viola, and Julia Morehouse, cello, to round out the afternoon.
This was a stunning recital. Back in 1989, Duluth composer Bradley Bombardier wrote his 4th String Quartet, which was one of the first pieces the Highland Quartet chose to play. Revisiting this piece was scrumptious. The nostalgia of the first section, and the very lovely second and third movements made a great opening for the afternoon. The funeral cortege finale was brief, stately, and melodic. This was my first hearing of this quartet, and I want to listen again very soon.
Charles Loeffler left the German world and migrated to the USA with a sense of energy and love of folk songs. His quintet was a sparkling tribute to his new acceptance of the American musical sense of openness.
Finally, the transfigured/clarified night (Verklarte Nacht) by Arnold Schonberg, performed thirty years ago as well as today, was luxurious. As Betsy Husby said, this is “a labyrinth of layered Leitmotifs.” With a very sexual poem about woman with child and man deeply in love, this music expresses a complex relationship. From moment to moment new emotions come forth, and each section of the poem is communicated with new musical themes, celebrating the key of D major as home to love and satisfaction. What a powerful performance this was! If you missed it, listen in somewhere, and experience the passion of love and revelation. Thanks to The Highland Quartet and friends for revisiting this gem of music from the very end of the 19th century.