Winter Does Not Diminish The Artistic Variety In Duluth

Sam Black

Erin Aldridge and Betsy Husby surrounded by art and audience. Photo credit: Patty Mester
Erin Aldridge and Betsy Husby surrounded by art and audience. Photo credit: Patty Mester

I did not specifically wander through an art gallery this past weekend, but I did include the Duluth Art Institute in my journey. Otherwise, this was a thoroughly delightful weekend, enjoying the arts within a five mile radius from my house. I enjoyed the enthusiasm of young musicians at the Denfeld Fine Arts Night, I watched The Complete Works of William Shakespeare at UMD, I listened to poets and musicians at the Depot provide chamber entertainment at high quality, and I watched a 2015 performance of Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet, sharing the drama of Swan Lake. The rest of my weekend took place around the arts activities.

Denfeld Fine Arts

I am not in my mid to late teens, but I remember when I was, and what I was enjoying in the early 1960s. Listening to today’s high school students share music (and drama) is exhilarating to my human spirit. At least eight Denfeld faculty members brought visual art, music, and drama to the public last Thursday. I listened to all the music: orchestra, band, chorus, and I wandered through the art on display. Putnam City High School did not do this in 1963; I was there!

Orchestra students shared about seven pieces, while band members shared at least five selections. The choir sang five selections, hoping that dreams of all people might indeed be realized in this lifetime. The auditorium lobby was filled with visual art work, and the drama students were going to revisit the Laramie Project later in the evening. I continue to feel that the ARTS in the public schools should be the central focus of the high school experience.

Shakespeare and UMD

I have seen productions of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) several times in my life. These three students, along with lighting and sound technicians, spent too much time localizing some of the script, and much of the Shakespeare part of the evening was missing. So it goes. The three actors enjoyed the evening, for sure, and a lot of humor was spread around the Marshall Performing Arts Center. This play is better when taken more seriously.

DSSO  Chamber Music Series

This spring (!) the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra has programmed two sessions of chamber music. This first one featured seven musicians and three Duluth poets, sharing thoughts about winter. The musicians explained their own stories, and we heard two American Indian themes sketched by the composer Charles Griffes, played by the four members of the Highland String Quartet - Steve Highland, Laurie Bastian, Ron Kari, and Betsy Highland Husby. Haunting and compelling music for sure, and the first was an actual Ojibwe tune celebrating the power of brave warriors heading off toward the unknown enemy.

Tim Broscious and Gene Koshinski told us that certain African musicians explain vocal syllables and sounds by similar drum patterns on instruments pitched high and low. Then they shared Piru Bole, a musical piece that they vocalized as well as fingered, strummed, stomped, shook, and rattled. This piece was over much too soon, frankly.

Ellie Schoenfeld, Deborah Cooper, and Barton Sutter, three of our Duluth poet laureates, shared thoughts about winter and life in the northland around the music. The combination of the nostalgia in Cooper’s poetry, the humor in Schoenfeld’s, and the stark glimpse of reality in Sutter’s verse, added lots of thoughts into the art-filled afternoon. The variety of art on display at the Depot made for great viewing and conversation once the concert had finished.

The duet Sonata by Maurice Ravel was the highlight of the afternoon. Betsy Husby and Erin Aldridge shared this dramatic duo, written by Ravel to honor the recent death of composer Claude Debussy. The three energetic movements were balanced by an exquisitely subdued slow (Lento) movement which melted all the snow of the afternoon.

With a burst of Spanish energy and courage, the quartet completed the afternoon with the Toreador’s Prayer, by Joaquin Turina.

Swan Lake with Young Russian Talent

I couldn’t leave the weekend without attending the presentation of Peter Tchaikovsky’s early ballet, Swan Lake, broadcast at the Duluth 10 Cinemas. This 2015 production featured young and beautiful dancers, sharing the tragic and conflicted story of the white and black sides of an artistic man’s personality. To join the swan he loves, he chooses to die and join her. Rich music, incredible dancing, all available in the center of Duluth, Minnesota.