Surviving a Busy Weekend with Music and Poetry

Sam Black

Rachel Inselman, Elias Mokole, Tim Broscious with L’Histoire du Soldat. Photo credit: Sam Black
Rachel Inselman, Elias Mokole, Tim Broscious with L’Histoire du Soldat. Photo credit: Sam Black

I wrote last week about the congested arts weekend that was right in front of us. I did not participate in the Art for Earth Day Gallery Hop this year, but I hope many of you did. I spent my week attending musical events and one book release delight. All in all, I attended eight separate events between Tuesday evening and the closing of Sunday night.

Matinee Musicale had brought the young Eric Lu, a Bostonian classical pianist, to Duluth for a recital. In the past couple of years he has won several national and international piano competitions, and he turned 19 this past December. His power and sensitivity with the Piano Sonata No. 7 by S. Prokofiev was the highlight of the evening. This challenging sonata from the early years of World War II showed how clearly this young man can communicate with extremely complicated music.

The F minor Ballade by F. Chopin was certainly intense, while his sharing of all 24 of the Preludes was a fabulous treat. To watch him play these 24 contrasting moods, keys, and wide range of technical surprises was like a very multi-faceted dessert. After the storm of Chopin, he offered a very modest, reflective Bach piece, highlighting his own skills at articulating delicate melodies while a variety of overlapping activities are occurring.

Crystal Spring Gibbins reads from Now Here, her first collection of poetry. Photo credit: Sam Black
Crystal Spring Gibbins reads from Now Here, her first collection of poetry. Photo credit: Sam Black

Two very different approaches to poetry

Sunday afternoon Jim Perlman, owner/publisher of Holy Cow! Press, offered two newly published collections of poetry. Local professor and poet, Gary Boelhower read from Rites, and Washburn poet Crystal Spring Gibbins shared from her first collection, Now Here. Boelhower has an intense manner of sharing his deep reflections on the ironies of life. On the other hand, Gibbens, born on Lake of the Woods, shared a variety of transparent reflections on the natural world around her. Her sense of being in the present tense as much as possible was quite refreshing. Both of these collections are available in local bookstores.

J.S. Bach in all his richness and variety

Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, Director Stanley Wold chose to wind down his long choral career at UMD with a performance of the Mass in B Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach. A collection of UMD choristers and a UMD based orchestra joined the two dozen members of the Arrowhead Chorale for this major presentation. Bach divided the various sections of the Latin Mass into smaller pieces, to catch the significance of the texts with a wide range of musical styles. From the explosive setting of the Gloria, to the very reflective moments of the Credo, we were treated to about thirty years of Bach’s compositional styles. After a massive setting of Sanctus and Hosanna, mezzo-soprano Katheryn Hamm settled everyone back down with the emotional Agnus Dei that brings the work to a close.

A Soldier’s Tale (of irony and puzzlement)

Barely two hours after the Bach music ended, Weber Music Hall leapt to 1918 and an enigmatic story about a soldier and his curious adventures on the way home from war. In L’Histoire du Soldat, he is seduced by a wizard/witch to trade his violin for a magical book, and he becomes quite successful, but is not happy. He finally divests himself of his riches, marries, but succumbs to the power of the wizard again when he attempts to return to his home village. Igor Stravinsky wrote the music, based on an ironic sort of fairy tale by C. F. Ramuz. UMD faculty Elias Mokole was the soldier, Rachel Inselman was the wizard/witch/devil, and Tim Broscious was the narrating story-teller. 

Mark Whitlock led a collection of UMD faculty wind and percussion players, with guest Peter Povey with an enchanted violin. This is one of the most hypnotizing compositions of the early 20th century, and rarely performed live. We were treated to a spectacular show, with Inselman slyly keeping Mokole under control with her seductive voice and offerings. She wins, ultimately, and the crispy, articulate music offers a clear, almost classical flavor, in contrast to the dense music of the German composers at the time. What a treat to have this live in Duluth this spring!