The Feast That Followed the Famine

Sam Black

Strikepoint in Concert, July 2017. Photo credit: Sam Black
Strikepoint in Concert, July 2017. Photo credit: Sam Black

Two weeks ago I wrote about many things getting ready to pop, culturally speaking, here in Duluth. Last week I visited Chicago and Madison with two quite unique opportunities for those locals. This past week a spate of art flew all over the scene, all within five miles of my residence. Welcome to Duluth!

Short Story Writers in Motion

Tuesday night I made my first (but not last) visit to the Zenith Bookstore, newly opened on Central Ave. Three local writers - Phil Fitzpatrick, Maxwell Reagan, and Judy Budreau - shared excerpts from their respective, Lake Superior-based short stories in the new collection, Going Coastal, published in May by the Lake Superior Writers organization. Surrounded by shelves and shelves of books, Fitzpatrick read about Cisco’s retirement and homecoming to Grand Portage, Reagan read about  a frigid Lake Superior shipwreck, and Budreau read about a tragic, yet timely, automobile accident involving an ailing grandmother. Beaner’s provided chocolate-chocolate cupcakes, and the air was filled with the richness of words.

Lake Superior Chamber Orchestra Premiere

Thursday night was the second Lake Superior Chamber Orchestra concert of this season, at Weber Music Hall on the UMD campus. This turned out to be an exceptional concert, including Copland’s Appalachian Spring, preludes by Ralph Vaughan Williams, and several Steps to Ecstasy by M.Mozetich. Two very special moments: Wenn Bach Bienen Gezüchtet Hätte (If Bach Had Been A Beekeeper) and It Rained on Shakopee.

A poem by Charles Tomlinson suggested ‘food for the listening generations,/ key to their comfort/and solace of their distress.’ Composer Arvo Pärt wrote a musical poem with Bach tunes and lots of buzzing bees. 
Finally, composer Wang Jie got involved in a project at the Women’s Correctional Institution in Shakopee, and produced a short opera, based on a libretto by Zhu Yi. Local singers Vicki Fingalson and Jeff Madison shared the story of a woman whose daughter did not visit her on Mother’s Day this year. LSCO commissioned this work, so this was a world premiere. This creative, current approach to music is what drives Warren Friesen and the LSCO. There were no dry eyes, and the music left a lot of emotion in the air, waiting for the next Mother’s Day, perhaps.

Billy Elliot triumphs

Friday night featured Billy Elliot at the Duluth Playhouse. Tanner Hagen was the young Billy, son of a coal miner(Jason Skorich) who chose ballet over boxing and won over his father and his friends with his talents and ambition. Music Director Andy Kust led a dynamic pit band and the cast through an aggressive score. Kelly Grussendorf directed the staging of this Tony award winning musical. Lots of dancing, lots of male singing, and a beautiful excerpt from Swan Lake by Tanner and Brayden Guentzel (projecting Billy some ten years out). You can still catch this show, if you’re lucky, through July 30.

Reader Turns 20

Onward to Saturday afternoon and the Readerfest, celebrating 20 years of The Reader Duluth at Bayfront Festival Park. I listened to the Superior Sirens, watched youngsters climb the rock wall, and enjoyed the lake and the lovely sunny afternoon. A happy crowd of people wandered around the vendors and entertainment for all, celebrating the twentieth anniversary of this weekly newspaper/magazine in Duluth, MN.

Ali Finstrom and Adam Sippola: Love Is an Open Door (Frozen)
Ali Finstrom and Adam Sippola: Love Is an Open Door (Frozen)

Music for a delightful Cabaret evening

After a break, I headed for the Zeitgeist atrium to catch the current Zenith City Cabaret, organized by Adam Sippola and friends. About fourteen singers were supported by pianists David Packa and Paul Christenson in a variety of seventeen songs from musicals all over the past forty years.  Ali Finstrom was stimulating as she sang Will He Like Me (She Loves Me), then joined Adam for Love Is an Open Door (Frozen). Jennifer Robbins sang songs from Candide and The Secret Garden to highlight slightly more serious musicals. The variety of the Cabaret is always a great surprise.

Strikepoint Home Concert after the Tour

         Returning from Colorado and Nebraska, the Strikepoint handbell ensemble offered their annual return concert at the First United Methodist Church on Sunday evening. These are always spectacular visual and musical performances with eleven performers and about 150 different sizes of bells, chimes, and percussion to excite the audience. Everything from Floyd Cramer (Last Date) to J.P. Sousa (El Capitan) kept the audience smiling and well entertained. 

What a great week in Duluth, at the top of the map. I hope you stayed as entertained as I did this past week.