Musicians from the Minnesota Orchestra & Minnesota Opera will perform a benefit concert for Safe Hands Animal Rescue on Sunday, April 17th

The Minnesota Orchestra and Minnesota Opera will perform a benefit concert for Safe Hands Animal Rescue on Sunday, April 17th at 3 pm at the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Minneapolis, MN. These talented musicians are making beautiful music to help raise funds to rescue homeless dogs.

Safe & Sound: A Concert to Benefit Rescue Dogs

  • When:  Sunday April 17th, 2016
  • Music: 3-5 pm   Social Hour:  5-6 pm
  • Where:  The Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd
  • 4801 France Ave. S, Minneapolis 55410
  • Suggested Donation:  $25 at the door or pre-purchase

Research shows two things can help people get through tough times, bring joy, reduce pain and stress, boost immunity, lower blood pressure and speed healing after injury: music and companion animals. It is only fitting to celebrate and help animals who raise our spirits through music that stirs the soul.

The concert is the brainchild of violinist Jennifer Strom. Jennifer adopted her dog Moxie from Safe Hands Rescue in 2007 and began volunteering with the organization. Since then eight orchestra members have adopted dogs from and seven have fostered dogs with Safe Hands Rescue.

Collectively these accomplished musicians hail from four countries and twelve states. They have performed in all 50 states and around the world in venues from Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center to the Auditorium du Louvre in Paris and locales from Europe to Australia and Asia (including Siberia!). They have trained at critically acclaimed institutions including the Moscow Conservatory, Juilliard and Oberlin and are featured on Grammy-winning recordings.
100% of proceeds benefit Safe Hands Animal Rescue, a 501c3 organization dedicated to rescuing and rehoming dogs who otherwise have little hope. Their mission is to see a day where all companion animals are loved, respected and have a place to call home. To date Safe Hands Rescue has placed more than 4000 dogs in loving homes.

One night only – Weill and Brecht – A Twenty First Century Celebration

brechtI love a show that teaches you something surprising. Last week I learned that the line “show me the way to the next whiskey bar” from The Door’s Alabama Song is actually taken from the lyrics of a song written by Bertolt Brecht and composed by Kurt Weill.

That’s what I learned at the Weill-Brecht Smorgasbord performed March 21 at the Southern Theater. Sadly, it was a one-night only event. Happily it was well attended and deservedly so. Presented by University of Minnesota Theatre, Music and German Studies departments, it was a vaudeville approach to showcasing some of the lesser works of Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht. Weill is a composer – perhaps best known for Mack the Knife. Brecht is a playwright known for absurdist show such as the Good Woman of Szechwan and Chalk Circle.

The next whiskey bar line comes from the Mahagonny Songspiel, which was performed by the University of Minnesota Opera Theatre. It was song and played in turn. It’s a dark and silly opera – as only Brecht can be. It was a rare treat to hear such an intimate performance. And the operetta was only one fifth of the show.

The show began with the audience on stage – a move that will always scare me to pieces. But really we were just led to our seats through poetry. Very immersive but painless and interesting to hear the different renditions of the same lines from Brecht’s City Dwellers as given by Live Action Set. Funny to hear how friendly, sarcastic and menacing one line of welcome can be. Maybe picture your mom, dad and grandma all inviting your weird uncle to stay as long as he wants; the intention is all in the inflection.

Theatre Novi Most did a bleak rendition of The Downfall of an Egoist. Bleak referring to the social commentary, not the acting. They did a great job with sparse props which clearly center the action on a battlefield but leave enough to the imagination to make an easy metaphorical transfer to more every day locations. There’s a gruesome solidarity building as they play a Russian Roulette of sorts – and realize there will be no winners.

At the opposite end of absurdism, the Four Humors Theatre performed a very immersive version of The Elephant Calf. I am relieved to report that I was a seat away from one of the two unsuspecting audience members brought up on stage. (And I owe my less lucky friend a beer for taking one for the shier side of the team.) The story and the performance is reminiscent of the Rude Mechanicals show in Midsummer Night’s Dream – funny, bawdy, a little uncomfortable and meaningful. Props to the performers dressed in sheer white, jumpsuits with plenty of give. I will find a way to see the Four Humors again.

Finally the Nautilus Music-Theater sang water songs – show tunes about the Mississippi. An absurd ending to an absurd show – but just the right size and taste for the grand finale.

Synthesis by Aza Erdrich at All My Relations Gallery: About a happy time

Aza Erdrich said something I almost never hear from an artist – Synthesis, her latest collection showing at All My Relations gallery, represents one of the happiest times of her life. Hmm – a lesson, beautiful art can come from happiness and contentment. The joy shines through in color selection. But that doesn’t mean the work is flat of one dimensional. The work tracks an exploration of self.

All My Relations describes the show,

” In her premier solo exhibition Erdrich shares works that pull from her life as a young woman of mixed Native and non-Native ancestry growing up in Minneapolis. She draws influence from Annishinaabe artistic traditions and personal experience to create uniquely coded works of self and familial narrative.”

The work is a synthesis of how she sees the different cultures come together in her life. You can see the strong heavy lines of the predominant culture and the patterns prevalent in the Native tradition – in her painting but also in beading work.12443647_10154085343698417_1869160750_o

There are works that look like puzzles, an apt theme for a young woman, especially one with a foot in multiple cultures. There’s a geometry that’s playful but studied. There are self-portraits as well. An extraordinary elevation of today’s selfie. That is not to diminish the work. I have three young daughters – and selfies are a part of their world in a way that I don’t understand.

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Finally is a work that’s different from the rest; it appears to be an image of a woman admits the four elements – perhaps dancing, perhaps leading the element, perhaps being led. The movement in refined detail, the color, the mythology are striking.12874466_10154085341763417_2046203283_o

Vicky Emerson at Aster Café – Americana and country and polka – oh my!

Creepy polkas, country, Americana – what more could a person want in a night of music in a gorgeous setting? Vicky Emerson nailed them all on Saturday night at the Aster Café. Accompanying her was an upright bass, guitarist, percussionist and sometimes backup vocals.

Her music reminds me of the Cowboy Junkies; her voice is very controlled and the music dances around it. On Runaway Train her voice is throaty which lends a warmth to the gentle song. Contrast that with Silhouette, where her voice is sweeter, higher and the music has almost Irish brogue to it. Not her voice, but there’s a lilt in the music. Silhouette also has some of the best use of cymbals I’ve heard in a while.

Long Gone was introduced as a creepy polka – well when played on the piano. But played with guitars, and upright bass and percussion – not creepy at all. I was almost disappointed – except that I enjoyed the song. Maybe there will be a creepy polka night and I can hear in on piano.

The show ended with the most danceable song – Under my Skin. It’s s toe-tapper that is almost immediately familiar. It has just the right ingredients to be a song to propel Emerson to the next level!

Rock the Cradle opens the door to The State of the Art

Looking at a Spring Break Staycation? Maybe the State of the Art will cushion the blow – now showing at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

Earlier this month, my favorite 11 year old and I got a chance to check out the State of the Art as part of the Rock the Cradle event at Mia. Rock the Cradle is an annual event hosted by The Current and Mia. It’s a fun look at music and art. It includes a kid’s disco, chances to play instruments, do art projects and meet some radio personalities. It’s a fun event for younger kids but for us the big coup was being able to visit The State of the Art exhibit without a charge.

The State of the Art was curated by Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. They traveled around the US to find ” artists whose work has not yet been fully recognized on a national level.” After tours and conversations with the artist they ended up with more than 100 artists in the collection. It sounds like a dream assignment to me – they traveled 100,000 miles in the process. One while it’s not exactly the same as getting on a train around the country, the exhibit it a fun taste of what contemporary artists are doing in different parts of the country today.

Chris Larson and Andy DuCett were the tastes of Minnesota. We missed DuCett’s Mom Booth, a kiosk-like kitchen with actual moms offering wisdom or at least answering questions. We loved DuCett’s installation at the Soap Factory a few years ago. We did catch Larson’s video. My 11 year old can watch him cut circles into floors for hours and has recently watched it at the Walker. But it was great to see some Minnesota connections.

soa Ghost of a Dream by Adam Eckstrom and Lauren Was
Ghost of a Dream by Adam Eckstrom and Lauren Was is a large collage of scratch off tickets. It’s gorgeous and draws you in magnetically in a scary way when you get close enough to realize the art is made from lottery tickets. You have to think about the number of people who are drawn in every day to buy tickets. But there’s a beauty in that sense of being drawn in too.

soa rainbow narcotics
Rainbow Narcotics is a video that was a big hit with all of the kids. There were a trio of young boys whooping it up while they watched the absurd transformations; their grown up person (dad?) was almost embarrassed except who doesn’t love kids loving art. My daughter was drawn in too with the surreal travel of a man, or a dog or a… I think video is a great way to reach the next generation of art lovers and patrons.

soa pigeon
My favorite was the yarn bomb birds by Laura Roth Hope. The tiny pigeon mannequins in crocheted suit of armor appealed to my sense of the absurd and the funny hipster connection between people and nature and art. I love a good yarn bombing as much as the next person but you do have to wonder about the impact on nature. They’re funny but thoughtful and very well done!

Guerrilla Girls Takeover: 30 years of unabashed feminist scrutiny deserves a thanks

guerilla girlsThe last time I saw my Grandma Treacy she asked me (from her hospital bed) about an essay I had just written about “women writers” for a class at St Kate’s. She was annoyed because I didn’t see why we had to differentiate between men and women writers. “It’s like writing about yellow chairs!” I insisted. In my defense I was 18. My grandma obviously knew better.

At about just that time I was insisting there was no need for feminism, the Guerrilla Girls were curating their first all women show. So they didn’t start at the beginning of the feminist movement nor did they start at the end, for better or for worse they are part of an ongoing effort that is taking generations!

The Guerrilla Girls are a group of women who wear gorilla masks, take on the names of dead women artists and perform (usually) unsolicited Public Service Announcements around in the world highlighting the sexism and racism in art and other sectors. PSAs take the form of posters, billboards, talks and takeovers. They have been in the Twin Cities for about a month raising awareness.

They landed on January 21 with events at The Walker, MIA and Minneapolis College of Art and Design. There is an exhibit at The Walker. At MIA they audited the collection – all 900,000 items to some embarrassing results and have used that data in their local exhibitions. (Fair play to MIA for participating!) MCAD hosted a show called and had GRRRL Party in to perform. A week ago they hosted a presentation and Q & A at the State Theatre; I brought my 11 year old, which helped frame for me the generational nature of the effort.

It started with a few songs by Chastity Brown. We love her; she was great. The presentation was informative – my preteen was enthralled and incensed at the discrepancy between men and women. For example, of the top 100 works of art sold in the last year, how many were done by women? None. The Guerrilla Girls call out art as the fourth largest black market. Private art buyers sit on board of public art galleries, helping to set the prices based on future exhibitions and proposed purchases. They are in a position to stack the deck – and they are stacking it male.

The Guerrilla Girls use humor to get into the brain of offenders and those who stand by and watch. “Only by getting into their brain can you change their mind” they said. It was all interesting but the most interesting part of the night came from a questioner.

After the presentation attendees were invited to ask questions – one young African American woman asked about diversity among the Guerilla Girls. Her point being that Guerrilla Girls weren’t doing enough to embrace, encourage or represent minorities. I think her points were valid – but I also think she knew what she wanted to say before the presentation and she didn’t hear the part about getting into someone’s brain to change their mind. She was antagonistic. Their answer was unsatisfactory; really they seemed unprepared for the question. It was an awkward standoff of women who should be on the same page.

My 11 year old also asked a question too, “How can I bring the Guerrilla Girl message to the sixth grade.” They told her that she need to make the message her own. She should talk to her classmates about what spoke to them and use that.

That is the answer they should have given to the other questioner. The Guerrilla Girls have been building a platform for 30 years. They should have invited the questioner into the group or at least made her privy to the platform and she should have said yes (to group or platform). They sort of did – but not as boldly as they should have.

Things have changed in 30 years because of efforts from groups like the Guerrilla Girls and to effect further change the group needs to embrace, encourage and represent new agents to spearhead change, but in return  the new change agents need to appreciate and choose at least some lessons to learn from those who have built the road before them.

Societal change will continue to be generational! We need to take on new challenges but we can never let our guard down on past success.

Jack Garratt at the Weisman: Silver lining of Technical difficulties

12822911_10154031351983417_1271321284_oA lucky thing happened this week. I won tickets to The Current’s micro show, featuring Jack Garratt at the Weisman Art Museum. Garratt is a young, British musician who plays at least four instruments – often simultaneously. Normally his music is a mashup of bluesy electronica. He plays keyboards and he’s not afraid to loop. He uses prerecorded music – drums mostly – that he plays with a drum stick. He plays a rocking bluesy guitar. And he sings.

12810218_10154031462073417_1474979712_oHe played just a few songs at the Wiseman – including a unique Minnesotan song – Surprise Yourself. He shared that it was written for a friend from Lakeview, Minnesota who was visiting Chicago and got on the wrong train. He wanted to write her something to come home to, which is a very sweet sentiment. It’s fun to watch him effortlessly juggle the multiple instruments and dive into deeply passionate vocals. I think the girl in front me actually died and went to heaven watching him. All was well until …

There was a lucky accident that happened during his show. Much of his equipment quit working. Garratt was left to wing it with just a guitar. A formidable duo! And while the set list was forgotten, Garratt persevered on fumes and enthusiasm with half the “band” on strike due to technical difficulties.

He improvised with a blues song he had written for his dad. “No words. No melody.” It was fantastic and it felt like a bonus secret side to his music. Much bluesier, much grittier and rawer – which is saying a lot because Garratt starts out at about a nine and finished at an eleven with his second hardcore blues impromptu number.

You’d never wish a stage disaster on someone. He only played for 30 minutes; I’m sure that was shorter than planned but truth is everyone at the show won tickets to it. Garratt was quick to rise to the occasion. He told a ringtone joke and absolutely rocked the art gallery.

Molly Dean CD release – The Natural Minor

Thursday night  Molly Dean’s played her new CD, The Natural Minor – live at the Icehouse. She was surrounded by an array of well-known Minnesota musicians and while each made the show better, Dean took center stage. Her guitar playing adds has an undercurrent of Americana while her voice moves pleasantly up and down with her songs.

Fire Burned Bright is slower paced song for Dean. The cello (Dan Zamzow) and violin (Shannon Frid-Rubin) give a classic feel while percussion (Paul Jennings) keeps a tempo that brings the music back to the ground, where the audience is. Dean’s voice is as sweet as the story of the song and she’s not afraid of a pregnant pause, which gives a nice offbeat to several of her songs, Fire Burned Bright and others. in contrast, a song like Autumn Sky is toe tapping with a nice guitar rift (Erik Koskinen).

Conversations is the song that I was singing the day after the show. It might be a girls’ song but it’s catchy and shows the earthier side of Dean’s voice from deep, to high, to rasp. Storyteller is an interesting lyrical recap of all of the songs – but it also is like a sampler of the musical tastes found in the rest of the songs. It’s a rich blend of very distinct sounds – often happening at once but each sounds is clear and distinct and fits.

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