This week the hounds track down a weekend iron pour in Lanesboro, an installation piece at the Walker that defends artistic freedom, and a throwback sci-fi film made in the Twin Cities about moon zombies....ATTACKING!
Twin Cities artist Mike Tincher wants you to grab a chair from home and bring it to the Walker Art Center's Sculpture Garden on Tuesday, July 12, to take part in the installation piece, "1,001 Chairs." The chairs represent artists around the world whose voices have been silenced. It's an homage to a work by Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei, who in April was detained by the government and recently was released.
Adrienne Sweeney, artist administrator at the Commonweal Theatre, says it gets really hot this time of year in Lanesboro...molten hot. That's because a bunch of metalsmiths from around the country (led by Art Hound Karl Unnasch) will be conducting an iron pour in Sylvan Park. Unnasch will be giving an artist talk on Thursday, June 7 and the iron pour itself is on Saturday, June 9. There will also be public workshops on how to craft ironworks. The event is sponsored by the Lanesboro Art Center.
If you're charmed by the over-the-top melodrama, cornball comedy, and cheesy special effects of the '50s-era sci-fi movie ouevre, big band drummer Kerry Johnson predicts you will love "Attack of the Moon Zombies." It's another in a series of locally produced horror/sci-fi movies from Twin Cities writer/director Christopher Mihm. "Attack of the Moon Zombies" will be screened July 14 at the New Hope Cinema Grill in New Hope, but Kerry wanted to give you advance notice because when the film premiered in May, it sold out.
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One of the decorated pianos on St. Paul streets this summer
MPR Photo/Euan Kerr
Once in a while a story comes along that reminds you why you got into radio in the first place.
...A man slowly makes his way across the nearby Barnes & Noble parking lot. He sits down on the piano bench and stares out at the stores across the street. William Manuel stops by this corner often. When Manuel saw the piano for the first time, he felt a rush of memories.
"It brung me back to sitting in my mother's living room, and looking at her piano and playing it," he said. "It just made my mind just roam."
"It made me just think about what I'm going to be going through today, and kind of eased my fears," Manuel continued. "To see a piano sitting on the corner, letting me know that the area is not so wicked, so bad, you know what I'm saying?
"It made me want to close my eyes and make a wish, you know?"
Manuel is an unemployed furniture upholsterer, originally from Indiana. He's lived in St. Paul for 13 years. He says his days are like pulling a lawn mower cord; they go up and down. Today, Manuel stopped by the Barnes & Noble Starbucks for a glass of milk. He fiddles with a crumpled styrofoam cup and rubs his eyes, then puts his hands on the keys and starts to pick out some notes he says describe his day so far.
For Manuel, stopping by the piano is like going to church. He says it puts sympathy in him, gives him hope, and makes him feel like people care. It triggers a lot of pent up emotions.
You can listen to the whole story, and hear a series of people play the piano, by clicking on the link below:(2 Comments)
Posted at 2:29 PM on July 7, 2011
by David Cazares
Filed under: Music
The enduring brilliance of Cuba's elite jazz musicians lies not just in their ability to fuse jazz with the island's multiple rhythms. It's their ability to lure dancers to the floor that keeps the music fresh and relevant - and a participatory experience for concert-goers.
Valles blends the sophistication of jazz with the popularity and streetwise flavor of the island's Afro-Cuban dance music -- traditional son and folkloric rumba, mambo, modern salsa and timba, the island's fiery contemporary dance music.
As with a number of modern Cuban ensembles, what's intriguing about Valle's 13-member band is the way it overwhelms an audience in so many ways. With a powerful rhythm section of drums, timbales and congas and roaring horns, it captivated the audience continuously during a nearly two-hour set, in varied tempos and moods.
That wasn't surprising, given Valle's strong musical formation. The bandleader, who began playing flute at 10, was a member of Irakere, the Grammy-winning group led by pianist Jesus "Chucho" Valdes. For more than 15 year's he's led his own bands with both listeners and dancers in mind.
The bandleader doesn't play maracas, but flute. He gets his nickname from the appearance his huge Afro gave him as a teenager. These days, the virtuoso performer keeps his hair short. But he still has an incredibly quick sense of hearing and the ability to deliver a flood of melodies, as he did through 10 rhythmic and melodic tunes that fused jazz sensibilities with Cuban sabor, or flavor.
The band opened the show with Obatala Ayacuna, a Latin jazz composition that shows how Valle has been able to expand the range of the Cuban flute within complicated musical forms. Santeria-inspired vocals led to solos on flute and tenor sax, followed by a flurry on timbales and a vocalist's call that dancers take the floor.
On the up-tempo Castigala, the band had the crowd singing: "Ella no te quiere, ella no te ama" (She doesn't want you; she doesn't love you.) Valles followed that with Danzon Siglo 21, in which he used a sextet to infuse the courtly genre with 21st Century Latin jazz.
On El Tren, Valle gave a nod to his Irakere roots in a booming number that at first seemed to overtake the sound system with distortion. After he took off on a flute solo with a rapid-fire series of notes, a timbale solo prompted Rene Thompson, a Cuban dancer who lives in Minneapolis, to lead the crowd in a line dance.
The bandleader consistently returned to dance music, as he did on Suspendan los comentarios. Joining him on stage were young Cubans now living in Minnesota who demonstrated the hip-shaking moves now popular on the island. As one of the vocalists draped a Cuban flag on his shoulders, he sang of his devotion to his homeland: "Este es tabaco, este es ron," (This is tobacco, this rum), appearing to borrow a verse from a song by Orishas, the popular Cuban rap group now based in France.
In a traditional number, the band also played Tumba Tumbador, a mambo-son by Beny More, the Cuban great of half a century ago, and Te lo llevaste to!, a timba-laced composition that inspired modern moves on the floor.
For jazz festivals, Valles has put together tremendous ensembles that appeal to the jazz aficionado. But he knows that his touring band must keep its connection to dancers. He succeeds by delivering intense music that doesn't head in too complicated a musical direction, thereby avoiding a disconnect with dancers that has plagued American jazz bands for generations.
The band uses no special effects or electronic wizardry -- just instruments and voices. Its pure musicianship would blow away bands led by today's pop superstars.
Nothing beats a real band playing timeless and stimulating music.
Posted at 12:43 PM on July 7, 2011
by Euan Kerr
Filed under: Music
If you have ever dreamed of playing with the Minnesota Orchestra, now may be your chance.
The Orchestra today announced its first ever fantasy camp. In September up to 50 amateur musicians will rehearse side by side with orchestra members, and then play Alexander Borodin's "Polovtsian Dances" in the finale of a season sampler concert.
The Orchestra's Director of Education Jim Bartsch describes it this way: "Backstage, on-stage, fantasy camp!"
Bartsch says the orchestra tossed around fantasy camp idea for quite a while, particularly since the Baltimore Symphony launched a hugely successful program a couple of years ago.
Fantasy campers will pay $500 for the experience, but as in Baltimore Bartsch says the real value for the Minnesota Orchestra is in community outreach.
He says when they ask regular patrons what they would like to add to their orchestral experience, they almost always say have more contact with musicians.
"For music fans, those folks are the same as Twins players are to Twins fans. They follow them, they see them week after week performing, so to build that connection in a personal way is what we wanted to do."
The Minnesota Orchestra fantasy camp will include rehearsals with whatever section the camper will perform within, full rehearsals under the baton of Pops conductor Sarah Hicks (left), and also classes on the inner workings of the orchestra like how staff build a season.
The program is also aimed specifically at people over the age of 18 as the orchestra already provides so many opportunities for younger players. Bartsch says they program is designed for people who may have studied music in the past, but have had to set it aside for any number of reason.
There are no auditions. but applicants have to fill out a questionnaire about their experience.
"Then there's an essay question on why would you like to participate, and what would this mean to you?" says Bartsch.
Campers will be selected depending on their answers, and on their instruments.
"Obviously we have more violin chairs than tuba chairs," Bartsch says.
The Orchestra has already posted the various parts on-line, and Bartsch says that may have an influence on who decides to apply.
"People will look at the music ahead of time and think, 'I could play this,' or 'Maybe I'll wait till next time,'" he laughs.
The whole fantasy camp idea is a bit of an experiment, but Bartsch says if it's a success the plan is to build the program in coming years.
When the news word came in that playwright and talent agent Tom Poole died last night, I thought rather than just report the news, I'd let those who knew him share their own memories.
Well, the memories and tributes have been pouring in. First, this remembrance from Mo Perry:
Tom was dearer to me than I know how to explain. I didn't know him long. We met in early 2010, but I quickly recognized him as a kindred spirit--someone capable of great joy and warmth who reveled in the absurdity of life. A crackerjack wit and fascinating mind with a shining heart. He became something of a mentor to me in so many areas--he gave me my first book on running when I was just starting to get interested in it, and he encouraged me along every step of my path toward running my first marathon (of which he's run several). We were frequent daily Facebook correspondents, and I just dug up this message he sent me several months back. I had posted this survey in a note on FB, and responded to it and asked my friends to do the same. Tom sent his replies directly to me in a private message. Here they are:
1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
My experience of happiness is that it just comes to you. It is not so much the product of things you like happening to you as it is a feeling of yourself in the world. I have felt unbearably happy beside swimming pools, walking down snowy streets. listening to bands, cuddling with dogs, kissing, drinking cold water, not running anymore, reading. I think happiness is the natural state of humans free of oppression, which I have luckily almost always been.
2. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
I don't deplore anything in myself. I'm sorry about many things I see in the world, but don't feel responsible for them, or responsible for fixing them.
3. What is your greatest extravagance?
My greatest extravagance is having done what I wanted, as I wanted, as much as possible, without regard to getting rich.
4. How wealthy are you?
I am immeasurably wealthy by my own understanding of wealth.
5. What is the quality you like most in a woman?
Love, and the bravery to follow it to the best of her understanding.
6. What is the quality you like most in a man?
Love, and the bravery to follow it to the best of his understanding.
7. Which words do you most overuse?
8. When and where were you happiest?
Many unmemorable moments when the world opened around me like a flower.
9. Which talent would you most like to have?
The ability to learn and teach.
10. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
My incredible desire to eat late at night.
11. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
12. Where would you like to live?
In the desert, in the forest, by the ocean, on a mountain, in a city, on a farm. But most of all, in the future.
13. What is your most treasured possession?
14. What are you reading?
Brief Interviews With Hideous Men
15. Who are your heroes in real life?
Very many writers.
16. What is your favorite food?
Everything I'm not allergic to.
17. What is it you most dislike?
18. If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
19. What is your greatest regret?
20. How would you like to die?
On some faraway beach.
It seems appropriate to me that these lovely responses be shared with people who loved him now. I think they offer great insight into his mind and heart and could be comforting to those grieving the loss of him.
I'd like to think that Tom is right now romping happily, as a dog, on some faraway beach.
From Dawn Frederick:
Tom was one of the kindest, funniest, and smartest people I know. He always provided a valuable perspective on things, and had the uncanny ability to make one laugh during toughest situations. Seeing him with his wonderful family (Geanette, Molly, & Nora) was always a treat, as his face would always light up when any of them walked in a room. I know all of us would agree that we've lost a very special person yesterday. Rest in peace Tom....
From Joseph Scrimshaw:
It seems odd to have other people come up with elegant, moving, funny things to say about a man who was so elegant, moving and funny. I imagine Tom might say his movement wasn't elegant but that's what made it funny. In search of quotes of that ilk, I trolled through the volumes of e-mails and facebook messages between myself and Tom. I found an off-the-cuff quote I like very much. Tom was working on building a website for a video project and wanted some feedback. The site was of course hilarious, but work was still being done on the technological bells and whistles. Tom had this to say about the process, and at the risk of being hyperbolic, it seems like something he might have said about life in general: "I got no idea how to do this f***ing stuff, but that hasn't stopped me yet."
From Brian Beatty:
I've not known Tom as long as many in the local arts community, but in the little over a year that we were friends he inspired me and motivated me in invaluable ways.
Tom first caught up with me after some performance I did at the Bryant Lake Bowl. He wanted to buy me a beer and chat about a few things he thought I could be doing creatively. Had I ever considered trying voiceover work? What about recording a comedy album? Did I have a book of my little humorous poems or stories together? Tom was full of great ideas for me that I'd never bothered to imagine for myself.
It turned out we'd graduated from the same creative writing MFA program a bit over a decade apart and knew many of the same writer-types back in Ohio. We both had a thing for the writings of David Foster Wallace, too, and the idea of not pandering to audience expectations. Which Tom made sound so much easier than it's been in my experience.
In the little over a year we were friends, Tom and I bounced many ideas off each other. Mostly by chat and email and mostly about what I could or should be doing with my writing and comedy. Tom certainly didn't need my advice.
The last time I saw Tom was at the 331 Club about a month ago. He'd showed up to watch me open for a couple of musical acts to a disinterested audience of about 25 people. During my set, following a joke that had gone over so-so, Tom heckled me. But his oddly timed heckle pulled me out of my distracted performance head and back into the moment -- and what I fired back at him got a much better laugh. After my half-hour set was over, Tom bought me a beer and reminded me that I still hadn't recorded my comedy album.
I owe Tom so much more than just a couple of beers.
From Bethany Whitehead:
A number of years ago Tom and I met at Borders. Not as shoppers, but as co-workers. There we were, two underpaid book and music sellers with master's degrees, and we quickly developed a rapport. I would look forward to working the same shift with Tom as he excitedly talked of the music he was currently loving, great books he was reading, and his current theater project. I do believe Tom was the first person who I met who called himself a playwright- an actual playwright! I loved that he was writing and developing theater and would eagerly ask of his progress and process. Despite our eventual departures from the bookstore, we kept in touch because of our shared interests, and as soon as I was hired this year as the Membership Manager at the Playwrights' Center, Tom was naturally one of the first people I contacted. His charisma, passion, and enthusiasm for life was unrivaled and the creative community of the Twin Cities will feel his loss for a long time.
From Catherine Hansen:
Other than the enormous amount of warmth Tom radiated when I first met him and every time I saw him after that, I remember our conversation at the last Talent Poole holiday party where he explained to me the scientific difference between a geek and a nerd.
From Phyllis Wright:
His little dog, which according to Tom was a "TERRHUAHUA." Tom wrote and directed pieces that were always challenging, wild and wonderful to be in.
From Michael Venske:
It was always a pleasure to see Tom. He wasn't from Minnesota, he was from Arkansas. Silly as it may sound --the fact that he was from the south and one of the most charming people I've met -- perpetuated this idea that Tom was a true southern gentleman and the only thing missing was a Mint Julep and perhaps a porch.
In the fall of 2009 Commedia Beauregard presented "Master Works: The Goya Plays" at the Bryant Lake Bowl. Tom had written a short play inspired by Francisco Goya's "The Chinchillas" and recommended me to act in the show. If you search for an image of "The Chinchillas" you'll see exactly what the 3-person cast looked like on stage that night.[Editor's note - see below]
The greatest memory I have of Tom, aside from our run-ins at the Talent Poole office, is performing in "The Chinchillas." Acting while blindfolded on stage in a straightjacket being force-fed mashed potatoes was the most fun I've ever had in a show and I have Tom to thank for that. And if that sounds ridiculous, it was in the most innocent, playful, beautiful way... Just like Tom.
You can also read a lovely tribute to Tom Poole by friend and theater critic Tad Simons here.
FYI, I corresponded with Tom's brother-in-law George Roberts, and asked if the family wanted to contribute anything. Understandably, they're just trying to come to terms with the loss right now. But maybe someday they'll be able to read this post, and have a sense of just how much Tom's presence meant to so many people.
Today's nomination for our series celebrating Minnesota architecture was actually constructed in Wisconsin. But today it stands on the campus of Luther Seminary in St. Paul.
photo by Mike Hazard
The spirit of Muskego Church always moves me. It is a log cabin composed of 200 trees. Built in 1844 in Muskego, Wisconsin, near Racine, it was the first Norwegian Lutheran church in America. In 1904 it was taken apart and moved to the campus of Luther Seminary in St. Paul where it was reassembled piece by piece. You can find numbers on the ends of some planks. Muskego, which means sunfish in Potawatomi, is still used as a sanctuary for worship and weddings. I love to sit in it. Inside is a throne-like chair carved out of a single trunk of wood which has human teeth embedded in it.
The Luther Seminary website has this to add:
Fathers and sons cut down, cleaned and hauled over 200 trees while mothers and daughters went searching for moss for the chinking. All this was done in the midst of the immigrants' fight for survival. Even while they were hunting for food, building their own shelters and gathering wood for heat throughout the winter, they built this house of worship.
The congregation sat divided-men on one side, women on the other-in this unheated building. The lay leader, or "klokker," sat on the men's side in front and helped lead worship.
In 1904, it was moved to the campus of Luther Seminary piece by piece and now stands as a reminder that it was the people who sat in these pews who had the vision for this seminary as a place where pastors would train. Their descendants still come to take care of the old building on a regular basis. It is still used as a sanctuary; for worship, weddings, baptisms and ordinations.
The church was also the subject of a profile in American Woodturner magazine, which you can read here.
Interested in nominating a building for the Minnesota Architecture series? Just send a photo or two, along with a few lines on why the building appeals to you, to firstname.lastname@example.org.