As contract negotiations near for both the Minnesota Orchestra and the SPCO, MPR's Euan Kerr asked some pointed questions, including whether the Twin Cities can afford to support both organizations.
Bruce Ridge, president of the International Conference of Symphony Orchestra Musicians, or ICSOM, sees it this way.
"The question is not whether or not the Twin Cities can continue to afford to support both organizations," he said. "I think the question is: how can you afford not to support them?"
The orchestras are part of Minnesota's cultural legacy, Ridge said, and can't be simply cast aside.
Orchestras, like sports teams, bring prestige and people, to a city. They are an integral part of a thriving arts community.
Photo by Greg Helgeson, courtesy Minnesota Orchestra
The sports metaphor continues with Dobson West, the SPCO's interim president, who says the two orchestras don't necessarily compete for the same audience:
"The Minnesota Wild is a professional sports team," he said. "The Vikings are a professional sports team, but the game that they play is entirely different. And so there is nothing that says they steal from each other."
So it is with the orchestras, he said. There is some audience overlap between the two, but not much. Some people prefer the intimacy of the SPCO's 34-member ensemble, others the majesty of the Minnesota Orchestra with three times as many players. And some cynical classical fans might point out that both orchestras have been at the top of their games for a lot longer than any Minnesota sports team.
You can read the entire story here.
I remember when Brian Sostek and Megan McClellan first came into the MPR studios to talk about their production "Trick Boxing." It was 2002, and the piece was debuting at the Minnesota Fringe Festival. It's a love story of sorts that involves high precision dancing and boxing moves all wrapped up with old showbiz charm.
Since then the show has gone on to tour internationally at fringe festivals to rave reviews. Now, on the production's tenth anniversary, the duo have expanded the show for a run at the Guthrie Theater.
According to three reviewers the show is still a knockout, while a third says there are a few missteps.
The boxing scenes are a riot, with Sostek leading the play-by-play using a miniature ring and toys representing Dancing Danny and his opponents, including Johnny the Monkey. These, like so many other moments in "Trick Boxing," prove that some of the best performances come from artists who need rely on nothing more than their talent and a few simple props to create whole worlds on stage. Both McClellan and Sostek are the undisputed champs in this category.
As in Astaire-Rogers classics like "The Gay Divorcee" and "Top Hat," the leads start out somewhat adversarial, but love blooms on the dance floor where they blend ballroom, swing and tap into a delicious vintage concoction.
Those Astaire-Rogers vehicles often featured a moment that -- after an amazing dance duet -- Rogers sat stunned and confused while recognizing that she's unexpectedly falling in love.
"Trick Boxing" is the kind of show that could leave you feeling the same way.
Trick Boxing's earned acclaim at every stop of its 10-year run, and for good reason. It's impossible to resist the feel-good brand of dance and humor, drama and love that this talented couple pours into their production.
Whatever the reason, Trick Boxing trudges along at the beginning when it should already be singing. That doesn't make this a poor experience in any way. The dancing, movement, and puppetry are delightful, as is the central relationship between Danny and Bella, which comes to life in the hands of these performers. It's clear what has made this play a success for the last decade. I just hope the special spark doesn't get lost amid the revisions.
Have you seen "Trick Boxing?" If so, what did you think?
Posted at 3:26 PM on August 28, 2012
by David Cazares
Filed under: Music
When jazz trumpeter Adam Meckler is inspired to write a new composition, the tune often emerges from his playing.
"It usually starts on the trumpet for me," Meckler said. "I'm playing or I'm screwing around or I'm just like improvising by myself and I come up with a riff or a melody and I go, 'OK, this needs to be a tune.' And then I go and compose it."
The group of young musicians draws on the big band heritage of days past while infusing the music with modern beats and improvisational spirit. Like Meckler, many of the band's members perform in a variety of groups and settings, an economic necessity that also builds creative energy.
"The bands that I play in are all great and all very unique and that's artistically very satisfying," said Meckler, a St. Paul native who returned to the Twin Cities four years ago. "I can go and play in a polka band one night, go and play in the Adam Meckler Orchestra another night, play in the Good, The Bad and the Funky another night and the Jack Brass Band another night, and the Pete Wittman X-tet and all kinds of bands like that that are all unique and all different and all require a certain amount of artistic input from me."
Listen to my story on the Adam Meckler Orchestra today on MPR's All Things Considered.
Posted at 6:30 PM on August 28, 2012
by Euan Kerr
Filed under: Music
Cameras surround SPCO musicians playing at the State Fair (All MPR images/Euan Kerr)
People passing the AFL CIO building on the State Fairgrounds in Falcon Heights got a treat today as eight members of the SPCO played a half hour concert.
You had to look closely, but it was also a labor rally of sorts. Supporters passed out leaflets outlining musicians concerns as the music rose above the crowds flowing in from the nearby front gate.
"We are just trying to remind people what we do, that we do sweet music," said Carole Mason Smith. "It would be such a tragedy to lose all of this."
Smith is chair of the musicians contract negotiating committee. She and the others at the fair were also trying to raise awareness of what they feel is an unfair proposal coming from management. The hand-outs claim the latest proposal includes a 57% and 67% salary cut for musicians in the first year of a new contract. Smith says that would cripple the orchestras ability to retain and recruit new players. She said the proposal will ratchet down the number of days musicians would play.
"Everybody who knows orchestras knows the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra," she said. "And the thought of it being dismembered is horrendous."
A small but enthusiastic crowd lapped up the music, and when asked said they supported the musicians.
Christina Clark from White Bear Township says the SPCO offers a musical experience no-one else can offer.
"Because they play together so well, and so seamlessly as a result of playing all the time together, and as a family of musicians together, within their union," Clark said. "What the Chamber Orchestra is proposing to do would eliminate that kind of family sound and high level of performance."
The Fair event represents a ramping up by the SPCO musicians as they approach the September 30th deadline when their current contract runs out. Carole Mason Smith hopes supporters will increase their donations to the SPCO and urge management to reconsider the offer they have on the table.
"I don't know how they arrived at those numbers," said SPCO Interim President Dobson West, "but they are not correct numbers. We have never proposed that kind of a magnitude of a cut."
Sitting in his office in downtown St Paul, West said with the organization facing large deficits in coming years it needs to make some real financial change.
"We have reduced our other expenses as much as we can" he said, "And we need to address the musician contract during these negotiations."
West said musician salaries currently make up 40 percent of the SPCO's budget. He also said that he has contacted the SPCO's major donors and is looking at other ways to fit together the financial puzzle.
"While we still need to bring the expenses in line with our sustainable revenues, there are a variety of ways we can do this," West said, "And we will bring an entirely different form of proposal to the musicians."
The next negotiating session is scheduled for September 10th.
Back at the Fair a new, and very young fan danced to the music, apparently entranced by the sight and sounds he was experiencing. His delight attracted the attention of the owner of many cameras in the area, and produced many smiles.
It was a very genteel labor rally, but as if to underline the seriousness of the situation news arrived from Indiana that the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra management has proposed to its musicians to reduce its number and go part time.