The elusive and reculsive Prince is having a big year. Three nights at The Dakota. Relaunch of his shuttered website. A high-profile appearance at The Grammys. A performance on Jimmy Fallon this Friday.
Even though he's re-emerging on the national scene, Prince has been generating buzz consistently in Minnesota for well over 30 years, with rumors swirling about a surprise local Prince performance at least once a year. This MPR News story from the now-defunct 1986 Minnesota Music Awards gives us an idea of how little has changed.
When Gopher State glitterati turned out in all their splendor last night, it was for the sxith annual Minnesota Music Awards. Almost as soon as audience members arrived at Bloomington's Carlton Celebrity Room, they were swept up in the excitement and expectation generated by rumors that Minnesota's funkiest favorite son might honor the crowd with a surprise concert. Morning Edition's Jim Bickal reports:
A parade of limousines pulled up in front of the Carlton Celebrity Room last night and out of them popped some outrageously dressed people. Women with huge hairdos and shockingly revealing evening gowns were escorted by shirtless men wearing floor-length white robes and sunglasses.
A small crowd waited outside the hall watching for celebrities. The one they were especially looking for was Minnesota superstar Prince. Limousine chauffeur Cameron Smith was out there and he knew what to look for: "Oh, most likely he sneaks in in a yellow Thunderbird with very blacked-in windows or a black BMW with very blacked-in windows. Or he does have his own limousine which is a blue Lincoln. It's pretty easily identified. It has cut crystal headlights and such."
Prince never made his grand entrance but there were rumors he had snuck in a back door.
Inside the Celebrity Room, Don Powell was the master of ceremonies. The show was broadcast live on UHF channel 23. The awards were based on the newly formed Minnesota Music Academy. The Academy is made up of the 300 people who paid $5 to join. Their votes determine the winner in every category except one: Entertainer of the Year. In that category, anybody could vote, but only 50 non-Academy members did. Pop rock band Limited Warranty won the balloting as Entertainer of the Year; Westside was voted best funk band; The Jets won several awards as the best Rhythm and Blues band; Paul Metsa was selected as the best folk artist; and Slave Raider was selected as the best heavy metal band.
Gov. Perpich, who could have easily won the balloting for most conservatively dressed presenter, gave out the Connie Hechter Award to long-time record distributor Amos Heilicher. Most of the recipients who attended the ceremony seemed pretty pleased by the honor, but the band Soul Asylum, which was voted best garage band, didn't quite know what to make of it. They said they didn't know they were a garage band.
"I think it's kind of interesting we haven't been in a garage for, oh, about three years. But it's still kinda nice. At least somebody's paying attention. We were here and we played so they knew we were going to be here so I think they had to give us something so they added this category just so they could do it."
When asked what they thought of the award ceremony, they said, "I think it's not going so well, but what do I know? This is the only one I've ever seen so I can't compare it to anything. I think it's kinda bogus but then I probably shouldn't say that."
As the evening wore on, rumors were circulating that Prince was there and that he was going to play. About an hour before the end of the program, a security officer told guest Angela Watley that she couldn't return to her seat near the stage. He told her that Prince would not perform unless she was removed from the audience. Watley was a bit miffed.
"I'm apparently a threat to The Revolution. I'm not sure how. It's an absurd mix-up." What did they tell you? "Just to leave my table. I was sitting at the Governor's table. To leave my table and that I was a threat to the group." What are you going to do? "I'm going to find out exactly what is the problem here. Because this is a really ridiculous mistake. I've never been so embarrassed in my life and I really deserve a very good explanation."
Finally, after all the awards in the program were handed out, Academy Chair Byron Frank was introduced. It was the moment that everyone was hoping for. Frank announced that Prince would be the first charter member of the Minnesota Music Academy. Prince appeared and he was greeted with a huge ovation. Dressed in a conservative blue suit, he told the crowd he wasn't expecting the award.
"A while back I wrote a line to a song and I said 'I don't care to win awards.' But it was easy to write a line like that because I wasn't up for any. And I won a couple awards since then, but in all honesty I want you all to know that the ones I get from you are the best."
After the award ceremony was over and the television cameras were off and those of us with tape recorders were told not to use them, Prince and the Revolution returned to the stage. For 40 minutes, his royal badness sang, pranced around the stage and threw pieces of his clothing into the audience. It was what everyone was waiting for and they weren't disappointed. I'm Jim Bickal reporting.(0 Comments)
Artist Ai Weiwei isn't afraid to speak his mind.
For instance there's his self-portrait. It features him naked, jumping in the air, holding a llama doll in front of his private parts.
The caption reads in "Grass mud horse covering the middle" which, when said in Chinese, sounds an awful lot like "F*** your mother, Communist Party Central Committee."
Weiwei has publicly criticized the Chinese government for, among other things, the shoddily built schools which collapsed in a 2008 earthquake, killing more than 5,000 students in Sichuan.
Tonight at 10:30pm tpt2 will broadcast Alison Klayman's documentary "Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry" which won the Sundance Film Festival's Special Jury Prize. It profiles this man who continues to challenge oppression with irreverence, and sometimes an almost childlike glee.
The documentary is being broadcast as part of the Independent Lens series.(0 Comments)
The Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies has named Mark Russell Smith as its new artistic director. The hire takes effect in June 2013.
Smith is director of orchestral studies at the University of Minnesota's School of Music and music director of the Quad City Symphony Orchestra in Davenport, Iowa.
Smith, an accomplished cellist, currently serves as the GTCYS interim artistic advisor and conductor.
Smith has previously conducted the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Richmond Symphony Orchestra and Phoenix Symphony.
Management and locked out musicians of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra have been meeting all afternoon. It's the first face-to-face talks the two sides have had in some time. They are trying to hammer out an agreement which may get the musicians playing again, and ultimately lead to a settlement in the long-running contract dispute.
The musicians see this week as really important, as they are concerned management may be about to cancel more concerts, and effectively wipe out the rest of the SPCO season. During the dispute management has been canceling concerts about six weeks out.
In recent days management has been pitching an offer to play and talk, that is resume concerts while the final details of a contract are negotiated. However there are some details in that play and talk proposal which are hard for the musicians to swallow, and that is what they are negotiating today.
They have so much to discuss it's unlikely they will have a resolution today, but both sides seem eager to keep the talks alive. The musicians say they are prepared to meet every day until they reach an agreement. Before the meeting management said they hadn't heard the details of how that would work yet, but they want to get a deal too.
The three main sticking points are: pay, how to reduce the size of the SPCO from 34 to 28 positions, and the electronic media agreement, that is the use of SPCO performances online.
The pay issue is complex, because management has proposed not only to cut salaries, but wanted to impose a two-tier system where current musicians will be guaranteed an over-scale payment, essentially a bonus over the rate which any new musicians will get.
The musicians didn't like that because they said it builds in an inequality. So now management is offering two options: one with the base salary plus bonus for current musicians, and one with a higher base salary and no bonus for everyone. This would keep things equal, but in effect mean an even bigger pay cut for current musicians.
When it comes to the reduction of the size of the orchestra, the musicians have apparently said they are willing to consider it, as long as no-one is fired. Management is offering a retirement package for musicians 55 or older. An important question however is how the SPCO maintains its orchestration, that is making sure they have the right combination of players. Management has offered to create a committee of musicians and management representatives to oversee that mix. A big question here is whether there are sufficient people, and in the right combination, who are willing to retire to make this work.
Finally there is the electronic media agreement, which has been contentious. Traditionally this part of the agreement has been negotiated by the national union, the American Federation of Musicians. However the SPCO management wants to have electronic media be part of the local contract. The AFM filed a grievance against the SPCO last year, and last week filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board accusing the SPCO leadership of unfair labor practices.
Meanwhile over at the Minnesota Orchestra the two sides are still exchanging suggestions about how to do the independent analysis of the the Orchestras finances requested by the musicians. The players say it is necessary before they can consider a possible counter-proposal to management's current offer.
(SPCO image courtesy SPCO)(3 Comments)