Have You Noticed That the Lilacs are Budding?

Sam Black

One of the delights of a column like this is that I, a Reader writer, get to communicate with you, a Reader reader. Each week you learn a little more about me and my preferences, and each week I enjoy hearing a comment from one or another of you who read this publication. And together, I assume we are doing our best to support the amazing arts activities in the greater Twin Ports community.
Meteorologically, residents of the northern hemisphere have crossed over into SPRING, and all six of the lilacs in my East Hillside yard - lavender and white - clearly have new buds on their twigs. They don’t seem to care that we will have more sleet and snow this week - they are moving ahead with what they know best: budding, flowering, and dying. I could wish that we were all so humble and talented as the lilacs.

Young musicians represent the generation to come

What a great music and drama week this has been! While today ( 21 March) is the 331st birthday of Johann Sebastian Bach, I am sure he would be ecstatic at the musical drama taking place in Leipzig today, as well as the remote world of Duluth - Superior, USA. I watched more than two dozen groups of youngsters perform chamber music from Bach’s time to our own last week, and I find that exciting. The Lake Superior Suzuki program assures us that music will be part of our community for decades to come.
I watched trios, quartets, and quintets perform delightful music across the centuries, including a couple of Mariachi numbers that included nearly two dozen musicians in motion. The next Suzuki ‘recital’ week will take place in June, and I heartily encourage you to celebrate these youngsters who are passionate about music in their own back yard.

Bluegrass Music with a Southern Christian Message

For the second time now, the local Arrowhead Chorale teamed up with the bluegrass band, Monroe Crossing, to premier sacred music that crosses musical categories. Minneapolis composer Carol Barnett enjoys innovation, so Mortals & Angels gave her a chance to combine Christian liturgical texts (Te Deum) with original tunes to celebrate life as we experience it. This was a distinctively Southern approach to Christian music and behavior, though the music was uplifting and very tuneful.
The Chorale began with four choral pieces that celebrated a certain nostalgic mood - love, remembrance. The Great Hall at the Duluth Depot prefers lower musical tones, so the brightness of the women’s voices was mostly lost. Even so, a rich choral sound spread around the room. With Monroe Crossing, the mandolin tends to cut across the room like a piccolo. They performed different numbers each night, celebrating winter and nostalgia both times.

The absurdity of a Rhinoceros in the neighborhood
I chose to attend dramatic performances of Rhinoceros and Romeo & Juliet last week as well. I have enjoyed the message of E. Ionesco’s Rhinoceros since 1968, and the UMD production was quite intense. Mitch Newport, as Berenger, carried the evening, never leaving the stage in spite of all the radical personality changes taking place. Even as your friends and neighbors embrace ideas (political, social, moral) that are repugnant and abusive, how should you respond? In these months of political inanity, Rhinoceros suggests that we might want to think about our future seriously, instead of simply going with the flow.

Love and death attempt to encourage harmony

And finally, there was indeed some romantic spark between Romeo and Juliet this past Saturday night. Joe Birdseye and Greta Weisel shared their youthful passions to a community that was more divided than necessary. Once the cast began projecting into the Lincoln Park auditorium, all went well. For better or worse, both Romeo and Juliet ended up dead, and the families who tried to reconcile their differences have not made many inroads into the 21st century.
The arts are challenging to our traditions, and good art makes us want to increase our cultural abilities to embrace diversity and celebrate the human experience around the globe. You can find all that here in Duluth, USA, this week as well as next. Pax tecum.