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Osmo Vänskä /// Music Director

Recent Articles: Tours

Johannesburg | Aug 18

On Saturday morning, August 18, the Minnesota Orchestra crew completed their final load-in of the tour at Johannesburg’s City Hall and the musicians boarded the buses for a short trek to the venue. Even the chilly winter morning couldn’t erase the afterglow of Friday night’s concert in Soweto!

City Hall, like so many of the venues in South Africa, has been the home of many historical and political events throughout its more than 100-year history. The Edwardian building has seen many political events on its steps from protest meetings to a bomb blast in 1988.

The setting for the concert was stunning—and although there were a few minor hiccups with a late start and seating, the crowd was attentive from the moment Vänskä lifted his baton. South African composer Bongani Ndodana-Breen and Dr. Makaziwe “Maki” Mandela, Nelson Mandela’s eldest daughter, were in the capacity crowd of more than 1,100.

What’s happening is a true and glorious exchange.

Scott Chamberlain, MinnPost

During the concert, pigeons flew back and forth from the proscenium arch to the window ledge high above the auditorium. The sun seemed to shine through the windows at the most opportune moments during Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony: the horn solo of the third movement, the “Ode to Joy” theme and the triumphant ending of the piece.

Vänskä returned to the stage after a standing ovation, conducting the orchestra and choir in “Usilethela Uxolo,” then turned the podium over to Xolani Mootane, who brought down the house with “Bawo Thixo Somandla.” Vänskä then returned to lead the ensemble in a final performance of “Shosholoza.”

But the music didn’t stop there. The Gauteng Choristers continued the singing into the hallways as they left the stage; stragglers from the crowd looked on.

Minnesota Orchestra President and CEO Kevin Smith, who retires at the end of August, beamed at the post-concert farewell dinner. He thanked Classical Movements, the Orchestra’s tour partner, as well as the musicians, staff, patrons and donors who made the tour possible.

It is, “by all accounts, the biggest project the orchestra has ever done,” Smith said. “It’s hard to know where it goes from here, but … I think the orchestra will continue to be more adventurous and expansive in how it works and with whom it works and where it goes.”

President and CEO Kevin Smith
Story by Jenna Ross, Star Tribune

“There were so many dimensions to this tour,” said Smith. “The fact that it has gone so beautifully from beginning to end—it gives me goosebumps thinking about it.”


We are immensely grateful to the Music for Mandela corporate consortium sponsors for making this project possible: Ecolab, TCF, Medtronic Foundation, Land O’ Lakes, Inc., 3M, U.S. Bank, Thor Companies, Target and Pentair.

We recognize an anonymous couple for their generous contribution to fund the Minnesota Orchestra’s tour. We also recognize the Douglas and Louise Leatherdale Fund for Music supporting the work of Osmo Vänskä.

"It's bigger than ourselves and it’s bigger than our own perspectives. We have to share it with the world. And that’s what we did here.”

First Associate Concertmaster Susie Park
Story by Jenna Ross, Star Tribune

Photography by Travis Anderson. Follow along throughout the tour on our South Africa landing page.

Soweto | Aug 17

Four musicians jumped on a bus in Johannesburg on Friday morning, August 17, headed to Soweto to attend a special Books for Africa event. Their day began with solo and chamber music performances for hundreds of students at Missourilaan Secondary School and ended with a grand Orchestra concert at one of South Africa's most historic venues.  

“Oh, shoot I forgot my concert clothes,” said violinist Natsuki Kumagai as she settled onto the bus, jumping up to run back to her room. For the musicians, the day would be nonstop: school event, zipping straight to rehearsal, then a group dinner, evening concert in Soweto and a 60-minute bus ride back to Johannesburg. 

When the musicians arrived at the school, hundreds of students, ages 13 and up, were assembled in a windswept courtyard, wearing proper blue school uniforms. Missourilaan Secondary School has known difficult days its leaders have said but, led by Principal Julius Van Rensburg, they are intent on propelling the school to new heights and preparing its 1,260 students to face the world.

The Saint Paul-based nonprofit Books For Africa is donating 40,000 books to this community, some 12,000 of which will find their way here. “We want to partner with Missourilaan and make it a place of excellence,” said Judge LaJune Lange, Minnesota’s Honorary South African Consul, who also attended the event.

Gathered school choirs, comprised of students and teachers, sang songs of welcome and several students offered poems. Ashidy Adams, 17, read a poignant hand-written poem about Nelson Mandela from a small notebook.

“He was steadfast, unshakeable, rooted to stop oppression so that I can taste freedom, not just catch a glimpse of it.”

August is a windy and dusty month in Johannesburg, and Minnesota Orchestra musicians arrived without clothespins, which are often used to clip music to stands in blustery weather. When it was his turn to play, Principal Flute Adam Kuenzel instead asked for student volunteers for the job. Manny Laureano, principal trumpet, told the students, “You have changed me. I am going to play this piece differently from ever before because of your reception today.”  Violinists Natsuki Kumagai and Michael Sutton received a rock star ovation when they play a duet.

Afterwards, the musicians struggled to explain the experience. “It was literally indescribable because it was not about things that were palpable,” said Laureano. “There was absolutely no wall between [the students] and their emotions. And when it was time to listen, they were attentive and beautifully so.”

It's filled with history. This is a place where organizers, including Nelson Mandela, now-Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Oliver Tambo worked to overcome apartheid.

Euan Kerr, Minnesota Public Radio

Regina Mundi Roman Catholic Church is a hallowed venue; it served as a center of organization for freedom fighters during the violent apartheid struggle and later it was the site for an early Truth and Reconciliation hearing when victims of apartheid faced their oppressors. Arriving at the simple A-Frame church, Orchestra musicians and staff felt the weight of that history.

“Nelson Mandela was a true world leader,” said clarinet player Tim Zavadil. “And this venue was the epicenter of the fight for equality.”

Outfitting the sanctuary to serve as a concert hall required months of planning, spearheaded by Classical Movements’ Johan Van Zyl and Minnesota Orchestra Technical Director Joel Mooney. Bollards had to be removed (and then replaced) from the front entrance to allow access for the trucks with equipment. A stage was carefully built out over the altar to accommodate the mass 200-person orchestra and choir, and rented lights were hung from the ceiling.

The concert was recorded by Minnesota Public Radio and a four-person MPR crew—Host Brian Newhouse, Producer Bradley Althoff, Technical Director Zachary Rose and Engineer Michael Osborne—buzzed around the space, testing sound levels and gear. They arrived with 1500 pounds of equipment, including back-up battery power in case of a power outage.

Following the concert, producer Althoff rushed a thumb drive containing the complete broadcast back to the Orchestra’s Johannesburg hotel to upload it in time for the 7 pm Central broadcast in Minnesota on Friday evening.

Minnesota Orchestra's concert in Soweto is an ode to joy in many languages

Jenna Ross, Star Tribune 

By concert time, it was already dark—late winter lighting—as the crowd filed in. Audience members mingled with musicians as there is no dedicated “backstage” space at the church. MPR’s Newhouse set up at a single microphone to the right of the stage, ready to relate the experience to radio listeners.

This is a nation of singers, but none of the audiences on the tour so far have come close to the full-throated vigor with which the Soweto crowd sang.

Euan Kerr, Minnesota Public Radio

The U.S. Consul General for Johannesburg Michael McCarthy welcomed the capacity crowd: “I can’t wait to hear what happens when we throw together the Gauteng Choristers, the Minnesota Orchestra and the Minnesota Chorale!”

What happened was magic. When the first “Freude” of Beethoven’s Ninth rang out, the energy in the venue was electric. To hear the “Ode to Joy,” that blazing hymn celebrating the togetherness of humankind, sung in this revered space, where people fought and died to achieve equality, was overwhelming.

The audience crescendo grew over the second half of the concert, as the Orchestra and choirs transitioned into a series of African songs: Akhala Amaqhude Amabili, Bawo, Ruri and the infectious call-and-response song, Nelson Mandela. There was no ambiguity in the audience feedback; this crowd was singing, dancing, and waving arms overhead, exuding appreciation.

Afterwards, 17-year-old reporter Mpho, who was attending the concert as part of a Children’s Radio Foundation delegation, offered her assessment. “I liked that the Orchestra tried to cater to South Africans” with some of its musical choices, she said.

Two long-time Regina Mundi parish members, who lived the struggle here, reveled in the concert afterwards. “It took me far away,” said one. “But it was too short. It could have been five hours and we don’t mind.”

For our musician travelers, there is still a sense of the surreal about the whole experience. “Life changing,” is how Kumagai described it in an end-of-day Instagram report.

And for Osmo Vänskä: “It was a dream,” he said. “And now it is happening.”

Photography by Travis Anderson. Follow along throughout the tour on our South Africa landing page.

His Sacrifice

By Ashidy Adams, a student at Missourilaan Secondary School

He never showed his scars

He held the nation on his shoulders as if it were a coat, shining with diversity

He never revealed that he too

Bleeds on the inside

He remained hopeful

And that manifested into human form

He was steadfast


Rooted to stop oppression so

That I can taste freedom

Not just catch a glimpse of it

He defied every rule set for a people of color

His actions

Made me bolder

Than a den of lions

To be African

He wore his wounds

Like a crown

Bestowed only to royalty

We never saw the pain

He hid behind his smile

That made atmospheres change

He embraced the chaos

Because he saw the rainbow after the storm

Nelson Mandela

His name

Still resonates after 100 years

In the hearts of the nation

Who bled for

Their freedom

Long live his sacrifice!

Pretoria | Aug 16

On Thursday, August 16, the Orchestra performed their third concert of the South Africa tour, in the Aula Centre at the University of Pretoria. Before the performance, however, Minnesota Orchestra musicians fanned out around the campus, working with students from the University and from the South African National Youth Orchestra.

Conductor Gerben Grooten led Osmo Vänskä through the picturesque University of Pretoria campus to a small classroom in the fine arts building, where he would spend the afternoon leading a master class with seven of Gerben’s conducting students.

Gerben, who serves as resident conductor of the University of Pretoria Orchestras, has built a solid conducting studio on campus. His students range from first to fourth years and come from a variety of instrument backgrounds. At first, the room is quiet when he asks for questions.

“This is like in Finland,” Vänskä said. “No one wants to start.”

Soon the questions started rolling in. “How much does being Finnish influence your interpretation of Sibelius?” one asked.

“It doesn’t hurt to be Finnish and conduct Sibelius,” Vänskä said. “But there are many non-Finnish conductors who do it very well too. If we hear something again and again, that makes us think it is our music. When you repeat something, you can become a specialist.”

Students asked questions about stage fright, baton technique, rehearsal preparation and communication with musicians. Vänskä offered a general rule with good humor: “The more you speak, the more the players hate you. It is always better to go with body language.”

And some parting words that are the essence of the Vänskä philosophy:

“The composer is the highest order. We are performers and we must follow the composer.”

Resilience is an important quality for conductors, especially on tour. Following the student session, Vänskä zipped onto a bus with a small group of musicians and staff to attend a reception at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence in Pretoria. The U.S. Mission in South Africa has been a generous supporter of the Minnesota Orchestra South Africa tour.

Three string principals—Erin Keefe, Susie Park and Rebecca Albers—played a little Dvořák, and then conductor and musicians headed back to the Aula Centre to prepare for the evening’s concert.

Classical Movements CEO and Founder Neeta Helms welcomed the crowd. “We’ve been having a lekker time,” she exclaimed. “Lekker” is the Afrikaans word for superb or fantastic.

Then, Jessica Lapenn, Charge d’Affaires at the U.S. Mission in South Africa, spoke, praising the Orchestra and the audience for being part of the celebration around Mandela’s 100th. “All of you being here reaffirms our belief in arts and cultural affairs as a way to sustain relationships,” Lapenn said. “The musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra are citizen diplomats and represent the very best of the U.S.” 

Lapenn concluded her remarks, describing how music brings unity from diversity and that orchestras are the perfect example of this: a group of individuals with tremendous abilities who work together toward a common end goal. For an orchestra, that shared goal is to bring beauty and empathy to our shared humanity. “That’s the spirit of Nelson Mandela that we need to move his legacy forward.”

"It was these young musicians who inspired the Minnesota Orchestra's tour."

Euan Kerr, Minnesota Public Radio

Many students from SANYO and the University of Pretoria were in the audience as well as students from LEAP Science & Math School and Field Band Foundation of South Africa. The crowd was electric—responding enthusiastically to the Orchestra’s performance. As Vänskä acknowledged each individual section of the orchestra, the students in the crowd cheered loudly for the musicians they had shared the stage with earlier that day.

Photography by Travis Anderson. Follow along throughout the tour on our South Africa landing page.

Pretoria | Aug 15

The Orchestra headed to the University of Pretoria on Wednesday, August 15, for an afternoon side-by-side rehearsal with the South African National Youth Orchestra (SANYO) and an evening rehearsal with the Minnesota Chorale and Gauteng Choristers.

Music Director Osmo Vänskä guest conducted SANYO in 2014 and his experience left a lasting impression an became an impetus for the Orchestra’s South Africa tour. Celebrating its 54th year, SANYO has become one of South Africa’s most successful institutions, nurturing the musical development of the country’s finest young musicians.

Gerben Grooten, principal conductor of the Pretoria Symphony Orchestra and a lecturer in conducting at the University of Pretoria, welcomed the Minnesota Orchestra and SANYO musicians at the top of the rehearsal. Grooten explained that the hallmarks of the American ethos—drive, energy, pioneering spirit—are much needed in South Africa, and that having the Minnesota Orchestra work side-by-side with SANYO was an incredible opportunity for the young musicians. 

"I literally have no words to describe this feeling. It is really cool, so I am really happy I am here."

Casey Jacobs, 18 (SANYO Violinist)
 Euan Kerr, Minnesota Public Radio

He said not many orchestras come to visit South Africa, and he instructed the SANYO students to lean in and seize the moment, ask questions and learn from the experience.

“You also have a gift to share with the Minnesota Orchestra,” he told the students. Grooten then presented Vänskä and concertmaster Erin Keefe with South African gifts: Biltong (dried, cured meat) and drinking glasses featuring images of South Africa’s “Big 5.”

Vänskä spent the afternoon rehearsing Sibelius’ Symphony No. 2 with the students, in preparation for their performance this weekend. Throughout the first movement of the piece, Vänskä encouraged the ensemble to “play as soft as possible.”


At one point in the second movement, Vänskä asked that only the Minnesota Orchestra musicians play a particularly lyrical, melodic passage. Casey Jacobs, a violinist in SANYO who hails from Gordon’s Bay, outside of Cape Town, later gushed to her Minnesota Orchestra stand partner Michael Sutton, “That was so beautiful!”

During the rehearsal, Sutton swapped bows with Jacobs. “Your bow is nicer than mine,” Jacobs quipped. “We can swap violins, too!” Sutton chuckled.

“You see, there are many, many different languages that we speak when we play. And depending on who the conductor is, they might want a different language.”

Manny Laureano, principal trumpet
Story by Jenna Ross, Star Tribune

Sophia Welz, managing director for SANYO, explained that the ensemble's membership mirrors the diversity in South Africa.

“We have 78 musicians from a wide range of places and backgrounds,” she said. “While there may be more than 1,000 km between us, everyone here is working toward a common, shared goal. It doesn’t matter where you are from or who you are.”

The ensemble hosts anonymous auditions each year and every student’s selection is based on merit. In addition to musical coaching and training, the organization also offers courses on instrument repair and arts administration, creating a very well-rounded educational program for the young musicians.

Welz emphasized the importance of the immersion project with the Orchestra.

“This type of experience is a real confidence builder for them. Side-by-side rehearsals are like a booster shot,” she said. “While this might be a small amount of time together, it’s extremely intense and it makes a lasting impression with these students.”

After the side-by-side rehearsal, the musicians and SANYO students enjoyed dinner together at Adler’s, a nearby eatery on campus.

Not every orchestra would be so enthusiastic about the community engagement programming. But most of the Minnesota players seem sporting, many seem enthusiastic and some seem deeply moved during the outreach events.

 Dessa,Classical MPR

Then, the Orchestra returned to Aula for their first rehearsal with the combined choir of Minnesota Chorale and the Gauteng Choristers, with SANYO students in the audience.

On Thursday, August 16, the students will spend the day working one-on-one with musicians in masterclasses and chamber music sessions. In addition, Vänskä will lead a conducting workshop and the Orchestra's administrative leaders will present an information session with SANYO students who are interested in arts administration.

Photography by Travis Anderson. Follow along throughout the tour on our South Africa landing page.

Durban and Johannesburg | Aug 13-14

Musicians enjoyed a free day on Monday. Some spent the time in sunny Durban, while others opted for a trek to Pilanesberg National Park, roughly three hours drive from Johannesburg, for a short and sweet safari experience at Bakubung Lodge, complete with lions, hippos and giraffes.

Back in Johannesburg, 50-some members of the Minnesota Chorale—who arrived in this capital city on Sunday—met their choral counterparts from South Africa’s Gauteng Choristers for the first time on Monday evening in a rehearsal conducted by their respective leaders, Kathy Saltzman Romey and Sidwell Mhlongo. Osmo Vänskä jumped into the mix on Tuesday night, leading a combined rehearsal at the National School for the Arts. “Whether you are coming from Johannesburg or Minneapolis,” he said. “It is great to see everyone!”

"The Gauteng Choristers are internationally acclaimed, and one of three South African choirs to perform at the funeral of President Nelson Mandela in 2013. The Minnesota Chorale will join the Minnesota Orchestra Friday as its first-of-its-kind tour of South Africa culminates in a concert at Regina Mundi, a Soweto church that played a significant role in the country's struggle during — and after — apartheid."

— Euan Kerr, Minnesota Public Radio

Both choirs have been planning for this collaboration for over a year, expanding their repertoire to include new pieces in different languages and, in the case of the Minnesota Chorale, each singer has personally raised the funds to support a tour 10,000 miles from home. Osmo seemed pleased with the result. “I really like the sound you are producing right now,” he said, following a run-through of the African song Akhala, which is sung in Zulu.

"A choir from Minnesota and a choir from South Africa sang together Monday night for the first time. It felt, somehow, like the hundredth."

— Jenna Ross, Star Tribune

He was flanked by Saltzman Romey and Mhlongo, who called out their own bits of advice to bring the choirs together. “Singers, you must sing ‘held,’” said Saltzman Romey midway through Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. “If you sing ‘hell’ that means something else.”


On Wednesday night the choirs will come together for a final rehearsal, this one involving the Orchestra, and then it’s time to raise the curtain on this long-in-the-works collaboration, with a Friday night performance in Soweto and Saturday afternoon finale in Johannesburg. But tonight, the reality hasn’t quite sunk in yet. “It is still hard to believe we are here,” marveled Saltzman Romey.

Safari photography by Travis Anderson. Follow along throughout the tour on our South Africa landing page.

Durban | Aug 12

The Orchestra landed in Durban on Saturday night, immediately feeling the more temperate weather of this busy port city known for expansive Indian Ocean beaches and a subtropical climate in the “garden province” of KwaZulu-Natal. A cheerful band of Orchestra wind players headed out first thing on Sunday morning to join the young musicians of the KwaZulu-Natal Youth Wind Band in rehearsal.

The youth ensemble is led by conductor Russell Scott, who explained that the band is made-up of cream-of-the-crop wind musicians from the across the KZN province, with many students traveling long distances to attend the weekly Saturday rehearsals. “We push for high standards,” he said. “We are proud to break barriers and make music together.”

Scott led the band in the “Jupiter” movement from Holst’s The Planets, as well as an African piece called Patta, Patta (“Touch, Touch”) that he arranged for wind ensemble. Following a performance by a Minnesota Orchestra wind ensemble, professionals and students broke into small sectionals to get to the nitty-gritty of their instruments and parts.

Associate Principal Percussion Kevin Watkins met with student percussionists to discuss the art of timpani playing. “It’s good to practice singing the notes to learn the pitches,” he said. “If you get your ear really close to the timpani, you can hear the pitch perfectly.” 

In a separate practice room, tuba player Jason Tanksley—the Minnesota Orchestra’s Rosemary and David Good Fellow—met with six young tuba and euphonium players to drill into The Planets. “You don’t have to play it too loudly,” he said. “Try it pianissimo.” 

Upstairs, bass trombone player Andrew Chappell was offering a masterclass on breathing. “Try to hear and feel how the breath relates to the sound,” he advised. “The better the breath, the better the sound. And eventually, forget about the breathing and just think ‘I am taking in my sound and letting out my sound.’”

Trombone students started to hit their stride. “I love the satisfaction in that passage,” one said.

“Yes!” Chappell affirmed. “You should feel that you made your statement.”

The KZN Wind Ensemble students will have a chance to hear the Orchestra make its statement at Sunday afternoon’s concert at Durban’s stately City Hall.

“Let it fly, so it is a little more colorful. I think it is more important to hear the entrances than the exits.” — Principal Clarinet Gabriel Compos Zamora

On Sunday afternoon, the Orchestra headed to Durban City Hall for a quick touch-up rehearsal and early evening concert. A quintessential example of Edwardian Neo-baroque architecture, Durban City Hall was completed in 1910 and was considered very bold in its design at the time. As the buses pulled up to the venue, many musicians stopped to take notice of the gorgeous exterior of the building.

Upon entering City Hall, musicians dodged wardrobe cases on stage, backstage—and even out in the house. With very little space in the backstage area, double bass and cello cases stood at the back of the stage and percussion cases just down the steps from stage left.

Tarps were hung in the hallway around the corner from backstage to create a men’s dressing area. Accessing backstage required going on to the stage—which proved to be somewhat challenging as orchestra staffers transported cases of water bottles backstage when the touch-up rehearsal began.

The concert began a special performance from the Clermont Choir, conducted by Brian Msizi Mnyandu. Orchestra members looked on, standing at the back and sides of the house. An outgrowth of the Clermont Catholic Church Choir, Clermont Choir was founded in 1992 and specializes in many different genres of music with a focus on choral, classical and African indigenous music. Based in Durban, the group has 60 members, most of whom reside in the metropolitan area. The choir performed a captivating short three-song set that had the audience clapping and cheering along.

Neeta Helms, president of Classical Movements, then welcomed the crowd and introduced Sherry Zalika Sykes, U.S. Consul General in Durban. Sykes shared that one of the highlights of her job is to welcome American visitors to South Africa and to build bridges between our two countries. She added that the Minnesota Orchestra musicians are some of America’s best diplomats, sharing their music and touching the lives of so many South Africans.

Music Director Osmo Vänskä then came to the stage, leading the Orchestra in both the South African and American national anthems. Sibelius’ En Saga opened the program, followed by Bongani Ndodana-Breen’s Harmonia Ubuntu, featuring Goitsemang Lehoybe.

At intermission, the smell of samosas wafted through the hallway and the crowd made its way to the refreshment area outside of the auditorium. During the break, an Orchestra staffer spoke with a group of students from Inanda Seminary, one of South Africa’s oldest schools for girls. Founded in 1853, the school is based in Inanda, a township about 15 miles northwest of Durban. Twenty-four students from the school were able to attend the concert, thanks to the Medtronic Foundation. Students Philasande and Zamakhosi shared their excitement about the event—that this was the first orchestra concert they and their classmates had ever attended. Zamakhosi, a choir student, spoke about Goitsemang Lehoybe’s performance. “Her singing was beautiful,” she said. “Hearing that kind of singing was new to me—I’ve never heard someone sing like that!”

Minnesota Orchestra brings its music, outreach to Durban, South Africa

— Photos and audio from Euan Kerr, Minnesota Public Radio

Although more restrained than the Cape Town audience, the crowd of nearly 1,000 came to life in the second half, with many cries of  “Bravo” at the end of Bernstein’s Overture to Candide. A young girl gasped loudly and squealed “Yes!” when the iconic opening notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony filled the cavernous space. The audience leaped to their feet at the end of the piece, giving the ensemble a standing ovation.

For the encore, the Orchestra once again performed “Shosholoza.” As was the case in Cape Town, the crowd didn’t recognize it at first. Once the musicians started singing, the crowd, including the students from Inanda Seminary, went crazy, singing along and dancing in the aisles.

Post-concert, as the crew began to prep for the load-out, the girls sang their own version of "Shosholoza" at the front of the stage, with many musicians filming the performance with their phone.

Concert photography by Travis Anderson. Follow along throughout the tour on our South Africa landing page.

Cape Town | Aug 10-11

The spirit of Nelson Mandela was alive as the Minnesota Orchestra kicked off its South Africa Tour with a performance at Cape Town City Hall on Friday evening, August 10.

The Orchestra’s performance marked the second orchestra concert in the newly refurbished hall, which recently reopened after a 9-month, 27 million Rand ($2 million USD) renovation. Part of the venue’s recent transformation included a statue honoring Nelson Mandela on the same balcony where he first addressed the nation as in 1990 as a free man.

Before the concert, the vibe in the foyer of the recently remodeled venue was electric. South Africans of all backgrounds and ages entered through the doors of the historic venue located on Darling Street across from the Grand Parade, the main public square of the city and home to a bustling marketplace. Once inside the auditorium, some of the younger audience members took selfies and classical music aficionados thumbed through the program book.

The energy of the crowd carried backstage to the musicians and crew, despite the tight quarters. 14,000 pounds of instrument and wardrobe trunks, coupled with many musicians resulted in traffic jams, all of which were taken in stride and good humor.

U.S. Consul General Virginia Blaser welcomed the sold-out crowd, praising the Minnesota Orchestra’s tour--the first by an American orchestra--and their musical diplomacy efforts. The concert was also attended by a contingent of officials from the U.S. Consulate.

Students from the Children’s Radio Foundation, some of whom had never been to a concert before, were in attendance, as well as students from Nelson Mandela University, ERUB Children’s Choir and other organizations.

The audience was instantly captivated by the opening piece, Sibelius’ En Saga, which demonstrated the Orchestra’s trademark broad dynamic range. During the whispering pianissimos at the end of the work, there wasn’t a sound in the hall and the audience erupted in applause once Vänskä lowered the baton.

"Thank you for bringing your years of practice and corporate rehearsal to the shores of Africa and enthralling us with your artistry."

— Audience member

Goitsemang Lehoybe, one of South Africa’s favorite sopranos and an alumna of the University of Cape Town, was the soloist for native son Bongani Ndonana-Breen’s Harmonia Ubuntu. Commissioned by Classical Movements in honor of the Orchestra’s South Africa tour, the piece received its premiere in Minneapolis in July, but this performance was the South African premiere. Mandela’s words and Xhosa-influenced rhythms and melodies are featured in the work, which was well-received by the hometown crowd. At the conclusion of the performance, there were multiple cries of “Bravo” from the audience and several curtain calls for Lehoybe.

"During a rousing, sold-out show Friday, the former president’s words, sung by a soaring soprano, once again hung in the air."

— Jenna Ross, Star Tribune

The second half of the concert featured two audience faves—Bernstein’s boisterous Overture to Candide, followed by Beethoven’s masterful Fifth Symphony.

Music Director Osmo Vänskä then returned to the stage with three encores—two pieces by Sibelius, Tanz-Intermezzo and Finlandia, with the beloved South African song “Shosholoza” in between. At first, when the Orchestra began playing “Shosholoza,” there wasn’t much reaction from the crowd. But once the musicians started to sing the words, the audience erupted in cheers, clapping and singing along.


"A couple of people said they'd never been to a classical concert before and were blown away. One woman said that she was seeing colors and recognizing nature in the music."

— Euan Kerr, Minnesota Public Radio

Although the Orchestra’s time in Cape Town was brief, many meaningful connections with the community were made.

Saturday Engagements

The Orchestra divided on Saturday. About 30 musicians headed to the Artscape Theatre Centre in downtown Cape Town to rehearse and coach student members of the Cape Town Youth Philharmonic. Led by Osmo Vänskä, the ensemble worked—and then worked some more—on Shostakovich’s Festive Overture and Sibelius’ Finlandia. “Maybe you need to know the story of Finlandia,” Vänskä said and explained its importance in Finland’s quest for independence from Russia. “When you play, you need to say something,” he said.

The talented students in this Youth Philharmonic range in age from 16 to 24. “I really like what you are doing,” Vänskä told them. “You are fixing things so quickly.  Thank you for all you have given today to me and to us.”  

The other members of the Minnesota Orchestra bused to the Eurecon Primary School in Elsie’s River Township. Students, parents and small siblings congregated to greet and perform for their guests from Minnesota.

“Parents and students, thank you for coming to school on a Saturday,” said Brendon Adams, leader of the musical ensemble 29:11 and one of the forces behind this visit. “Minnesota Orchestra, we are happy you are here, joining us not just at Cape Town City Hall but in our community.”

The school’s Intermediate Choir, comprised of 10 to 13-year-old students, sang a plaintive welcome, “I am a Small Part of the World,” conducted by Donovan Meyer-Adams. Meyer-Adams is the school’s computer science and math teacher but he does double duty as its choir director. He said his students held a special rehearsal on last week’s national holiday to prepare for today’s performance, rehearsing songs in Afrikaans, English and Swahili.

Minnesota Orchestra string, woodwind and brass ensembles then took the stage, each explaining a little about their instruments and how they produced sound—demonstrating by squeaking reeds and buzzing lips—before playing short chamber pieces.

“Most of these kids aren’t regularly exposed to classical music or instruments,” said Meyer-Adams. “This gives them an idea of what the sounds that come from these instruments are like.”

Trombonist Doug Wright brought down the house with an ever-favorite demonstration. “One of the really cool things about the trombone is that it can make race car sounds,” he said. “This is why you all want to play trombone, right?“

“It’s an honor for us to be here,” he concluded. “Thank you for the invite.”

"The youngsters howled with laughter as the reed players demonstrated the quacking sound of their mouthpieces, but they really loved it when musician Steven Campbell demonstrated how low his tuba could go. The building seemed to shake as he pretended to collapse under the effort, and then it rang with laughter."

— Euan Kerr, Minnesota Public Radio

The gathered audience—over 200 parents, students, musicians and Orchestra patrons—moved outside to a central courtyard for a mix-it-up series of performances featuring Praise Dancers, the ensemble 29:11 and some jamming Orchestra musicians, including trumpeter Charles Lazarus, who riffed with 29:11. Rapper-singer-essayist Dessa took the microphone to rap her gratitude. “I hope you see in our faces how happy we are to be here,” she said. 

Under a bright late-winter sun, Brendon Adams, 29:11, Orchestra brass players and the assembled audience wrapped it up with a rowdy version of “Welcome to Cape Town,” the Ghoema melody the brass ensemble learned from students earlier in the week.

“The feelings students felt today is something they will remember,” said Meyer-Adams. “It is nice to know you are appreciated . . . and that you count.”

Concert and Elsie's River photography by Travis Anderson. Follow along throughout the tour on our South Africa landing page.

Cape Town | Aug 8-9

Minnesota Orchestra musicians arrived in bright and breezy Cape Town on Wednesday morning, and if any spirits were lagging after the 11-hour night flight, a welcome-to-the-city performance by a traditional, brassy Kaapse Klopse band—this one called Happy Sounds Youth Development and comprising students from 12 to 18—helped to revive them.

Cape Town, perched between the Atlantic Ocean and Table Mountain, is the breathtakingly beautiful home to around 5 million people today; formerly it was home to one of the world’s most famous political prisoners, Nelson Mandela, who was incarcerated on Robben Island for nearly two decades. A group of 20-some musicians headed straight from the airport to the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront for a tour of this site, a fitting start to the “Music for Mandela” tour.

A rocky 40-minute ferry ride delivered the musician tour group to the Island, which officially became a museum site in 1997.  All visitors to Robben Island are greeted by a quote from freedom fighter Ahmed Kathrada: “While we will not forget the brutality of apartheid, we will not want Robben Island to be a monument of our hardship and suffering. We would want it to be a triumph of the human spirit against the forces of evil, a triumph of wisdom and largeness of spirit against small minds and pettiness, a triumph of courage and determination over human frailty and weakness.”

In South Africa, Minnesota Orchestra makes grim visit to Mandela's former prison cell

-Jenna Ross, Star Tribune

Former political prisoners on Robben Island now serve as its tour guides, speaking first-hand about the cause they fought for and the living conditions they endured. Every tour ends with a humbling walk to the small cell that Nelson Mandela occupied in his time on the Island. 

At the end of this sober visit, violist Sam Bergman posed a question to the tour guide, “When you were imprisoned here, did you have hope that the anti-apartheid struggle would eventually be won?”  Without pausing, the former-prisoner-now-guide answered, “We knew we would win. We were fighting for a just and noble cause and that saw us through.”

"For me it's not even that this puts music in perspective. This puts life in perspective."

From a story by Euan Kerr, Minnesota Public Radio

This day that began in the Northern hemisphere ended with a flourish at Cape Town’s famed Gold Restaurant, which specializes in North African, sub-Saharan and Southern African foods, all accompanied by electrifying African drumming, dancing and singing. And so this music and cultural exchange has begun.

Board Chair Marilyn Carlson Nelson welcomed the assembled tour group by saying, “The world needs the music you make.”

"Put on your dancing shoes. Cape Town welcomes you!"

Thursday was a free day for Minnesota Orchestra musicians and a holiday—National Women’s Day—for the students of the Cape Music Institute but both Orchestra professionals and music students opted to forego a day-off for the chance to participate in a music exchange together.

"The students greeted the Brass Quintet with song, launching into "Welcome to Cape Town," a rollicking piece lauding the city, its people and its natural beauty."

-Euan Kerr, Minnesota Public Radio

Faith Pretorius is an administrator at the Cape Music Institute, a professional school tucked into Athlone Stadium in Cape Town that offers both music and life training for super-talented 18 to 24-year-olds, many of whom come from challenging circumstances. “I tell the students that your gift cannot take you where your character cannot go,” Pretorius says.

In a crowded room—full of fellow students, administrators, and media—music students demonstrated that character, singing a joyful song, Ghoema-style.

Ghoema music, as one student explained, derives from a slave tradition, merging big band, jazz, calypso, reggae, San and Xhosa musical influences to create a totally unique, winsome sound. “Welcome to Cape Town,” the students sang. “Enjoy the party. Put on your dancing shoes. Cape Town welcomes you.”

The brass ensemble—Charles Lazarus, Douglas Carlson, R. Douglas Wright, Michael Gast and Steven Campbell—reciprocated with a little Bach, Piazzolla and Bernstein, which elicited raucous cheering from the students. “You are the best audience ever,” commented Doug Wright. “Does someone want to teach us this Ghoema piece?”

In a high point of the morning, the brass ensemble sight-read the swinging “Welcome to Cape Town” tune, flanked by student instrumentalists and vocalists who showed them the ropes. “There are no word to describe this,” said Pretorius. “We are a small school, a family, and students, you have made us proud today. Minnesota Orchestra musicians, thank you for empowering our students.”

The ensemble 29:11, which recently lit up the Twin Cities in a series of Minneapolis performances, includes many alumnae from the Cape Music Institute; this morning’s workshop concluded with a drop-in visit and performance from 29:11 of the moving Nkosi sikelel iAfrika. When asked about the impact of the day, Pretorius answered simply, “Music brings us together.”

These students and Orchestra musicians will come together again on Saturday in Elsie’s River township to perform their newfound shared song, “Welcome to Cape Town.”

Students and the Orchestra brass ensemble pose in front of Athlone Stadium, home of the Cape Music Institute, as well as two Cape Town Premier Soccer League teams.

Gusts of winter wind made performing a challenge at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront but these hardy brass players were not easily deterred. Gathering armfuls of sheet music that almost blew into the harbor, the musicians re-clipped the music to their stands and carried on.

The V&A Waterfront is one of the city’s main tourist attractions, even on a brisk winter day.

Photography by Travis Anderson. Follow along throughout the tour on our South Africa landing page.

BBC Proms | Aug 6

On August 6, the Minnesota Orchestra made a triumphant return to the BBC Proms, the world’s largest classical music festival, with an all-American program. Music Director Osmo Vänskä led the Orchestra in a performance of Bernstein’s Overture to Candide, George Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F, featuring Inon Barnatan as soloist, and Charles Ives’ visionary Symphony No. 2.

"With the Minnesota players alert and precise from the get-go, it opened the programme with a burst of vitality that mellowed into warmth..."

-George Hall, Financial Times (London)

Keeping with tradition, the Prommers injected their humor into the concert experience—applauding Concertmaster Erin Keefe as she sounded the ‘A’ on the piano to tune the orchestra and shouting “Heave, Ho!” as the stage crew lifted the lid of the piano in anticipation of Barnatan’s performance. After his performance, the Prommers wanted more, stomping their feet as a request for an encore, and the soloist obliged, returning to the stage to perform a virtuosic, playful and improvisational rendition of Gershwin’s I’ve Got Rhythm.

"This was as fine a reading as I've heard in years, up there with the greats… Barnatan's encore, Earl Wild's Virtuoso Étude on 'I got Rhythm', was swish and light-fingered, classically cool with a dizzy suggestion of Domenico Scarlatti two-hundred years on, cigars and a bourbon for backcloth: superb."

-Ateş Orga, Classical Source

Although there were moments of informality and humor, the full house of eager fans was rapt by the Orchestra’s performance throughout the evening.

After a rousing conclusion of the Ives Symphony, the audience erupted into thunderous applause. As he returned to the stage for the encore, Vänskä spoke about the Orchestra’s South Africa tour in celebration of Nelson Mandela’s Centenary and dedicated the Orchestra’s encore, Shosholoza—a traditional South African song—to the people of South Africa.


Mary Miller, a resident of Brighton, Sussex, shared her enthusiasm after the concert with an Orchestra staffer. “The Orchestra played extremely well,” she said, “and it was a real treat for us to hear an all-American program.”

Belfast native Andrew Sloan said he enjoyed his first-ever Proms concert, adding that he’ll be back the next time the Minnesota Orchestra comes to town.


The concert, broadcast live across Minnesota on Classical MPR and throughout the U.K. on BBC Radio 3, was the prelude to the Orchestra’s five-city tour of South Africa, which begins this week in Cape Town with a series of engagement activities and a sold-out concert at Cape Town's City Hall on Friday evening.

Musicians and staff arrived yesterday afternoon at Royal Albert Hall for rehearsal in preparation for the evening’s concert. Photographer Travis Anderson captured a behind-the-scenes look during the rehearsal.

Minnesota Orchestra Music Director Osmo Vänskä and Concertmaster Erin Keefe enter Royal Albert Hall for the Orchestra’s afternoon rehearsal.

The low brass section rehearses the encore, Shosholoza, a traditional South African song. Sung by Mandela while he was imprisoned at Robben Island, the tune has unofficially become the country’s second anthem. 

"Finally, the concert’s knockout punch: the encore of the South African miners’ song Shosholoza, the country’s unofficial national anthem, delivered with bone-shaking panache by the orchestra’s singing musicians. South Africa, look out." 

-Geoff Brown, The Times 

Principal Trumpet Manny Laureano uses a Greek fisherman’s cap as a mute in the Gershwin piece. In the score, Gershwin called for the crown of a felt hat. Laureano, like other trumpeters, has experimented with different types of felt and felt hats, but found that his authentic Greek fisherman’s cap produces the purest sound and intonation.

Rehearsal and behind-the-scenes photography by Travis Anderson. Concert photography by Chris Christodoulou.

For complete media coverage, please visit our Press Room page.

Midwest Tour 2018: Chicago

The Midwest tour concluded on Sunday afternoon with a performance at the Chicago Symphony Center, home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. This concert marked the Orchestra’s first performance on Chicago’s Orchestra Hall stage in over 50 years; the last was in 1966 under then-Music Director Stanislaw Skrowaczewski.

After the ensemble traveled from Urbana, Illinois, to downtown Chicago on Saturday, the musicians and staff spent the remainder of the day sightseeing in the Windy City, connecting with former classmates and colleagues, or just resting up for the final concert. Many of the musicians chose to attend the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s evening performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 5. In return, Chicago’s musicians appeared throughout the audience on Sunday afternoon.

Before the Orchestra’s final quick rehearsal, musicians arrived earlier than usual, taking time to explore the acoustics and aesthetics at Orchestra Hall. Many had performed here in the past, but for some, it was a dream come true, having never performed in Chicago or on that stage, which was built in 1904 -- just one year after the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra was founded!

Osmo Vänskä, the Orchestra musicians, and pianist Inon Barnatan gave a dazzling performance of Sibelius, Tchaikovsky, and Beethoven, and after a long standing ovation, they added a delightful encore of Sibelius’ Tanz-Intermezzo. The concert capped a weeklong tour that included a true Minnesota blizzard, countless connections with students in Indiana and Illinois, concerts at some of the Midwest’s most beautiful venues, and a long-awaited return to the Chicago Symphony Center.

The Orchestra returned to Minneapolis late Sunday night, greeted by crowds and excitement of a different kind: Super Bowl LII!

Photos by Greg Helgeson.

Midwest Tour 2018: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Orchestra musicians and staff were warmly welcomed to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign this week.

The two-day residency began on Thursday evening with a concert at the beautiful Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. Osmo Vänskä led the musicians in a performance that included an encore, Tanz-Intermezzo by Jean Sibelius, book-ending the concert with music by the Finnish composer.

Assistant Conductor Akiko Fujimoto visited Urbana High School on Friday afternoon to work with students in their orchestra classes. She conducted two ensembles of ninth through twelfth graders and then held a Q&A session with the students from both groups. She was asked about her musical background, her favorite pieces and which ones are still on her "Conducting Bucket List" (such as Beethoven's Missa Solemnis). Several students had attended the Orchestra performance on Thursday night and had follow-up questions about the music and the instruments onstage.

Continuing the Orchestra's tradition of rehearsing side-by-side with student ensembles as it travels the world, the members of the University of Illinois Symphony shared music stands with the Minnesota Orchestra musicians on Friday afternoon, filling the auditorium's stage for a rehearsal of Brahms' First Symphony.

Masterclasses for every instrument in the orchestra were held across campus on Friday morning.

Photos by Greg Helgeson.

Midwest Tour 2018: Indiana University

Just as the Minnesota Orchestra was scheduled to head off on its Midwest tour, a blizzard hit Minneapolis, leaving hundreds of flights grounded. Many of the musicians would have to wait another day to begin their journey to Indiana.

However, a small group of Orchestra members made it out before the storm and started the tour as scheduled with a set of masterclasses at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana.

The weather delays in Minnesota made Tuesday an exciting day of travel with many of the musicians arriving at Indiana University Auditorium just in time to change into their concert attire and quickly warm up for the performance. Students and community members from Bloomington, Indiana, filled the expansive hall to hear the Orchestra perform music by Sibelius, Tchaikovsky and Beethoven.

Music Director Osmo Vänskä conducts Sibelius’ En Saga.

Pianist Inon Barnatan performs as soloist in Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1.

The Orchestra receives a standing ovation after their concert at Indiana University.

Indiana University President Michael McRobbie welcomed the musicians and staff at a reception following the concert.

Wednesday's residency activities at the IU Jacobs School of Music included events with all of the Orchestra musicians and many of the IU's students and faculty.

The morning began with a violin masterclass led by Concertmaster Erin Keefe and Principal Second Violin Peter McGuire, a panel discussion about community engagement, and a rehearsal of the IU Philharmonic guest conducted by Music Director Osmo  Vänskä. The ensemble was working on Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra.

After the rehearsal, student comments included:

"We grew a ton in that single rehearsal." — Brian, violinist

"It was super inspiring. I think we played with many new colors today." — Ethan, concertmaster

"It was a lot of fun. Osmo Vänskä is full of energy!" — Alex, bass trombone

In the afternoon, a string quartet of Orchestra members performed for students at Fairview Elementary. Violinists Sarah Grimes and James Garlick, violist David Auerbach and cellist Silver Ainomäe played music by Mozart, Dvořák and Ravel. Many of the students listening are part of a new strings program at their school where they are learning to play the violin. During the one-hour session, they were also introduced to the viola and cello and they asked many questions about what life is like as a professional musician.

Afterwards, some of the youngest students stayed to meet the musicians and measure their height in relation to Silver's cello!

Across campus, several of the Orchestra staff and musicians presented about the Minnesota Model at a luncheon at the Hutton Honors College.

The full Orchestra returned to the Auditorium stage to rehearse side-by-side with IU's Symphony Orchestra. Totaling more than 150 musicians onstage, the group filled the hall with incredible sound as they played Hindemith's Symphonic Metamorphosis with Osmo Vänskä conducting.

"At break, I thought it was great that almost no one left their seats. We all wanted to stay and learn more from the Minnesota Orchestra musicians!” — Grace, bassoon

Thank you for the warm welcome, Indiana University!

Photos by Greg Helgeson, Emma Plehal, Chris Marshall, Mele Willis, and Kari Marshall.

Common Chords 2017: Grand Rapids

The Orchestra headed east on the pine tree-flanked Highway 2 on Thursday morning, traveling from Bemidji to Grand Rapids—the home of Judy Garland, 1000 lakes and the Reif Center, where the Orchestra will play on Friday night.

Photos and updates from the road

Grand Rapids | Bemidji

Associate Conductor Roderick Cox’s first stop was the High School, where he led an end-of-day rehearsal with a combined band of sophomores, juniors and seniors. Band director Dale Gunderson has been leading the ensemble in music they’ll perform at graduation in a few weeks, and today was Roderick’s turn at the podium. “Can you sing the pitch for me?” he asked student trombone players. “You have to hear and feel the pitch inside to be able to play it in tune.” Friday, many of the same students will hear Roderick lead the Minnesota Orchestra in a day-time Symphonic Adventures program.

Across town, the Brass players gathered at Central Square Mall, playing a mix of Bach, tangos, jazz and rags. Trumpeter Lynn Erickson received a special cheer from the hometown crowd when she announced that she grew up in Chisholm, just a few hours from Grand Rapids on the Iron Range.

The afternoon’s events concluded at the MacRostie Art Center, where string players Anthony Ross, Kathryn Nettleman, Sam Bergman and Sarah Grimes played chamber music by Rossini and Dohnányi. “We’ve loved playing for you and we love being in Grand Rapids,” said Sam Bergman.

Grand Rapids, MN

(L to R) Sarah Grimes, violin, Anthony Ross, cello, and Sam Bergman, viola

Grand Rapids, MN

Anthony Ross and Kathryn Nettleman share a moment after performing at the MacRostie Art Center.

Grand Rapids, MN

Anthony Ross (cello) and Kathryn Nettleman (bass)

Grand Rapids, MN

Our brass quintet at Grand Rapids' Central Square Mall

Grand Rapids, MN

Associate Conductor Roderick Cox works with Grand Rapids High School band members.

Grand Rapids, MN

Violist Sam Bergman hosted a Symphonic Adventures concert for Grand Rapids-area students.

Grand Rapids, MN

Cellist Pitnarry Shin

Grand Rapids, MN

Basses Kathryn Nettleman (left) and Kristen Bruya.

Grand Rapids, MN

The brass quintet performed at various venues in each of the towns we visited on tour.

Grand Rapids, MN

We have loved traveling this week with Orchestra dogs and babies! Pictured, from left, violinist Kathryn Bennett and son Dylan; Principal Clarinet Gabriel Campos Zamora and Bruno; Principal Flute Adam Kuenzel and Leo; violinist Rebecca Corruccini and Sunshine; and violinist James Garlick with Ellie.

Grand Rapids, MN

Violinist Jonathan Magness (left) and Violist Rebecca Albers.

Grand Rapids, MN

Associate Conductor Roderick Cox led all our performances on this tour.

Grand Rapids, MN

A sea of string players performing Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony.

Grand Rapids, MN

Backstage at the Reif Center in Grand Rapids: Violinist David Brubaker (left) and Violist Gareth Zehngut (center) share a laugh with violinist Peter McGuire (right).

Grand Rapids, MN

Associate Conductor Roderick Cox leading the Minnesota Orchestra in Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony.

Grand Rapids, MN

Associate Conductor Roderick Cox

Grand Rapids, MN

Piccolo Roma Duncan (left) and Flute Wendy Williams (right)

Grand Rapids, MN

Thank you for your generous hospitality, Grand Rapids!

Common Chords 2017: Bemidji

Paul Bunyan welcomed the Minnesota Orchestra to blustery Bemidji on Wednesday. The Orchestra arrived here as part of a one-week, three-city Common Chords tour across Minnesota that began in the western part of the state with a Monday night performance in Willmar.

Photos and updates from the road

Grand Rapids | Bemidji

Now up north just 30 miles from the famed headwaters of the Mississippi, the Orchestra began its day with a Symphonic Adventures concert for Bemidji students at the high school. Musicians fanned out in the afternoon for small ensemble performances, with a string trio performing at KAXE Radio and a brass quintet at the beloved Paul Bunyan statue.

Drizzle and strong winds meant the brass players weren’t able to perform outdoors in the shadow of Paul and Babe the Blue Ox. They moved instead into the adjacent, wood-clad Visitor’s Center that is filled with giant-sized Paul Bunyan memorabilia.

In the evening, the full Orchestra took the stage again, led by Associate Conductor Roderick Cox, and the day ended as it began: with the powerful swells of Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony. Thursday, the Orchestra travels to Grand Rapids.

The Minnesota Orchestra in Bemidji

A chamber music performance by Sam Bergman (viola), Sarah Grimes (violin) and Katja Linfield (cello) was shared on KAXE Community Radio Wednesday afternoon.

The Minnesota Orchestra in Bemidji

Our brass quintet—and Paul Bunyan's rifle.

The Minnesota Orchestra in Bemidji

Ole Paul with our brass quintet.

The Minnesota Orchestra in Bemidji

Bass Trombonist Andrew Chappell warms up backstage at Bemidji High School.

The Minnesota Orchestra in Bemidji

Assistant Concertmaster Rui Du (left) and violist Kenneth Freed warm up backstage.

The Minnesota Orchestra in Bemidji

Associate Conductor Roderick Cox led the orchestra in a performance that included Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4.

The Minnesota Orchestra in Bemidji

Associate Conductor Roderick Cox

The Minnesota Orchestra in Bemidji

Associate Principal Horn Herbert Winslow (left) and bassoonist Norbert Nielubowski

The Minnesota Orchestra in Bemidji

Associate Principal Clarinet Gregory Williams (left) and clarinetist David Pharris.

The Minnesota Orchestra in Bemidji

Principal Clarinet Gabriel Campos Zamora (left) and Acting Principal Bassoon Mark Kelley.

The Minnesota Orchestra in Bemidji

The Minnesota Orchestra at the conclusion of Tchaikovsky's Fourth.

Common Chords: Greater Minnesota

The Minnesota Orchestra embarks on a three-city Minnesota Tour, visiting Willmar, Bemidji and Grand Rapids to offer concerts and educational activities. Watch this space for photos, video and press coverage throughout the tour! Common Chords Home »

Photos and updates from the road

Grand Rapids | Bemidji

Complete concert details

Monday, May 15: Willmar

Wednesday, May 17: Bemidji

Friday, May 19: Grand Rapids

Florida 2017: Miami

The Minnesota Orchestra concluded its three-city Florida tour with a performance at Miami's Arsht Center on Tuesday. All photos © Justin Namon.

The Minnesota Orchestra in Florida

Rehearsal in the Arsht Center, Miami, Florida.

The Minnesota Orchestra in Florida

Backstage at the Arsht Center.

The Minnesota Orchestra in Florida

Aho's Gejia sheet music, ready for the concert to begin.

The Minnesota Orchestra in Florida

Trumpeter Robert Dorer warms up backstage.

The Minnesota Orchestra in Florida

Signed copies of the night's program.

The Minnesota Orchestra in Florida

Music Director Osmo Vänskä conducted a performance of Aho, Beethoven, and Sibelius.

The Minnesota Orchestra in Florida

The Minnesota Orchestra in Florida

The Minnesota Orchestra in Florida

Thank you, Miami!

Florida 2017: Naples

The Minnesota Orchestra launched a three-city Florida tour on Sunday evening with a performance in Naples. Playing at Artis-Naples, the major venue for visual and performing arts in this southwestern Florida city, Music Director Osmo Vänskä led the Orchestra in Finnish composer Kalevi Aho’s Gejia and Sibelius’ masterful Fifth Symphony. MacArthur fellowship winner Alisa Weilerstein joined Osmo and the Orchestra for a performance of Dvořák’s beautiful Cello Concerto. If the program sounds appealing, you can hear it at Orchestra Hall this weekend. Before returning to Minneapolis though, the Orchestra will first perform for sun-belt audiences this week in Sarasota and Miami. All photos © Erik Kellar.

Associate Principal Flute Greg Milliren warms up.

Trumpeter Charles Lazarus warms up backstage.

Acting Associate Principal Timpani Kevin Watkins chats with Principal Tuba Steven Campbell backstage.

Bass Trombonist Andrew Chappell warms up.

The Minnesota Orchestra begins to take the stage at Artis-Naples.

Violinist Michael Sutton rosins his bow.

The basses warm up. Left, Principal Bass Kristen Bruya and middle, Acting Associate Principal Bass Kathryn Nettleman.

Violist Gareth Zehngut (center) just prior to the performance.

Violinist David Brubaker warms up backstage.

Music Director Osmo Vänskä leads the orchestra in Aho's Gejia.

Music Director Osmo Vänskä also conducted Sibelius' Fifth Symphony.

Violinist Arnold Krueger acknowledges the crowd.

Alisa Weilerstein performed Dvořák’s Cello Concerto.

Violinist Peter McGuire greets an audience member after the performance.

Music Director Osmo Vänskä acknowledges the crowd.

Thank you, Naples, Florida!

Peace in Amsterdam

Our new Principal Clarinet, Gabriel Campos Zamora, returned from his first Minnesota Orchestra tour with a unique story to tell.

We arrived at the Hilton hotel in Amsterdam and were told right away that this was the very hotel where John Lennon and Yoko Ono had stayed–I'll come back to that in just a second. After having a meal at a great Indonesian restaurant near Amsterdam's Central Station on our last day in the Netherlands, I decided it was time to head back to the hotel, have a nightcap with Joseph Peters (our new principal oboe) and call it a night.

I wanted to get a good night’s sleep before an early morning flight to Copenhagen, but I just couldn’t because of a party in the next room over. I called the front desk to see if they might talk to them but their efforts lead nowhere. We finally realized that the only way to fix the situation was to move to a different room so, at two in the morning, I packed my suitcase.

When someone from the hotel arrived with new keys, I was informed that every room in the hotel was occupied but that I could stay in the legendary John and Yoko honeymoon suite! There were numerous photos of the ex-Beatle with Yoko lounging in the same bed where I'd sleep that night! Unfortunately, I had only a couple of hours before I had to get up, get ready and head to the airport. But first, I jumped in the luxurious bathtub and laughed about the irony of the situation.


 Gabriel Campos Zamora, a native of San José, Costa Rica is the newly appointed principal clarinet of the Minnesota Orchestra. Campos was most recently the associate principal clarinet of the Kansas City Symphony and has appeared as guest principal clarinet with the Cleveland Orchestra, Seattle and Houston Symphonies in addition to serving as the Virginia Symphony's principal clarinet. More:

See You Soon!

Saturday August 27, 2016
It’s a cloudless morning in Copenhagen, and we are heading home, tired, but buoyed by the music and each other. Outside the concert hall last night, the cacophony and confusion of the Tivoli amusement park seemed to sum up the complex challenges that our staff and stage crew navigate so calmly and miraculously.

And now begins the long journey home.

How can I have failed to mention that my cello reached Finland, then Scotland, Holland, and Denmark, with all its fingers and toes! May there be a special place in heaven for our stage crew. Most of the musicians will be home in a day or two. But for our instruments, wardrobe trunks, music library, etc., (82 trunks weighing seven tons!) it will take a week.

Everything will travel by truck to Luxembourg, where it will be met by our stage crew and “palletized” for the cargo plane. (Oh dear, I really resist these made-up verbs.) Then flown to Chicago, where it will again be met by our stage crew, loaded onto the orchestra truck and finally off-loaded—again by our stage crew--at Orchestra Hall. They are the best.

One of the special pleasures of this tour has been having many of our board members and patrons traveling in tandem with us. Breakfasts in the hotels or backstage after a concert: it is a real joy to know you have shared both our excitement and our anxiety. This has been a truly joyful, deepening connection. Thank you for your steadying presence!

And thank you to all in Minnesota who have been following us and rooting for us. We’ll be getting ready to start a new season. See you soon.

Our Musical Heritage

Friday, August 26
We have just arrived in Copenhagen. Another unusually warm day, and we are trying to get our bearings. Tivoli Hall is a new venue for us; this is the orchestra’s first time in Denmark.

Since we left Lahti, the schedule has left little time to contemplate esoteric sunrises or much of anything besides finding a cup of coffee at strategic moments. Edinburgh, the second of our four concerts went by in a blur. Our very tight schedule was made significantly tighter by one Very. Thorough. Passport control agent.

Historic concert halls tend not to have all the modern conveniences for all the obvious reasons, and once again our heroic stage crew managed to shoe-horn our instruments and wardrobe trunks safely into and out of a very tricky, very cramped backstage.

Then, seemingly in a matter of minutes, we were in Amsterdam, warming up on the stage of the marvelous Concertgebouw. Playing in that legendary hall, we feel viscerally connected to our musical heritage. More than any other discipline I can think of, ours is passed from Master to Pupil. My teacher studied with Felix Salmond, who played chamber music with Brahms. Erin Keefe’s teacher studied with Efrem Zimbalist, who studied with Leopold Auer, to whom Tchaikovsky dedicated his violin concerto.

Each of us can trace a lineage to the musicians who formed the foundation of the symphony orchestra as we know it today. And few concert halls embody that history like this one. It’s so easy to forget that before the relatively recent advent of recorded music, live music was the only music. For our great treasury of magnificent western music to develop, it was necessary for one generation of composers to be heard by—and inspire—the next.

That’s the history we sense here. As we warm up onstage, it seeps into our bones. It’s a legacy we hope we are not just bringing back to Minnesota with our experiences, stories, and reviews, but a musical legacy of our own which we are also creating, day by day, year by year, for audiences at home.

Photos: Copenhagen, Denmark

One week, four countries, five appearances—and now the Minnesota Orchestra’s fifth European tour with Music Director Osmo Vӓnskӓ is a wrap. Landing in Denmark on Friday afternoon, musicians wound their way through the carnival-like atmosphere of the Tivoli Gardens amusement park to enter Tivoli Concert Hall for the tour’s final concert. “There is nothing better than playing great music with a great orchestra,” said Principal Horn Michael Gast. “We’ve loved sharing concerts with these international audiences.”

Osmo Vänskä makes his way to Tivoli Concert Hall.

Tivoli Concert Hall is tucked in a back corner of the Tivoli Gardens Amusement Park, which is the world’s second oldest amusement park. Arriving are bass player Bill Schrickel, horn player Bruce Hudson, violinist Roger Frisch, and bass player Kristen Bruya.

Violist Sam Bergman and trumpeter Charles Lazarus arrive for rehearsal.

Clarinetist Greg Williams warms up.

Violinist Roger Frisch prepares for rehearsal.

Assistant Concertmaster Rui Du prepares to rehearse Sibelius and Beethoven.

Violist Gareth Zehngut arrives backstage.

Violists Tom Turner and Rebecca Albers check in during rehearsal.

Dr. Hilden, Assistant Chief of Medicine at the Hennepin County Medical Center and host of WCCO radio’s Healthy Matters program, is serving as the Orchestra’s tour physician. Traveling with the ensemble, he is on call 24/7 to manage health issues, large or small.

Osmo and the Orchestra shared a moment at the final rehearsal of the tour, with Osmo thanking the players for their hard work. He told the Orchestra that if you can do this, after all that we’ve been through, “then it makes me believe there are no limits.”

Guests enjoy the outdoors on the terrace before the concert.

Tivoli Gardens, not surprisingly, has beautiful rose gardens.

The 2005 renovation included the addition of this glass foyer with a spectacular chandelier.

The original Tivoli Concert Hall was destroyed in World War II but a new hall was built in 1956 and then renovated in 2005.

Brian Mount warms up outside the concert venue.

Bass player Matthew Frischman is ready.

Pekka Kuusisto described the Orchestra as a “powerful beast” in his concert comments.

Presented with a thank you floral bouquet by the concert presenter, violinist Pekka Kuusisto flings it out into the concert hall.

Osmo led Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony for the Orchestra’s debut in this Scandinavian concert hall.

After a second encore –Brahms’ whirling Hungarian Dance No. 2—Osmo led the Orchestra offstage, and the tour was complete.

The concert hall is spectacular at night; the amusement park was lively until well after midnight.

Putting Our Best Foot Forward

Having joined the Minnesota Orchestra just two seasons ago, major international touring is a new thing to me. Last season's historic trip to Cuba was an unforgettable experience, but a tour of four different countries is very different. 

It has been an opportunity to get just a small taste of several unfamiliar cultures. Without exception, the people in each city have been welcoming. In almost every restaurant or bar where we've sat down, there have been locals wanting to know who we are and what brought us to their city. Outside of Usher Hall in Edinburgh, one orchestra member spoke with a Scottish couple that was actually following the orchestra from city to city on our tour. 

It has also been an opportunity to see more of what makes our orchestra the great institution that it is. We have a staff who have a handle on every possible detail of what is a very complex venture; we have a crew, sometimes working on little to no sleep that has each hall perfectly prepared for us in each city when we arrive; and we have a phenomenal group of musicians who ably adapt to new hall after new hall, putting our best foot forward each concert with barely any rehearsal.

Tonight we will perform at Tivoli Hall in Copenhagen after which I will be glad to return to a familiar city and a familiar bed. I will return home however, prouder of the group that we are and eagerly anticipating what the future holds for this great orchestra.

Violist Gareth Zehngut joined the Minnesota Orchestra in summer 2014, coming from the San Diego Symphony. While in San Diego he also performed frequently with the California Chamber Orchestra, serving as principal viola, and with Orchestra Nova. Read his full biography here.

Photos: Amsterdam

It is impossible to visit Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw without thinking of the musical greats who have performed in this space—Gustav Mahler, Richard Strauss, Louis Armstrong. On Wednesday, it was Osmo Vӓnskӓ and the Minnesota Orchestra who had their turn on the famous stage, performing Beethoven’s Fifth in what Osmo called “one of the best, best halls in the world.”

MPR’s Michael Osborne was on the job to engineer the live broadcast that brought the concert to audiences in Minnesota.

Doug Carlsen (left) and Bob Dorer (right) rehearse.

Rehearsing before tonight's performance: Kate Nettleman (left) and Kristen Bruya (right).

Cellist Sachiya Isomura.

Violinist Pekka Kuusisto performed Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 1.

Osmo performed a Swedish folk song with Pekka Kuusisto as an encore in the first half of the program.

Osmo Vӓnskӓ and Pekka Kuusisto exit the stage together.

Brian Newhouse announced the concert for MPR from a tiny recording booth located on the highest level of the hall, accessible by a narrow, winding staircase. In addition to Minnesota, the concert was also broadcast live to audiences in The Netherlands and Italy. More European nations will carry the rebroadcast later this summer.

Performing Beethoven's Fifth at the Concertgebouw.

Applause for Osmo Vӓnskӓ and the Minnesota Orchestra.

Flowers for Concertmaster Erin Keefe.

Conductors and soloists enter the Concertgebouw stage from a steep upstage staircase. “The biggest challenge for the conductor is to take care on these stairs,” said Osmo. “You have to be careful you do not roll down.”

Grateful acknowledgement of the enthusiastic, sold-out crowd.

Built in 1886, the Concertgebouw attracts over 700,000 visitors a year and is known for its exceptional acoustics. Many of our musicians cite it as their favorite hall.

Violinist Deborah Serafini toured the Amsterdam canals on the Orchestra’s free day.

Photos: Edinburgh, Scotland

Tuesday was time to push forward to Scotland. Following a 90-minute bus ride to Helsinki, a two-and-a half-hour flight to Edinburgh and a slow line through customs, the Orchestra arrived in this capital city with barely two hours to spare before a 6:30pm touch-up rehearsal and an 8pm concert. The performance was part of the Edinburgh International Festival, generally considered one of the most important cultural celebrations in the world.

Osmo is a fan of 10-week old Arthur Garlick, whose dad (James) is playing as an additional musician on the tour.

Staff member Michael Pelton confers with Alessandra, who works for Classical Movements, the company that expertly manages travel logistics on the road for the Orchestra.

Quarters are tight—this charter flight did not have a single empty seat!

A light drizzle started to fall as the Orchestra finally made its way out of the airport.

We're in Scotland!

This tour stop is too brief for musicians to consider a visit to Edinburgh Castle, but the spectacular structure dominates the city.

Trumpeter Bob Dorer celebrates the Orchestra’s arrival at Usher Hall in Edinburgh.

Assistant Conductor Roderick Cox confers with violinist Pekka Kuusisto at rehearsal.

Adapting to the acoustics of a new venue each day with minimal rehearsal time is part of the intrigue and challenge of touring. Principal Trombone Doug Wright warms up pre-concert.

Principal Trumpet Manny Laureano takes a moment backstage to reflect pre-concert.

Associate Principal Oboe John Snow prepares for tonight's concert.

Associate Principal Flute Greg Milliren backstage at Usher Hall.

Stage Manager Gail Reich with Technical Director Joel Mooney. Gail, who plans to retire from her position this fall, is celebrating her 9th international tour with the Orchestra.

Power foursome: artistic staff members Kris Arkis, Beth Kellar Long , Kari Marshall and Mele Willis make the tour run.

Concertgoers line up outside of Usher Hall.

Osmo prepares for his stage entrance. First up on the program tonight: Sibelius’s Pohjola’s Daughter.

Stage Managers from Scotland, Finland and Minnesota unite. Our Technical Director Joel Mooney, center.

Osmo and Pekka share a backstage moment before the Concerto.

The Edinburgh International Festival was established in 1947 as a way to boost post-war Britain. Now the Festival presents over 160 performances involving over 2500 artists each season, and the Minnesota Orchestra is proud to be among their ranks.

This concert marked the Minnesota Orchestra’s third appearance at the Festival.

Tonight’s concert concluded with a performance of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony—now a powerful calling card for this Orchestra and conductor.

Acknowledgement of another wonderful audience!

Applause for Osmo Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra.

Thank you, Edinburgh!

Photos: Lahti, Finland Side-by-Side Rehearsal

On Monday morning Minnesota Orchestra musicians met and mentored student players from Finland’s VIVO Symphony Orchestra, a training orchestra that is made up of talented young players from all corners of Finland. Osmo conducted Dvořák's New World Symphony during the two hour session, encouraging students to focus on articulation, phrasing and playing ever-softer dynamics.

“More people onstage means you have the chance to play even more softly,” he said. The Orchestra has a long tradition of playing side-by-side rehearsals in the Twin Cities, most recently funded by Rosemary and David Good.


Co-Principal Viola Richard Marshall with student.


Gareth Zehngut, violist, with student.


Sixteen-year-old Markus of Kotka, Finland couldn’t sleep well the night before the side-by-side rehearsal. “It was such an amazing thought that I was going to be here,” he said. “This was the most bass players I have ever played with and the pure power of sound coming through was amazing.” Although he wants to be a pilot someday, he is also open to a life in music and left Principal Bass Kristen Bruya with an open-ended offer: “If you ever need a bass player…”


Concertmaster Erin Keefe and student.


On Sunday he was the star soloist for Prokofiev’s First Violin Concerto; on Monday Pekka Kuusisto surprised his student standmate and joined the section violins to participate in the side-by-side rehearsal.


Clarinetist Tim Zavadil with student.


A full stage of students and professionals rehearsing Dvořák's New World Symphony with Osmo Vänskä.


Principal Clarinet Gabriel Campos Zamora (right) with student.


The horn section takes on Dvořák.


How do you say “cheese” in Finnish? Minnesota Orchestra musicians and their student counterparts in the VIVO Symphony posed for a group photo overlooking Lake Vesi during a rehearsal break on Monday.


“Thank you flutes for playing with me,” Osmo said. “It is important to be flexible and take the conductor’s tempo. That is what marks the professional players.”


The trumpets listen attentively.


Sixteen-year-old Markus of Kotka, Finland rehearses Dvořák.


The podium in Lahti’s Sibelius Hall bears a dedication to Osmo from his 50th birthday.


Flute players Wendy Williams (left) and Roma Duncan (second from right) with students.


VIVO student musicians were surprised to see Pekka Kuusisto joining them in the violin section for today's rehearsal.


Rehearsal ended with a lunch that paired musicians and students side by side in the Sibelius Hall lobby. (No herring on this menu!)


Stage crew members Joel Mooney (right) and Don Hughes confer before the rehearsal. Moving instruments and equipment is a big feat on an international tour, and this crew plots each move with great precision.

Shining Bright in Finland

Saturday, August 20
On the flight over I found myself casually discussing jet-lag with Wendy Williams and Marni Hougham. “Oh, it never hits me hard travelling in this direction,” I said blithely in the Amsterdam airport, quite certain that I would not be the only person in Helsinki electrifyingly awake at 4am. And now, positively drugged, trying to wake up from a nap at 4 in the afternoon.

How do they do it—our stunning international soloists who show up week after week in Minnesota to bestow their brilliant performances on music-lovers in Orchestra Hall, and then depart for other concert halls in other countries around the world? Always at their best. Seemingly impervious to fatigue, hunger, nerves. How does Osmo do it?

Somehow I think there’s more to it than simply, “Drink more water.”

And so I am using our free day to try to adjust my clock, as all the other musicians are doing as well. And to remember that today would have been my father’s birthday. He died suddenly three days before our very first European tour with Eiji Oue in 1998. He was a conductor, studied in Leonard Bernstein’s class with Koussevitzky at Tanglewood. He conducted a few Beethoven 5ths in his time. How he would have liked to be on tour with us now to hear this orchestra play Beethoven’s 5th in Edinburgh and Amsterdam. Isn’t it bittersweet that I remember that tour more vividly than any other?

Tomorrow it’s Beethoven’s 3rd in Lahti. I’ll be ready. I’ll drink more water. But if that fails, I know I can depend on the music itself to make me new.

Sunday, August 21
The Helsinki sun seems very low in the sky to me, and bright. So much so that I checked and discovered that the latitude of Minneapolis is about the same as Bologna, Italy, and Helsinki’s is level with Anchorage, Alaska. I did not know that.

Can this be why the city seems so slow to wake up? I went for a walk at 8am, and the streets were so deserted, it gave me pause. But here I am an hour later, back in my hotel room, safe and sound.

The streets are still quiet. Not so, the hotel breakfast room. I’m reminded why touring does so much to knit an orchestra collegially, musically, and—dare I say?—spiritually.

Every tour is high-pressure, but this one is, I think, more so than most. Music lovers at home have had ample chance to witness the resurgence of the Minnesota Orchestra. But it’s still a question in the minds of audiences here in Europe, where our fans go back to the days of the Minneapolis Symphony recordings.

No audience is more important to us than concert-goers at home; they are why we exist. But we do feel a certain added excitement, and you can hear it in the animated conversations at breakfast.

Players who normally sit a few feet away from each other on stage, but who may not have actually spoken together in months, are exchanging tips on how they are coping with reeds, managing to practice without disturbing hotel guests, worrying about adjusting to each hall’s logistics and acoustics. We are aware that our collective sound and approach to playing is greatly shaped by Orchestra Hall, but how will that translate in Lahti, in Edinburgh, Amsterdam, or Copenhagen?

A major tour like this one fosters every aspect of our musical identity. Shortly we will be on our way to Lahti, where my cello awaits. First performance of the tour. It feels like a long-awaited sunrise, this chance to shine as one of the world’s great orchestras.

Photos: Lahti, Finland

The Orchestra arrived in Lahti, Finland early on Sunday afternoon with just two hours to warm-up, rehearse and acclimate to the striking wood-and-glass Sibelius Hall before a 4pm concert. Our ensemble last played a concert in this city—located about 60 miles northeast of Helsinki on the shores of Lake Vesi—in 2004, just six months into Osmo Vänskä’s first Minnesota season. Now, after 12 years, Osmo and Orchestra demonstrated how they’ve grown together. All photos © Greg Helgeson.


Board members Margee Bracken and Luella Goldberg pack their bags in Helsinki and head to Lahti. A variety of board members and fans are joining with the Orchestra in each tour city.


Andrew Chappell warms up on this first European Tour with the Orchestra.


Osmo Vänskä and Erin Keefe arrive in Lahti. Osmo served as chief conductor of the Lahti Symphony immediately prior to joining the Minnesota Orchestra, and he is still a much-celebrated figure here.


Assistant Conductor Roderick Cox steps off the bus in Lahti.


On this tour Costa Rica native Gabriel Campos Zamora begins his tenure as the Minnesota Orchestra’s principal clarinet.


Michael Sutton prepares for rehearsal at Sibelius Hall.


Principal Second Violin Peter McGuire during this morning's rehearsal.


Bassist Dave Williamson prepares for the concert.


Finnish violinist Pekka Kuusisto rehearses Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 1.


Concertmaster Erin Keefe tunes the Orchestra to start the performance.


Every seat at Sibelius Hall feels close to the stage with capacity topping out around 1200 people.


This afternoon’s capacity crowd listened with rapt attention to Beethoven’s Eroica – and then clapped and stomped for two encores.


The auditorium of Sibelius Hall is warm and intimate with the balconies creating a soft wave at the back of the venue.


Expressive Finnish violinist Pekka Kuusisto is well-known to this audience. He played the mysterious, searching Prokofiev Violin Concerto No. 1—and a mournful Swedish folk song, with clarinet accompaniment by Osmo, to thunderous applause.


Osmo Vänskä accompanies violinist Pekka Kuusisto in a Swedish folk song.


Thunderous applause for the Minnesota Orchestra!


Osmo Vänskä conducted a program that included Prokofiev and Beethoven.


Grateful acknowledgement of the enthusiastic crowd.


Chef Tapio Tolvanen, a friend of Osmo’s, created a welcome buffet to celebrate the Orchestra’s first concert of the tour. It featured five different types of herring!

Photos: traveling to Helsinki, Finland

Photo: Principal Percussion Brian Mount settles in for the overseas flight.

We've arrived in Helsinki, Finland—all 115 of us! Most photos © Greg Helgeson.

Sunset from the plane

Sunset from the plane.

At Schipol airport in Amsterdam

At the Amsterdam Schipol airport with (L to R) cellists Beth Rapier and Anthony Ross, piccolo player Roma Duncan, bassist Brian Liddle, horn player Bruce Hudson, and Principal Percussion Brian Mount.

President and CEO Kevin Smith is among the travelers

President and CEO Kevin Smith is among the travelers waiting for a connecting flight to Helsinki in Amsterdam.

Roger Frisch in Helsinki

Unmistakable signs in Finnish mark the Orchestra’s arrival in Helsinki. (Pictured, Associate Concertmaster Roger Frisch)

Helsinki Farmers Market

The entire group is spending Saturday acclimating to a new time zone. Enjoying the local berries here at a Helsinki farmers' market are Principal Trumpet Manny Laureano, violist Gareth Zehngut, horn player Bruce Hudson, cellist Eugena Chang, tuba player Steve Campbell, bass player Kristen Bruya, Assistant Conductor Roderick Cox, and bass trombone player Andrew Chappell.

Helsinki Farmers Market

Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, gooseberries, cloudberries—it's high summer in Finland.

Readying My Cello for Departure

It's a little after ten. I've just come offstage following the Tour Send-Off concert. I change clothes and pack my concert attire in the orchestra wardrobe trunks, with extra shoes, a spare outfit, and a supply of strings. Just in case. (Thankfully, I'm not as prone to breaking a string as Tony is.) I don't want any emergencies!

I do all this first so that I can turn my full attention to my cello, which I fasten into its sturdy, made-to-measure case. I wipe the fine-grained wood free of rosin dust and loosen the strings, a small precaution against airplane pressure.

I won't see my cello again until we are reunited at Sibelius Hall in Lahti. I slip a silent blessing inside the case, and place that case in its padded trunk. Dave McKoskey approaches with keys (one is the size of a small crow-bar) to secure the two sets of locks. It feels as if I am sending off a dear and precious friend, one for whom I am responsible. And I know this friend is in good hands with the orchestra's exceptional stage crew. Dave waits as I take one last look. Something tells me he understands. But the good-bye is still hard. "See you in Lahti," I whisper.

This is the cello I played at my Minnesota Orchestra audition all those years ago. A gift from my parents when I was accepted to the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. We studied in Germany together, travelled to cello competitions in Budapest and Florence, toured South America with the Camarata di Bariloche. It kept me company when I moved to Minnesota and didn't know a soul.

It had trouble adjusting to Minnesota winters and fussed the first few years: the dryness, the cold, the extremes. It needed a higher bridge. Or, when the season changed, lower. Different strings. Its wood swelled, then shrank. Seams came unglued. Just when it began to acclimate, the orchestra went to Hong Kong. Then Australia. Puerto Rico. Japan.

We have seen a great deal of the world, together.

We will be returning to Lahti for the second time, Edinburgh and Amsterdam for the third. Copenhagen will be new to us both, and I'm curious about the acoustic in this unfamiliar hall. Will it allow a full range of dynamics? Will I find it easy to blend with the other cellos in the section? I want these European audiences to know that Minnesota delivers unparalleled performances, music that is extraordinarily moving and memorable.

I watch as Dave swings the trunk door closed, fixes the heavy latches into place, and keys the locks. I call it "my" cello, but I am aware that, despite all the time we have spent together, as well as we know each other, this instrument isn't really mine. But it's my immense good fortune to be its steward, tasked with keeping it safe now for its next 250 years of music-making.

"Safe travels," I say.

Perseid and Prokofiev

Photo: Pekka Kuusisto, who will perform Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 1 with the Minnesota Orchestra on our European tour.

I don't know about you, but I fully intended to get out of bed at 3:30 am last week to see the Perseid meteor showers. How well did I do? Well, two or three shooting stars after dinner one night, and perhaps one more through my bedroom window when a car horn went off at 4am.

But closer to home, sparks were flying with abandon at Orchestra Hall on Tuesday night. This was the Tour Send-off concert. There wasn't an empty seat, and yet it felt as if we were in a room together with a group of close friends, sharing an intimate moment: our mutual love of some extraordinary music and an ardent pride in the life that flourishes in Minnesota.

It was one of those evenings that feels entirely impromptu, yet succeeds only because of the great thought that goes into it. Included were a preview of the Stephen Stucky work we will play in Amsterdam and Copenhagen; Beethoven's 5th, that linchpin of orchestral repertoire and Minnesota Orchestra discography; and—to honor the recent death of Finnish composer Rautavaara—the short, memorable second movement of his Cantus Arcticus. Then two lusty Brahms Hungarian Dances for encores.

But for me, this time, it was the Prokofiev Violin Concerto that made me silently weep. I confess that I am a poor student of musicology. (I look forward to rectifying that in my next life.) Now, as I travel to Helsinki and look out at the night sky, those astonishing harmonies will be playing in my mind. I can hear the quirky immediacy of Pekka Kuuisto's phrasing.

How is it that a work of music can elicit such longing, such personal humanity? No one has a harmonic ear as sophisticated and surprising as Prokofiev's. This could be the bleak Russian landscape of Pushkin, the hopes and worries of a post World War II baby-boomer, or the uncertainty of a Millennial. Or a map of the stars we long to understand.

Where did he find a language of such curiosity and tenderness: concise, deeply complex, and moving? How did he put all that on the page, for us to make manifest in the concert hall?

Of course, every performance is a world unto itself, but—as I get ready to play Prokofiev in Lahti—I am convinced that, if the stars could speak, this is what they would say.

Europe 2016: Photos, Press, and more

One week, four countries, five appearances—and now the Minnesota Orchestra’s fifth European tour with Music Director Osmo Vӓnskӓ is a wrap. Find videos, photos, press, and other information from our tour right here.



Copenhagen, Denmark

Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Edinburgh, Scotland

Lahti, Finland Side-by-Side Rehearsal

Lahti, Finland

Traveling to Helsinki, Finland

Updates from the road

See You Soon!
by cellist Marcia Peck

Peace in Amsterdam by clarinetist Gabriel Campos Zamora

Our Musical Heritage by cellist Marcia Peck

Putting Our Best Foot Forward by violist Gareth Zehngut

Shining Bright in Finland by cellist Marcia Peck

Perseid and Prokofiev by cellist Marcia Peck

Readying my cello for departure by cellist Marcia Peck

Tour Press

Minnesota Orchestra is back from brink and better than ever (The Scotsman, July 30, 2016)

Finnish fiddler's saunas take the heat out of a musical career (The Herald, August 1, 2016)

Minnesota Orchestra's Exciting Return to Lahti (Rondo Classic, August 2, 2016) Read online (Finnish) | Download PDF of English Translation (English)

Classical Review: It’s good to be back (The Times, August 7, 2016) Read online (registration required) | Download PDF

Let the tour begin: Minnesota Orchestra previews European program (Pioneer Press, August 16, 2016)

Dit-dit-dit-DAH! Minnesota Orchestra launches its tour boldly, with Beethoven (Star Tribune, August 17, 2016)

Having recovered from the lock-out, Minnesota Orchestra will perform on Sunday in Lahti with Vänskä and Pekka Kuusisto (Helsingin-sanomat, August 19, 2016) Read online (Finnish) | Download PDF of English Translation (English)

Concert review: Pekka Kuusisto made his violin weep with folk music (Aamulehti, August 22, 2016) Read online (Finnish) | Download PDF of English Translation (English)

Pekka Kuusisto, who received an invitation to return to London, played a Swedish folk song in Lahti (Aamulehti, August 22, 2016) Read online (Finnish) | Download PDF of English Translation (English)

Listen to the Minnesota Orchestra live from Amsterdam on Aug. 24 (Classical MPR, August 22, 2016)

"The significance of side-by-side playing should not be underestimated" (Yle Culture, August 22, 2016) Read online (Finnish) | Download PDF of English Translation (English)

How Classical MPR brings you a transatlantic concert broadcast (Classical MPR, August 23, 2016)

Concert review: The Minnesota Orchestra Shines at Sibelius Hall (Helsingin-sanomat, August 23, 2016) Read online (Finnish) | Download PDF of English Translation (English)

Osmo Vänskä had a powerful return to Sibelius Hall (Etelä-Suomen Sanomat, August 23, 2016) Download PDF of English Translation (English)

Co-rehearsal with young musicians (Etelä-Suomen Sanomat, August 23, 2016) Download PDF of English Translation (English)

Minnesota Orchestra/Vänskä/Kuusisto review – surging energy and brave originality (The Guardian, August 24, 2016)

Festival Music review: Minnesota Orchestra, Usher Hall, Edinburgh (Scotland Herald, August 24, 2016)

EIF 2016: Minnesota Orchestra, Usher Hall, Review (Edinburgh Guide, August 24, 2016)

Music Review: Minnesota Orchestra (The Scotsman, August 25, 2016)

Review: "This crack orchestral troupe are the quintessential big glossy American orchestra, the strings rich and sweeping, all sections fanatically ordered and cooperative." (The Scotsman, August 27, 2016)

Edinburgh Festival 2016: Così fan tutte, Pekka Kuusisto, Gurrelieder (The Arts Desk, August 29, 2016)


This crack orchestral troupe are the quintessential big glossy American orchestra, the strings rich and sweeping, all sections fanatically ordered and cooperative.

Read more at:

Live Broadcast

At 1 p.m. Central Time on Wednesday, August 24, Minnesota Public Radio will offer a live local broadcast of the Orchestra’s performance in Amsterdam, marking the first time a Minnesota Orchestra performance from the Concertgebouw will be broadcast in Minnesota. The live broadcast will air statewide on Classical MPR, including KSJN 99.5 FM in the Twin Cities. A complete list of Classical MPR stations can be found at Listeners will also be able to stream the broadcast via the Classical MPR website.

The performance at Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw will also be broadcast live in Amsterdam and recorded and distributed for future broadcasts by the European Broadcasting Union. Additionally, the Orchestra’s performance in Lahti, Finland, on August 21, will air on local broadcast stations throughout Finland.

Tour Performances

Sunday, August 21, 2016, 4 p.m. / Sibelius Hall, Lahti, Finland Details »

Monday, August 22, 2016, 11 a.m. / Sibelius Hall, Lahti, Finland Details »

Tuesday, August 23, 2016, 8 p.m. / Usher Hall, Edinburgh, Scotland Details »

Wednesday, August 24, 2016, 8 p.m. / Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, The Netherlands Details »

Friday, August 26, 2016, 7:30 p.m. / Tivoli Concert Hall, Copenhagen, Denmark Details »

Download our ringtone

Download one of three ringtones, featuring music from Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, which we will perform on our tour. Details »

Follow along on social media



Common Chords Detroit Lakes: Day 5

After five and a half years of brainstorming, planning and re-planning, the Minnesota Orchestra at last performed Saturday night at the Historic Holmes Theatre in Detroit Lakes.

More photos and updates from Detroit Lakes

Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5

Enjoying the beautiful Detroit Lakes area

Musicians enjoy a perfect September Saturday on the water.   The Detroit Lakes area is sometimes called the 412 lake region because there are 412 lakes in a 20 mile radius.

Roderick Cox

Roderick Cox studies a score.

Thank You, Detroit Lakes

Final performance in Detroit Lakes

Holmes Theatre Executive Director Amy Stearns introduces the concert, which was the culminating experience in the week-long, community-focused Common Chords program which has embedded Orchestra members in all aspects of community life here.

Final performance in Detroit Lakes

Final performance in Detroit Lakes

The Holmes Theatre—a grand art deco-styled theatre that offers a full series of cultural presentations through the year—was sold out early in the week for Saturday’s performance.  Led by Sarah Hicks, the concert opened with Berlioz’s brilliant Roman Carnival Overture and concluded with Dvořák's gracious New World Symphony; the work served as the Orchestra’s heartfelt thank you to the people of Detroit Lakes who were such hospitable guides, hosts and music enthusiasts over the course of our ensemble’s week in this magnificent lake country.

Final performance in Detroit Lakes

Concertmaster Erin Keefe performs Dvořák's New World Symphony

Final performance in Detroit Lakes

Thank you, Detroit Lakes! 

Common Chords Detroit Lakes Schedule

Click on a date to see the schedule of events for that day: Tue Sep 22 | Wed Sep 23 | Thu Sep 24 | Fri Sep 25 | Sat Sep 26

About Common Chords

The residency, the result of an intensive planning process by a committee of Detroit Lakes community leaders and Orchestra staff, is part of Common Chords, a multi-year project that establishes partnerships between the Orchestra and Greater Minnesota cities, each culminating in its own unique residency week.

We'll be adding photos and updates from Detroit Lakes, right here in Showcase online, all week. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for the latest photos from the road.

Common Chords Detroit Lakes: Day 4

With the arrival of the full orchestra on Thursday night, Friday was a big day in Detroit Lakes!

More photos and updates from Detroit Lakes

Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5

Arrival at Fair Hills

The full Orchestra bused up to Detroit Lakes on Thursday night, arriving after dark at Fair Hills, a quintessential Minnesota resort which had been owned by the Kaldahl family since 1926.

The full orchestra arrives at Fair Hills

The full orchestra arrives at Fair Hills

The full orchestra arrives at Fair Hills

Violist Ken Freed maps the route to his cabin.

The full orchestra arrives at Fair Hills

Concertmaster Erin Keefe, Violist Richard Marshall, and Assistant Conductor Roderick Cox. Cox, named to his position last spring, is traveling with the Orchestra for the first time. He is "covering" Saturday's concert-- meaning he is prepared to conduct the performance if Sarah Hicks were unable to do so.

The full orchestra arrives at Fair Hills

Bass player Dave Williamson takes an early morning paddle on Pelican Lake: three hours later he was onstage performing a morning Kinder Konzert.

The full orchestra arrives at Fair Hills

Music for the Junior Set

Almost 800 students from a 20-mile radius of Detroit Lakes filled the Holy Rosary Church for a morning Kinder Konzert. The program, specially designed  for preschoolers, focuses on introducing students to the instrument families and concludes with a musical story.

Kinder Konzert

Kinder Konzert

Kinder Konzert

Brian Mount is always a favorite with students. "We are thirty minutes into our program and they haven't let me play yet," he said. "That is going to change NOW!"

Kinder Konzert

Dave Williamson: "Bass is spelled b-a-s-s just like the fish, but we pronounce it differently."

Kinder Konzert

Tim Zavadil on the clarinet: "When my fingers are up, I play higher and when they are down, it's a lower note."

Kinder Konzert

Greg Milliren shares the intricacies of the flute. "Some people say the flute sounds like a bird."

Kinder Konzert

Narrator Katie Condon leads the story, A Perfect Square.

A Day for Celebration

Amy Stearns, executive director of the Holmes Theatre, welcomed students to Friday's "Young People's" concert. Stearns and her staff were among the outstanding Detroit Lakes movers and shakers who were invaluable in organizing the Orchestra's visit.

Young Peoples Concert

Violinist Arnold Krueger arrives for the Young People's Concert.

Young Peoples Concert

Kids arrive for the Young People's concert.

Young Peoples Concert

Flutist Wendy Williams warms up for the Young People's concert.

Young Peoples Concert

Violist Sam Bergman warms up for the Young People's concert.

Young Peoples Concert

"Who is here for their first orchestra concert?" asked conductor Sarah Hicks. When a sea of hands shot up, she called out, "That calls for a celebration!" What followed was a one hour tour de force performance by the full Orchestra of celebratory musical overtures, marches and opera interludes.

Young Peoples Concert

Bass player Kate Nettleman at the Young People's performance.

Young Peoples Concert

Hicks conducted the student audience in the art of rhythmic clapping, as the concert concluded with the high energy Radetzky March.

Young Peoples Concert

"This is great exposure to an orchestra that many of our kids otherwise wouldn't get," said band director Sarah Bauck who attended with her Waubun High School students.

Lakeside Jazz

The Orchestra's jazzers enjoyed one last round of jazz jamming, performing on Friday night at Zorbaz Pizza Shack-- a lakeside institution.

Jazz at Zorbaz

Jazz at Zorbaz

Common Chords Detroit Lakes Schedule

Click on a date to see the schedule of events for that day: Tue Sep 22 | Wed Sep 23 | Thu Sep 24 | Fri Sep 25 | Sat Sep 26

About Common Chords

The residency, the result of an intensive planning process by a committee of Detroit Lakes community leaders and Orchestra staff, is part of Common Chords, a multi-year project that establishes partnerships between the Orchestra and Greater Minnesota cities, each culminating in its own unique residency week.

We'll be adding photos and updates from Detroit Lakes, right here in Showcase online, all week. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for the latest photos from the road.

Common Chords Detroit Lakes: Day 3

We performed for our biggest audiences yet on Thursday in in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota--some 600 students from Detroit Lakes Middle School.

More photos and updates from Detroit Lakes

Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5

Ipad Generation Meets the Brass

Detroit Lakes Middle School

The brass players performed for their biggest audience yet Thursday morning–some 600 students from Detroit Lakes Middle School. Q&A time was again largely focused around the students’ fascination for the instruments.

Detroit Lakes Middle School

“Does the piccolo trumpet sound high high high?” and “How low can that tuba play?” are frequently asked questions. The full Orchestra arrived Thursday night and will perform for an assembly of elementary students on Friday.

Detroit Lakes Middle School

Detroit Lakes Middle School

Conducting the Rotary

Detroit Lakes Rotary Club

Conductor Sarah Hicks and the string players lunched with the very welcoming Detroit Lakes Rotary Club over the Thursday noon hour, and Hicks subsequently spoke on the “Art of Conducting.”  “I always tell people that conducting is a lonely profession,” she said. “I spend 90% of my time studying scores and learning music so I have a vision for the music to share with musicians.”

Detroit Lakes Rotary Club

“A conductor communicates almost solely through the language of gestures which is a very powerful thing,” said Hicks.

Detroit Lakes Rotary Club

Detroit Lakes Rotary Club

Detroit Lakes Rotary Club

When Hicks called for a volunteer, a confident Rotarian stepped forward to try her hand as a conductor. “You are a natural!” said Hicks.

Mozart on the shores of Detroit Lake

Mozart at Detroit Lake

Good weather held for an evening string serenade in a wooden gazebo at the Pavilion on the shores of Detroit Lake, the city’s namesake.  The al fresco performance by the String Quartet was part of an annual United Way community celebration to encourage community giving.

Mozart at Detroit Lake

Mozart at Detroit Lake

Cecilia Belcher and Beth Rapier greet a young fan.  The youngster heard the brass ensemble perform yesterday and came to the Pavilion tonight to meet the strings.

Festive Overtures

Side-by-side with concert band in Detroit Lakes

Minnesota Orchestra brass players crashed the weekly Lakes Area Community Concert Band rehearsal on Thursday night, sitting in to rehearse Shostakovich’s Festive Overture with the band’s regulars.  Advice from the brass guys: “One thing we always work on is learning to breathe together.  Even our percussionists and string players practice breathing together, so we all come in together.”

Side-by-side with concert band in Detroit Lakes

Sarah Bauck, high school band director in nearby Waubun and a horn player in the community band, is bringing her music students to hear the full Orchestra at Friday’s Young People’s Concert. “They have no clue what to expect,” she said at rehearsal. “What should they listen for?”

“Tell them to enjoy themselves,” said Charles Lazarus. “People feel intimidated by classical music sometimes, but we are really just another type of band.”

Side-by-side with concert band in Detroit Lakes

Side-by-side with concert band in Detroit Lakes

Jazz at the Lodge

Jazz at the Lodge

New musicians arrived in Detroit Lakes Thursday night: bass player Dave Williamson, percussionist Peter Kogan, and pianist Tommy Barbarella joined trumpeter Charles Lazarus for a late night round of jazz at the Lodge on the Lake.

Common Chords Detroit Lakes Schedule

Click on a date to see the schedule of events for that day: Tue Sep 22 | Wed Sep 23 | Thu Sep 24 | Fri Sep 25 | Sat Sep 26

About Common Chords

The residency, the result of an intensive planning process by a committee of Detroit Lakes community leaders and Orchestra staff, is part of Common Chords, a multi-year project that establishes partnerships between the Orchestra and Greater Minnesota cities, each culminating in its own unique residency week.

We'll be adding photos and updates from Detroit Lakes, right here in Showcase online, all week. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for the latest photos from the road.

Common Chords Detroit Lakes: Day 2

Our second day in in Detroit Lakes included visits to nursing homes, schools, and even the local jail.

More photos and updates from Detroit Lakes

Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5

Rainy Day, Sunny Start

Nursing Home

Residents at Essentia’s Oak Crossing Nursing Home and the Lincoln Park Senior Apartments began this stormy morning with cheerful visits from the Orchestra’s brass and string players, respectively.  “I wish I could clap louder,” said one senior at Oak Crossing following bring-down-the-house playing by the brass ensemble.

Nursing Home

“We are so privileged to have played for you today.  We’ll be in Detroit Lakes all week, popping up everywhere–so tell your friends and family to look for us in town and say hello,” said Principal Trombone Douglas Wright.

On a High Note

Sarah Hicks works with high school choir students

Conductor Sarah Hicks will lead the full Orchestra in performance on Saturday night at Detroit Lake’s Historic Holmes Theatre but, on this Wednesday morning, student singers from Detroit Lakes High School were her sole focus.   She coached these courageous solo singers in breath support, articulation and the art of confidence.

Sarah Hicks works with high school choir students

Barista Brass 

Barista Brass

La Barista is a bustling café in downtown Detroit Lakes.  Over the noon hour Wednesday, our Brass Ensemble—comprised of trumpets Charles Lazarus and Robert Dorer, trombone Douglas Wright, horn Michael Gast and tuba Steve Campbell—took up residence, playing Bernstein, Piazzolla and one of Lazarus’ own works, among others.

Open Ears in Ogema

Ogema Elementary School performance

Twenty-five minutes outside of Detroit Lakes, tucked into the White Earth Reservation, sits the small community of Ogema (population 184).  The 255 students at Ogema Elementary joined the Orchestra’s String Quartet Wednesday afternoon, many of them hearing a live string performance for the first time. 

Ogema Elementary School performance

“You sound good,” said one youngster, following a movement from Dvořák’s American String Quartet.

Ogema Elementary School performance

“Who has heard of Mozart?” asked Cecilia Belcher.  “The cool thing about Mozart is that he started composing when he was your age.”

Ogema Elementary School performance


Ogema Elementary School performance

“Who is the leader in your group?” asked one student.  Pausing for minute, cellist Beth Rapier answered, “When we play with the full Orchestra, we have a conductor who leads us.  The wonderful thing about chamber music, though, is that we all lead.  We watch each other carefully, we breathe together and that makes us play together.”

Ogema Elementary School performance

Ogema Elementary School performance

Student arms fly high as they hear a specific violin passage in the Mozart String Quartet.  Cecilia Belcher challenged students to a game: raise your arms overhead every time you hear this violin melody.  The attentive students—with ears wide open—nailed it every time.

Becker County Minimum Security Jail

Brass performance at Becker County Minimum Security Jail

No one knew exactly what to expect at the Brass Quintet's last appearance of the day--a performance at the Becker County Minimum Security Jail, but it quickly became a high point in a day filled with meaningful experiences.  "We're a sort of garage band," said trumpeter Charles Lazarus by way of introduction.  "We rehearse in our horn player's garage."  About 25 inmates took in the performance, seated at tables and in nearby bunks, listening intently and then asking questions. "How many valves does the tuba have?"  "Why do you put your hand in the horn bell?"  "Have you ever played in a marching band?"

"Individually we all have," said trombone Douglas Wright, "but not as a group.  Maybe we should try that."

The performance was the first of its kind at this facility in at least ten years, according to staff. (No photos were allowed inside.)  The ensemble pulled out all the stops: a medley from Bernstein's West Side Story, some Piazzola tangos, smokey blues and a jazzy rag to close the evening.  "It has been our pleasure," said Wright. "It's always fun to play for folks who dig it and you guys seemed to dig it."

Reverent Strings

Performing at Trinity Lutheran Church

Wednesday evening is church dinner and service night at Trinity Lutheran and this midweek service was joined by the Orchestra’s String Quartet.  Afterward, the foursome offered a chamber performance for the community in the intimate venue.

Common Chords Detroit Lakes Schedule

Click on a date to see the schedule of events for that day: Tue Sep 22 | Wed Sep 23 | Thu Sep 24 | Fri Sep 25 | Sat Sep 26

About Common Chords

The residency, the result of an intensive planning process by a committee of Detroit Lakes community leaders and Orchestra staff, is part of Common Chords, a multi-year project that establishes partnerships between the Orchestra and Greater Minnesota cities, each culminating in its own unique residency week.

We'll be adding photos and updates from Detroit Lakes, right here in Showcase online, all week. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for the latest photos from the road.

Common Chords Detroit Lakes: Day 1

Our Brass Quintet and String Quartet have arrived in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota! Their busy day on Tuesday included a visit to Detroit Lakes High School, the library, and a Silver Sneakers fitness class.

More photos and updates from Detroit Lakes

Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5

Glorious Accompaniment

Silver Sneakers Class

Silver Sneakers Class

Participants in Tuesday morning’s Silver Sneakers fitness class in Detroit Lakes were in for a surprise:  their workout was accompanied by a Minnesota Orchestra String Quartet.  The ensemble, featuring Cecilia Belcher, Joanne Opgenorth, Gareth Zehngut and Beth Rapier, played music of varying styles and tempos to mix up the mood for the class.

Meet the Band

Band Class

The Orchestra’s Brass Quintet launched its first morning in Detroit Lakes with a visit to Detroit Lakes High School, where they played for and with band students in grades 10 through 12.

Band Class

The Brass Quintet's message: stay involved in music and it can give you a lifetime of joy.  “I grew up in a small town and when I was your age, I had never even heard an orchestra,” said Principal Trombone Douglas Wright. “If any of you are interested in pursuing music for a career, know that it is possible.  You will have to work hard but it is possible.”

Band Class

Said Tim Siewert, the students’ band director:  “It is really valuable for these students to be exposed to music- making at such a high calibre.”

Band Class

Strings in the Library

Performing in the library

The Detroit Lakes Library Club meets monthly for special presentations; on Tuesday's agenda –the Minnesota Orchestra String Quartet.

Performing in the library

Singing Brass

Performing for the Detroit Lakes Choir

The lively Detroit Lakes Concert Choir spent class today meeting the Orchestra’s Brass Quintet, which played the gamut of music: jazz, blues, Broadway and classical.

Performing for the Detroit Lakes Choir

“Do any of you actually sing?” asked one student. The guys grinned and agreed, not well. “But actually, to hit the note right, we have to be singing the correct pitch in our heads,” explained Principal Horn Michael Gast. “Then our instruments become our voices.”

Performing for the Detroit Lakes Choir

Common Chords Detroit Lakes Schedule

Click on a date to see the schedule of events for that day: Tue Sep 22 | Wed Sep 23 | Thu Sep 24 | Fri Sep 25 | Sat Sep 26

About Common Chords

The residency, the result of an intensive planning process by a committee of Detroit Lakes community leaders and Orchestra staff, is part of Common Chords, a multi-year project that establishes partnerships between the Orchestra and Greater Minnesota cities, each culminating in its own unique residency week.

We'll be adding photos and updates from Detroit Lakes, right here in Showcase online, all week. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for the latest photos from the road.

Common Chords: Detroit Lakes

The Minnesota Orchestra continues its Common Chords outreach project with a weeklong residency in Detroit Lakes as the Orchestra and conductor Sarah Hicks travel to the western Minnesota city September 22-26 for a week of concerts and more than 25 events tailored to the Detroit Lakes community. Common Chords Home »

Photos and updates from the road

Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5


Click on a date to see the schedule of events for that day: Tue Sep 22 | Wed Sep 23 | Thu Sep 24 | Fri Sep 25 | Sat Sep 26

The residency, the result of an intensive planning process by a committee of Detroit Lakes community leaders and Orchestra staff, is part of Common Chords, a multi-year project that establishes partnerships between the Orchestra and Greater Minnesota cities, each culminating in its own unique residency week.

The residency concludes with an evening performance by the full Minnesota Orchestra with Sarah Hicks conducting a program that features Dvořák’s New World Symphony and works by Berlioz, Bizet and Tchaikovsky, on Saturday, September 26, at 7:30 p.m., at the Historic Holmes Theatre. Tickets for the concert are priced at $10 for adults and free for students, and are available online or by calling 218-844-7469.

We'll be adding photos and updates from Detroit Lakes, right here in Showcase online, all week. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for the latest photos from the road.

“At the highest level, Common Chords is a real exchange of people and ideas, a process that builds new and unexpected connections through music,” said Minnesota Orchestra President and CEO Kevin Smith. “The program allows us to foster deeper relationships with a community than a one-night performance typically offers. In fact, a fundamental component of the program is to jointly plan each festival week with area residents to make sure the experience is tailored specifically to the community.”

Amy Stoller Stearns, executive director of the Historic Holmes Theatre in Detroit Lakes, says, “We are thrilled that the Minnesota Orchestra will kick-off the 15-16 season at the Historic Holmes Theatre and are especially excited that their visit to our region includes numerous outreach activities at schools, businesses and other venues during their weeklong stay. These incredible musicians are world-renowned, and it’s an honor to host them in our community and to give everyone in our region a chance to experience this remarkable orchestra.”

Building on a Legacy
Common Chords builds on the Minnesota Orchestra’s long legacy of performing across the state. The fledgling Orchestra embarked on its first state-wide journey in 1907, taking the train to Moorhead, Grand Forks and Duluth. Since then, the ensemble has played nearly 700 concerts in more than 60 Minnesota cities—from International Falls to Worthington—performing in school gyms, churches, community auditoriums, theaters and the great outdoors. Detroit Lakes is the fifth city to host a Common Chords residency; Grand Rapids, which hosted the first residency in October 2011, was followed by Willmar in May 2012, Hibbing in May 2014 and Bemidji in September 2014.