The Minnesota Orchestra offered its final performance in Willmar on Saturday–after a packed week of music activities from one corner of this West Central city to another.  Baritone Andrew Wilkowske, a native of Willmar, joined the Orchestra and conductor Sarah Hicks to sing six of Copland’s Old American Songs, including Simple Gifts. Greeted with a roar of approval from his hometown audience, Wilkowske repaid the tribute. “I am a product of the Willmar public school system,” he says. “Returning under these circumstances is humbling and exciting.”

Read more: A Homecoming Gift

Following a week of some thirty chamber music performances in Willmar, community residents turned out on Friday evening to hear a performance by the full Minnesota Orchestra, led by Sarah Hicks.

Inside the Classics host Sam Bergman, who also plays viola in the Orchestra, opened the concert’s second half with thanks to the community for its work in planning Common Chords and welcoming the ensemble so graciously. The Orchestra offered gratitude in its own way: offering two Suites from Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe and La Valse.

View more photos from our residency in Willmar on our Facebook page.

From a Kinder Konzert at the library to small ensemble performances at Becker Market and Jazz n’ Java Café, Thursday evening found musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra sharing the gift of music throughout the community of Willmar, MN.

Despite a rain that had persisted during the day, skies lightened and residents turned out in good number for an Orchestra string quartet performance at the the new season’s launch of the Becker Farmers Market. Residents enjoyed the outdoor concert event while dining on sweet and savory delights from the surrounding community.

Across town at Jazz n’ Java Café, a capacity crowd was in attendance for a concert by a jazz quartet featuring orchestra musicians Charles Lazarus, Dave Williamson, Peter Kogan and Willmar legend Ron Hagemeyer. With some sipping coffee and others enjoying supper, the audience experienced a treat of a program ranging from Gershwin to Hancock. As is Thursday night tradition at Jazz n’ Java, the evening’s event closed with a group sing-along.

View more photos from our residency in Willmar on our Facebook page.

The Minnesota Orchestra took the stage at WEAC for the first of its full ensemble concerts Friday morning, performing a Young People’s Concert for Willmar elementary and middle school students.

The centerpiece of the morning’s program, which also featured a performance by student soloist Austin Frohmader on piano, was an imaginative rendition of Peter and the Wolf staged by Theatre de la Jeune Lune and narrated by Vern Sutton.

View more photos from our residency in Willmar on our Facebook page.

A major component of this week’s Common Chords residency was providing students throughout the Willmar school system an opportunity to hear and interact with musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra. Conductor Sarah Hicks and musicians in two small ensembles, a string quartet and a brass quintet, tackled this mission over the course of the week, sharing their talents and knowledge with students in the hopes of inspiring the next generation of music makers.

View more photos from our residency in Willmar on our Facebook page.