Common Chords: Grand Rapids

“This is my song”

The Minnesota Orchestra’s Common Chords week in Grand Rapids, Minnesota culminated with a spine-tingling musical exchange that captured the spirit of the project:  when Sarah Hicks led the Orchestra in an unannounced encore of Sibelius’ Finlandia in a Saturday night concert at the Reif Center, singers from the Grand Rapids High School Choir stood up, two by two and then 74 singers strong, to sing along:  “This is my song, oh, God of all the nations. A song of peace for lands afar and wide.”


The top secret finale—students didn’t even tell their parents what they were up to—was the denouement of the Orchestra’s new Common Chords project, which featured more than 30 music-related exchanges over the past six days connecting the Minnesota Orchestra and the Grand Rapids community. Next up: the Orchestra partners with the Willmar community for a spring Common Chords residency.

Conductor Sarah Hicks joined Choir Director Scott Shrimpton’s Thursday morning choir practice at Grand Rapids High School to rehearse the singers in Sibelius’ Finlandia. The choir was given its “secret” instructions: they would be seated in small groups throughout the Reif Center auditorium for the Orchestra’s Saturday evening concert and would suddenly rise up to join the encore, surprising the audience. “Go for it,” Hicks encouraged the students. “Give it your all.”

Family Time

As the Common Chords week nears its conclusion, the Minnesota Orchestra played an afternoon Family concert for audiences of all ages. Students who had met musicians in the schools earlier in the week had a chance to greet “their” musicians after the performance.

“One of our aspirations for this project was to foster interactions between our musicians and the community,” said the Orchestra’s Mele Willis, who manages Common Chords. “This exchange has gone both ways, and we couldn’t be more grateful to the Grand Rapids community.”

View more photos from our residency in Grand Rapids on our Facebook page.

Waiting in the Wings

The Minnesota Orchestra performed its first full-ensemble performance in Grand Rapids to a capacity audience of Middle and High School students at the Reif Center on Friday morning.  Associate Conductor Courtney Lewis, silhouetted in the wings, led the American-themed program which began with Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man and closed with Sousa’s Stars and Stripes Forever.

View more photos from our residency in Grand Rapids on our Facebook page.

Simple Gifts

Members of the Grand Rapids community filled the Reif Center to capacity Friday evening for the second full-ensemble performance by the Minnesota Orchestra. Part conversation and part performance, co-hosts Sarah Hicks and Sam Bergman took audience members Inside the Classics with Copland’s Appalachian Spring.

View more photos from our residency in Grand Rapids on our Facebook page.

Conductor Talk

In studio for a live interview at KAXE Radio, conductors Courtney Lewis and Sarah Hicks previewed the weekend concerts and shared their personal music favorites in the midst of the station’s fall member drive.  Lewis jumped into the action to ring the gong – announcing a new member’s pledge—as KAXE’s John Bauer cheered him on.

View more photos from our residency in Grand Rapids on our Facebook page.

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