Page 3 - Common Chords Grant Rapids Final Report

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introduction
page 3
“On the surface, it was unique in the extreme. In the details, it was not only unique; it was a
bar-raising example of creative process at its most powerful, most adaptive, most far
reaching…Our community really is a changed place because of
Common Chords
.”
- Steve Downing, Grand Rapids steering committee member
In the fall of 2009, the Minnesota Orchestra and community leaders from the northern Minnesota city of Grand Rapids
(pop. 10,869) began discussing a unique partnership. Common Chords would create a week of community activities
by members of the Minnesota Orchestra, reflecting the unique culture, history and character of Grand Rapids.
Designed as a multi-year initiative to reach many Greater Minnesota communities and launched with generous
support from the Andrew W. Mellon, McKnight and Mardag Foundations, Common Chords builds upon the Minnesota
Orchestra’s one hundred year history of presenting concerts in Greater Minnesota.
With its dynamic arts community and enthusiastic residents, Grand Rapids made an ideal partner for the Orchestra’s
inaugural Common Chords week in October 2011. Area cultural assets include the Reif Center, the growing Itasca
Orchestra and String Program, and a strong public radio station, KAXE. Leaders in the local business community and
city government expressed interest in boosting the area’s reputation as an arts destination with a vibrant quality of life.
Organizations such as the Grand Rapids public schools, the Blandin Foundation, faith communities and many others
helped the project reach broadly into the community.
This report is meant to provide a glimpse of this week of activities, which began early Monday morning, October 10,
2011. Two ensembles of Orchestra musicians—a brass quintet and string quartet—as well as conducting and artistic
staff were in residence for an entire week of activities. They were joined by a larger chamber ensemble on
Wednesday and the full Orchestra on Thursday evening. With thirty events presented in partnership with twenty-one
community organizations over six days, a large percentage of the area’s population was touched in some way by the
Minnesota Orchestra’s presence.
Among the week’s highlights were presentations for every public elementary
school classroom, visits to businesses, the Grand Itasca Clinic and the YMCA,
presentations for the Chamber of Commerce and the City Council—who
proclaimed it “Minnesota Orchestra Week” in Grand Rapids—and a cultural
exchange and potluck with the Ojibwe community.
The week came to an end with four sold-out Minnesota Orchestra concerts at
the Reif Center. At the close of the final performance, during the Orchestra’s
unannounced encore, the high school choir joined the Orchestra—two-by-two
in the audience until over 70 strong—to sing the “Song of Peace”
hymn which
closes Sibelius’
Finlandia
. This moment perfectly captured the collaborative
spirit of the week.
Photo: Mele Willis