On March 31 and April 1 and 2, the Minnesota Orchestra and Cloud Cult reunite for three long-awaited concerts conducted by Sarah Hicks that were originally planned for March 2020, but were postponed in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The program features 22 songs written by Craig Minowa and Cloud Cult and arranged for orchestra by Andy Thompson. The concerts take place at Orchestra Hall on Thursday, March 31; Friday, April 1; and Saturday, April 2, all beginning at 8 p.m.
The April 1 concert will be broadcast live on Twin Cities PBS (TPT-2), and will be available for online streaming and on the Orchestra’s social media channels. It will also be broadcast live on The Current across the statewide radio network and online at The Current's website.
Cloud Cult has a rich 11-album history of bucking the mainstream music industry in favor of independently releasing music via their environmentally-conscious record label Earthology Records. Hailed as one of the Top 10 Green Bands by Rolling Stone, the band’s philosophical lyrics and alternative-orchestral-folk-rock sound has been lauded by critics as “insane genius” (Pitchfork) and “an invocation of the lifeforce” (The New York Times).
Cloud Cult is committed to environmental sustainability and began zero net greenhouse gas practices for tours long before it was fashionable. The band’s merchandise is 100 percent postconsumer recycled or made of certified organic materials. Cloud Cult has also planted several thousand trees to absorb the band’s CO2 output, their studio is powered by geothermal energy and built partially from reclaimed wood and recycled plastic, and they donate heavily to projects that build wind turbines as revenue generators on Native American reservations.
Cloud Cult began as Craig Minowa’s solo studio project after the unexpected loss of his son and has grown to the present day with an evolving lineup of incredible musicians. Known for incorporating live painting into their concerts, Cloud Cult are pioneers of multimedia artistry. This is most recently highlighted with the feature film release of The Seeker—starring Josh Radnor and Alex McKenna—which accompanied the band’s 2016 album, landed on Entertainment Weekly’s Must List, and garnered prestigious awards on the indie film festival circuit. Now six years later, Cloud Cult returns with their transformative new album Metamorphosis.
At this week’s concerts, songwriter Craig Minowa sings and plays guitar, Shannon Frid-Rubin plays violin, Jeremy Harvey plays drums, Shawn Neary plays trombone, bass and banjo, Sarah Perbix plays piano, Daniel Zamzow plays cello, and Connie Minowa and Scott West create paintings live during the performances.
Sarah Hicks, conductor
Sarah Hicks, the Minnesota Orchestra’s principal conductor of Live at Orchestra Hall, has led a broad range of programs since joining the Orchestra as assistant conductor in 2006. Her notable projects here have included co-creating the Inside the Classics and Sam & Sarah series with Orchestra violist Sam Bergman; conducting a live-in-concert recording with singer-rapper Dessa for an album released on the Doomtree Records label; and leading original Orchestra programs and Movies & Music concerts. Since fall 2020 she has been the primary on-camera host and writer of the Twin Cities PBS broadcast and online livestream series This Is Minnesota Orchestra. In December 2021 she worked with director Peter Rothstein, writer Kevin Kling, writer-composer PaviElle French and composer Robert Elhai on creating the Minnesota Orchestra’s Joyful Echoes theatrical holiday concert.
A specialist in film music and the film in concert genre, Hicks premiered Pixar in Concert and Disney-Pixar’s Coco in Concert. Her live concert recording of A Celebration of the Music of Coco at the Hollywood Bowl can be seen on Disney+ and her work on The Little Mermaid Live was broadcast on ABC. With the Danish National Symphony Orchestra, she recorded film music for an album titled The Morricone Duel, which was released in 2018, has been broadcast around the world and has garnered over 150 million views on YouTube. Away from Orchestra Hall, the 2021-22 season sees her returning to the San Francisco Symphony, Dallas Symphony and Hawaii Symphony, and marks her debuts with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, WDR Köln and the Grant Park Music Festival. Her opera appearances include the East Slovak State Opera Theater and the Curtis Opera Theater, as well as operas in concert with the RTÉ Orchestra.
Andy Thompson, arranger
Andy Thompson is a composer, arranger, producer, mixer and multi-instrumentalist who has made music with Belle and Sebastian, jeremy messersmith, Dan Wilson, BOY, Taylor Swift and Daniel Johnston, among many other performers. His orchestral arrangements of songs by Dessa have been performed at several Minnesota Orchestra concerts and were recorded by Dessa and the Orchestra in 2019 for Sound the Bells, a live-in-concert album released by Doomtree Records. He’s been nominated for a Grammy Award, once wrote an award-winning punk song—in French—for a Super Bowl ad, and has a degree in classical composition. A detailed profile of Thompson appears on MinnPost.