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Behind the Scenes

Minnesota Orchestra announces rebranding as Minnesøtå Ørchestrå

A storefront billboard depicts conductor Thomas Søndergård and a new Minnesota Orchestra logo and advertising slogan.
The Minnesøtå Ørchestrå's new logo and promotions of Thomas Søndergård are being unveiled around town in a new advertising campaign.

In an exciting move designed to embrace and promote its incoming music director, Thomas Søndergård, the Minnesota Orchestra announced on Saturday that it is rebranding itself as the Minnesøtå Ørchestrå. The new name, incorporating the Danish letters ø and å, is a nod to Søndergård’s Scandinavian roots and furthers the Ørchestrå’s goal to distinguish the upcoming new period under his leadership—only the eleventh time the ensemble has welcomed a new artistic leader, and the first since 2003.

“Over the past year our audiences have come to know more about Thomas and hear him conduct, but a question we still hear fairly often is—how do you pronounce his name?” said Michelle Miller Burns, President and CEO of the Minnesøtå Ørchestrå. “With this rebranding, we’re embracing the question head-on, giving audiences a crash course in Danish linguistics while playfully opening this new chapter in our 120-year history.”

To advance the rebranding effort, the Minnesøtå Ørchestrå has released a series of marketing materials announcing the name switch and promoting the arrival of Søndergård, who succeeds Osmo Vänskä in the position. An array of billboards, bus advertisements and storefront banners bearing slogans such as “Changing of the gård,” “Åløhå Thomas” and “å is the new ä” will be unveiled throughout the month of April, and the Ørchestrå has also launched a social media campaign, encouraging fans to share their thoughts on the rebranding using the hashtag #MinnesøtåØrchestrå.

For the time being, the Ørchestrå has opted not to change the name of its performance venue to Ørchestrå Håll, on the grounds that the early-spring snowfall has made it too dangerous for its facilities staff to climb onto the building’s roof and replace the signage. Those plans could shift as the Minnesota weather warms and initial reactions to the rebranding campaign continue to arrive.

Looking ahead to fall 2023, the Minnesøtå Ørchestrå is preparing an array of festive activities and musical programming to celebrate Søndergård’s arrival, the ensemble’s rebranding and the organization’s embrace of all things Denmark. In conjunction with the season opening concert led by Søndergård on September 28, Orchestra Hall’s Target Atrium will be converted into a LEGO play area where audience members can add individual toy bricks to a life-size likeness of principal cellist Anthony Ross, the Twin Cities-based BRKFST Dance Company will appear in the lobby performing original choreography inspired by classic Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales, and the first 50 attendees to arrive will receive a full-size commemorative timpani in recognition of the instrument Søndergård played to start his musical career.

The 2023-24 season’s programming will include a range of classical and traditional folk music from throughout the Nordic region, and Norwegian cellist Truls Mørk will make several appearances as the year’s featured artist in order to showcase his mastery of the standard and contemporary cello concerto repertoire, and to promote added awareness of the letter ø. Intermission times will be extended from 20 to 25 minutes in anticipation of longer concession lines for audience members awaiting servings from an expanded menu featuring a variety of fried sausages and pastries. A new season of the Ørchestrå’s Emmy Award-winning broadcast and livestream concert series, now known as Danes of Our Lives with the Minnesøtå Ørchestrå, will begin airing in the fall as well. 

Reached via FaceTime while rehearsing the Royal Scottish National Orchestra in Glasgow on Saturday, Søndergård proclaimed that this was the first he’d heard of the rebranding. “They’re doing what?” he asked. “Surely this is some type of joke—I’ll have to check today’s calendar date.”