Courtroom Concerts: The Little Series that Could

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Wander into the beautiful Landmark Center at Rice Park on a Thursday noontime, and if your route takes you near the high-ceilinged, wood-paneled courtroom on the third floor, you are likely to hear a performance by some of the finest musicians in the Twin Cities. The music is part of Schubert Club’s Courtroom Concert Series.

The series came into existence in 1992 as successor to the long-running “Live from Landmark Series,” co-sponsored with Minnesota Public Radio. At that time, MPR was making changes to its programming format and reassigned priorities. When the decision came to cancel “Live From Landmark,” some hearts sank; however, almost as quickly a remarkable recovery materialized, due in part to Ramsey County’s desire to provide free events in the building. 

Only a few changes were necessary: the programs would no longer be broadcast, and the venue was changed from the Weyerhaeuser Auditorium in the lower level of Landmark Center to the Ramsey County Courtroom on the third floor. 

Schubert Club would continue to tap superb performers from our musically-rich community: orchestra players, teachers, student scholarship winners, and freelancers. While some might recall a few empty seats in the first years of this new series, it didn’t take long for word to spread that here was a little concert worth coming to. Now the concerts are often “standing room only.”

Complimentary coffee continues to be served each week, and there is no admission charge. But the real draw is the interesting and varied programming, which has remained the focus of the series throughout the years. From Early Music to music composed earlier in the week, from marimba to mezzo-soprano, from solo piano to string quartet, a broad mixture of programming keeps the series fresh and keeps the crowds coming.

Hosted by composer Abbie Betinis, the Courtroom Concerts run from October through April.


Gilmore Artist Award winner, Igor Levit Returns Next Season

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Many International Artist Series regulars will remember Igor Levit’s debut recital at the Ordway two years ago.  For those who heard him play then, it is maybe no great surprise that last week, it was announced that he won a major piano prize: the Gilmore Artist Award worth $300,000.  There’s an in-depth, fascinating article about him in Sunday’s New York Times here.

I have two fun revelations relating to Igor Levit and the Gilmore Award. 

First, Igor will return to the International Artist Series next season.  I know that sharing this news breaks with our usual practice of announcing new seasons (International Artist Series and Music in the Park Series) in February.  But given the news of the award and the fact that several Schubert Club friends immediately got in touch to urge us to bring Igor back, I am happy to “leak” Igor Levit’s return recital in October – in advance of publishing the rest of the series.  I’m excited, and I know many Twin Cities recital fans will be too.

The other thing I’m pleased to reveal after the secrecy of the past two years is that I was a member of the 5-person Gilmore selection committee.  It was both a privilege and a fascinating process.  The selection procedure for the Gilmore Artist award winner is different to the way that most prize money is awarded in the classical music world; this is expressly not a competition.  Serving on the Gilmore jury involves hearing nominated pianists performing in public performances without the artists knowing that they are under consideration.  Sometimes alone and sometimes together with other committee members, I attended recitals and concerto performances in various parts of the United States and Europe.  Our brief was to attend “under the radar”, listen and report back to the rest of the committee with observations and recommendations.  Over the course of many months, I listened to dozens of recordings and made some 20 or so trips to hear pianists perform.  It made for a busy couple of years.  Increased frequent flyer miles aside, it was a remarkable opportunity to hear many of the leading emerging pianists of our time.  And while it is true that you can learn a lot about a performer from a recording (both audio and video), you learn a whole lot more when you hear them live.  So, I feel as if it was not only a great experience for me personally, but that it should serve Schubert Club too, as we do our very best to present outstanding artists in concert for our audience.

I’m not in a position to compare the pool of candidates with pools of previous rounds, but I can say that the quality – both technical and musical – of the short list of pianists I got to hear was unbelievably high.  As a committee, we’ve agreed not to identify the broader list of names we were considering, but it is fair to say that Igor Levit stood out as an pianist who not only shone musically and technically, but as an artist who takes risks with his programming choices and always has something interesting to communicate to his audience.  We’re in for a treat with his October recital featuring music by Bach, Busoni, Schumann, Wagner and Liszt.  As for the rest of the artists and ensembles we will present next season, I’m afraid you will have to wait a few more weeks until our announcement next month.

Music in the Park Series Artistic Director and Founder, Julie Himmelstrup, Announces Retirement at End of the Season

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Music in the Park Series Artistic Director and Founder,
Julie Himmelstrup, Announces Retirement at End of the Season

Tuesday, December 19, 2017 (ST. PAUL, MN) – Julie Himmelstrup, founder and artistic director of Music in the Park Series, has announced her plan to retire at the conclusion of the season in late April 2018. Himmelstrup, who founded the series in 1979, has served in this position for 38 years.

A cherished and distinctive audience favorite, the Schubert Club’s Music in the Park Series presents six chamber music concerts annually at the 350-seat Saint Anthony Park United Church of Christ in the Saint Anthony Park neighborhood of St. Paul, Minnesota. Concerts routinely sell out and subscriber retention remains impressively high. Additionally, family-friendly concerts are offered next door at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church. 

In the early days, Himmelstrup ran the series out of her own house across the street from the church. An accomplished pianist herself, it is her musical tastes, her finely tuned hearing and her ability to spot emerging classical talent, that have made Music in the Park Series treasured by chamber music-lovers across the Twin Cities. Under her leadership, the series has achieved national prominence, and continues to present chamber musicians of national and international renown. Since its inception, Music in the Park Series has presented more than 200 chamber music concerts and 60 family concerts. For more than three decades, Himmelstrup ran every aspect of the series, including artist selection, program planning, commissioning and presenting new works, fund-raising, ticket sales, volunteer organizing and public relations.  In 2010, Music in the Park Series merged with the Schubert Club, since when Himmelstrup has continued to serve as Artistic Director of Music in the Park Series.

Schubert Club’s Artistic & Executive Director Barry Kempton said: “It has been a privilege and a joy for me to work with Julie since joining the Schubert Club. The series she has built up, the loyal audience she has built since founding Music in the Park Series, and her commitment to serving the St. Anthony Park community are deservedly admired across the country in chamber music circles. Her integrity and devotion to music and musicians are exemplary and will always be an inspiration.”

Julie Himmelstrup continues to serve as Music in the Park Series Artistic Director through the 2017-2018 season. Thereafter, the series, both concerts and the associated community activities in the Saint Anthony Park neighborhood will continue as Schubert Club programs under the leadership of Artistic and Executive Director, Barry Kempton.


View the December 19, 2017 article from the Park Bugle: “Going out on a high note”

Happy Holidays from the Schubert Club staff!

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Today’s post is a short blog wishing you all a very Happy Holidays from all of us in the Schubert Club staff. 

Our small but mighty staff team produces some 60 concerts annually, runs a museum, administers a scholarship competition and several other music education programs, not to mention the associated marketing, box office, fundraising and accounting functions that organizations of our kind count on every single day.  I am grateful for my colleagues and how they go about their work from day to day with commitment to Schubert Club and respect for their fellow team members.

By the way, there’s one more program we’re looking forward to in our December Celebration of the Human Voice which has featured so far:

  • vocal ensemble Calmus in the Music in the Park Series
  • Schubert song recitals by Eric Owens and Clara Osowski
  • Clarice Assad with father Sergio in Schubert Club Mix
  • and David Evan Thomas’s set of songs “Joy” for vocal quartet and piano four-hands

On Thursday (December 21), the annual Songs of the Season program featuring carols by Minnesota composers and curated by popular Courtroom Concerts host Abbie Betinis will have two performances:

Thursday at noon, Landmark Center (downtown St Paul), Courtroom 317:  Courtroom Concert series

Thursday at 5:00pm, Dunsmore Room of Crooners Lounge and Supper Club, 6161 Highway 65 NE, Fridley, MN 55432

Both performances are free.  We hope to see you there, at noon or 5:00, to wish you the very best for the festive season.

If not on Thursday, we will see you in the New Year!


(Photo, from top to bottom, left to right:
David Morrison, Barry Kempton, Janet Peterson, Paul Olson, Kate Cooper, Kelsey Norton, Tessa Retterath Jones, Emma Figgins, Aly Fulton, Max Carlson, Summer Freed)

Guest Blog Post: Concert Etiquette and Clapping Between Movements by Katie Heilman

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Today’s blog post is written by guest, Katie Heilman. Katie is a regular attendee at Schubert Club concerts, a member of Schubert Club’s Theoroi program, program assistant at GTCYS (Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphony), composer, and oboist. Learn more about Katie here.

Have you ever been to another country and found yourself confused by the customs of everyday life surrounding you? Or have you gone to a wedding of a different culture from your own and saw people saying certain things at certain times or dressing a certain way, and you felt out of place?

I’ve had several conversations recently with friends and colleagues about the state of classical music and diversity. One thing I’ve been thinking about in particular lately is concert etiquette. Concert etiquette is what I suspect turns many people off from attending classical music concerts (besides cost). There’s this idea that classical music is really stuffy, and when you think about it… it kind of is. Most concerts in other musical genres expect noisy audiences, clapping when you like something, and coming and going as you need to. Not so with classical concerts. The vast majority of classical concerts expect audiences to be quiet, only clap at the very end of the piece, and you better not leave during the middle of a piece!

I grew up in a musical family and didn’t learn that you weren’t supposed to clap in between movements until I was at a Baltimore Symphony Orchestra concert, probably in late middle school (a few years after I’d started playing an instrument), and I started clapping after the first movement of whatever symphony they were playing, because it just made sense. It wasn’t until I got a weird look from my mom that I realized that wasn’t “okay.” When people start clapping between movements of a piece, I see that same weird look get passed along through the “regulars” at the concert. I’ve seen this happen twice in the last few months. The first was during the Sphinx Virtuosi concert at the Ordway, where the vast majority of the audience was people of color (especially younger people of color). The second was just this past weekend, when the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra performed Mozart’s third violin concerto to an audience with several students (they all certainly looked younger than me). The common thread between these two audiences, besides clapping between movements? They weren’t your stereotypical classical music demographic!

Here’s my philosophy on clapping between movements (or other “breaches” of classical etiquette): if people are clapping between each movement, they aren’t necessarily being rude. It’s probably because they don’t know about this weird tradition we have that really only dates back to the end of the 19th century or so. That means there’s a good chance they’re probably first-timers at an orchestra concert, which is awesome! And yes, there are some pieces where’s it’s nice to have that silence in between movements (slow Mahler for sure), but Mozart or Haydn? Clapping in between movements was standard back in their day – sometimes, if the audience really liked something, they’d demand a second run-through of a movement or section. I’ve attended a bunch of more “informal” chamber concerts at coffee shops and art museums where you’ll even have people chatting in the background. For a first-timer at a classical concert, going to the orchestra probably feels the same as being a foreigner in another country. There are so many customs that we’ve been doing for years that a newbie isn’t going to automatically know, and they might feel lost and alienated when people stare at them for not doing the “correct” procedures.

It’s great when the administrative side of an organization is working to bring in new audiences, but in order for this to be successful, we as current audience members need to be more welcoming and patient when new audiences don’t automatically know the culture. Administrators, if you really want to make sure that your program is quiet and that audiences wait until the end to clap, then just make an announcement before the concert. They do this sometimes at the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra when they have a program that interweaves other pieces throughout a larger piece, and it doesn’t feel out of place at all. Imagine how much more welcomed new audience members would feel if we let them know when it’s appropriate to clap, instead of assuming? It’s like when you have someone over to your house for a party, and you let them know where the restroom is, where to leave their coat, and where to put the food they brought. On the other hand, maybe it’s time to take a lesson from the newcomers and bring back clapping between movements of certain pieces. Trust me, Haydn is a lot more fun when you let yourself get a little rowdy.

An Interview with Schubert Club President Dorothy Horns

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For today’s blog post, our Patron Relations Manager, Kelsey Norton, conducted a short interview with current Board President, Dorothy Horns. 

  1. How long have you been involved with Schubert Club, and how did you make the decision to accept becoming board president?
    My husband and I have been subscribers since we returned to Minnesota in the early 1980s.  Bruce Carlson asked me to be on the Board; I started my Board service in 2006. I love that this is a board of music lovers who come from all walks of life and who actively participate in the Board. I was delighted to be asked to lead such a great group of people who support such a fantastic organization. And, as Board president I get to work even more closely with the wonderful, dedicated, hardworking Schubert Club staff.
  1. What makes the Schubert Club mission meaningful to you?
    Schubert Club’s threefold emphasis on concert presentation, museum, and education.
  1. What are some of the future goals you want to achieve as Schubert Club Board President?
    I want to see Schubert Club continue to present top-quality performances at reasonable prices, introduce as many people as possible to the joys of chamber and recital music, diversify our audiences, present music by composers of diverse backgrounds, let the world know about our fabulous Museum, expand educational programs to help build the next generation of music lovers… I could go on and on with a lot more ideas!
  1. Do you have a history with classical music?
    I was lucky to have parents who believed that a liberal, humanistic education is necessary to living an informed, rich life. A crucial part of this was exposure to the arts. They started taking us to Minnesota Orchestra concerts and Metropolitan Opera performances at Northrop Auditorium when we were in grade school. I sang in the church, school, and college choir, and studied piano, clarinet (school band), and classical guitar.  Most recently I had the good fortune to study piano with Mary Barbara Ferguson Spake, daughter of Donald Ferguson. What a pleasure that was! All these experiences gave me a deep appreciation of music that informs my current position as a professional audience member.
  1. Have you served on any other boards in the Twin Cities?
    I was on a Minnesota Opera junior board in the 1980s. In my professional arena, I was President of the University of Minnesota Medical School Alumni Society in the 1990s. The rest of my spare time has been spent working with the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Board of Ophthalmology.
  1. Which is your personal favorite of Schubert Club’s music series to attend?
    I love them all. Some of my happiest hours have been spent in concert halls.
  1. What do you do outside of your work with Schubert Club? How do you most enjoy spending free time?
    I am a physician, an ophthalmologist specializing in the treatment of glaucoma. I am spending a lot of time working on a committee at the medical school. Free time? What free time?
  1. In your opinion, why is classical music still important in today’s society?
    Well, I agree with the Schubert Club tagline: “Because what is life without music.” All music can communicate directly with the soul without words or images.  Classical music has a rich language, simply by listening you can understand it and be transported and transformed.

Video Blog: Schubert Club’s Bruce P. Carlson Student Scholarship Competition

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At our Bruce P. Carlson Student Scholarship competition earlier in 2017, Schubert Club board member and media professional Peter Myers roved the corridors and practice rooms of Augsburg University’s music department with a video camera, talking to students about the competition, about what it means to be a competitor and what they get out of participating.  

November is here and applications for the 2018 Student Scholarship Competition are now being accepted!   The competition will take place in February/March 2018.  We award scholarships totaling over $50,000 annually to young musicians to be used for further musical education.  Check out the new video which shines a light on what makes the competition so special, from the mouths of our competitors themselves. Take a look, and whether you’re a music student yourself or know a budding young musician, be sure to tell everyone to get their applications in by January 19, 2018


What Makes a Great Place For a Concert?

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One reason (of many) why I find my position at the Schubert Club so interesting is that we present concerts and recitals in so many venues. It means that I am always happy to hear from people about performance spaces they’ve enjoyed. Though I’ve lived in the Twin Cities since 1995 (with a 5-year hiatus in London), and I’ve been lucky to attend many live arts events all over the place, I am still learning about new spaces where Schubert Club might present live music. This curiosity for new venues is especially relevant for our Schubert Club Mix series which got underway for its fifth season last week at Aria in Minneapolis.

Mix (as it is inevitably shortened to) is our concert series designed to appeal to music lovers who prefer live performances with less formality and concert ritual. We’re intentionally informal; artists interact with the audience more; and we go to extra efforts to make the ambiance in the venue more relaxed than it is likely to be in a more traditional concert hall like our wonderful Ordway (home of the International Artist Series) or a church like St Anthony Park UCC (home of Music in the Park Series). 

As we plan future years of Schubert Club Mix, I will always be on the look out for new and interesting spaces. There are three primary criteria in a space which factor in assessing a space’s suitability for presenting concerts: Acoustic, location, & ambiance.

Acoustic: kind of obvious, but not all big rooms with large volumes sound the same. We’re blessed in the Twin Cities with several venues which have truly world-class acoustics for unamplified music – the Ordway and Orchestra Hall are at the top of that list. The recent removal of carpet and other changes at St Anthony Park’s United Church of Christ have made an extraordinary difference, making this church a wonderful place to listen to chamber music. Not all venues can have superlative acoustics though. What I always look for is a balance of resonance and clarity, and the confidence that the sound produced by musicians and their instruments really fills the space.

Location: it’s not only important to present concerts in locations which are convenient for an audience to get to, but also that they have amenities close by like parking, restaurants and bars and that the whole experience of going out for the evening feels safe and enjoyable. 

Ambiance:  slightly more difficult to put one’s finger on, ambiance is, I believe, hugely significant to an audience member’s enjoyment of an event – and thus an important factor in the decision whether to return another time. Ambiance can be created by the look or architecture of a space, its history, the welcome of our staff and ushers, lighting, even an aroma or some kind of association that is personal to an individual. A great example of this is the comment I hear regularly at Aria when audience members nostalgically remember performances by Theater de la Jeune Lune ten or more years ago.

Since Schubert Club has no primary performance space, we will always be on the look out for new possible venues. This nomadic approach to presenting concerts is, I think, a strength and opportunity for Schubert Club.  We can seek out spaces which suit different performers and meet the needs of different audience members. As our new strategic plan calls for the organization to make connections with new communities, we need to pursue our curiosity to find gathering spaces which we haven’t yet come across.  I’ll be pleased to hear from anyone who has venues or community connections they would like to recommend.





Join us for the first ever “First Thursday” in the Schubert Club Museum

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Today’s blog post is by Education & Museum Director, Kate Cooper. 

So often I hear from visitors of the Schubert Club Museum how surprised they are that we have such an impressive collection of historical music instruments and original manuscripts in addition to the opportunities they have to interact with items in the collection, adding to a memorable hands-on experience. The phrase “….a hidden gem in the Twin Cities” is relayed to me almost weekly.

Since the opening of our galleries on the 2nd floor of Landmark Center, the Museum has been open to the public weekday afternoons from Noon-4 pm in addition to Sunday afternoons. We feel like there is a segment of the Twin Cities population that has been missing out on this “hidden gem” primarily because it is not accessible during hours that are convenient to them. Those visitors who work 9-5 during the week and have other priorities on Sundays really never get the opportunity to visit!

Thus, we are thrilled to announce extended hours in the museum on the first Thursday of every month from 4-8 pm beginning October 5. We hope to be more accessible to the daytime working crowd; we are trying to be more symbiotic with times that people are heading or staying downtown with social and entertainment plans; and we are designating this one evening to offer opportunities separate from school and other public daytime tour crowds.

In addition to the engaging permanent collection, visitors can experience during these extended hours: guided tours, live demonstrations, fun interactive music-making, trivia contests with opportunities to win tickets for Schubert Club performances. And while exploring, visitors 21+ can enjoy a glass of wine along with appetizers and other refreshments for all! 

We hope to see visitors returning several late evenings throughout the year. There will always be something new to see, hear and experience and unique fascinating facts about music and history to learn.  

This first late evening in October will feature our favorite keyboard technician and research specialist, Steve Misener, who will demonstrate cool things and tell fascinating stories about three 18th and 19th century English keyboards.  The first time I saw Steve “dissect” a keyboard I was completely captivated by the intricacies of these magnificent instruments and how the parts all work together to produce their beautiful sounds. Steve also has a gift for remembering and sharing the fascinating stories behind these instruments and their makers.

In addition, we will have keyboardist Donald Livingston compare two of our 18th and 19th century keyboard replicas, the way they work, the musicians who played them, and the most famous pieces relevant to each. Visitors will have an opportunity to plunk out few notes of their own on these instruments as well.

This fun and fact-filled evening of short segments of music talks and demonstrations will enlighten and entertain! It will be a very relaxed atmosphere and there’s no pressure to take part in anything if you’d happily just explore the galleries and enjoy a glass of wine with friends. There will be plenty of joyful sounds filling the galleries – from visitors trying their hand at Indonesian gamelan music, a historic music box playing a beautiful tune filled with chiming bells, or Donald performing a charming Baroque piece on an 18th century French harpsichord replica. Be sure to mark your first Thursday evenings on the calendar, and I’ll look forward to seeing you in the galleries!

Congratulations to Clara Osowski and Tyler Wottrich who won the Richard Tauber Prize for the best interpretation of Schubert Lieder at Wigmore Hall, London

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Congratulations to local mezzo-soprano Clara Osowski and pianist Tyler Wottrich who were finalists in the recent Wigmore Hall International Song Competition in London, and indeed they won the Richard Tauber Prize for the best interpretation of Schubert Lieder.  Clara’s outstanding voice and magical song interpretations are very familiar to Schubert Club regulars and supporters of the Source Song Festival.  

The day after the competition, Clara and Tyler were interviewed on BBC Radio 3  by Ian Skelly.  The 2 hour radio show, “In Tune” can be heard here for another 3 weeks.
Clara and Tyler’s interview and song performances begin at about 3 minutes and end at 22 minutes.

There is also a lovely review of their performance in the competition itself in Britain’s Daily Telegraph.