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FREE Courtroom Concert featuring Songs of the Season – Carols by Minnesota Composers

Thursday, December 16, 12:00PM

Central Presbyterian Church

Please Note: This concert will be held at Central Presbyterian Church in Saint Paul.
To allow for distancing, both concerts are in the large sanctuary space at Central Presbyterian Church, where masks are required. Both concerts are free and open to the public.

About the Program

Neal Hagberg, singer/songwriter
Shruthi Rajasekar, Carnatic vocalist and composer

Carrie Henneman Shaw, soprano; Laura Betinis Healy, mezzo;
Nicholas Chalmers, tenor; Timothy Takach, bass
Jennifer Anderson, piano
…with a special appearance by Central Choir & Handbells (7pm show only).

Curated and hosted by Abbie Betinis.

Called “most imaginative classical holiday program” by the Star Tribune, The Schubert Club brings back its annual Songs of the Season program featuring original winter songs and carols by Minnesota composers and songwriters. Curated and hosted by Twin Cities-based composer Abbie Betinis, the Schubert Club’s professional vocal quartet will be joined on stage by folksinger Neal Hagberg (of Neal & Leandra), and Carnatic vocalist/composer Shruthi Rajasekar, both with premieres. Other composers include Mari Valverde, Linda Kachelmeier, Jocelyn Hagen, Kashimana Ahua, Jan Gilbert, Libby Larsen, J David Moore, John McCutcheon, and Abbie Betinis.

To allow for distancing, both concerts are in the large sanctuary space at Central Presbyterian Church, where masks are required. Both concerts are free and open to the public.

Shruthi Rajasekar (b. 1996) is an Indian-American composer and vocalist exploring identity, community, and joy. Chosen by The Guardian UK as a composer “who will enrich your life” in a list spanning centuries, Shruthi creates intersectional music that draws from her unique background in the Carnatic (South Indian classical) and Western classical idioms. Composition honors include the KHORIKOS ORTUS International Award and the Global Women in Music Award from the United Nations & Donne in Musica. As a soprano and Carnatic vocalist, Shruthi has been recognized by the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) and the internationally-televised Carnatic Music Idol USA.

A disciple of her mother, internationally renowned Carnatic musician Smt. Nirmala Rajasekar, Shruthi has been studying Carnatic music for the past eighteen years, specializing in vocal and theory studies. Shruthi has also received performance guidance from the late Shri B. Sitarama Sharma, veteran musicologist Dr. B.M. Sundaram, and mridangam vidwan Thanjavur Shri K. Murugaboopathi. Shruthi won the Carnatic Star competition for several consecutive years, and was awarded “Best On-Stage Presentation” at the national Carnatic Music Idol USA: Season 3. At the age of 15, Shruthi gave her arangetram—her three-hour professional debut concert. She regularly performs in the USA, Europe, and India.

Currently based in Minnesota, Shruthi completed her Marshall Scholarship in the United Kingdom at SOAS, University of London (M.Mus. Ethnomusicology) and the Royal Northern College of Music (M.Mus. Composition) and graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University, receiving the Edward T. Cone Prize. She serves on the board of directors of new music chamber ensemble Zeitgeist.  https://www.shruthirajasekar.com/

Neal Hagberg was born in Omaha, NE in 1959. Two weeks later his family moved to Montevideo, MN, where he grew up in small town prairie life revolving around sports, Swedish hymns, theater and music. He attended Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, MN, where he was pre-med, and spent a year of college studying Japanese language at Kansai Gaidai University in Hirakata, Japan. During this time he also was involved in the music and theater productions on campus and was quarterback of the college football team. Hagberg was on his way to medical school when the road veered.

He had originally thought a career in professional sports sounded good. But being a small college wishbone quarterback did not exactly prepare him for the NFL. It didn’t prepare him for the folk music world either, but he reasoned at least in music he wouldn’t get landed on by 300 lb. noseguards.

In 1984, Hagberg was signed by Allied Concert Services to tour the Midwest as a solo singer/songwriter. From 1985-1989, while still continuing touring, he attended Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN and received his M.Div. in 1989. In 1989, he teamed up with singer Leandra Peak and they formed the duo Neal & Leandra. One of Hagberg’s penned songs, “Old Love”, became a public radio favorite at stations around the United States, and he and Peak began touring nationally.

In 1992, Neal & Leandra were signed to a touring contract by Columbia Artists Management Inc. (CAMI), and two years later, Red House Records, a nationally renowned folk label, signed them to a long term recording contract. Since then, they have given concerts in 45 states and Canada. Critics and fellow musicians have hailed Hagberg’s songwriting as “mastering the art of saying more with less” (The Washington Post); “inspired” (Minneapolis Star Tribune); and credited Hagberg with writing “classics” (Tom Paxton).

In 2008, responding to the intolerance he saw around him in the world, Hagberg released a solo CD, It’s Not As Simple As It Seems. This project is ‘not “Old Love.”’ Refusing to reduce issues to sound bites, the 14 songs on this CD put a human face on the suffering we experience and, subsequently, cause in the world. No topic is off limits: war, homophobia, abortion, religious fundamentalism, or even forgiveness. The conversations that transpired led Hagberg to create workshops and artist in residencies on the themes of the songs, and also served as a springboard for workshops exploring the paths we choose in life. Hagberg’s particular path has led him to facilitate dialogues – using music as the entry point of discussion – back where he started his education: in schools, colleges, and places of worship, as well as at fine arts venues around the country. Hagberg is the recipient of two McKnight Artist Fellowships, one for Performance in 2003 and one for Composition in 2010.

Currently, Neal Hagberg is Director of Tennis & Life Camps at Gustavus Adolphus College, where he has worked the past 34 years in the summers and now year round. Tennis & Life Camps is recognized as one of the top tennis camps in the country by Tennis Magazine. Hagberg is a USPTA Elite Professional and designed the “life” portion of TLC with legendary Gustavus coach and teacher Steve Wilkinson, whose philosophy was a radical, simple approach of teaching life skills through the game of tennis, by taking the focus off winning. Hagberg lives in Minneapolis with his wife and daughter.

About the Host:

Composer Abbie Betinis writes music called “inventive, richly melodic” (The New York Times), “superb, whirling, soaring” (Tacoma News Tribune), and “the highlight” of the program (Boston Globe).  With over 50 commissioned works for ensembles such as Cantus, the New England Philharmonic, and The Rose Ensemble, Abbie is also a two-time McKnight Artist Fellow, and has won grants from the American Composers Forum, ASCAP, and Jerome Foundation, and at age 31, was listed in NPR Music’s Top 100 Composers Under 40.  Abbie has been a Composer-in-Residence with New York State School Music Association, The Rose Ensemble, The Singers-Minnesota Choral Artists, and Schubert Club. In 2019, she will be the American Composers Forum’s ChoralQuest composer, visiting schools around the U.S. to write new choral music with middle school singers. 

Originally from Wisconsin, Abbie is a graduate of St. Olaf College (B.A.), the University of Minnesota (M.A.), and holds a diplôme from the European American Musical Alliance Institute in Paris, France. She lives in Minnesota, where she is Adjunct Professor of Composition at Concordia University-St Paul and executive director of Justice Choir.


View the Frequently Asked Questions about the Courtroom Concerts.

Seating is limited and first come first served. Please plan on arriving early. 

Schedule & Programs Subject to Change