I went to a concert last night of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. Before we go any further with this you should know, I’m not a music critic and there are lot’s of things about music that I don’t understand. So this will not be an in depth critique of style and form. But I do love classical music and I know what I like, and I like the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra (SPCO). I have followed them online for some time, and watched their You Tube video’s so I was pretty sure I would like them live, and I was not disappointed.
I arrived at the concert hall early, because it only seats 400 and I wasn’t sure how fast it would fill up. Kracum Hall is on the Carleton College campus in Northfield, Minnesota. I grew up in Northfield and the concert hall is part of Carleton’s music complex, which is part of the building that I went to middle school in. And in fact, my mother went to high school there. Much of the complex is new however, within the last few years and it’s very modern and functional. The concert hall itself is beautiful, with moveable (I assume) panels lighted from behind for sound absorption and distribution. And the sound was excellent! An intimate 400 seat hall is perfect for good music.
Standing in line waiting for the hall to open, I met a couple of very nice local women and ended up sitting next to them. We chatted about all kinds of things and they helped make it a very pleasant evening. I’m much better at talking to people on line than in person so sitting with them was a real treat. Thanks, ladies!
Here is a link to the SPCO website so you can read a little of their history. They are a full time professional Chamber orchestra, one of the very few in the country and have a reputation for doing all types of music from the Baroque to modern. Minnesota is known for its arts and music with many cities having their own orchestras such as Rochester, Mankato, Duluth, Bloomington, Golden Valley, and even my own little area which has the Cannon Valley Regional Orchestra. And of course we have the Minnesota Symphony Orchestra as well.
I am a child of the 60’s and 70’s and fully invested in the “classic rock” of the period but over the years I have come to appreciate Classical music. Every music lover knows songs that move them. Songs that bring back memories and stir feelings. Classical music is very emotional. There’s nothing better than putting on a pair of headphones and listening to something that can “take you away” from the troubles of your day, or the world or whatever. It’s fantastic.
Last night the SPCO played some older pieces and a relatively new work by female composer, Missy Mazzoli. Another piece, also by a female composer was the Concerto for String Orchestra by Grazyna Bacewicz. It was first performed in 1950 so it’s not a “new” work but certainly not old in the realm of classical music. Classical music is pretty much populated by “old white guys” so to see women composers is a real treat. The Mazzoli piece was not my favorite, leaving me feeling edgy and nervous. It was not a comfortable piece of music to listen to, being discordant and jumpy, but after thinking about it today I’m thinking, why should all music be the same? Why shouldn’t some music leave you with an uncomfortable feeling? Chord changes were wild and unpredictable, and some of the techniques of playing, the bassist used, (it was a contrabass concerto) were completely new to me, but thinking back to the first time I heard Peter Sculthorpe’s Island Dreaming string quartets, helped me to get used to the idea.
So, it was a great evening. My company was good, and the music was great. Go here some classical music!