Thursday, January 15, 2009

Charles Schulz, classical music lover

Who knew Charles Schulz was such a Beethoven fan?

According to this New York Times report, the St. Paul native worked dozens of Beethoven quotations into his popular Peanuts comic strip in the 50 years he drew it.

From the article:
“If you don’t read music and you can’t identify the music in the strips, then you lose out on some of the meaning,” said William Meredith, the director of the Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies at San Jose State University, who has studied hundreds of Beethoven-themed “Peanuts” strips.


“The music is a character in the strip as much as the people are, because the music sets the tone,” Mr. Meredith said. To understand what gave Schroeder chills, he said, you have to listen to the musical passage. “When you actually hear the symphony, the whole thing feels completely different.”

Growing up, I dismissed Peanuts in favor of other comics, but this makes me wonder what references lie buried in other pop culture staples. Who knows? Maybe Simon Cowell is hiding Nabokov quotations in his belittling remarks. Probably not, but stranger things have happened.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Great writing about great art

Today I was pleasantly surprised to read that The Washington Post's Gene Weingarten won a Pulitzer Prize for his achingly wonderful account of what happened when world-famous violinist Joshua Bell spent a morning busking in a Washington D.C. subway station.

Not only do I feel Weingarten's fundamental question, "In a banal setting at an inconvenient time, would beauty transcend?" is one anyone interested in art should ask themselves from time to time, but his piece was one of the things that inspired me to start this blog. (Transcendent beauty it is not, but at least I've got the banal setting part down cold.)

In all seriousness, I believe Weingarten's question is so fundamental to what we do I plan to make a point of raising it at the festival — I can't wait to hear what our artists have to say on the topic.

If you're interested in joining our discussion — or starting one of your own — I suggest you read the prize-winning piece.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

White Pine in the Star Tribune

Yesterday was a very good day for us, on account of a wonderful feature on the 2008 White Pine Festival in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Not only did Allie Shah do a fine job explaining the vision behind this year's festival, but she even gave us a new way to talk about the festival without saying "festival" when she at one point referred to the event as a "four-day arts summit."

(As you may have noticed in the previous paragraph, finding appropriate synonyms for "festival" can be a real problem. I'm pretty sure some of our grant applications read like a scene from Being John Festival: "Festival? Festival festival festival, festival festival...")

Inspired by the idea of an arts summit, I had the Mazda measured for a set of rockin' miniature flags with tiny pine trees on them yesterday afternoon. I was told the least expensive route would be to just buy Lebanese flags, but I also briefly considered designs from the American Revolution and a tiny island in the South Pacific before ultimately deciding it'd be best to have custom-made White Pine Festival flags. The big question now is whether to get green on white, or white on green.

Of course, as with all summits, setting the seating chart will probably be the most difficult challenge. Seeing as how we're dealing with artists and not politicians, I don't think anyone will be too uptight about it, though... at least as long as there's enough room for everybody on the summit cabana chair.

Seriously though, the article was great, and I'm sure it will help at least a few more people find their way to our fantastic summit, er, festival.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Dipping a toe into the deep waters of visual art...

We're now only — gasp! — eight weeks from the start of this year's festival, and things are really starting to come together.

For me, one of the most enjoyable aspects of working on the festival is getting the chance to meet and interact with festival artists, which never fails to excite me.

This week I was able to chat with Kami Polzin, a Stillwater-based oil painter who will be the first visual artist featured at the White Pine Festival. Not only is her work fabulous, but she's pretty darn cool in her own right. Her participation in the festival excites me not only because I'm looking forward to having her on board, but also because her involvement represents our first foray into the world of visual art.

We're easing into visual art slowly, with Kami giving a single painting demonstration on the St. Croix River during the festival and leading watercolor painting classes at three local elementary schools in the month before the festival.

It may be a relatively humble beginning, but I'm eager to see where it will lead, and I know we couldn't ask for a better or more enthusiastic artist.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Stillwater's stained glass masters

I just read an interesting article in today's Star Tribune about Stillwater-based stained glass artists Michaela Mahady and John Pietras that got me thinking ahead to June and this year's White Pine Festival — as if the glorious (and long-overdue) spring weather weren't enough to do that.

Anyway, the connection is that organist Lynne Davis is set to give a lecture on the art of the Chartres Cathedral, including its magnificent stained glass windows, at the festival. We plan to follow that talk with a tour of great stained glass windows in Stillwater. I wouldn't be at all surprised if some of Mahady and Pietras' work was featured in the tour.

I'd love to tell you more, but I can't until we finalize and release our full festival schedule, which should be any week now. Naturally, I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Four hands, one piano

If you're up for a little classical piano craziness, you might want to check out a concert at St. Andrew's Lutheran Church (in Mahtomedi, Minnesota) at 4 p.m. tomorrow afternoon featuring Greg Anderson & Elizabeth Roe, an innovative piano duo that met up while studying at The Juilliard School.

Apparently Juilliard students get wild by rethinking Strauss and Saint-Saëns. (Don't believe me? Watch the video.) Come to think of it, things weren't all that different at my alma mater, the University of Wisconsin-Madison — just replace "Strauss" with "Flippy Cup" and "Saint-Saëns" with "Beer Pong."

Okay, so maybe Greg and I have traveled slightly divergent paths since we played together in the esteemed Lake Elmo Elementary Orchestra; it'll still be good to see an exceptionally talented Stillwater Area High School grad come home to light up a local stage.

And it looks like it's going to be a hell of a show.

See you there!

UPDATE: The concert was indeed awesome, and it delivered on its promise of fireworks. It was also well attended, with about 500 people paying $10 a head to see the performance. Hopefully that bodes well for this year's White Pine Festival.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Front page - gotta love your local papers

Well, our first big press release of the season has already been worth the effort, resulting in front-page play in today's Stillwater Gazette.

Here's to hoping we get at least a few more mentions in the coming week....