Something in Common: Minnesota Orchestra to visit Austin through Common Chords

Published 8:43 pm Friday, April 14, 2023

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Music has been a persistent and common thread running through Austin’s art scene over the years, with quality programming featuring music in the schools, the MacPhail Center for Music and the Austin Symphony Orchestra.

So it really should be no surprise that Austin would host something called “Common Chords.”

Common Chords is an outreach program by the Minnesota Orchestra that will bring week-long musical activities to Austin April 30 through May 6.

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Outreach has been a core attribute of Minnesota Orchestra’s goals since its very early days when it embarked on its first statewide journey in 1907.

Since that tour, the orchestra has played nearly 700 concerts in more than 60 Minnesota cities with previous residencies having been hosted in Willmar, Hibbing, Bemidji, Detroit Lakes, Mankato and North Minneapolis.

“It’s just a week of celebrating [music],” said Bonnie Rietz, chair of the Common Chords committee here in Austin. “We’re a music town and we have a wonderful orchestra.”

“It infused the love of music and the energy of music and the difference music can make in the lives of people,” Rietz later added. “It’s pretty amazing.”

Getting Common Chords to Austin has been a labor of love with the very first steps taken back in 2017 when Rietz was attending a concert in Minneapolis and had heard that there was some thought about Common Chords visiting Austin.

As the initial stages of the visit’s organization marched on, a date was set. Unbeknown to people at the time it would meet a similar fate to many other events.

“We were going to do it in 2020 and had everything lined up,” Rietz said. “In February or March we had to cancel it because of COVID. It was going to be in April of that year.”

The event was never canceled, but rather postponed indefinitely as the orchestra still was interested in coming to Austin and eventually the visit was set for this year.

The visit is chalked full of activities. Aside from events that are closed to the public, like visits to the schools, there will be variety of opportunities for the public to listen to some quality performances, starting with the Austin Symphony Orchestra’s own performance on April 30, featuring soloist Alexandra Loutsion at 2 p.m. in Knowlton auditorium. 

It will end with the Minnesota Orchestra’s performance on May 6 at 7 p.m., again in Knowlton Auditorium.

From there quintets and quartets of the Minnesota Orchestra will be throughout Austin for the span of the week.

“It would be very exciting if they were coming just for the concert Saturday night (May 6),” Rietz said. “By doing this, by coming to the community and going to all these places, it’s really transformational for the community.”

But the event is more than just listening to good music. The week is also intentionally set to be accessible to the public. The concert on May 6 is just $10 for adults and $5 for children and the events throughout the week are free.

It’s that kind of access that equates to the transforming nature of the orchestra’s visit.

“Think of all these kids in music to actually sit and watch and listen,” Rietz said. “When the players go out in the schools they not only play, but they talk about their instruments. They talk about what it takes to play an instrument.”

In turn, money raised from ticketed events go back to Austin Public Schools and Pacelli Catholic Schools.

After the last ovation is given on May 6, Rietz said she hopes the community reaps the benefits for years to come.

“I’ve seen what a community wide activity can do for a community,” she said. “I’ve seen it in the arts with the ArtWorks Festival. I’ve seen it in literature with the community book read. I’ve seen it in the Fourth of July Festival. When you bring the community together to celebrate something there is just a boost to the community.”


Chords Schedule

Sunday, April 30

• Austin Symphony Orchestra featuring Alexandra Loutsion and the Austin Symphony Chorus, 2 p.m. Knowlton Auditorium. Ticketed event.

Monday, May 1

• Minnesota Orchestra brass quintet kicks off Common Chords at the City Council Meeting, 5:30 p.m.

• Enjoy a pint of music with the brass quintet, 7:30-8:30 p.m.

Tuesday, May 2

• Morning pick-me-up performance with a Minnesota Orchestra string quartet, 9:45-10:15 a.m., Town Center.

• Live taping of brass quintet performance. Limited seating available for studio audience, 10 a.m., KSMQ Public TV.

• Minnesota Orchestra string quartet performs in the clinic lobby, 11 a.m. to noon at Mayo Clinic Health System-Austin.

Music and conversations with an orchestra brass quintet, 1-2 p.m. at the Spam Museum.

• Brass quintet offers a fun, outdoor performance as part of an Oazaca basketball exhibition. Food trucks present, weather dependent, 6 p.m. Rotary Park.

Wednesday, May 3

• Minnesota Orchestra string quartet performs, 11 a.m. to noon at Riverland Community College.

• Mid-day performance by a woodwind quintet, 11:30 a.m. to noon at The Hormel Institute.

Thursday, May 4

• The sound of strings supports morning yoga at the YMCA at the Austin Community Recreation Center with live music, 10-11 a.m.

• Lunchtime performance by a string quartet for the public. Please feel free to bring your lunch, noon to 1 p.m. at the Paramount Theatre.

• Performance by a woodwind quintet, followed by tree planting, 3-4 p.m. at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center, 3-4 p.m.

• Minnesota Orchestra string, woodwind and brass ensembles join the Austin Senior High School Orchestra concert for a special selection, 7 p.m. at Knowlton Auditorium in Austin High School.

Friday, May 5

• Take a mid-afternoon break to enjoy cello duets, 3 p.m. at Sweet Reads Book & Candy.

Saturday, May 6

• Perfect for preschoolers, this chamber music performance introduces youngsters to the instruments of the orchestra and features a narrated musical story, 2-3 p.m. at the Austin Public Library.

• Minnesota Orchestra cellist leads a masterclass with MacPhail Center for Music students, 2-3:30 p.m.

• Sarah Hicks leads the Minnesota Orchestra in a dazzling program including Roberto Sierra’s “Fandangos” and Antonin Dvorak’s “Sixth Symphony, among other works, 7 p.m. in Knowlton Auditorium. Ticketed event. $10 for adults, $5 students. Tickets available at the door and in advance at Sweet Reads, Hy-Vee and the Coffee House on Main.

More info can be found at minnesotaorchestra/austin.