Wednesday was mostly a day of travel, with one “Music is for Everybody” performance at Menahga Elementary on our way to our three farthest north performances on Thursday in Blackduck, Kelliher (pronounced “Kelly-er”) and Cass Lake. Karma was out to lunch, and news and events of the days were either spectacularly bad or good, with little middle ground.
Just after we hit the road we learned of the death of our dear friend and producer of our debut CD, the legendary Howard Scott (obituary). Scottie produced our CD “It Takes Two . . .” at WFMT Classical Radio studios in Chicago in 2007. As a producer he was tough, efficient, and exacting, with a great ear and consummate musicianship. He also set us at ease so we could do our best work. Off the job was fun, vivacious, and full of the most incredible stories from a life as producer of 100s of landmark recordings of the 20th century. No exaggeration. Check the credits on your favorite CDs: Broadway Original Cast recordings of My Fair Lady, West Side Story, Kismet, etc.; Columbia and RCA recordings of NY Phil, Boston, Chicago (Grammy award), Cleveland, and Philadelphia Orchestra; Glenn Gould’s Goldberg Variations; etc., etc. Howard Scott is more often than not listed as producer. More people should know about the mark he made in the recording industry. He will be sorely missed.
Next bad news: We learned we were not awarded an MRAC Arts Activities Support Grant in support of the Chamber Music Coffee Concerts we organize at the Lakeville Area Arts Center. We have been awarded this grant for four years in a row, and missed it by just one point from our panel of 9 judges. We will apply for an MRAC Community Arts Grant to fill the gap in funding to make the series happen, but that means crunching a new grant application as soon as we get home from tour to be in time for the Oct. 8 grant deadline. We’ve been fortunate to be awarded a fair number of MN Legacy grants (including the Arts Tour MN Grant in support of our current tour), but there’s never any guarantee they’ll come through, and the process is getting more and more competitive. Back to the drawing board!
We were a little worried about our performance in Menahga. Usually our audience size limit is 150, but here we were going to have nearly 200 K-3 students to hear our “Music is for Everybody” program. The challenge was to keep that many kids engaged, and appeal to the full age range. (You get a different response from Kindergarteners and 3rd graders when you ask them to sing “Twinkle, Twinkle,” for example.) The kids were incredibly attentive, responsive, and well-prepared with basic music information, thanks in no small part to their amazing music teacher, Mr. Schmidt. It came off as one of our all-time best presentations in terms of performance/audience interaction and connection.
Onward. Absolutely gorgeous fall colors, warm, clear blue skies, temperatures in the 70s, and clear sailing to our hotel in Blackduck, including a short visit with Paul Bunyan and Babe in Bemidji on the way. Two unfortunate discoveries on arrival: 1) The white flecks spackled on the sides of our Midnight Blue Caravan turned out to be hardened paint flecks from crossing freshly painted lines on the highway; 2) despite managing to pack props, gear, and music for five different programs, Rolf managed to forget to put his own suitcase in the car, and it is sitting awaiting our return to Apple Valley. Yup, no socks, underwear, swimsuit, toiletries. Hand wash tonight. Fortunately he did hang up dress slacks and shirts in the car, so he doesn’t have to acquire a whole new wardrobe or wear the same clothes four days in a row.
Dinner was a welcome respite. We went to the Hillcrest Supper Club, overlooking Blackduck Lake, had a nice dinner at what was clearly a favorite spot with locals, and saw deer in the fields on one side, and a stunning sunset over the lake on the other.
Rolf scavenged some lost-and-found swim trunks (freshly washed!) at the hotel and we were able to rewind in the whirlpool. Rolf just had to swim a few laps at the end to stretch out road trip muscles. Bad idea. Michael Phelps never slammed his fingers into a wall harder than Rolf did finishing his crawl lap, and his bow hand (fortunately!) pinkie finger is at least sprained and potentially compromised for the rest of the tour. Hurt like heck to wring out that handwash at the end of the day.
Thursday was strenuous, but good, and Rolf’s pinkie, though still sore, didn’t pose too many problems. Two packed school performances for our “Edvard Grieg’s Music of the Mountains” and “Science of Music” programs for Blackduck and Kelliher 5th-6th and 3rd-5th graders, respectively. Blackduck’s football team (2-0!) were to play Kelliher that evening, and they seemed inspired by our tales of trolls from “The Hall of the Mountain King!” In Kelliher we were reminded how much we missed our daughters when the Superintendent of Schools mentioned he had just moved there from Ada, MN, and a cute, bright kid from Red Lake who volunteered to do some demonstrations for us turned out to be named Ella. Our last performance of the day was a recital in the Cass Lake Community Library. (Cass Lake was formerly thought to be the headwaters of the Mississippi; it still has the distinction of possessing an island with its own lake in the middle of the island!) Nice appreciative audience and reception afterwards. The Library is a distinctive stone structure built by town volunteers back in the 1940s, with a ring of photos of Cass Lake Beauty Queens stretching back to that time circling the walls. Someone should write a book or make a movie about the place and those neat people!
We ended the day at Rolf’s cousins’ beautiful, relaxing place on Straight Lake near Osage, MN to find a beautiful dinner waiting for us. After dinner we unpacked and discovered Rolf left his bass wheel at one of the day’s venues. We’ll see if luck turns tomorrow!