By Andy Fein and Angie Newgren
The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra is one of the best cultural assets in Minnesota. Located in our shop's city (Saint Paul, MN), the SPCO is one of a very few professional chamber orchestras in the United States. The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra was established in 1959, and for more than 50 years, they have accomplished a tremendous amount in their music, and in their collaboration with soloists, composers, artistic partners and conductors.
One thing that makes the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra so great is their ability to fill a room with music. They create a powerful voice that proves that not all sonatas and concertos require a full orchestra of over 100 performers to make a song sound beautiful. There are a little over 30 musicians in the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, made up of the traditional strings, winds, brass, and percussion. Each musician in the SPCO really plays their heart out. It's an ensemble of great soloist level musicians that can create a huge sound from a small ensemble.
The SPCO is regularly featured on Minnesota Public Radio's Classic Music division, which has 37 stations throughout Minnesota as well as other states. MPR also presents Performance Today which is broadcast to 243 stations throughout the US. Performance Today plays many of the SPCO's recorded concerts. You can also stream MPR's station, which Fein Violins proudly sponsors.
Over the many years I have had a shop in St. Paul, I've enjoyed hearing and working with members of the SPCO. I was once called to come down to the hall to put a new E string tuner on Pinchas Zukerman's del Gesu violin (during an open recital!). I had to stride out on stage, switch violins with Pinchas, switch E string tuners backstage, tune the violin, and stride back on stage and switch violins again.
If you have never been to a concert of the St.Paul Chamber Orchestra, they have a deal for you! Until January 31, 2012, you can get a pair of tickets FREE! Target Corp. ( you know, the bull's eye logo folks) also sponsors free family concerts throughout the season.
In 1980, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra was awarded with a Grammy for Best Chamber Music Performance. Dennis Russell Davies, the Music Director at the time, received this award along the Chamber Orchestra. The award was for their performance of Copland: Appalachian Spring.
A recording of Copland: Appalachian Spring (not by the SPCO)
The SPCO began a program called CONNECT in 1994. CONNECT is a program for Minneapolis and Saint Paul elementary students helping them connect to music. Annually, there are around 6,000 students involved in this program. From learning concepts, creating songs, and building instruments, these students are not only educated in a musical sense, but also have improved on necessary skills such as public behavior, respectful attitudes, and listening skills. CONNECT students also get to attend SPCO concerts created especially for them.
Another educational program the SPCO offers is an adult workshop. At any level of playing, a musician of the SPCO will coach you and your ensemble through a piece of your choice, giving you insights from a professional player's perspective.
The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra offers around 130 concerts a year. They play a variety of music from the best composers (Debussy, Mozart, Schubert, Haydn, etc) and they collaborate with other famous musicians and musical groups such as the Parker Quartet, Christine Brewer, and Dawn Upshaw. To try and reach out to all members of the community, the SPCO can offer tickets as low as $10.00 or $25.00. Seasonal passes are also as low as $50.00. That's $50.00 for an unlimited amount of concerts!
It is organizations like the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra that keep music connected in all of our lives. Not many professional groups can offer concerts that are affordable to so many. I definitely recommend taking advantage of seeing them in concert, if you live close enough to do so.
The SPCO is made up of great musicians. Go hear them! You won't be disappointed.