In the Media

VocalEssence explores ‘Deep Roots’ of African-American music: The week’s best classical concerts

By Terry Blain | Special to the Star Tribune

Published: FEBRUARY 17, 2020 — 8:40AM

http://www.startribune.com/vocalessence-explores-deep-roots-of-african-american-music-the-week-s-best-classical-concerts/567887142/

Bearing ‘Witness’

Thirty years ago, Philip Brunelle’s choir VocalEssence initiated a project called “Witness,” which aimed to “celebrate the artistic contributions of African-Americans to the fine arts and to our common cultural heritage.” The anniversary is marked this week in “Deep Roots,” a landmark celebration of a program which over the years has featured artists such as Bobby McFerrin, James Earl Jones and Spelman College Glee Club. T. Mychael Rambo and Jovonta Patton are among this year’s guests, and a 30th Anniversary Community Choir joins the VocalEssence singers. (4:30 p.m. Sun., Orchestra Hall, Mpls. $10-$40, 612-371-5656 or vocalessence.org)

X-opera

“Experimental opera” is an increasingly popular genre that aims to wrench opera from its traditional formality and drag it into the 21st century. The composers collective 113 is bringing the format to the Twin Cities in “The Golden Ass,” an opera by its artistic director, Tiffany Skidmore. Based on the classical myth of Cupid and Psyche, Skidmore’s piece focuses specifically on the psychological relationship between Psyche and her vindictive mother-in-law, Venus. Carrie Henneman Shaw and Elizabeth Pearse sing these parts, with 113’s co-founder Joey Crane directing. (7:30 p.m. Fri. & Sat., 2 p.m. Sun. Nautilus Music-Theater, St. Paul. $5-$15, 113collective.com)

Trumpet showcase

Tine Thing Helseth is one of the world’s top trumpeters. This week, she’ll play the highly virtuosic Trumpet Concerto by Henri Tomasi with the Minnesota Orchestra, along with shorter pieces by Grieg. Her fellow Norwegian Eivind Gullberg Jensen leads the orchestra in Rachmaninoff’s sumptuous Second Symphony. (8 p.m. Fri.-Sat., Orchestra Hall, Mpls. $12-$130.75, 612-371-5656 or minnesotaorchestra.org)

Haydn masterwork

Haydn’s “The Seven Last Words of Christ” is a series of musical meditations on the last sentences uttered by Jesus on the cross. A string quartet led by violinist Ariana Kim performs this reflective masterpiece at a Chamber Music Society of Minnesota recital, with Penumbra Theatre co-founder Lou Bellamy narrating. (4 p.m. Sun., Sundin Music Hall, Hamline University, St. Paul. $15-$25, 651-450-0527 or chambermusicmn.org)

A salute to Rustin

Bayard Rustin was a gay African-American civil rights activist, and a mentor to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Three years ago the One Voice chorus commissioned the oratorio “Bayard Rustin: The Man Behind the Dream,” and is reviving it for Black History Month with its composer, Steve Milloy, as guest conductor. (2:30 & 7:30 p.m. Sat., O’Shaughnessy Auditorium, St. Catherine’s University, St. Paul. $15-$50, onevoicemn.com)