Weekend Picks: Celebrate Black History Month in song and essays; a night in Havana; and more
By Sheila Regan
MinnPost | February 23, 2023
A world of Twin Cities art and culture awaits this weekend after the snowstorm.
Snowstorm? What snowstorm? After this madness has passed, the world of Twin Cities arts and culture awaits you. It’s Black History Month, so to celebrate, treat yourself to music by Joe Davis and the New Renaissance, who will be performing with VocalEssence. Or, take in words of wisdom from author Erin Sharkey, who will be sharing from her work at an event at Hamline University. Other picks this week include Cantus’ hometown concert series, salsa at Crooners, and a film about the largest anti-Semitic attack in the United States. Also, stop by Highpoint Center for Printmaking for an alluring exhibition featuring this year’s McKnight fellows.
Cantus: “I Hear America Singing”
Acoustic low voice singing group Cantus launches its hometown concert series this week with a concert themed around the role of labor in our world and in other societies and eras. It’s titled after Walt Whitman’s poem, “I Hear America Singing,” which has been arranged by Cantus bass singer Chris Foss. A traditional tune sung by riverboat people along the Mogami River in Japan (arranged by Yudelkis LaFuente), Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5,” and Stevie Wonder’s “Living for the City” are just a few of the arrangements the group has planned. They’ll also be singing “We Shall Not Be Moved,” originally an African American spiritual that has often been sung in the American labor movement as well as the Civil Rights movement. Jennifer Lucy Cook, winner of Cantus’fourth annual Young & Emerging Composer Competition, will see her work “Time,” premiered in the concert as well. Performs Friday, Feb 24 at 7:30 p.m. at Westminster Hall ($36), Sunday, Feb. 26, at 3 p.m. at Ordway Concert Hall ($40), with more performances next weekend. More information here.
Erin Sharkey: A Darker Wilderness Reading and Conversation
In “A Darker Wilderness: Black Nature Writing from Soil to Stars,” published by Milkweed Editions, local Twin Cities author Erin Sharkey curates a collection of essays that meditate on memory, family, and loss, all while exploring new avenues of nature writing through the lens of race. Besides being a writer, interdisciplinary artist, and educator, Sharkey is also an abolitionist organizer and one of the founders of The Fields at Rootsprings, a farm in Annandale, Minnesota, that aims to be a liberating space for BIPOC and LGBTQ artists, activists, healers and community. This week, Sharkey will be talking about the conversations sparked by “A Darker Wilderness” as part of the Faculty Reading Series, organized by the Hamline Center for Justice and Law, the Hamline Library and Hamline’s Creative Writing Programs. Friday, Feb. 24 at 5 p.m. at the Giddens Learning Center at Hamline (free). More information here.
2022 McKnight Printmaking Fellowship Exhibition
If you have a chance to stop by Highpoint Center for Printmaking, you’re in for a treat. Diaphanous materials softly shine light through them in two bodies of work by printmakers Amy Sands and Nicole Sara Simpkins. A highlight is Amy Sands’ “Life Cycles,” a hanging installation of leaves — both real and paper— that have been printed. Delicate and beautiful, the work emphasizes the fragile beauty of nature. Other of Sands’ works, like “Manifestation XXIX,” have a ghostly quality, with photographic images of trees printed on fabric. Nicole Sara Simpkins, meanwhile, has tapestry works suspended from the ceiling, which soak in the light from the gallery window. She also has mixed media works on paper in an exploration of invasive plants. The show is dreamy and subtly political. It’s on view through March 18 at HighPoint Center for Printmaking, Mondays through Fridays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays noon to 4 p.m. (free). More information here.
“WITNESS: Reawakening Love”
VocalEssence celebrates Black History Month with Joe Davis and The New Renaissance, in the choral performance, “WITNESS: Reawakening Love.” A nationally touring artist, educator and speaker, Davis’s poetry book, “Remind Me Again: Poems and Practices for Remembering Who We Are,” gets released April 3. With the New Renaissance, Davis has a knack for bringing storytelling into a collage of different art forms for highly theatrical musical events. Now he’ll be a part of VocalEssence’s “Witness” series, which got its start way back in 1991 as a way to honor African American music. Philip Brunelle and G. Phillip Shoultz, III, will both conduct the concert, which features four of VocalEssence’s choruses along with Joe Davis and the New Renaissance. 4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 26 at Orchestra Hall ($15 to 45). More information here.
Repairing the World: Stories from the Tree of Life
On Oct. 27, 2018, a man named Robert Gregory Bowers walked into the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh during Shabbat morning services and began shooting. He killed 11 people and wounded six, including several Holocaust survivors in the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in the United States. A “Not in Our Town” film by Patrice O’Neill documents the way that survivors, families of victims and the larger community came together in the aftermath of the attack as they search for ways to bridge divisions and move toward healing. O’Neill will speak after the screening. 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 26 at Minnesota JCC – Sabes Center Minneapolis (Free, register here). More information here.
A Night in Havana
Let your blizzard worries melt away and take “A Night in Havana” with Charanga Tropical. The Cuban salsa band with strings blends Caribbean beats with vocals and instrumentation as they perform boleros, modern takes on salsa and island classics. Sunday, Feb. 26 at 8 p.m. at Crooners ($20 to $30). More information here.