Help Send Song of the Lark to Europe!

A year ago (good God, can it already be a year ago?) my readers and supporters made it possible for me to travel with the Minnesota Orchestra on their historic tour to Cuba, and write about my experiences there.  I remain profoundly grateful to my readers for their generosity, and hope everyone approved of the resulting coverage (which is compiled here, and continues to be read today).

Well, it is with profound happiness that I announce that Emily Hogstrad—a sister blogger at “Song of the Lark”—has a similar opportunity to travel with the Minnesota Orchestra on its tour to Europe.  Congratulations, Emily!

Am I a tad jealous?  Sure—my family hails from Finland, and a return trip there remains on my bucket list.  And I would love to see some of the other stops as well, including Amsterdam’s legendary Concertgebouw.  But Emily has more than earned this trip, and given her always fascinating insights into the world of classical music, I await her reports with excited excitement.

And you can help make this happen.

Emily has set up a GoFundMe page where supporters can provide support for her trip.  In the strongest possible terms, I urge you to go to the page and make a contribution if you can.  You will not just be supporting one of the most original, passionate writers in the musical world, you’ll be striking a blow for community-based writing, too.  At a time when so many major publications or news outlets are abandoning coverage of cultural events, voices like Emily’s are critically important. You can be a hero that makes her kind of audience- and community-focused writing possible.

So please join me in contributing to Emily’s fund.  You won’t regret it for a moment!






Grief for Istanbul—and the Indifference that Followed


This week, the “unimaginable” happened… yet again.  A small group of terrorists launched a vicious attack against civilians in a major metropolitan area… yet again.  Istanbul.

The visions of the carnage were unbearable, just as they were in Paris, Brussels, or the attack in Orlando last month.

But for me, this attack was perhaps more disturbing. Continue reading

Clichés Abound in WSJ’s Analysis of the Met Opera

And I have officially had it.

Yesterday Terry Teachout published a story in the Wall Street Journal that casts a long glance at the problems the Metropolitan Opera is currently facing.  And I’m fairly confident my scream of frustration could be heard all the way in Manhattan.

I don’t want to bash Mr. Teachout, whom I’ve never met.  I don’t wish to disparage his writing, his obvious experience, or even knowledge of the arts.  I should also point out that we’re in full agreement that Mr. Gelb has run out of ideas about how to run the Met, either artistically or organizationally.

But I must take issue with this article.  Unfortunately, it tosses around every wrong-headed cliché about the arts and arts management that I’ve been trying to put to rest since my blog’s inception, including Baumol’s cost disease, an outdated report from the NEA, and the use of paid capacity to measure financial success.

How is it that demonstratably false ideas can take such a powerful hold on our collective consciousness?

While I can’t take up this larger question, I can certainly rebuff the points of this specific article. Continue reading

Reflections on Orlando

My apologies—this post has been a long time in coming.  Too long, really, but a confluence of life events made it nearly impossible for me to sit down at the computer and put my thoughts into words.  Especially when my thoughts were so troubled.

But I need to speak out.  We all do.

The shooting in Orlando was… monstrous. It was appalling. It was infuriating.  And these are my feelings while safely ensconced in Minneapolis; I cannot imagine how much worse the pain feels for those directly involved.

This shooting doesn’t just fill me with horror… it fills me with anger.  I am outraged at this attack on the LGBTQ community, at a beloved center of the community.  It is especially infuriating that this attack comes around Pride, which in itself commemorates the violence of the Stonewall riots and serves as a reminder of how often the LGBTQ community has been brutalized.

So let me say this: to Orlando, and to the LGBTQ community as a whole, I stand with you. I am so sorry for this pain.

Do not doubt that there are many others across the country and around the world that stand with you in the face of this devastating attack.  I’ve been gratified to see rainbows crop up all over the world in solidarity with you, from the Eiffel Tower and City Hall in Tel Aviv, to the Sydney Harbor Bridge and One World Trade Center in New York.  Mark Cuban donated $1 million to the Dallas police force to provide additional security for the LGBTQ community there.  Utah’s Lt. Governor made a statement to the LGBTQ community, asking forgiveness for his past homophobic attitude and actions.  And there have been many more gestures of hope, shared sadness, and support.  I hope in some way these gestures can bring at least a degree of healing, both from the tragedy itself and some of the additional ugliness that bubbled up in its wake.


Minneapolis’s 35-W bridge that spans the Mississippi was lit with rainbow colors after the Orlando shooting.

I also realize that although this shooting has affected the LGBTQ community most deeply and personally, it has also had a much larger impact—one that we’re just starting to come to terms with.  As President Obama correctly pointed out, this wasn’t just a hate crime, but an act of terrorism as well.  In the past few days we’ve seen that this specific incident has touched on many of this country’s most contentious social questions: gun control, national security, LGBTQ rights, immigration, and Muslims in America. The resulting conversations have been difficult, but that is to be expected—our most challenging conversations always occur when our highest aspirations collide with our deepest fears.

But as important as those conversations are, I want to set them aside for the moment.  Today, I want to simply share my solidarity with those affected by the tragedy, and commit to doing what I can to ensure that such atrocities do not happen again.  To create a world with less violence and less prejudice.

I’m proud to stand with Orlando.




Remembering Memorial Day, 2016

Today is Memorial Day in the United States—a day of reflection to honor those who lost their lives in war.

Photo by Rogelio V. Solis.

To commemorate this day, and the sacrifice of our fallen heroes, I offer up Ralph Vaughan Williams’s A Pastoral Symphony (Symphony No. 3).  It was written while the composer was in active duty in France during the First World War, and captures his experiences there. But for having been conceived during the war, it is almost the antithesis of wartime music. Instead of marches, percussion and martial fanfares, the Pastoral Symphony is a work of memory and regret; through it, Vaughan Williams laments the loss of many personal friends, as well as an entire generation. It is haunting… yet gorgeous.


Rest in peace. A grateful nation remembers.




Review: The Minnesota Opera’s “The Shining”

The Minnesota Opera just unleashed The Shining—a new opera based on the novel by Stephen King.  And in a word, it was spectacular.  It was the kind of success that most companies dream about, not just in terms of artistry, but in connecting with the community.  For weeks it was the most talked about event in town, and it sold out the entire run weeks before opening night.

Sadly, the run has come to an end… but allow me to provide a review for those unable to secure a ticket. Continue reading

A Guide to Horror Operas, for Those Who Loved “The Shining”

This month the Minnesota Opera pulled off a major coup with its staging the world premiere of The Shining—and opera based on Stephen King’s bestselling novel with music by Paul Moravec and libretto by Mark Campbell.  The opera was a major success and became the Twin Cities’ hottest ticket, selling out the entire run weeks before the show opened.

Part of The Shining’s success was in bringing out people who were not opera regulars, many of whom expressed surprise that someone would turn a horror novel into an opera.  To those folks I responded, “There’s plenty more where that came from!” Opera has long embraced stories dealing with supernatural evil in all shapes and sizes.

For those newbies who loved The Shining, and are curious to explore similar operas, here’s my top 10 recommendations for “horror” operas to tide you over. Enjoy! Continue reading