Excluding Zoom calls with friends, it had been six months since Paula Gudmundson had played flute for a live audience. Then, starting mid-afternoon on Thursday, she performed back-to-back-to-back pop-up concerts around Duluth — starting with a gig from the Juliet Balcony at the Congdon mansion and ending nearly four hours later at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the Lakewalk.
“At Glensheen it struck me: I’m playing for people,” the flute professor from the University of Minnesota Duluth said after her finale. “I missed playing for people.”
Gudmundson is among a group of musicians from the Minneapolis-based Bach Society of Minnesota who are performing quick-hit mobile concerts as part of its “Vagabond Season.” Her 15-minute program — which she billed as “baroque music: short and sweet” — included Michel Blavet’s "Rondeau," part of "Fantasia in C Minor" by Georg Philipp Telemann, and J.S. Bach’s "Flute Partita."
When she was a kid, Gudmundson signed herself up to play flute — deliberately picking out a small, light instrument.
“Nobody was going to drive me to school or carry my instrument,” she said. “I got myself into this problem. I needed to make sure it was something I was very self-sufficient at.”
That ease of packaging might have been to her advantage on Thursday as she venue-hopped her way through a schedule that left little wiggle room for extended greetings or complicated parking. She traveled with Ren Crowder, a flute student, who helped place the signage from the Bach society, carried the tub of complimentary masks and hand sanitizer, and answered in the affirmative when Gudmundson wondered whether they had her phone.
At Glensheen, seating was spaced throughout the formal garden — the audience a mix of local artists, students and a crew from DanSan Creatives, which is working on a video project with Gudmundson. They would trail her throughout the day with multiple camera operators and a drone.
Before taking the balcony-stage, Gudmundson quipped to a colleague about her musical challenge: “What doesn’t work out is just an adventure,” she said.
Gudmundson’s next stop was Westwood Terrace — a performance for classical music fans at the assisted-living facility who lined up along a porch railing to listen. The flutist played in the parking lot, her music stand backed against the curb and Crowder tending to any cars that needed to come or go.
At UMD, Gudmundson set up in Ordean Court with Weber Music Hall on her horizon and members of the audience perched on a waist-high wall.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for people to hear live music again,” Crowder said before the concert. “Even just 15 minutes. Fifteen minutes is better than no minutes.”
It was the short set that drew Duluthian Mary Faulkner and her 5-year-old daughter, Ellie Rop, who was dressed in full princess glam from glittery eyelids to her bejeweled wand.
“It was beautiful,” Faulkner said afterward. “We don’t get a lot of opportunities to hear classical music. It’s nice to get it in bite-sized proportions.”
At the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial, Gudmundson set up near the words “stop and listen,” which were chalked into the pavement. Denise Perry and Karen Keenan were in the audience, and the latter, also a flute player, commented on a certain juxtaposition.
"It's so interesting; you hear street sounds and the music," she said. "The thing that hit me: beauty wins."
At Pocket Park in Lincoln Park, Gudmundson, growing increasingly festive, called to passersby:
"Do you want to hear some free live music!"
She snagged at least one yogi from a nearby studio.
For the finale, the flutist ducked into the half-shelter near the veterans memorial and played for both drop-ins and purposeful fans. Her final bow was a strong one.
"I could have played five more," she said afterward.
While she was done for the night, there are more on the horizon. At one stop, she told listeners that she would be back at it in May.