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Matinee Musicale

When a group of determined women formed Matinee Musicale a century ago, little did they imagine their organization would be credited for creating a rich tradition of music in the Twin Ports.

When a group of determined women formed Matinee Musicale a century ago, little did they imagine their organization would be credited for creating a rich tradition of music in the Twin Ports.
And they probably never imagined it would still be running strong 100 years later.
But Matinee Musicale continues to influence music in the Twin Ports as well as help music students continue their studies with scholarship programs at UMD, the College of St. Scholastica and the University of Wisconsin, Superior.
That fact and more will be celebrated at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 16, when the first notes of Nikolai Rimski-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumble Bee" carry across a packed Mitchell Auditorium.
The gala concert at St. Scholastica should be one few will forget.
Two new works were commissioned especially for this event, and musicians, singers and ballet dancers from throughout the Twin Ports community will showcase their talents in celebration of 100 years filled with music.
"We wanted to do something special for our centennial year," said Ellen Marsden, chairman of Matinee Musicale's centennial committee. "We wanted to have a special concert and involve as many of the community as possible .... so we thought about the Chamber Orchestra, and we thought about the Youth Chorus, and we thought about the ballet. We also thought about using two composers from the area. We asked ourselves -- how can we incorporate all of this and still use the materials we have here?"
The solution was ingenious.
Someone suggested that one of the composers should be asked to set Pfeifer-Hamilton's award-winning book, "Old Turtle," to music.
Jerry Rubin, assistant professor of music at UMD, composed the piece in record time.
"I was asked in December, so I took about two weeks and intensely worked on the piece," he said. "It was done in nine or 10 days. It was all right there .... as soon as I starting working on the piece, all the elements were really there."
His haunting melodies combine the skills of not only the Lake Superior Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Warren Friesen, but the lovely voices of the Lake Superior Youth Chorus, directed by its founder, Jerry Kaldor, and the most popular tenor in the Twin Ports, William Bastian.
Rubin uses words from "Old Turtle," and captures the intensity and wonder of the story in his music.
But the afternoon of melody will not stop there.
The celebration will continue with the Minnesota Ballet's prima ballerina, Suzanne Kritzberg, and company dancer Nikolaus Wourms dancing to a special piece written for this concert by Tyler Kaiser called "The Boreal Circle."
Choreographed by Allen Fields, the artistic director of the Minnesota Ballet, the collaboration celebrates the changing seasons in the Northland.
"It's in five parts and starts with the thaw and ends with winter," Kaiser said. The adjunct professor of music at St. Scholastica and UWS, who also plays the French horn with the Duluth-Superior Orchestra and the Chamber Orchestra, said the piece reflects the changing seasons. '"It's the sort of thing that composers have been doing from at least the Renaissance," he said.
The Lake Superior Chamber Orchestra will also play compositions by Gustav Mahler and Maurice Ravel. Friesen said he chose the pieces because they were all written about the same time that Matinee Musicale was formed.
"We're really showcasing a lot of the talent we have here," Marsden said. "We wanted to do it for the community,"
That focus is not new to this volunteer organization that has had an uncanny knack of presenting talent on the brink of international fame during its many concert seasons.
"Over the last 100 years, Matinee Musicale has consistently presented artists who went on to achieve international fame," writes Janet Blixt, coordinator of the centennial celebration. For example, cellist Pablo Casals performed for Duluthians in 1918. Pianist Jose Iturbi was here in 1929, baritone Paul Robeson in 1931, and baritone and movie star Nelson Eddy in 1938, to name a few.
What's extraordinary about this organization is that it is totally manned by volunteers, and, in most cases, by women volunteers.
The founders were women who wanted to promote musical art and education in Duluth, Marsden said. The history of the organization is fascinating and has been compiled into an illustrated booklet written by Sister Mary Boo. The document features a wealth of old photographs and playbills found in the collection of the Northeast Minnesota Historical Center at UMD. Rick Kollath of Kollath Graphic Design designed the booklet, Marsden said.
The 10-page program notes for Sunday's concert will also be a keepsake, since it includes photographs of the participants, including Cheng-Kee Chee's drawing of Old Turtle, as well as statements about the music.
In short, the concert not only will be one to remember, it also will mark the beginning of the next century for Matinee Musicale.
Tickets for the concert are $14 for adults, $7 for students and $5 for children under 12. Family rates are also available. For more information, call 723-7000.

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