After a years-long hiatus due to COVID-19, the Minnesota Orchestra’s Common Chords project returns for a week-long residency in Austin, Minnesota. Running from April 30 to May 6, the celebratory week of performances includes more than 18 events tailored to the Austin community, taking place in various indoor and outdoor venues across town; the programs mark the Orchestra’s first visit to Austin in nearly 50 years.
The celebration begins with a performance on Sunday, April 30, at 2 p.m. from the Austin Symphony Orchestra and Austin Symphony Chorus with soprano Alexandra Loutsion. The week concludes with a performance by the Minnesota Orchestra at Austin High School’s Knowlton Auditorium on Saturday, May 6, at 7 p.m. Sarah Hicks, the Orchestra’s principal conductor of Live at Orchestra Hall, will lead the full ensemble in a program that includes Roberto Sierra’s Fandangos and Antonín Dvořák’s Sixth Symphony, among other works. The May 6 concert will be the week’s only Minnesota Orchestra ticketed event, with $10 tickets for adults and $5 for students; tickets are available at the door and in advance at Sweet Reads, Hy-Vee and Coffee House on Main.
Musical highlights of the residency include multiple performances by an Orchestra brass quintet at Austin City Hall (May 1), Gravity Storm Brewery (May 1), KSMQ Public TV (May 2), the SPAM Museum (May 2) and outside at Rotary Park as part of an Oaxaca basketball exhibition (May 2). A string quartet will perform at Austin’s Town Center (May 2), in the lobby of the Mayo Clinic Health System (May 2), Riverland College (May 3), the Austin Community Recreation Center during a morning yoga session (May 4) and Paramount Theatre (May 4). A woodwind quintet will offer a mid-day performance at the Hormel Institute (May 3) and at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center—a performance followed by a tree planting (May 4). Additionally, Orchestra cellists will present duets at Sweet Reads Books & Candy (May 5) and will lead a masterclass with students at MacPhail Center for Music (May 6).
On Thursday, May 4, at 7 p.m. in the Knowlton Auditorium, Orchestra brass, string and woodwind ensembles will join the Austin Senior High School Orchestra for a special concert. And, on Saturday, May 6, at 2 p.m. at the Austin Public Library, a chamber music performance designed for preschoolers will introduce orchestral instruments to children and feature a narrated musical story. Throughout the week, Orchestra ensembles will visit and perform at area schools.
Initiated in 2011, Common Chords represents a new chapter in the Minnesota Orchestra’s touring history, through which the Orchestra immerses itself in a single Minnesota community for a week. The program has its roots in the Orchestra’s origins: the ensemble embarked on its first statewide journey in 1907, taking the train to Moorhead, Grand Forks and Duluth. Since then, the Orchestra has played nearly 700 concerts in more than 60 Minnesota cities. Previous residencies were hosted in Willmar, Hibbing, Bemidji, Detroit Lakes, Mankato and the community of North Minneapolis.
All of this year’s Common Chords events are organized by a steering committee made up of Austin residents from a variety of sectors, including business owners, civic representatives, educators and nonprofit leaders. Leading the committee is Committee Chair Bonnie Rietz, who comments: “What an exciting week of celebrating orchestra music we will have in Austin! We are looking forward to the ensembles popping up all over town during the week with two full orchestra concerts as book-ends.”
For a full list of events, visit minnesotaorchestra.org.