Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Minnesota Sinfonia comes to Faribault & I attend a classical music concert for the first time February 15, 2013

Cellist Dmitry Kouzov

Cellist Dmitry Kouzov

I WATCHED AS THEIR crooked arms worked the bows back and forth, mostly gliding, sometimes slowing in almost robotic jerks, across the violins tucked under their chins.

All the while the music flowed—soft and soothing, other times bursting into crescendos of triumph and power.

The rhythm, the tones, the movement mesmerized me as only classical music can.

For the first time ever Thursday evening, I attended an orchestra concert. And let me tell you, this performance by the Minnesota Sinfonia, with featured soloist Dmitry Kouzov on the cello, rated as outstanding.

Not that I have anything with which to compare the performance or even a musical background to rate it—I don’t play an instrument nor can I read a musical note. But that matters not. The music moved me, engaged me, transported me.

When Kouzov, an International Beethoven Competition winner, settled into his chair at the historic Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour in Faribault, his very presence commanded respect. Those of us in the audience knew we were about to hear something truly magical from this cellist who has performed with orchestras like the St. Petersburg Symphony and the National Symphony of Ukraine.

And we did. To watch Kouzov work his cello, to hear sounds ranging from almost ear-hurting shrills to the deepest of depths, impressed. I heard trilling birds and tin cans kicked along a rocky road and imagined immigrants journeying across the Minnesota prairie.

My husband, sitting next to me on the pew in this 150-year-old cathedral, thought cartoon music. I understand his perspective. But I tend to think more in poetic terms. That’s the beauty of music—it is open to interpretation based on individual experiences, personality and perceptions.

I was simply thankful the music and the brooding darkness and warmth of the sanctuary did not lull my husband asleep during the 1 ½ hour Valentine’s Day evening concert. That this chamber orchestra held the interest of an automotive machinist who prefers the likes of Fleetwood Mac, The Moody Blues and Charlie Daniels to classical music should impress you.

The Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour, shown here in a file photo, offers wonderful accoustics for a concert.

The Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour, shown here in a file photo, offers wonderful acoustics for a concert.

Mostly, I was thankful for the opportunity to attend a concert of this caliber in my community and at no cost. Minnesota Sinfonia, a non-profit whose mission is “to serve the musical and educational needs of the citizens of Minnesota, especially families with children, inner-city youth, seniors and those with limited financial means,” performs all concerts free of charge. The Sinfonia receives support in part from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Minnesota Clean Water, Land & Legacy Amendment.

Faribault’s Shattuck-St. Mary’s School and The Catherdral of Our Merciful Saviour collaborated to bring the Sinfonia to Faribault as part of Shattuck’s Fesler-Lampert Performing Arts series.

The historic Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour in Faribault. File photo.

The historic Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour in Faribault. File photo.

I appreciate that this group of professional musicians took their concert outside of the Twin Cities metro area. Outstate Minnesota needs more exposure like this to the performing arts. As I listened, I thought how much my 80-year-old mom, who lives in rural southwestern Minnesota, would enjoy a concert like this. And I wondered why my community of 23,000 could not fill this sanctuary to overflowing for this spectacular free concert of classical music. Next time…

FYI: Click here to learn more about the Minnesota Sinfonia.

The Minnesota Sinfonia will present two free concerts this weekend in the Twin Cities. A performance is set for 7 p.m. Friday, February 15, in Founders Hall at Metropolitan State University, 700 East 7th Street, St. Paul.

At 4 p.m. on Sunday, February 17, Minnesota Sinfonia will perform at Temple Israel, 2324 Emerson Avenue South, Minneapolis.

Early arrival is recommended at both venues. I’d suggest you search online for more info about these concerts if interested in attending.

(Because The Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour is especially dark and because photos were not allowed during the performance, I did not take my camera to the concert.)

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


She’s off to Argentina, again

On the way to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

On the way to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

SHE’S LEAVING ON A JET PLANE and I know when she’ll be back again…

In reality, she’s already gone, already landed in Buenos Aires, albeit two hours and ten minutes late due to an “aircraft change” in Houston. I’ve gathered that information from the United Airlines website with no way of personally confirming her arrival.

But I can surmise my second daughter is on the ground, on her way via shuttle bus and then a taxi to the hostel where she’s booked several nights.

And I will tell you this: I don’t like any of this—her traveling alone with no real concrete itinerary and no immediate way of instantly connecting across the 6,000 miles that separate us.

She has no personal computer, no cell phone, at the moment.

Approaching the MSP Terminal 1 drop off site.

Approaching the MSP Terminal 1 drop off site.

I should be accustomed to this really, this being her third trip to Argentina. But those first two times she had a home base in Buenos Aires, studying and interning in the capital city.

Back "home" in Faribault, packed and ready to go.

“Home” in Faribault, packed and ready to leave for Argentina.

This time, though, my daughter is vacationing, taking a month away from her job as a Spanish medical interpreter to revisit her beloved South America and the friends she made there. I admire her independence and her fearless spirit. I really do. I have encouraged such qualities in all of my children. But now I am paying the price.

I cannot help myself. I am a mom. Moms worry.

And, if I was not so darned nosy and had not sought out information from my girl, I would have less to concern myself.

But I asked and she told me about the planned lengthy bus ride to Tucuman in northern Argentina. When I questioned the safety of this mode of transportation, she told me about the time her college friend Devon was riding such a bus. Would-be robbers smashed a window, but the bus driver, knowing their intent, sped away.

Then there’s Tucuman, where my girl and her friend, Ivana, were mugged by two guys on a motorcycle, in broad daylight several years ago. Crime has only gotten worse in that city, Ivana says. My daughter won’t be carrying a purse this visit. Just in case, I have copies of her credit and bank cards and her passport.

She’s planning a 16-hour journey on Train to the Clouds, a train that will take her high into the mountains and villages of northwest Argentina. To alleviate my concerns that she will be traveling on some rickety old train, my daughter showed me photos on the train’s website. That reassured me…until she mentioned the medical personnel assigned to each passenger car to deal with health issues related to the high altitude. I suppose that should reassure me. It did not.

And then my eldest had to mention the stray dogs that roam Argentinean streets.

For the next few weeks, I will try to pretend that my daughter is still only 300 miles away in the Midwest. That is my strategy, plus lots of prayer.

My daughter didn't fly Delta. But these are the only planes I saw when leaving Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport after my husband and I dropped her off.

My daughter didn’t fly Delta. But these are the only planes I saw when leaving Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport after my husband and I dropped her off.

IF YOU’RE A PARENT of adult kids who love to travel, how do you cope? I could use some tips.

Since writing this post, I received an email and a call from my daughter reporting her safe arrival.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling