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What's ahead for the region's arts scene in the coming weeks?

A prize-winning, Houston-based woodwind ensemble called WindSync will perform Thursday, March 15 in Park Rapids. (Submitted photo)1 / 5
Nothando Zulu (Submitted photo)2 / 5
Flannery Cunningham, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Pennsylvania, was recently chosen as the winner of Heartland Symphony Orchestra's 2018 Composer's Competition. Her original work, "Clarion," will be performed as part of HSO's upcoming spring concert series. (Submitted photo) 3 / 5
Caleigh will perform eclectic music at a March 11 benefit for the Walker Food Shelf. "Caleigh" is a Gaelic word that means a musical gathering. (Submitted photo)4 / 5
VocalEssence's 2018 tour, "River Songs & Tales" featuring Don Shelby as Mark Twain (right), comes to Detroit Lakes' Historic Holmes Theatre on Friday, April 6 for a 7:30 p.m. concert. (Submitted photo)5 / 5

VocalEssence's 'River Songs' coming to Holmes Theatre April 6

DETROIT LAKES — Even in the land of 10,000 lakes, the Mississippi River has a magical pull: it's a metaphor, a connector, an escape route and the source of indelibly American songs and stories.

This April, VocalEssence brings the flavor and spirit of the Mississippi to life with its "River Songs and Tales with Mark Twain: Northern Minnesota Tour," which makes a stop at Detroit Lakes' Historic Holmes Theatre on Friday, April 6.

The five-city journey will deliver a stirring program of music from the VocalEssence Ensemble Singers, accompanied by an instrumental bluegrass combo and folk fiddler Sara Pajunen, plus journalist and actor Don Shelby's portrayal of the great American humorist and man of letters.

Supported by grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board, Bremer Bank, and the Brainerd Lakes Area Community Foundation, the entertaining and nostalgic program weaves choral masterpieces, folk song favorites, traditional spirituals, and Americana with the words of Mark Twain. In each city, a local high school or community choir will be featured in a prelude concert.

"It's always an adventure when VocalEssence and Don Shelby hit the road, and past audiences have told us they love the energy of this collaboration," said G. Phillip Shoultz, III, VocalEssence Associate Conductor who serves as Music Director for the production. "Combine tall tales from Mark Twain with the highly spirited vocal performances from our singers, and you get a formula for a truly fun program, with something for everyone. Best of all, we get to reach an appreciative audience that might not be able to catch a VocalEssence performance in the cities. We've been building community through the choral arts for 49 years, and tours like this are an important way of expanding that community."

The April tour reaches a total of five cities, beginning with Grand Rapids and moving on to Hibbing, Detroit Lakes, Brainerd, and Alexandria. The schedule is:

• Wednesday, April 4, 7:30 p.m. at the Reif Performing Arts Center's Wilcox Theatre in Grand Rapids. $25 tickets are available through the Reif Center's website, with discounts for seniors, students, and MPR members.

• Thursday, April 5, at 7 p.m. at Hibbing High School in Hibbing. This event is free and open to the public. Call Hibbing Community Education at 218-208-0852 for more information.

• Friday, April 6 at 7:30 p.m. at the Historic Holmes Theatre in Detroit Lakes. Tickets are available for $22, with discounts for students, through the Holmes Theater box office.

• Saturday, April 7, at 7:30 p.m. at the Central Lakes Community Performing Arts Center in Brainerd. Tickets are available for $22, with discounts for students and MPR members, through the CLCPAC box office.

• Sunday, April 8, at 4 p.m. at the Alexandria High School Performing Arts Center in Alexandria. Tickets are available for $16, with discounts for students, through the school's box office.

VocalEssence, called "one of the irreplaceable music ensembles of our time" by Dana Gioia, past chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts — and the choral ensemble that Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones says "sings magnificently" — impacts thousands of students, singers, and composers each year through its initiative programs, contests, and support for innovative art. VocalEssence was founded in 1969 and has debuted more than 250 commissions and world premieres. For more information, visit

Caleigh concert today in Walker to benefit local food shelf

WALKER — Caleigh is a Minnesota band whose sound is described as "earthy and eclectic — a fusion of world folk, Celtic, bluegrass, American old-time and original compositions."

They will perform at a fifth annual concert to benefit the Walker Area Food Shelf at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 11 at the Community Church of Walker. Freewill offerings will be donated to the food shelf.

The three-women group features Dee Furfaro (vocals, bass, guitar, bodhran, congas), Lenore Siems (fiddle, mandolin, viola) and April Larson (vocals, guitar, Celtic harp, banjo, accordion, piano). They will perform a mix of musical styles on multiple instruments, many of them handmade by master crafters.

Caleigh has shared their 20-plus-year musical journey with audiences throughout the state and fans worldwide via the Internet. The band has released five albums on the Lily Label.

Master storyteller performing today in Bagley

BAGLEY — Nothando Zulu is set to perform at Farm By The Lake's Storytelling Series at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 11 at Bagley Public Library.

The event is free and open to the public. It is a family-friendly show, appropriate for ages 1 to 101.

Zulu is a master storyteller who has been sharing stories with audiences for over 30 years. She aims to entertain, educate, motivate and inspire. She has performed at many venues locally, nationally and internationally. She draws from an extensive resource of colorful, often funny characters whose antics and follies leave audiences pondering their own life's lessons.

As director of Black Storytellers Alliance, Zulu and her husband, with the help of the board of directors, have produced a three-day storytelling festival celebrating the art of Bblack storytelling called "Signifyin & Testifyin.'" It's now in its 17th year.

Zulu is also a wife, mother, grandmother, community and political activist who believes in the power of stories.

Acclaimed woodwind quartet performing March 15 in Park Rapids

PARK RAPIDS — WindSync — a hot, young woodwind quintet — is set to perform for the Heartland Concert Association at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 15 in the Park Rapids Area High School auditorium.

The prize-winning, Houston-based ensemble builds highly thematic programs that feature landmark quintets, new works by American composers and premiere arrangements of standard repertoire with the goal of increasing accessibility and cultural significance of wind chamber music. Mixing familiar classical musics, some familiar lighter tunes and interesting stage presentations, these five virtuoso musicians perform exclusively from memory and specialize in creative concerts that inspire and entertain audiences of all ages.

WindSync is recognized for dramatic, fully memorized concert presentations that often feature collaborators from the worlds of music, dance and multimedia.

WindSync tours nationally and internationally, appearing at venues including the Schubert Club, Met Museum, Shanghai Oriental Arts Center and Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall.

WindSync takes a special interest in reaching children, families and underserved audiences. Advocates of 21st century musicianship models and community-oriented programming, the members of WindSync have led master classes at New World Symphony, Texas Music Festival, and the University of Maryland Renegade Series, among others. WindSync has also served as ensemble-in-residence for the Chamber Music Festival of Lexington, Grand Teton Music Festival and the Da Camera of Houston Young Artists Program.

Admission to the Heartland Concert series is by season membership ticket or at the door. For more information, contact Bobbi Zigmant at 732-9293 or Marshall Howe at 218-220-0410 or visit

Pennsylvania composer wins HSO competition

LITTLE FALLS — Heartland Symphony Orchestra recently selected Flannery Cunningham, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Pennsylvania, as winner of the 2018 Composer's Competition.

Cunningham's original work, "Clarion," will be performed by Heartland Symphony Orchestra as part of their spring concert series on Friday, April 6 at 7:30 p.m. in Crosslake; Saturday, April 7 at 7:30 p.m. in Little Falls at the Charles D. Martin Auditorium of Little Falls Community High School; and on Sunday, April 8 at 2:30 p.m. at the Tornstrom Auditorium Brainerd.

The program will also feature "Scheherazade, Op. 35" by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and "Pelleas and Melisande, Op. 80" by Gabriel Faure. Conductor Chats will be held 45 minutes prior to each concert.

Tickets are $12 for Adult, $10 for Senior and Free for Youth K-12. For ticket information call 1-800-826-1997.

The Composer's Competition is held by Heartland Symphony Orchestra every other year, alternating with the Youth Concerto Competition. This year, the Composer's Competition is funded in part by a grant from Crow Wing Community Trust.

Heartland Symphony Orchestra is a 50 piece volunteer, nonprofit, community orchestra serving the communities of west central Minnesota.