Musical performances deserve support

To the editor:

This past Sunday my wife, Norma, and I attended the initial performance of the Pro Musica Chamber Ensemble’s Music Festival (June 16-21) at Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato. The featured performers were the Ensemble’s two artistic directors-Bethel Salge (pianist) and Peter McGuire (violinist). Ms. Balge is an instructor at Bethany and Martin Luther College and Mr. McGuire is a principal violinist with the Minnesota Symphony Orchestra. The pair played violin sonatas by Mozart, Brahms and Franck. They rendered these pieces with surpassing beauty and authority. Ms. Balge’s hands rocketed across the ivories “faster than the speed of sound” and, when required, pounded the Steinway into abject submission while Mr. McGuire played the violin with an intensity and bravura that threatened to implode the instrument. High musical drama. There were, to be sure, also melodic passages of sublime beauty.

As I write this (Monday), the Festival is still in full swing and additional members of the Ensemble will perform through the week. This is the best classical music I have ever heard in this region. Every local instrumental music teacher should encourage their students and their parents to attend.

This is the inaugural year for Pro Musica and it appears courtesy of several nonprofit grants. But these grants are not forever and their continuity may depend on public enthusiasm marked by attendance and private donations. There were plenty of seats available on Sunday.

The same is true for the Summit Avenue Chamber Ensemble that will initiate its 2019-2020 season in the beautiful Chapel of the Christ at Martin Luther College on September 15. Ms. Balge and Mr. McGuire are again the artistic directors of this group.

Finally, kudos to the New Ulm Suzuki School of Music that presented its annual Pops Camp concert on June 14 at the New Ulm Public High School Auditorium. The large string orchestra was composed of area students of varying ages (some were no taller than their cellos) and their coaches playing classics, Pops and Broadway music. The students gather for a week of practice under the tutelage of the guest conductor Carl Rieke culminating in the concert. This is really a major musical event during the summer due to the excellence of the orchestra and should draw an SRO crowd, but there were plenty of empty seats. We can do better to show our support for the young folks.

Robert N. Dempsey

New Ulm