MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA (March 2, 2018) — The Minnesota Orchestra announced plans today for Sommerfest 2018, unveiling a series of “Music for Mandela” concerts and events, in connection with a worldwide celebration of the late Nobel Peace Prize-winning South African leader and human rights advocate Nelson Mandela on the centenary of his birth. Running from July 13 to August 1, the “Music for Mandela” Sommerfest will feature an International Day of Music; the world premiere of composer Bongani Ndodana-Breen’s Harmonia Ubuntu; a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony featuring South African soloists; a Mandela tribute concert, featuring international music and speakers; and a collaboration with Books for Africa; as well as additional concerts that explore musical expressions of peace, freedom and reconciliation. Following Sommerfest, Music Director Osmo Vänskä will lead the Minnesota Orchestra on a five-city tour to South Africa in August, becoming the first professional U.S. orchestra to travel to the African nation.
For the Minnesota Orchestra’s complete Sommerfest 2018 schedule listings, click here.
“Music, especially a very vibrant choral tradition, plays a central role in South African culture,” says Music Director Osmo Vänskä. “In advance of our South Africa tour, we are excited to celebrate South African performers, music and the great leader Nelson Mandela at Sommerfest, as we present an exchange of music and musical traditions at Orchestra Hall.”
Sommerfest concerts will be led by all of the Orchestra’s titled conductors. Assistant Conductor Akiko Fujimoto leads a Sensory-Friendly “Courage and Triumph” Family Concert (July 14); Associate Conductor Roderick Cox will conduct a Symphony in 60 program (July 27) dedicated to musical themes of peace and reconciliation; Principal Conductor of Live at Orchestra Hall Sarah Hicks will lead an Inside the Classics concert (July 28) with host Sam Bergman that explores musical expressions of “Speaking Truth to Power”; and Music Director Osmo Vänskä will lead a concert Celebrating Mandela at 100 (July 20), as well as Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony (July 21) and a Tour Send-Off Concert (August 1), in addition to other programs.
The Orchestra will partner with Books for Africa, establishing donation areas in the lobby of Orchestra Hall, with a goal to collect more than 20,000 books throughout Sommerfest. The books will then be shipped by Books for Africa to students across Africa at the conclusion of the festival.
At all summer concerts from July 13 to August 1, audiences are invited to enjoy an array of food and beverage options, outside of Orchestra Hall and inside the lobby, while listening to free live music by local artists. All Sommerfest outdoor and lobby entertainment pre- and post-concert is open to the public. A ticket is only required for entry to the full-Orchestra performances in the auditorium.
Nelson Mandela Centenary Celebration
Born on July 18, 1918, in Mvezo, South Africa, Nelson Mandela was an anti-apartheid activist who led a decades-long campaign of peaceful, nonviolent defiance against the South African government and its policy of apartheid. Beginning in 1962, Mandela spent 27 years in prison for political offenses. Following his release, he became South Africa’s first black president (from 1994 to 1999) and a symbol of global peacemaking. He died in December 2013, at the age of 95, in Johannesburg. Today, the Johannesburg-based Nelson Mandela Foundation, which was founded by Mandela himself to perpetuate his vision of freedom and equality for all, has planned nearly 50 projects during the centennial year that are designed to commemorate the Mandela legacy.
SOMMERFEST 2018: Music for Mandela
Sensory-Friendly Family Concert (July 14)
Assistant Conductor Akiko Fujimoto will lead the organization’s first full-Orchestra Sensory-Friendly Family concert on Saturday, July 14, conducting musical expressions of “Courage and Triumph,” including Joan Tower’s Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman, Hedwig’s Flight from John Williams’ score to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and the Finale from Stravinsky’s Firebird. Running one hour, the Sensory-Friendly Family Concert experience is designed for attendees of all ages and abilities, including those on the autism spectrum and those with sensory sensitivities. The experiences throughout Orchestra Hall are carefully designed to create a relaxed and inclusive environment for all attendees. For more information, visit minnesotaorchestra.org/sensoryfriendly.
Celebrating Mandela at 100 (July 20)
Osmo Vänskä will lead a vibrant evening of pageantry celebrating Nelson Mandela’s life journey in words, video tributes and music. Guests will include the Minnesota Chorale and Insingizi, an exceptional a cappella trio from Zimbabwe, plus special guest speakers. Mr. Vänskä will also lead the Orchestra in a performance of the Largo movement from Dvořák’s New World Symphony. Entrance to this special concert will be “pay what you are able,” with all audience members encouraged to bring donations of books for Books for Africa.
International Day of Music (July 21)
The Orchestra will bring back a favorite tradition from the previous decade, the Day of Music, but this time with an international focus. Beginning at 12 p.m. on Saturday, July 21, the International Day of Music will feature performances on multiple stages in and around Orchestra Hall, celebrating many genres of music for all ages, with a special focus on Pan-African music. Vendors will set-up a pan-African marketplace around Orchestra Hall, selling food, beverages and handicrafts, and adults and children will be able to participate in a variety of music and art activities. All Day of Music performances are free of cost, with the exception of the 8 p.m. Minnesota Orchestra concert that evening at Orchestra Hall. The complete International Day of Music schedule will be released in May.
Harmonia Ubuntu and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony (July 21)
The International Day of Music will conclude with a centerpiece concert featuring the world premiere of South African composer Bongani Ndodana-Breen’s tribute to Mandela, Harmonia Ubuntu. A native of Queenstown, Mr. Ndodana-Breen is known as the composer of Winnie, the Opera, based on the life of Winnie Mandela. He explains the title of his new piece, commissioned for the Minnesota Orchestra tour by Classical Movements as part of the Eric Daniel Helms New Music Program, as follows: “Mandela was the exemplar of the African value of Ubuntu—the knowledge that one’s humanity is tied to the humanity of others.” Scored for soprano and orchestra, the work will feature South African singer Goitsemang Oniccah Lehobye. Mr. Vänskä and the Orchestra will conclude the evening with a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, featuring South African vocal soloists and the Minnesota Chorale in the exultant Ode to Joy finale.
Symphony in 60 and Inside the Classics
Associate Conductor Roderick Cox will take the podium on Friday, July 27, to lead two Sommerfest Symphony in 60 concerts based on music of peace and reconciliation. Opening the program with Esa-Pekka Salonen’s single-movement Helix, originally written for the World Orchestra for Peace; Mr. Cox will then lead a performance of Estonian composer Arvo Pärt’s mesmerizing Fratres, said to encapsulate Pärt’s observation that “the instant and eternity are struggling within us.” Canadian pianist Stewart Goodyear will conclude the hour-long program with a performance of Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto.
The next evening, Saturday, July 28, Inside the Classics conductor Sarah Hicks and host Sam Bergman will showcase a program of orchestral “protest music,” featuring composers—past and present—who have used their compositions to musically speak truth to power. Works on the program include John Corigliano’s Apologue: Of Rage and Remembrance, written in response to the AIDS crisis; Krzysztof Penderecki’s Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima; and William Grant Still’s In Memoriam: The Colored Soldiers Who Died for Democracy, among others.
Sommerfest will additionally feature an evening with six-time Tony Award-winning singer Audra McDonald (July 13); a performance with violinist and Minnesota Orchestra 2017-18 Featured Artist James Ehnes in Academy Award-winning film composer James Newton Howard’s Violin Concerto (July 19), a work which Mr. Ehnes himself premiered in 2015; a concert from South African Grammy-winning a cappella ensemble Ladysmith Black Mambazo (July 31); and a celebratory Tour Send-Off Concert on August 1. Led by Osmo Vänskä, the send-off concert will feature Bernstein’s Overture to Candide, Charles Ives’ Symphony No. 2 and George Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F, performed by Inon Barnatan.
Music for Mandela Sponsors
The Minnesota Orchestra’s tour to South Africa is funded by generous contributions from an anonymous couple, and from the Douglas and Louise Leatherdale Fund for Music. Additional funding for the Music for Mandela project is provided by a consortium of corporations based in Minnesota that to-date includes Ecolab, TCF Financial Corporation, Medtronic, Land O’Lakes, 3M, U.S. Bank, Thor Construction, Target and Pentair.
Ticket purchasing information
Sommerfest tickets are available in advance for current Minnesota Orchestra subscribers, groups of 10 or more, or when purchased in a Create Your Own Series package starting on Friday, March 2, 2018. Individual tickets go on sale beginning on Friday, April 6, 2018, online at minnesotaorchestra.org and by calling 612-371-5656 (612-371-5642 for subscriptions) or 800-292-4141.
Packages and tickets can be purchased in person at the Orchestra Hall Box Office, 1111 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis (open Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and beginning two hours before all ticketed performances); and at the Minnesota Orchestra Administrative Office, International Centre, 5th floor, 920 Second Avenue South, Minneapolis (open Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.). For more information, call 612-371-5656, or visit minnesotaorchestra.org. For packages, call 612-371-5642 or visit minnesotaorchestra.org/cyo. For groups of 10 or more, call 612-371-5662.
All programs, artists, dates, times and prices subject to change.
The Star Tribune is the Minnesota Orchestra’s media partner for the 2017-18 season.
This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.