Benefit concert debuts symphony, by Greg Peterson

Haunting French horn calls, the soothing sounds of water, a thundering storm and flowing interpretive dance using rocks, sand and other items found along the Lake Superior shoreline are all part of the “Concert for Lake Superior: People, Place, Purpose.”
The Boreal Chamber Symphony will make its debut on Lake Superior Day in Marquette in a dramatic benefit concert to protect America’s largest freshwater lake.
With a view of Lake Superior, the concert will begin at 7:00 p.m. on July 15 at UpFront & Company in Marquette, preceded by a 6:00 p.m. social hour.
With a water and environment theme, the concert is sponsored by the Superior Watershed Partnership and Cedar Tree Institute, Marquette nonprofits that founded the Earth Keeper Initiative in 2004.
The concert is free, but donations are encouraged, with all proceeds used for environment projects involving the immense Lake Superior watershed.
“By offering this free concert, we also hope that people will contribute to the Lake Superior Fund so we can continue to expand our incredibly successful Great Lakes protection programs,” said Carl Lindquist, executive director of the Superior Watershed Partnership. “The concert is also a way to show that we all have an important role in protecting Lake Superior.”
In 2001, the Lake Superior Binational Forum designated the third Sunday in July as Lake Superior Day in the United States and Canada.
All donations are tax deductible and go to the Lake Superior Defense Fund.
Master of ceremonies for the concert is Karl Bohnak, WLUC TV-6 meteorologist. The orchestra is comprised of nineteen professional musicians from around the country with ties to the Lake Superior region.
“This concert will be a chance to lift up a vision of a good place and a clean lake – a symbol to the world of water and life,” said Reverend Jon Magnuson, executive director of the Cedar Tree Institute and cofounder of the Earth Keeper Initiative. “This evening will be about a beacon of hope—a shout of thanksgiving and invitation to continue a struggle to protect and defend one of the world’s greatest natural resources.”
The chamber orchestra was named Boreal because the word means “northern regions.”
Conductor Craig Randal Johnson of Minneapolis and members of the orchestra want to bring awareness to ecological issues.
Johnson remembers the exact minute the Lake Superior concert idea was born: at 1:27 p.m. on September 14, 2006.
“It was one of those moments when you realize things are suddenly different,” Johnson said.
At a Marquette café, Johnson and a friend were discussing cultural offerings and the state of music in the U.P. and the annual Baltic Sea Festival.
“We wanted to see how the Baltic Sea project could translate to a similar initiative in the Great Lakes,” Johnson said. “We very quickly narrowed it down to Lake Superior.”
Nature and the environment is an underlining motivating factor for all the music Johnson does. He hopes the concert will educate the public about the environment.
“The convergence of the environment and concerns of the environment are so paramount to us as human beings,” said Johnson, who has a long list of orchestras he has conducted, including music director of the 2005 Finn Grand Fest symphony concert in Marquette, the upcoming July 27 FinnFest concert in Ashtabula (Ohio), the Marquette Symphony and as an instrumental performer at FinnFest 1996.
“We want to harness the power of music and art to wake people up,” he said.
The classical concert will reach many extremes, including traditional works from Mozart and Handel, a religious spiritual piece, and interpretive dance to the music of Finnish composer Kari Tikka and Estonian composer Arvo Pärt.
Marquette organizers hope the event will inspire future Lake Superior Day concerts in other cities encircling the lake, similar to the Baltic Sea Festival.
“In 2006, Earth Keepers received the highest Great Lakes protection award from the U.S. EPA and Canada,” Lindquist said. “The concert for Lake Superior is our way of saying thank you to the thousands of citizens who help us protect this truly great lake.”
Iron County native Evan Premo has been commissioned to create a new work for the concert.
Premo’s composition, Fall Storm on Lake Superior, was inspired by a chapter in Lon Emerick’s book, The Superior Peninsula—Seasons in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
“I try to evoke the power of the lake in my music like Lon did in this chapter,” Premo said. “The chapter starts with Lon waking up in his home in Skandia on a fall day and hearing the low rumble of the lake. He then drives to Presque Isle where he takes awe at the mighty waves crashing over the breakwater.”
Emerick’s book remembers shipwrecks during fall storms like the Edmund Fitzgerald.
Percussionists Carrie Biolo and James A. Strain and dancer Maria Formolo are premiering a performance named “Elements” that uses rock, sand and driftwood from Lake Superior.
The performers will recreate a Lake Superior storm by using a thunder sheet, and the wind will be created by a spinning corrugate tube and bull roar, and a plethora of traditional percussion instruments.
“A bowed Chinese cymbal hauntingly reminds me of the men who gave their life to Lake Superior,” Biolo said. “I can hear their screams and last breaths as I drag a bow across the edge of the Chinese cymbal or scrape the back of a drum stick across its surface.”
Formolo will dance in a costume draped in driftwood, simultaneously producing an aural and visual sensation, Biolo said.
“Lake Superior rocks will be rhythmically hit together, sand will be poured and water will be played,” Biolo said.
The event includes an art exhibit by regional nature artists and Great Lakes authors. Displays will offer educational materials and opportunities for people to participate in regional environment stewardship initiatives.
The program also includes Frederic Rzewski, To the Earth; Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Symphony No. 29 in A, K. 201; Verne Reynolds, Calls for two French Horns; composer/pianist Carl Lindquist, Lake Superior Suite; Kari Tikka, Exsultate!; Arvo Pärt, Fratres; Georg Fredrich Händel, selections from Water Music.
The Superior Watershed Partnership and the Cedar Tree Institute organize annual Earth Keeper Clean Sweeps that broke EPA household hazardous waste collection records. The groups have collaborated on numerous environmental projects during the last decade, including stream restoration, controlling invasive species, restoring native plant species, storm water management, dune restoration, Great Lakes monitoring, wild rice restoration, erosion control and energy conservation.
—Greg Peterson

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