In pursuit of my ongoing Kuraltian campaign to know America firsthand, I checked out a concert last weekend in Hector, Minnesota, a hamlet of around 1,200 souls located two hours or so outside of the Twin Cities.
I don’t think I’m jiving the Hectorians when I say that performing arts venues in the immediate area are few. However, the town does include a church that hosts concerts with some regularity. I happened to be there for a performance by the Svenskarnas Dag Girls’ Choir, a group that specializes in Swedish traditional music. The program was well received; the ensemble drew a sizable (well, sizable enough to fill the sanctuary of this church, anyway) and enthusiastic crowd.
Naturally my first thought upon leaving the show was how the music-making of these dozen or so diminutive Swedish-American lasses could be subverted to my own advantage.
Dig, if you will, a picture: You’re sitting in a concert hall with a scrim over the stage. You can’t make out whatever’s behind the proscenium. Suddenly, a wave of sound sweeps out. Electronically produced signals are detectable, certainly, but they surround and embellish a core of unmistakably biological noises: gasps, growls, clicks, fricatives, plosives. Assume a 5.1 setup in the room: You are assailed on all sides by disquieting utterances. The scrim begins to rise, and you are shocked to realize that this cacophony has in fact been emanating from a small group of tiny, bespectacled blondes in quaint Scandinavian attire. Check and mate. The piece is automatically successful.
To my knowledge, no piece for Swedish girls’ choir has ever won anybody a Pulitzer. The same goes for Balkan folk groups, hillbilly bands, and polka outfits. But I’m tantalized by the thought of partnerships with ensembles like these that are more or less off the concert music radar. Getting them on board might take some doing, but that’s what grants and commission-donations are for. I’m confident that mutually beneficial arrangements could be reached in most cases. Does anyone have experience working with “outsider” groups that they’d be willing to share (the experience or the groups, that is)?