Dennis Spears sang on Monday's benefit. (photo by Tom Wallace)

A parade of Minnesota musicians – plus wordsmith Kevin Kling – took to the stage Monday night at the packed Dakota to honor photographer-to-the-local-stars Ann Marsden.

The five-hour-plus program was a spirited, inspiring and gushing tribute to Marsden, who is fighting cervical cancer.  It was a model and marvelous fundraiser in a room filled with actors, musicians, photographers and supporters of the local arts community.
I wasn’t there for the entire evening but still witnessed many highlights:
·         Dennis Spears and his quivering designer cargo pants on a campy “Minnie the Moocher.”
·         Allison Scott’s strong, soulful voice, which was a new discovery for the mostly middle-aged crowd.
·         The always elegant Connie Evingson duetting with deep-voiced T. Mychal Rambo on the appropos “You’ve Got a Friend.”
·         Dean Magraw finding a funky groove on electric guitar.
·         Prudence Johnson pulling out a ukulele for Little Jimmy Dickens “Slow Suicide,” a tune Marsden had introduced her to.
·         John Gorka thanking Ann for shooting the covers for eight of his albums including “the vinyl record that I put out in the late 1900s” and then singing “Flying Red Horse.”
·         Minnesota Orchestra maestro Osmo Vanska demonstrating how Ann taught him to loosen up his stoic face for a photo shoot and then playing a striking cadenza for string quartet and clarinet but without the string quartet. “It is not long,” he warned the crowd. “Don’t be scared. Maybe three minutes. It depends how much I have to repeat some parts.”
·         Kevin Kling was the perfect choice to follow the masterful maestro, with the humorist/playwright/author with a shock of hair announcing, “Whenever Ann took my picture, my hair looked combed.” He then recited his wonderful poem that I believe is called “A Dance of Pink.”
·          The acoustic trio known as the Warblers (featuring two-thirds of the Suicide Commandos punk-rock trio) warbling the Drifters’ “Twilight Time.”
·         Prudence Johnson and Dean Magraw joining the New Standards for a breathtaking version of Joni Mitchell’s “Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire.”  After their third number together, New Standards pianist Chan Poling declared: “It’s nice to be the cushion that Prudence sits upon, in a manner of speaking.”
·         That left it to the New Standards themselves to close the evening with their delightful take on OutKast’s “Hey Ya.”
·         A love-note to Ann (blanks were left on each table and read ontage) that proclaimed:  “What a fun, beautiful, radiant, quirky evening – just like you.”
What a perfect description.
Kudos to organizers Lisa Nebenzahl (overall coordinator), Prudence Johnson (music wrangler) and Ann Michels and Stacia Rice (auction coordinators) for a well-conceived and efficiently executed evening.
Ann Marsden/ photo by Terry Gydesen

Ann Marsden (photo by Terry Gydesen)


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