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John Crist teases Minnesotans and fellow Christians at Minneapolis Comedy Festival

If you think Christian comedy is an oxymoron, you haven't seen John Crist.

The YouTube sensation may have wore his faith on his sleeve during a 90-minute performance Tuesday at Target Center, but he came across more like a snickering teen in the last pew than a down-home preacher.

Crist relied a little too heavily on special effects and prancing around the stage as if he was possessed by the spirit of Shirley Temple, but the material was rock solid -- especially if you understood his references to Bathsheba, Lazarus and Joel Osteen. He may be a true believer, but the 35-year-old comic wasn't above sneaking in a sexual innuendo or two.

Minnesotans weren't off limits, either. In both his stand-up performance and a video he recorded with opening act with Dustin Nickerson, the comedian made sure to drop plenty of local references. At one point, he compared Jesus's relationship with his brother to St. Paul's relationship with Minneapolis.

"Yeah, they're brothers, but only one does the cool stuff," he said.

Despite the digs, Crist won over the audience, clearly filled with fellow Christians. When he challenged the crowd to fill in the verses of Sunday-school ditties, he triggered the kind of sing-alongs you'd expect at a Neil Diamond concert.

The inaugural Minneapolis Comedy Festival continues through Saturday with performances from Seth Meyers, Bob Newhart and Jeremy Piven. Tickets are available at minneapoliscomedyfestival.com

'Outpouring of support' brings Twin Cities music group back from the dead

 

The Rose Ensemble, with artistic director Jordan Sramek at left. (photo courtesy the Rose Ensemble)

 

The Rose Ensemble recently played its “Finale Concert,” concluding a season that was supposed to be its last.

But the Twin Cities early-music group, which a year ago faced “a financial deficit too overwhelming to overcome,” may not be going out of business after all.

In a statement late Monday, the ensemble said that the 2018-19 season “yielded earned revenue and contributions far beyond expectations.” As a result, the ensemble’s board of directors decided “to leave the organization’s books — and its options — open for at least another year.

“For now, dissolution has been called off.”

Founded in 1996, the Rose Ensemble carved out a distinctive niche in the rich ecology of Twin Cities music. Detailed historical research went into many of its programs, which spanned an unusually broad range of musical periods from Mexican and Maltese baroque to the Prohibition era in America.

Its 11 albums attracted national attention, and in 2018 the Ensemble won Early Music America’s prestigious Laurette Goldberg Award “for lifetime achievement in early music outreach.”

At the same time, its finances were deteriorating. Weighed down by “lower-than-expected ticket sales, stagnation in institutional funding, and significant legal expenses associated with a random audit by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development,” the organization said 13 months ago that the 2018-19 season would be its last.

That situation has altered radically, according to an email the ensemble sent to supporters after its sold-out finale June 15.

“Thanks to our musicians’ world-class performances and a great outpouring of support from our community,” it said, the ensemble is now “completely debt free.”

A string of sold-out concerts, strong recording sales, and larger-than-projected donations from individuals all helped to address the ensemble’s accumulated deficits, according to its founder and artistic director, Jordan Sramek.

“The volume of phone calls, emails and letters I’ve personally received over the last year has demonstrated just how meaningful the Rose Ensemble is to people,” Sramek said in Monday’s statement.

“It’s clear to me that our supporters have been in mourning. And they’ve been asking if this is really the end.”

That question has yet to be firmly decided. In its email to supporters the Rose Ensemble’s board played down the possibility that new performances would be announced anytime soon.

“We want to be clear that there are currently no plans whatsoever to self-produce more concert seasons,” it said. “But in light of our musicians’ incredible work, for example, in 17 senior communities and nursing homes across Minnesota earlier this month, it is clear that we must take some time to explore potential opportunities."

The board said it “intends to dedicate the coming year to reflection and reassessment," while "strategizing, connecting, and refocusing to determine the future of the organization we all love so much.”

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