The Swedish-Iranian singer was supposed to be the star of the show.

Mariam Wallentin's voice was at the center of an upcoming Liquid Music concert, co-presented by the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and the American Swedish Institute.

But last week, the SPCO announced that U.S. Immigration Services had not granted Wallentin a visa.

"It was a real surprise and shock," said Kate Nordstrum, curator of Liquid Music. "SPCO has applied for artist visas for a very long time and knows how to do it right." Wallentin, who is also half of the Swedish duo Wildbirds & Peacedrums, has gotten visas to perform in the United States before without trouble, Nordstrum added.

But there's an all-star backup: Channy Leaneagh, of Twin Cities-based Poliça, will step in, performing with artists from Bedroom Community, an Icelandic crew and record label, and Finnish violinist Pekka Kuusisto. They've been "very eager to meet Channy and have heard about her work with Stargaze," a Berlin-based orchestral group, Nordstrum said. That "turns a frustrating situation into a new adventure."

The May 9 concert, part of the “Where Words End” fest, will feel much like a Cocktails at the Castle event, with the 7:30 performance outdoors on the grounds of the Turnblad Mansion. The evening will include drinks, campfires and a traveling sauna.

After seeing Wallentin's visa application denied, Nordstrum is "more determined than ever to work with Mariam," she said. "I really want her voice to be heard in the Twin Cities."

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