MORE SOMMERFEST FACTS
How do you say "Sommerfest"? It's simply "summer fest" -- an Americanization of the original German phrase (which is pronounced "zoomer fest" by almost no one but Germans).
How did it start? Summer was a slow season for the orchestra, so in October 1979, staffers brainstormed ideas. "Why not a Vienna festival?" suggested Mary Ann Feldman, the orchestra's longtime program annotator. Sommerfest began July 17, 1980, with Leonard Slatkin conducting a program of Johann Strauss waltzes.
What can I expect to hear this year? Audiences can still hear Strauss (July 18) and Mozart chamber pieces (July 18 and 27), but Grieg, Sibelius, Tchaikovsky and Korngold are also featured this summer along with a "Broadway Rocks" pop program July 23 and "Jazz at the Movies" July 31 with Spike Lee's music master, trumpeter Terence Blanchard.
Will Doc be in the house? Yes, former "Tonight Show" bandleader Doc Severinsen, who used to lead the orchestra's pops program, returns for shows Saturday (8 p.m.) and next Sunday (2 p.m.) called "El Ritmo de la Vida" ("The Rhythm of Life") with musicians he met during his "retirement" in Mexico.
What about Osmo? Minnesota Orchestra artistic director Osmo Vänskä doesn't run Sommerfest, but he reportedly loves the event, so your best chance to see him might be in the audience. He'll also lead an all-Finnish program July 24 -- a day before he takes it to Duluth for the national FinnFest -- and he'll be the clarinetist in Mozart's Clarinet Trio on July 27.