They happen Thursdays at lunchtime, are free, and one of the most entertaining places to go for classical music in the Twin Cities.

The Schubert Club's Courtroom Concerts have quietly been building a reputation for musical enterprise over the past few years, and regularly pack the wood-paneled room they're staged in at St. Paul's historic Landmark Center.

It's an excellent venue for listening to chamber music, and the showpiece Thursday morning was the world premiere of a suite for cello and piano, "From the Land of Song," by Twin Cities-based composer David Evan Thomas.

Thomas has Welsh ancestry, and in a spoken introduction he explained the piece's genesis in a 1859 shipwreck off the English coast that drowned his great-great-grandfather, a master mariner.

Five folk tunes from Wales are used as the basis for the suite, which was played by cellist Laura Sewell (who will record the work next year) and pianist Sonja Thompson.

It opened with "Let Now the Harp," in which both players exchanged lightly stroked arpeggios in reference to the Welsh national instrument. Aiming to "make a little journey" through the five traditional tunes, Thomas juggled in a composerly fashion with "Let Now The Harp" by using the inversion of its melody to develop the opening stanza.

At the heart of the suite is "The Missing Boat," with Sewell's soulful cello probing the music's darkly lapping, wavelike gestures and its autobiographical echoes.

A sweetly sung "All Through The Night" followed, and an extended treatment of "Well I Know This Lovely Place" spilled over to an upbeat coda where both soloists showed their virtuosic paces.

"From the Land of Song" is a warmly approachable work, where melancholy occasionally surfaces without lingering.

Next Thursday's Courtroom Concert brings the premiere of a more experimental Thomas piece, his String Quartet No. 3, whose outer movements restrict the players to one string only of their instruments.

The other main work this week was Slovenian composer Blaž Pucihar's "Full Moon Trio" for flute, cello and piano.

For that, Sewell and Thompson were joined on stage by Barbara Leibundguth, a former co-principal flutist with the Minnesota Orchestra.

Leibundguth had plenty to do in the florid flute part of the trio, whose nimbly elegant rhythms and textures suggested the influence of Ravel.

Thompson anchored the mischievously playful music with poised and fluid playing, delicately pointing its wit and quicksilver shifts of temper.

Between the two main works, some "Moon Songs" by various composers were inserted as a segue to Pucihar's trio, with soprano Janet Fried substituting for an indisposed Maria Jette.

"Song to the Moon" from Dvorák's opera "Rusalka" rubbed shoulders with Mancini's movie classic "Moon River" in what seemed a somewhat ragtag sequence musically.

But the Courtroom Concerts delight in doing that — springing the unexpected, and putting a stimulating taster menu on the table amid the prosaic bustle of a downtown lunchtime.

Terry Blain is a freelance classical music critic for the Star Tribune. Reach him at