If orchestras are analogous to grocery stores, then perhaps the Minnesota Orchestra is an elegant, upper-class market with lots of gourmet offerings like an olive bar and sushi prepared onsite. And the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra is a great neighborhood co-op with all sorts of high-quality stuff you can't get anywhere else. And the workers own the place.
That cooperative model became even more pronounced during the pandemic. Granted, the SPCO has worked mainly without a conductor for a few seasons, and one of its violinists, Kyu-Young Kim, is also artistic director. But when designing the 2021-22 season announced Thursday, its Zoom rooms grew.
"We have this artistic vision committee that's overseen programming for many years," Kim said this week. "But we expanded it during the pandemic, opening it up to anyone who wanted to participate. ... We've had as many as 15 musicians participating in those calls … deepening that sense of ownership."
In the season they constructed together, 25 distinct concert programs will be presented at St. Paul's Ordway Concert Hall between Sept. 10 and June 12, 2022. There will be plenty of J.S. Bach, Mozart and Beethoven, but also a healthy complement of 21st-century music.
"This season has a lot more women composers, a lot more composers of color," Kim said. "It comes from a lot of research by our musicians, listening to a lot of different composers and figuring out who are doing the most interesting things."
Each concert will be a little over an hour long and performed without intermission. The hall will likely start at about 50% of capacity and gradually grow.
In addition, the SPCO is planning a multivenue Neighborhood Series that starts in January but won't be announced until September.
Here are some standouts among the programs announced Thursday:
Oct. 8-10: Sky Macklay is a product of Waseca, Minn., whose composing career is on the ascent. The orchestra will premiere her "If a Train Leaves New York" in concerts also featuring SPCO violinist Eunae Koh on Antonio Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" concertos.
Oct. 29-31: Pianist and SPCO artistic partner Jeremy Denk returns to perform music of Mozart — a quintet and a piano concerto — with another Macklay piece between them.
Dec. 9-19: Hear all six of J.S. Bach's "Brandenburg" Concertos, three the first weekend, three the second.
Jan. 14-16: Xavier Foley is a bassist creating a buzz. His composition "For Justice and Peace" will be performed, and he'll pair up with SPCO violinist Eunice Kim for Giovanni Bottesini's "Gran Duo Concertante."
Jan. 21-22: R&B/gospel singer, composer, theater artist — St. Paul's PaviElle French is all that. She'll offer her second SPCO premiere.
Feb. 18-19: Only one musician has "conductor" next to his name on an SPCO program next season, and that's English baroque master (and artistic partner) Richard Egarr. He'll lead from the harpsichord on works by Henry Purcell, J.C. Bach, William Lawes and Joseph Haydn.
March 18-19: South African cellist/composer Abel Selaocoe creates a unique combination of traditional African music and the sounds of the baroque era. "We've wanted to bring him for quite some time," Kim said.
April 22-23: Canadian pianist Stewart Goodyear will solo on Beethoven's Third Piano Concerto before the orchestra performs the composer's Fourth Symphony.
May 20-22: Some of the SPCO's most adventurous and enjoyable concerts have come in the company of Finnish violinist and artistic partner Pekka Kuusisto. He'll solo on Ralph Vaughan Williams' popular "The Lark Ascending" after a premiere by Cindy Cox.
June 10-12: Over the season, the orchestra will perform three pieces by Valerie Coleman, a flutist and founder of renowned woodwind quintet the Imani Winds. Her "Phenomenal Women" closes the season, paired with Beethoven's "Eroica" Symphony.
Multi-concert packages are $10-$50 per concert, free for students and children. Tickets to individual concerts go on sale in August. Visit thespco.org for details or call 651-291-1144.
Rob Hubbard is a freelance critic. • email@example.com