Oboist Karen McManus enjoys performing “orchestra classics.” But there is something most magical about show tunes, especially “leaving the theater with all those very memorable songs running around in my head,” she says.
Audiences are sure to experience the same lingering effects at two upcoming “North of Broadway” shows.
The Mesabi Symphony Orchestra will present fundraising concerts Friday at the Mesabi Range College Fine Arts Theater in Virginia, and Saturday at the Vermilion Community College Fine Arts Theater in Ely. Each program starts at 7 p.m.
Well-known vocalists from the regional theater scene will team up with the Mesabi “Pops,” a roughly 25-member subsection of the symphony orchestra, to present Broadway show tunes of famed composers Andrew Lloyd Webber and Stephen Sondheim.
Concerts will feature music from “Phantom of the Opera,” “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Follies,” “Anyone Can Whistle,” “Into the Woods,” and “A Little Night Music.”
“I’m excited about the singers who are participating this year. They are all very talented, and the songs they will be singing range from clever and comic to dramatic and even melodramatic,” said McManus, a MSO musician who also plays clarinet.
“The audience will know much of this music, but some of these songs will be new to them,” she said.
This is the second annual “North of Broadway” event and the MSO’s most important fundraiser, McManus said. Proceeds benefit the MSO — a true community orchestra.
Seventy-five percent of the roughly 45-member orchestra — ranging from upper-level high school students to musicians in their 70s — are volunteers. None of the members make a living as a performing musician, and participants actively mentor youth and adult novice musicians.
“North of Broadway” tickets are $30 and include admission into either concert, two entries into a “Very Tony” split-the-pot cash raffle, and two bids on a selection of “Chorus Line” gift baskets filled with merchandise donated by area businesses. Additional raffle tickets can be purchased at the performances.
“In addition to some great entertainment, people who come to the events will enjoy mocktails and assorted food and snacks from area restaurants,” McManus said. “This is more than a concert — it’s a gala evening of activities and wonderful music.”
Vocalists will perform the Broadway tunes as duets and solos, she said.
• Nadine Berg, who currently accompanies Hibbing High School choirs, teaches private voice and piano lessons, is a church organist and sings with the local chamber choir, Voices of Reason.
• Roy Berg, a Hibbing native who has performed numerous oratorios and recitals. He is director of Hibbing’s Our Savior’s Lutheran Church Choir and a member of Voices of Reason.
• Becky Bone, a member of Range of Voices, and a cantor and choir member at Resurrection and St. Joseph’s Catholic churches of Eveleth and Gilbert. She has participated in several Northern Lights Music Festival operas, including this year’s “La Traviata.”
• Erin Bremner, an Ely optometrist who participates in various community singing groups.
• Irene Hartfield, who has performed in New York, Las Vegas, Venezuela, Sweden and Bermuda, and on Holland America Cruise Lines, as well as in many concerts and gigs in the Ely area.
• Tom Moe, a longtime member of the Mesabi Musical Theatre and vocalist with the Choralaires and Touch of Class ensembles.
• Mark Olson, a veteran of many vocal groups, including the U.S. Navy’s Blue Jackets Choir. He currently sings with the Choralaires, Touch of Class Jazz Choir, and Gethsemane Lutheran Church of Virginia’s Joyful Noise Choir.
• Kristi Sutton Ongalo, who has performed in many musical theater productions in the Quad Cities, the Brainerd Lakes area, and at the Minnesota Discovery Center in Chisholm. She also teaches English at Mesabi Range College and directs its theater productions.
• Sara Skelton, a humanities and fine arts instructor at Vermilion Community College, where she also directs the annual Ely Community Spring Musical. She has performed roles with Northern Lights Musical Festival’s opera.
• Andrea Strom, who grew up singing in various choirs and enjoys participating in Ely’s community theater. She and her husband moved to Ely 16 years ago, where they started their famous Crapola! granola business.
MSO, founded in 1978, celebrated its 40th anniversary last year and provides area musicians with the opportunity to perform orchestral music.
“The performers and musicians are your relative, a friend, a neighbor, or a work colleague,” said MSO Vice President Jan Carey. “Their love of music is their gift to their community. They perform to enrich communities with music.”
As the arts are being cut in schools and colleges, she said, “the public needs to show its support of organizations such as MSO. MSO is a community-driven orchestra. It is here all year long — with a season of concerts from October to May.”
Audiences who support the orchestra — and especially its fundraising concerts — “will keep it alive for another 41 years,” Carey said.
“The musicians of the Mesabi Symphony Orchestra are all extremely versatile and love playing music of all types,” said MSO Artistic Director and Conductor Benjamin Nilles.
“North of Broadway” concerts will “give everyone in the community a chance to hear and support your local, talented soloists performing greatest hits of Webber and Sondheim with your own ‘Broadway’ orchestra,” he added.
“I am most eager to support the Mesabi Symphony Orchestra because it is our local orchestra,” Carey said. “I don’t have to drive to Duluth or the Twin Cities to hear orchestral music. It’s right here.”
“If you’re looking for a glamorous, star-studded, music-filled evening that will let you do a good deed, look no further,” Rena Hartman, MSO executive director, said of the fundraising concerts.
Tickets are available in advance from any orchestra member at Schmitt Music in Virginia, Kess Gallery in Ely, Borealis Arts Guild in Hibbing or online at www.mesabisymphonyorchestra.org. Tickets may also be available at the door, but last year they sold quickly. Updates will be posted to MSO’s social media accounts.