G. Phillip Shoultz III, conductor of the Twin Cities’ VocalEssence choral ensemble, sits at a piano, belting Ella Fitzgerald’s “Blue Skies,” livestreaming from his home—because it’s another morning of self-quarantine, and this is what he’s doing in the meantime, and is there a more upbeat, gracious song than “Blue Skies”?
“I’m a person of a few rituals and routines,” he says into the camera, “and, like you, my rituals and routines have been thrown off a little bit during this time.”
Typically, he’s at the gym around 5:30 a.m. Now, that morning boost comes from us: “to sing together, to breathe together, to just get our voices going each morning, and also to express gratitude for all that we have and for all that is good in the world.” Nothing but blue skies / From now on.
Shoultz, also known as “GPS,” is streaming every day at 9 a.m. for “Take 5 with GPS,” where he leads viewers through about five minutes of vocal exercises. He might also read a poem, or talk about wellness. You can find the series on Facebook and archived on YouTube.
For more positive energy, here are six other ways to engage with the fine arts right now:
What: Ballet and pop music
When: April 17, 6:30; April 18, 11 a.m.
St. Paul’s Ballet Co.Laboratory celebrates two ’80s icons: Prince and Freddie Mercury. On Friday, company dancers are on Zoom, taking viewers behind the scenes of a new rock ballet based on the Queen frontman, called Freddie—Break Free. The Zoom exclusive includes rehearsal footage and dancer interviews. Obviously, the world premiere’s cancelled, but Ballet Co.Laboratory is as lively as ever.
On Saturday morning, at 11 a.m., get into an all-levels ballet class at home, set to the music of Prince. Also on Zoom, this livestreamed session is one in a number of dance lessons and activities updated weekly. “In the words of Prince, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life,” notes dancer Rose Prigan.
The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra (SPCO)
What: Classical music
When: April 18 and 25, and whenever
Where: SPCO website
The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra has been adding performances to its free online library. So far, they’ve released Mozart’s Symphony No. 29 and Bach’s Saint John Passion, to include Schubert’s Fifth Symphony on April 18 and the puppet-assisted family concert Race for the Reef on April 25. Also check out new content, wherein musicians play while social distancing at home.
Cantus Idol Online and COVID-19 Sessions
Since 2008, the Cantus vocal ensemble has hosted “Cantus Idol” to raise money. Now, in the organization’s 25th year, the singing competition is online. Virtual performances go up at 7 p.m., and you have 24 hours to vote with included donation.
Elsewhere, check out the COVID-19 sessions. This selection of socially distanced choral performances looks like such a product of our times: beautiful music, six-foot buffers between singers. One even takes place in a parking garage.
Booth’s Ghost Benefit Performances
What: Spooky historical drama
When: April 24-26 and May 1-3, 9 p.m.
In 2019, during the Minnesota Fringe Festival, actor and director Andrew Erskine Wheeler staged the award-winning historical drama Booth’s Ghost. His production went on to win Artist’s Pick for Best of the Fringe. And, luckily, filmmaker and editor Matthew G. Anderson caught it all on film.
Now, the show, set in an abandoned theater and guided by a charismatic ghost, is streaming on Facebook and Vimeo, throughout April and into May. Each performance is free to watch and benefits the Twin Cities theater community, with viewers able to donate to various organizations.
The play features lines from Walt Whitman, Shakespeare, and diary entries recorded by the Booths, a family of 19th-century theater actors. It’s eerily reflective of right now: the neglected stage, the memories of what used to be.
“Keep Music Live” at Crooners Supper Club
Crooners Supper Club has teamed up with the Twin Cities Jazz Festival, Jazz88, and Jazz Central Studios to livestream five concerts per week. Upcoming performances include “An Evening of Show Tunes” (April 15, 7 p.m.), “The Music of Patsy Cline” (April 22, 7 p.m.), plus jazz shows on Fridays.
The goal here is to let Twin Cities musicians earn some much-needed income. The concerts are free, underwritten by the Twin Cities Jazz Festival nonprofit. But viewers, who can catch shows at the Crooners website and on Facebook, are encouraged to contribute here, as well.
Minnesota Orchestra at Home
What: Classical music, learning opportunities
Where: Minnesota Orchestra website
The Minnesota Orchestra is making video, audio, and educational materials available on its website. Concert clips from the 2019-20 season have gone up, and they’re mainlining “mini-concerts” straight from Orchestra musicians’ homes. Principal bassoonist Fei Xie has performed a Mozart concerto excerpt; violinist Pamela Arnstein has given a lesson on violin bows; and associate concertmaster Felicity James has done a duet with violist Sifei Cheng. Find everything here.