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The Singing Telegram

December 14, 2021

LOON Newsletter, November 2021 – click the link below to view

You are the Star of This Story

The past 20 months have been unlike any other. The learning curve for LOON has been steep, and the opportunities to create in new ways have been unprecedented. National recognition is a new experience for Lyric Opera of the North, and with it have come numerous awards, and new viewers joining us from around the world. With your support, new stories have been told, artists have been paid, and LOON has learned how to create opera in a new format. We’ve stayed in touch with our audiences in elementary schools throughout the state, and in living rooms around the world.

As the end of the year approaches, we hope you will consider a gift to LOON. Your support of Lyric Opera of the North during this end of the year appeal will keep us learning, growing, and singing until we all find ourselves safely gathered for a live performance.

We hope that that will be in June of 2022. We hope you’ll be there. We’re planning to bring a beautiful new production of Hansel & Gretel to the stage, with orchestra, children’s chorus, and dancers joining a gorgeous cast of soloists.

LOON patrons understand that in every format, you are supporting the work that keeps opera singing in this part of the country. When we can’t share our stories in person, you’ve supported LOON’s efforts to keep our communities connected through singing-storytelling in new ways. You bring art to life, through COVID and beyond.

By now you’ve noticed that these online offerings have been free or have had a very low ticket price. And you know how long this has been going on. Ticket revenue for a live performance usually covers about 30% of a project budget. For online projects, it’s between 0 and 5%.

That’s why we’ve set an ambitious goal for our End of the Year Appeal. We hope to raise $40,000 by December 31. And with your help, we know we can!

With the support of a $5,000 grant from GiveMN, plus a $10,000 challenge match from a generous board member, the $40,000 goal is well within reach. With your help, we will keep finding new ways to surprise you, ways to welcome newcomers to the opera, and we’ll celebrate with a sweet treat of a live production with you this June.

Thank you for being with us before, during, and after this pandemic. LOON’s patrons are a wonderful bunch. That includes you. Thank you.

Year End Appeal Details

To qualify for the $5,000 GiveMN matching grant: we need to hear from new donors in any amount, and existing donors in a larger amount than last year’s year-end donation. Thank you for considering a first-time or increased gift this year! 

The Board Member matching grant of $10,000 will match any gift in any amount up to $10,000. Thank you for your gift of any size!!

 Your Support Impacts Real Lives. Here’s One Story.

The past 20 months have been a wild ride for arts organizations all around the world.  But take a look at the timeline below.  Lyric Opera of the North has been busier than ever before, learning how to commission new work, producing in new formats, and creating opportunities for artists and audiences to connect through singing-storytelling.

If you’ve been reading the credits as they scrolled at the end of any of LOON’s online projects over these past months, there’s one name that you’ve seen each time. Whether he was playing piano, engineering sound, editing audio, adding special effects, or some combination of those skills, Bill Munson has been a huge part of LOON’s efforts to navigate this new terrain. General Artistic Director Sarah Lawrence and Project Coordinator Kailyn Spencer sat down with Bill recently to chat about what the various LOON projects over the past 20 months have meant for him:

Background Story

“The background before the background was that my undergraduate was in piano performance and I wanted to be a concert pianist. . . so, long story short, I went and got my Masters Degree in Boulder . . . Two weeks into that program, my professor, Bob Spillman, pulled me aside and said, ‘Look, you don’t like sitting by yourself in a practice room eight hours a day. We both know that. We both know you’re social, you like being with people. You’re going to be a collaborative pianist. I’m going to hook you up with these choirs, with these vocal studios, and a couple instrumentalists, and that’s it.’ And that was it. From then, I caught the bug. First off, I like working with conductors. Secondly, I love working with singers. Instrumentalists are OK too!

I realized that I am happy to sit in the practice room for 12 hours a day if there’s a singer in the room with me. But I get bored and distracted quickly if I’m in there by myself, because I don’t like to be by myself!  . . . So from that moment forward I was a collaborative pianist.”

After finishing his Masters Degree, Bill worked as an opera coach in Denver, then took a job as a music director at a church in Forest Lake, MN, learning how to run a sound board and other important sound engineering skills. Then came video editing for another church – a job he continues to this day. Building technical skills over time led to an opportunity to work as a software developer. A job with Stryker Corporation brought Bill and his wife Lisa (a soprano!) to Duluth.

I had underestimated the amount of art in the Twin Ports by a long shot. I didn’t think there was an opera company here. I made the false assumption that all the arts and culture is in the Cities. Boy was I wrong about that! There’s more art in the Twin Ports than the Twin Cities per capita by a long shot! We saw LOON’s double bill – Trouble in Tahiti/ The Filthy Habit and I was like ‘Oh my gosh this is really good!’”

Shortly after that production, Bill and Lisa met LOON General Directors Sarah Lawrence and Cal Metts. It wasn’t very long until Bill was playing for rehearsals and the performances of Amahl & The Night Visitors (January 2020). Then Covid hit.

How have LOON’s online projects over the past 20 months impacted you?

“I believe that every artist has a hunger for making art. It’s a basic need for us. We need to create and make art, performance art, and without it, we starve, artistically speaking. That is what would have happened to me during Covid if it wasn’t for Lyric Opera of the North.

LOON projects are what have kept my spirit afloat, artistically speaking. I had moments when I was working on the first Decameron project where I thought ‘Has my entire life been to prepare for this project? My entire life as a pianist, a musician, a collaborative musician, a software developer, a sound engineer, video engineer, it’s all come together! And my love of working with people and projects – everything!’

Art is not commonly included on the list of essential needs, and I think that’s a mistake. We need air to breathe and food to eat and water to drink. We need art. It’s what keeps us human, it reminds us of our own humanity. It’s essential. It reminds us also that life has purpose, it’s more than just a chemistry experiment.

Artmaking has been so essential during the pandemic, as people are more isolated than ever. Without it, we lose our way. I think humanity would lose its way without art.”

What was it like when we got to perform live, in-person again?

The event in Carlton (LOON’s outdoor Summer Sparkler at the Historic Scott House in August, 2021) was a magic carpet ride, because it was almost surreal to be playing, to have a singer singing with me in the real time, real space, and then to have 200 people sitting out there taking it in, responding, giving energy back. . . the audience is such a huge part of a live performance. And the air in between them is a part of the show. That was truly magical. I think it elevated everyone’s spirits – every person in that audience, everyone in the show, too. Some of the singers were in tears. You almost had to pinch yourself, ‘is this real?’

And then the most recent event we did at the ballpark? (Season Splash at Wade Stadium). Well that was just a thing of beauty. To see the community come together like that? And everyone was volunteering – every single person (on the stage). That was the biggest audience I’ve played for in a long time! That was fantastic.

And finally – we talk a lot about connection. Can we talk about the people you’ve met while working on these projects?

That’s a huge part of what a gift LOON has been for me! How else would I have met Ann Gumpper – one of the most talented artists I’ve ever met? Or had the chance to work with the mega-talented singers from around the country, and a host of fantastic artists right here in the Twin Ports? I have not been in want for either artmaking or just having friends to talk to – like in our (production) meetings – we have a really wonderful communication and collaboration.”


Will this year’s Valentine’s Day Soiree be a live event? Will it be a streamed event? Will it be a hybrid? We can’t wait to find out! Mark your calendars for Valentine’s Day with Lyric Opera of the North. It promises to be festive fun in any format!

On June 10 and 12, 2022, Lyric Opera of the North returns to live, fully staged productions with Humperdinck’s scrumptious Hansel and Gretel. It will feel like a fairytale to be back in MPAC with an orchestra led by Dirk Meyer, set by Ann Gumpper, costumes by Ora Jewell-Busche, and a dynamite cast, led by Vicki Fingalson as the Witch and Jennifer Lien as the Mother.