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Prospect Park musicians launch classical recording project
Bill Eddins is the first to admit that it’s a little strange to build a state-of-the-art recording studio above the garage.
Having built it, he and his wife want to share it with local musicians—in a big way. On Dec. 21, they’ll launch the HEAR Project with an “end of time” concert to be broadcast live on Classical Minnesota Public Radio. Their first recording will feature music from that concert.
They are raising money in the hopes that the nonprofit HEAR (Help Empower Artists’ Recordings) Project can become a source of real income for top-quality, innovative chamber groups and provide a showcase for their work.
The backyard studio started out half a decade ago, with a common problem faced by families living in lovely old Twin Cities homes: the need for more space.
They loved their neighborhood, the kind of “village” they needed to raise their two boys, Eddins said. Both boys attend St. Anthony Park Elementary School in spite of living across the city border.
Eddins and his wife, Jen Gerth, are musicians, and they needed to separate their workspaces, Eddins said. When they bought the house, “Jen’s studio was tacked onto the back of the house—illegally, I might add.” They thought about putting a second story on the existing addition, but the foundation wasn’t adequate.
So they looked a few feet farther, out the back window. “We had this horrible garage,” Eddins said. “We didn’t even like to park the cars in there. So we tore it down, built a new garage and realized we could put a studio on top of that.”
Eddins is an orchestra conductor, most recently at the Edmonton Symphony in Ontario, Canada. His accomplishments include winning kudos in the New York Times for a performance last spring at Carnegie Hall.
Gerth is in her 15th year as principal clarinetist for the Duluth Symphony, teaches at the University of St. Thomas and Augsburg College, and finds freelance work with other area ensembles.
They weren’t going to settle for less than perfection when it came to their backyard studio. So they hired acoustics expert David Braslau, who worked with Acacia Architects to design a state-of-the-art recording studio.
“He was intrigued,” Eddins recalled. “No one builds studios like this.”
Now Gerth can teach and practice in the house while Eddins plays his lovingly rebuilt Steinway piano and studies scores above the garage. But that’s not enough, Eddins said.
“Always in our minds was the idea of doing something creative,” he said. So while he prepared for his September collaboration with violinist Joshua Bell and the Cincinnati Orchestra, Eddins also spent the summer planning Baktun 14, a gala marking the Maya calendar end-time (the end of the 13th baktun, or epoch), on the winter solstice of 2012.
“Time is going to end on the 21st of December,” Eddins said with a chuckle. “So we might as well go out with a party.”
To that end, Eddins has been scaring up funds to book the Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis for his late-evening concert. The HEAR Project has garnered fiscal sponsorship from Springboard for the Arts, a Twin Cities arts incubator, and is looking for donors through a fundraising campaign at USA Projects, which ends Nov. 15.
The centerpiece of the Dec. 21 concert will be Olivier Messiaen’s “Quartet for the End of Time,” composed in a German prison camp in 1941. “We thought it would be great to perform ‘Quartet’ on that date,” Eddins said.
“It’s one of those pieces that has an immediate impact on people,” he added.
Music from the concert will be included in the HEAR Project’s first release, early next year. Also in the works are a trio by Stephen Paulus and a jazz-influenced piece by Fred Sturm, originally written for Bobby McFerrin.
Eddins said he’s still considering further releases and is open to proposals.
“Our focus is classical chamber music,” he said. “There are a lot of different elements in that.”
Anne Holzman lives, writes and listens to music in St. Anthony Park.
© 2012 Park Bugle