The name Minnesota sur Seine is a clever play on words meaning “Minnesota on the scene,” hinting at the great Seine River running through Paris. The Minnesota sur Seine Festival, entering its fourth year, is gaining a reputation as a place to experience riveting collisions of musical styles in some of the Twin Cities’ coolest venues.
The Minnesota sur Seine Festival runs from May 15-25 at various venues throughout the Twin Cities. For a complete schedule, see the box at the end of this article. For more information, see surseine.org.
The festival was launched as a conduit between musicians in France and Minnesota. It was envisioned as a means for regional musicians to collaborate with international artists. The event has grown in scope from its jazz origins to be a broad showcase of musical styles from around the world—including hip-hop, Celtic, and folk.
Sara Remke, one of the owners of the Black Dog Café in St. Paul, is a co-founder of the festival. She says that the event was meant to create a “highway” between France and Minnesota. “It started with French and English musicians, but now includes groups from everywhere…For example, this year we have an Ethiopian band at the Fine Line. The festival allows people to see all types of musicians in a different context.”
According to Remke, the event is about connections and relationships—linking local musicians with international ones. Composers and musicians work together to present something entirely new. “It allows them to interact in a different way,” says Remke.
Zeitgeist is a new-music chamber ensemble based in St. Paul, consisting of two percussionists, a pianist, and woodwinds. During the sur Seine Festival, Zeitgest will be performing a piece composed by renowned French drummer Pablo Cueco—a collaborator they’ve never met in person. (Cueco and the Zeitgeist members communicate with one another primarily over the Internet.) Cueco is best known for adapting the zarb, an Iranian wooden drum, for a diverse range of musical genres.
Heather Barringer is the managing director of Zeitgeist. “Last year,” says Barringer, “Sara [Remke] approached us and asked it we’d be interested in a composer writing a piece for us. We’re always interested in new works and diversity in aesthetics.”
Historically, performers have been booked based on word of mouth—but with the event growing so rapidly, it’s been a feat for organizers to assess the true caliber of all the musicians from around the globe who are now interested in participating. It is also a challenge to promote these groups to a public that has never heard of them. “Musicians who might be really well known in another country may not be known here,” observes Remke. “Our goal is to bring back artists who have participated before, but also bring in new artists.”
Zeitgeist has allowed the use of its space, “Studio Z,” in the past, and Barringer is enthusiastic about participating in the 2008 sur Seine. “This is a very adventurous festival. It features a side of jazz that doesn’t get heard much in this community, and it’s a tremendous opportunity for musicians and the public.” She also believes that the festival helps to raise the visibility of the artistic community in St. Paul. “This can only be a good thing!”
|Thursday, May 15|
• Jazz bass player Anthony Cox from Minnesota and French guitarist Raymond Boni perform at the Black Dog Café, 308 Prince St., St. Paul (8:00 p.m., $8)
Friday, May 16
Saturday, May 17
Sunday, May 18
Monday, May 19
Tuesday, May 20
Wednesday, May 21
Thursday, May 22
Friday, May 23
Saturday, May 24
Sunday, May 25
Betsy Mowry works as an arts administrator with COMPAS and the Arts & Culture Partnership of St. Paul.