The Lake Superior Chamber Orchestra (LSCO) was founded in 1987. Area musicians and music lovers wanted to continue the classical music season into the summer months, so a new ensemble was created. Under the direction of Warren Friesen, the LSCO has produced thirty-two highly successful seasons of diverse repertoire. The LSCO has received the ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) Award from the American Symphony Orchestra League four times for “Adventurous Programming of Contemporary Music.” In 2014 and 2015 the LSCO won a national grant from the Women’s Philharmonic Advocacy in recognition of its past performances of works of women composers and its intention to continue to do so.
Concerts consist of a mix of the old masters and living composers as well as collaborations with artists of other disciplines. A few memorable examples include Louis Jenkins reading his poetry to a composition created by local composer Bradley Bombardier, members of the Minnesota Ballet performing in a newly commissioned work by composer Tyler Kaiser, and a collaboration with the comedy troupe Colder by The Lake in Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf.
In 2017 the LSCO became the first American orchestra since the fall of the Shah in 1979 to commission a work from and Iranian composer. Hooshyar Khayam, one of Iran’s leading composers. Kalileh is a “puppet ballet” based on an ancient Persian fable. Collaborating in the premiere were the Magic Smelt Puppet Troupe and the Lake Superior Youth Chorus. This performance drew national and international attention. BBC World Service sent a reporter from London for five days to produce a 16-minute feature. This was broadcast to some 20 million homes throughout Iran, Tajikistan and Afghanistan. You can view it here.
In 2017 the LSCO commissioned three new works, each addressing artistically an important social issue of our day: It Rained in Shakopee was a short opera by NYC composer Wang Jie and librettist Zhu Yi. They crafted the story from experiences of inmates at Minnesota’s only prison for women and the work involved a audio recording of a prison – a “ghost choir” – conducted by Maestro Friesen. The performance can be viewed here. Duluth fiddler/singer/songwriter and disability activist, Gaelynn Lea composed a set of five songs, orchestrated by Bradley Bombardier, entitled Body of Work. Tombeaux and Rainbow was a double concerto for recorder, flute, and strings by Duluth composer Mina Kaiser, exploring the transgender experience.
In addition to the regular concert series, the LSCO sponsors the “Quartet Project,” an intensive summer workshop for teens that involves twenty to thirty student musicians whose study concludes with a side-by-side performance one work on an LSCO concert and additionally a concert of their own.