|Gabriel Kahane by Jen Snow|
For years I never went to the Southern Theater in Minneapolis, and now I can’t stay away. Their programming—a mix of music, dance, and theater—is fresh and intriguing. I’m especially drawn to the music, where I’m being schooled in contemporary classical, indie pop, folk, electronica, and what happens, for instance, when hip-hop artists take on jazz seriously and thoughtfully. I might not always love it, but I often do, and even when I don’t, I come away feeling I’ve learned and/or heard something new.
Saturday’s concert by Gabriel Kahane and Alisa Weilerstein lured me in because Kahane, a young composer/performer, had written music for a poem called “Little Sleep’s Head Sprouting Hair in the Moonlight” by the great American poet Galway Kinnell. A big, craggy man with a resonant voice, Kinnell had come to Carleton College in Northfield when I was a student there and read that poem aloud. Framed by the actions of a father comforting his baby daughter (“You cry, waking from a nightmare…. Back you go, into your crib”), it’s a meditation on parenthood, mortality, love, yearning, life, death, memory, family, grief, and joy. I remember being moved to tears at Kinnell’s reading.
Kahane’s “Little Sleep’s Head” ended the program. A lot happened before. Cellist Weilerstein, also very young, came out first alone and played Bach’s Cello Suite No. 3 in C Major. I think she was halfway through the Sarabande before I sat back in my chair, and I might have been holding my breath. Weilerstein played the old familiar piece as if it had been written yesterday, with passion, power, absolute confidence, and a pure, hot stream of emotion. In the resonant acoustic of the Southern, you could hear her bow on the strings, and the singing of the wood. It was exhilarating.