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Classic music ensemble, led by N.D. native and Central grad, to give first Grand Forks performance

The New York Kammermusiker, a small double-reed chamber music ensemble, performs at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Myra gazebo at Belmont Road and 24th Avenue South.

Members of the New York Kammermusiker, a professional double-reed ensemble, performs classical music, including works that date back to the Renaissance period. (Submitted photo)
Members of the New York Kammermusiker, a professional double-reed ensemble, performs classical music, including works that date back to the Renaissance period. (Submitted photo)

The New York Kammermusiker, a small double-reed chamber music ensemble, performs at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Myra gazebo at Belmont Road and 24th Avenue South.

The ensemble, which plays classical music, is making its 11th summertime concert tour in this area, performing in several communities throughout the Red River Valley.

This weekend marks its first visit to Grand Forks, said Ilonna Pederson, director of the ensemble. She's a native of Minot and 1959 graduate of Grand Forks Central High School.

"Kammermusiker" is a German word that translates roughly as "chamber musicians," she said.

The ensemble travels the world, playing music from the Renaissance through contemporary periods, Pederson said. It is known for its "experimental and improvisatory performances," and often performs music written especially for it.

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Saturday, the group's concert program will include Norwegian and other Scandinavian music, as well as music by Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mozart and others. It also will includes music dedicated to Theodore Roosevelt.

The "Winds of Change Concert Tour" began with a performance at the 40th annual Scandinavian Hjemkomst Festival on Saturday in Moorhead, followed by concerts in Fargo and Wahpeton, N.D.

Concerts also were presented in Lisbon and Ellendale, N.D., to celebrate the restoration of historic opera houses in those communities.

The New York Kammermusiker was formed in 1969 to reintroduce the instruments and music of the double-reed band to modern audiences, Pederson said.

The group prepares modern scores from long-neglected musical manuscripts they seek out in their travels in order to bring the music of the medieval shawm bands to their audiences.

"The sound is full and resonant, as if a much larger group were playing," she said.

The ensemble employs musicians from some of the world's finest orchestras including the New York Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, the Vienna Philharmonic and other European orchestral groups, Pederson said.

Musicians for this tour include a contra-bassoonist who contributes "a unique, very low-pitched sound to the ensemble," she said.

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Bringing the ensemble to the Red River Valley each summer provides Pederson an opportunity to reconnect with her familial and cultural roots and to offer a unique musical experience to people in her home state.

She has fond memories of her childhood in rural Devils Lake, where her parents, George and Nonna Pederson, farmed. Later, she took piano lessons from Florence Clifford, wife of Thomas Clifford, who became UND's president, in Grand Forks.

She owns the piano that Mrs. Clifford used to teach music, she said. "It has incredible sound."

Growing up in rural North Dakota, Pederson became aware of the love that older residents, especially, had for classical music-an appreciation which led, in part, to the construction of local opera houses.

"There was a rich tradition of classical music among immigrants and others in this area and in rural communities," said Pederson, whose grandparents, the Herfindahls and Pedersons, homesteaded on land north of Williston, N.D., after emigrating from Norway.

As a student at Central High School, she remembers Leo Haesle, the band director, as a particularly influential figure.

"He was tough," she remembered. Nonetheless, "he inspired many students to become professional musicians."

On Saturday, attending a concert of the ensemble she leads would be time well-spent, she said.

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"For music lovers who wish to experience something new and different, done well and with great skill, they could hardly do better than to spend (time listening) to The New York Kammermusiker," she said.

If you go

What: Concert by The New York Kammermusiker ensemble

When: 4 p.m. Saturday

Where: Myra gazebo, Grand Forks County Historical Society grounds, 2405 Belmont Road

Cost: Free

Pamela Knudson is a features and arts/entertainment writer for the Grand Forks Herald.

She has worked for the Herald since 2011 and has covered a wide variety of topics, including the latest performances in the region and health topics.

Pamela can be reached at pknudson@gfherald.com or (701) 780-1107.
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