The Music in the Park Series has reached a milestone, its 35th season, and this annual celebration of chamber music appears well-positioned to thrive for decades more.
The series now operates under the sponsorship of the Schubert Club, where by all accounts it has found a happy home. Although the merger was brought to fruition by his predecessor, Kathleen van Bergen, Schubert artistic and executive director Barry Kempton is highly supportive of the Music in the Park Series and interviews the performers during the discussions that precede each of the concerts.
“The mission of the Schubert Club is to present the very best of small-scale classical music,” Kempton noted. “Although there were individual chamber music performances in the past, we hadn’t had a series. So, this fits a niche very nicely.
“Many people have contributed to help build the series, but the key, of course, has been Julie Himmelstrup,” he added. “She is such a tour de force, not only in terms of her own musicianship, but her musical taste and discernment, as well.”
Himmelstrup, series founder and artistic director, is equally laudatory toward Kempton and notes that they worked together successfully during his earlier stint at the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. She feels the series has benefited from the fact that three members from its former board—Lynne Beck, Catherine Furry and Jerry Nolte—now sit on the Schubert Club board. And St. Anthony Park resident Nina Archabal, recently retired as executive of the Minnesota Historical Society, is now president of the Schubert board.
“Many organizations grow and thrive because of the passion of a founder, but my experience has been that such people often are unwilling to give up any element of control and their organizations suffer as a result,” Archabal said. “Julie understood this and has found a way to pull back a little bit while providing continuing leadership.”
Said Himmelstrup, “I had reached an age where I felt I couldn’t carry the workload required any more, plus fundraising was becoming more challenging all the time. The Schubert Club has taken over the administrative responsibilities, selling tickets and so forth, and I can work out of my home much of the time.”
Apart from assigned seating for the concerts at St. Anthony Park United Church of Christ, 2129 Commonwealth Ave., Himmelstrup said there haven’t been major changes to the series since the merger and she doesn’t foresee any, either to it or the annual family series (February-April 2014) at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, 2136 Carter Ave.
Grants from the Saint Anthony Park Community Foundation have helped support additional performances at St. Anthony Park Elementary School and the St. Anthony Park Home, she said.
“I still have hope for classical music and believe the series is a community treasure worth preserving,” Himmelstrup said, adding, “I’m going to retire at some point, but not for now.”
Music in the Park Series 2013-2014
Concerts are at 4 p.m. Sundays at St. Anthony Park United Church of Christ, 2129 Commonwealth Ave.
Pacifica Quartet with Anthony McGill, clarinet
Erin Keefe, violin, and Anna Polonsky, piano
Miro String Quartet
Music in the Park Series Box Office: 651-292-3268
Roger Bergerson lives in the Como Park neighborhood, where he researches local history and writes regularly for the Park Bugle.