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From New York to North Dakota With Music

By Staff | Jul 2, 2015

On Saturday, June 27, the Viking Lutheran Church of rural Maddock hosted the New York Kammermusiker (NYK) double-reed chamber music ensemble in a concert that included works by Mozart, Johann Bernard Bach, Scott Joplin, a selection of Renaissance pieces, Scandinavian folk music, and a special celebration of North Dakota and Teddy Roosevelt.

This unique and rare musical experience is part of the New York City-based group’s 9th annual “Winds of Change” festival in North Dakota, originated by NYK’s founder and North Dakota native Ilonna Pederson. Pederson began New York Kammermusiker in 1969 in an effort to “reintroduce the instruments and the music of the double-reed band to modern audiences”. The members of the group vary and are “drawn from some of the world’s finest musicians,” and in the past have included musicians from the Vienna Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, the Munich Philharmonic, and the state of Mexico Symphony Orchestra.

The Viking Lutheran Church was more than a venue to this group. It was place that exuded peace and tranquility. To a person, the group shared, “as we approached the church a very peaceful and restful atmosphere appeared. The long travel and daily concert schedules were forgotten.” They continued, “The isolation of the church on the open prairie created such a contrast to the crowded streets and noise of New York City. It was so peaceful!”

The grounds were so inviting that even after a long and weary trip two of the musicians asked for the van to stop so they could walk the rest of the long gravel road to the church. Inside the church they were immediately drawn to the organ and it beckoned them to start to play.

The church rehearsal went on and on, and as the musicians played they were so mesmerized by the beauty of the setting that time escaped them and they were swept away with playing for the sake of playing and before they knew it their evening performance fast approached.

During the trip to Maddock they were compelled to visit the Maddock Opera House. Again, the musicians were swept away with the magnitude of the simple beauty. As Ilonna Pederson shared, “Every inch was studied by the musicians and the beautiful restaurant was totally a surprise to find.” She continued, “We noticed that this opera house and the future projects to restore it will help keep the traditions that the homesteaders brought with them to North Dakota alive and well.”

Ilonna further shared, “Many of these traditions have been lost along the way but restoring this opera house and bringing art and music back will help hold this community together in the future.” She continued, “We were proud to be asked to perform in such a place with very nice and friendly residents.

Lynn Brekke, one of the Fargo volunteers who came with The New York Kammermusiker to Maddock shared her thoughts on the surroundings, “I honestly couldn’t believe how beautiful it was. All the stained windowsI lost count.” Lynn continued, “The beautiful organ, altar, doors with original knobs, the woodwork, the angel garden and beautiful lights. I was taken back to my Lutheran church in the small town I grew up.” She concluded, “Although my church was beautiful, it was nothing near the beauty of the Viking Church. It brought many memories back, especially the church basement. While hearing the musicians play at rehearsal, I wept.”

With the tour of Maddock done, and rehearsals behind them, a rested New York Kammermusiker began to play. That is when their music became the language of the angels. It touched the souls of their audience, a wordless song that nestled in the heart. It engulfed the room, a transparent cloak that ebbed and flowed, finding its meaning on the upon the stars in heaven. It was a performance appreciated by all.

The sponsors for the local Maddock performance include Viking Lutheran Church, Ramsey National Bank, Northstar Community Credit Union, Northern Plains Electric Cooperative, and the Maddock Opera House Association, which received a grant from the North Dakota Humanities Council for programming related to the event.

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