A Center For the Arts in Fergus Falls continues with its unique Connoisseur Series, an arrayed amalgamation of talent with multiple show offerings spanning the disciplines of piano, woodwind and strings and even an eclectic Mediterranean performance that is best described as a blend of Greek, flamenco, Latin and Balkan flavors rolled into contemporary pop.
“We really are bringing in some of the world’s best with the help of the Lakes Region Arts Council,” explains Michael Burgraff, executive director of AC4TA. “Although we offer the series of shows at a discounted rate, you don’t have to buy the whole season to attend – tickets for specific shows are still up for sale.”
Pianist Richard Tostenson will be performing his “A Stranger To Myself” concert on Nov. 13 at 2 p.m. Tostenson is a Hillcrest and M-State grad who went on to study piano performance at Wheaton College, a top-tier liberal arts college in Illinois and now teaches gifted piano students at the MacPhail Center for Music in Minneapolis.
“Performing has been my passion for many years,” Tostenson says. “When the pandemic began, concerts that I had been engaged to do began to be canceled. My last concert before the pandemic was in New York City. Originally I thought I would just have a hiatus of a month or two, but that was expanded to over two years away from audiences.”
Tostenson explains that in April of 2022 he decided to begin booking concerts for the coming concert season. “A Stranger to Myself” includes music by Bach, Brahms and Schubert. For the first few months of the pandemic, he notes that all he could listen to was the music of Bach: “Bach’s music was a comfort and a consolation. His music, although composed over 300 years ago, still has relevance today. Although 300 years seems like a long time, people have always dealt with the same feelings: grief, love, fear, joy and hope.”
Two years ago Tostenson’s father passed away and he explains how dealing with grief during the time of COVID was incredibly difficult: “When one really needs to be with people to grieve and be comforted, it was impossible as it was during the worst part of the pandemic. In this concert, I have carefully created a program to act as a catharsis for many of us who have dealt with loss, whether it is a loved one or way of life and to find hope.”
Tostenson grew up in a very musical family and is the youngest of five children; he describes listening to people practice piano and singing before he was even born. “My mom is a pianist and organist and my dad had a beautiful and strong singing voice. I don’t remember a time that I wasn’t able to play the piano and practicing became a great way to annoy siblings while they attempted to watch TV. “
Tostenson remembers singing his first solo in church at the age of five and first performing Bach at a school program at Adams Elementary School in second grade: “I always knew that I would be a professional pianist for as long as I can remember – playing and practicing the piano has always been my favorite thing to do.”
OboeBass! is a celebrated husband and wife duo that will be performing the penultimate show of the Connoisseur series on Jan. 20 at 7:30 p.m. The pair has performed in venues such as the Fermi Lab and the Fitzgerald Theater and has toured throughout 19 states and even abroad to Norway. With over 40 premieres and commissions from Chamber Music America and The Fromm Foundation, OboeBass! has partnered with a wide range of composers to explore the captivating sounds created by pairing the oboe and bass.
Born in Toronto to Greek parents, Pavlo Simtikidis, know simply as Pavlo, will be performing the final show in the Connoisseur Series. His music has taken him all around the world. He has performed for royalty including Prince Charles and has worked and toured with artists such as José Feliciano, Jon Secada, Olivia Newton-John and The Tenors. Pavlo will be performing Mar. 18 at 7:30 p.m. at AC4TA.
More information regarding AC4TA and ticket sales can be found at the following: fergusarts.org.