“In Pursuit of a Dream – Stories & Songs of 19th Century Immigration” was very well received in two recent performances given in the Alexandria area, and now this outstanding show is coming to Roosevelt Hall in Barrett!
The show is a music and story ensemble with era-specific songs and stories based on historical facts about early 19th century Western European immigration. Paulette Friday, the writer/director/producer of the show, received the funding for this project from the Lake Region Arts Council via a grant made possible by the Minnesota Legacy Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. Thanks to the grant, shows open and free to the public were performed at Fort Alexandria (Runestone Museum) and Railroad & 2nd Event Center in Evansville during the month of September to very appreciative audiences.
Audiences were asked to complete a survey as part of the LRAC grant requirement. The survey comments told a story of their own. Typical of the written comments: “The Lake Region Arts Council made a good decision using their funds for this program! Lots of historical facts presented in a musical format.” and, “I felt like I was taken back in time. This was very immersive and informative. I learned and was entertained!”
Friday set a number of goals for the program, also a requirement of the LRAC grant. “One of my goals was to provide the audience with a realistic sense of what it might have been like for their ancestors to make the difficult decision to leave their homelands in search of a better life. Another goal was to introduce this song/story/history art format not only to entertain, but hopefully strike a deeper note of emotional connection.”
Based on over 120 written survey comments, it appears the show is meeting these goals. The survey also asked about whether or not the show elicited thoughts of the immigrant issues of today. A resounding “definitely” clearly indicated the show connected the audience not only with their ancestors’ immigration dilemmas, but also those that current day immigrants may be facing.
The show’s performers are Minnesotans familiar in this area. Terry Kennedy (guitar, mouth harp, and vocals) is from Alexandria, Patty Kakac (autoharp, penny whistle, and vocals) is from Evansville, Al Lieffort (mandolin and vocals) is from Alexandria, Anne O’Flynn (accordion and vocals) is from Elbow Lake, David Bengtson (vocals) is from Long Prairie, Todd Nelson (bass and vocals) is from Ashby, Rachel Nelson (violin and vocals) is from St. Paul, Sara Schwabe (vocals, storyteller) is from Corcoran, and Paulette Friday (storyteller, writer, director and producer) is from Alexandria.
The music is the music that was popular during the early 1800s when so many Western Europeans immigrated to America and ultimately to Minnesota. As well, there are songs written specifically about the immigration experience. Several of the show’s songs are sung in homeland languages such as German, Swedish, Czech, Finnish, and Welsh.
“Yes, I think I really challenged the musicians on the music selections, and they came through with a brilliant performance!” said Friday.
On October 29, there will be a public performance at 7:00 p.m. in historic Roosevelt Hall in Barrett. Tickets will be available at the door the evening of the performance.