Buzzing about Beethoven: Composer’s impact celebrated in monthlong community festival

Joseph Karl Steiler’s 1820 portrait of Ludwig van Beethoven. Special to The Forum

FARGO - Pianist Matti Raekillo may be the guest soloist for this weekend’s Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra’s Masterworks concert, but he’s not necessarily the guest of honor.
The man of the moment – or rather the month – is Ludwig van Beethoven.
Beethoven Fest is the first of what will be the annual, Winter Arts Fest, focusing on a certain artist who influenced other art forms, from composing to painting, writing and filmmaking.
Saturday starts a month’s worth of programming around the community celebrating the life and works of the classical composer, highlighted by an all-Beethoven concert Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.
“This will be the most listener-friendly concert you can imagine,” says FMSO Executive Director, Linda Boyd.
Beethoven Fest kicks off with a free, 4 p.m. screening of “Beethoven Lives Upstairs” Saturday at the Fargo Theatre.
Beethoven Fest also includes Theatre B’s production of “33 Variations,” which opens next week. The story follows a Beethoven scholar (played by Linda Boyd, FM Symphony Orchestra’s executive director) driven by her studies while trying to have a relationship with her daughter and dealing with her own ALS.
Mr. Beethoven is played by Jay Nelson. In addition to playing the composer in the play, he’ll be popping up around town throughout the four-week festival, posing for selfies as part of the #BumpIntoBeethoven contest.
The festivities are intended to appeal to all ages, so the FMSO hosts Young People’s Concerts for fourth-graders throughout the afternoon on Feb. 5, followed by that evening’s family concert, “Meet Mr. Beethoven,” both at North Dakota State University’s Festival Concert Hall.
Other events include movies, discussions and a concert at the Fargo Public Library, luncheon concerts at the Plains Art Museum, trivia at Rhombus Guys, happy hours with tuba performances every Thursday at Würst Beer hall and local breweries, and the grand finale, BeerThoven and Brats, at Fargo Billiards & Gastropub on March 1.
Boyd says having a wide variety of programming offers more accessible entry points from one event to the next. Starting off the Winter Arts Fest with Beethoven was an easy decision as he’s so well-known, she says.
“Beethoven is so iconic. You don’t have to know anything at all about the music to recognize that guy.”
Yet most people will know the four notes (the ominous “dum-dum-dum-DAAH”) that’s become the signature of his Symphony No. 5, which the FMSO will perform this weekend.
“That casual familiarity, that opens the door,” Boyd says.
Though this year’s programming hasn’t even started, the wheels are already in motion for next year’s Winter Arts Fest. February 2016’s guest of honor is William Shakespeare.


WHAT: “Beethoven Lives Upstairs”
WHEN: 4 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Fargo Theatre, 314 Broadway
INFO: This event is free and open to the public. (701) 239-8385

WHAT: All Beethoven Masterworks Concert
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: Festival Concert Hall, North Dakota State University, 1301 12th Ave. N., Fargo
TICKETS: Tickets range from $25-$50. (701) 478-3676; . For a complete list of Beethovenfest events: .

For 20 years John Lamb has covered art, entertainment and lifestyle stories in the area for The Forum.
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