The 2013-14 season of the Mankato Symphony Orchestra promises to be quite unlike any other.
Though the MSO's 63rd season opens Sunday with what conductor Ken Freed described as a "cornerstone" concert — that is, an afternoon of classics; in this case, the music of Johannes Brahms and Jean Sibelius — it marks the beginning of an unlikely musical journey with destinations that include holiday pops, the artistic power of madness, the Muppets and Latin composers.
The season's title is "These Are Our Songs," and Freed said it reflects the MSO's desire to reach beyond the staid boundaries of classical music and into areas that appeal to more varied tastes.
"One thing that I'm most proud of, is we've stayed close to the community," he said. "We think a lot about how we can serve the community around us."
In the its symphonic season debut (the chamber music series begins Oct. 20), the MSO will be serving a trio of selections: "Finlandia" and "Violin Concerto in D Minor" by Jean Sibelius and "Symphony No. 2 in D Major" by Johannes Brahms.
Guest violinist Yevgeny Kutik will serve as the soloist for Sibelius' technically demanding violin concerto. Kutik's 2012 release "Sounds of Defiance" was critically praised. Later that year, he was the featured soloist with the newly formed All-Star Orchestra, recording for a national broadcast on PBS.
In anticipation of the upcoming concert, The Free Press spoke with Freed about his thoughts on the season, his observations of the guest artist and his reaction to the continued lockout of the Minnesota Orchestra, of which Freed was formerly a member before relocating with his wife to Seattle earlier this year.
The Free Press: First of all, how has it felt returning to Mankato? Did it feel weird coming back?
Ken Freed: It's been wonderful. So nice.