About the Artists:
Zeitgeist Halloween Festival 2018
Loren Niemi has spent thirty-five years as a professional storyteller, creating, directing, performing and teaching stories about what matters to audiences of all ages in urban and rural settings. .
Loren tells the life he lives with immediacy and insight. He has performed on the Great Wall of China, the stages of Fringe Festivals across the country for 20 years, and worked with both Catholics and Protestants in Belfast, Northern Ireland to tell the stories of "the Troubles.” His work has been called “post-modern,” “with the dark beauty of language that is not ashamed of poetry.”
Loren teaches Storytelling in the Theater Program of Metropolitan State University (St. Paul, MN) and Cultural Policy and Leadership in the Cultural Management Program of St. Mary’s University. He has provided storytelling and message framing workshops, as well as organizational consulting to businesses, nonprofits and government agencies around the country.
He is the producer of Two Chairs Telling, at the Bryant Lake Bowl Theater, a series that pairs storytellers/narrative musician and spoken word artists across age, sex, genre and style for 80 minutes of unpredictable and interactive performance. Loren is the author of The New Book of Plots, published by Parkhurst Brothers, on the uses of narrative in shaping meaningful stories and the co-author, with Elizabeth Ellis, of Inviting the Wolf In: Thinking About Difficult Stories, from August House Publishers, the critically acclaimed text on the value and necessity of telling the stories that are hard to speak and uncomfortable to hear. He has a BA (Philosophy and Studio Arts) from St. Mary’s University (Winona, MN) and a MA in Liberal Studies (American Culture) from Hamline University (St. Paul, MN).
Based out of St. Paul, Minnesota, award-winning composer and sound designer Dameun Strange creates soundscapes that explore the outer limits of music and creativity, fusing them into a style and sound uniquely his own. A native of Washington, DC he was heavily influenced by his early study of Classical, Jazz, Electronic, and West African genres, and has since delved into Gospel, Neo-Soul, Acid-Jazz, Ska, and Hip-Hop, creating innovative and integrative arrangements rich in magnetic sound. A celebrated keyboardist and saxophone soloist, Dameun continues to push the boundaries of genre, using his compositions to move us toward a more inclusive and unified society.
The music of Daniel Nass has been reviewed as “playful,” “eerie,” and “witty.” He has received numerous awards and recognitions, including ASCAP awards, as well as invitations to SEAMUS and SCI national conferences, and prizes in the ISU Carillon Composition Competition, the UMKC Chamber Music Composition Competition, and was one of three composers awarded a commission to write a new choral work for the Young New Yorkers’ Chorus. Other recent commissions include Zeitgeist, Stone Arch Collective, pianist Matthew McCright, Sod House Theater, and the dream songs project. A native of Howard Lake, Minnesota, Nass holds degrees from Saint Olaf College, the University of Missouri – Kansas City Conservatory of Music, and the University of Texas at Austin. Past teachers include Kevin Puts, Donald Grantham, James Mobberley, Chen Yi, and Peter Hamlin. His works are distributed through his self-publishing company, Daniel Nass Music, and recordings are available on the Innova, Centaur, Crescent Phase, and Avid Sound Records labels.
SHADOWS OF SHADOWS PASSING by Daniel Nass
In the summer of 2018, I visited the famously haunted Palmer House in Sauk Centre, Minnesota, seeking inspiration for a new Halloween-themed commission. I slept in room 11 (known for being occupied by a spirit named “Annie”) and took part in two paranormal investigations. This work reflects what I experienced in my time there – in particular, the glimpses of shadows I observed creeping in the darkness of the hotel’s basement. The title of the work is derived from Edgar Allen Poe’s “Marginalia.”
Shadows of Shadows Passing was commissioned by Zeitgeist. Special thanks to the Palmer House and Jenny Melton of the Twin Cities Paranormal Society.
…AND THE SOUND IS THUNDER by Daniel Nass
“What do you know about sleep paralysis?”
That’s how this collaboration between myself and Minnesota playwright Rachel Teagle began. As we were in the early stages of what we wanted this piece to be, Rachel messaged that question to me, and touched upon something with which I have had significant experience. My first, most noteworthy episode occurred in college, waking up in the middle of the night to see an intensely bright light outside my 4th floor dorm room window. I was unable to move until the light faded away five minutes later.
…And the Sound is Thunder is a depiction of the waking nightmare and surreal experience of sleep paralysis.
Rachel Teagle is a playwright, director, and comedian who grew up in the Silicon Valley and graduated from Carleton College. She has had the privilege of working with many distinguished and supportive theaters, including Bedlam Theatre, the Workhaus Collective, Synchronicity Theatre, the Horizon Theatre Apprentice Company, and Serenbe Playhouse. While living in Georgia, she helped found the Atlanta Fringe Festival, now going into its fourth year. She has written seven successful adaptations of classic literature for Serenbe Playhouse’s award-winning family play series, most recently Robin Hood. She was awarded the Leah Ryan’s Fund for Emerging Women Writers prize in 2012 for The Ever and After. She currently resides in St. Paul.
Exploring amalgamations of contemporary, rock, jazz, pop and electronic music, Doug Opel’s work has been sought after and performed by the National Young Arts Foundation, American Modern Ensemble, Nautilus Music-Theater, Vox Novus, Duo Petrof, Keys to the Future, Vision of Sound and the Duquesne Contemporary Ensemble. He is a recipient of the Aaron Copland Award and winner of Definiens’ Composition Competition Competition.
He has received commissions from the Chatterton-McCright Duo, Ricochet Duo, the Bridge Chamber Music Festival, the Chautauqua Institution, the Atlantic Chamber Ensemble, pianists Robert Satterlee and Nicola Melville, MATA, the Fort Wayne Philharmonic and bass-baritone Timothy Jones. He has also written for cellist Jeffrey Zeigler, PUBLIQuartet and the ensemble Intersection.
Opel’s 3 preludes to missing the point can be found on Melville’s Dozen, by pianist Nicola Melville [Innova Recordings]. Dilukkenjon for two pianos, appears both on Duo Petrof’s 88x2 [Columna Música], and the newly released Powerhouse Pianists II, featuring pianists Stephen Gosling and Blair McMillen [American Modern Recordings].
Midnight Mary by Doug Opel
Midnight Mary was inspired by the following urban legend from New England. [from Damnedct.com]
"In 1872, a woman by the name of Mary Hart died in New Haven (Connecticut) and was thereafter interred in Evergreen Cemetery. Different stories surround the demise of Ms. Hart. The most horrific says her family found her apparently dead of a stroke at the stroke of midnight and quickly had her buried; her aunt, however, had a dream the next night in which she saw Mary still alive in her coffin and pled with the powers-that-be to dig her up. After they finally capitulated, dug her up, and opened her casket, they discovered a horrific sight: Mary was dead, but apparently hadn't been quite that way when buried -- her fingernails were bloodied and the inside of her coffin was shredded as she had apparently tried to claw her way out.
Another story says that because Mary had been a witch in life and her grave was cursed, anyone who was there at midnight would meet a terrible end when the witch rose from the dead. Since New Haven is renowned as a college town, there was always a student or two who scoffed at the story and tried to stay the night in the cemetery, only to be found dead the next morning, a victim of the murderous spirit of Midnight Mary.”
Taphephobia - the fear of being buried alive - is said to have been fairly widespread around the late 1800s/early 1900s. An industry of sorts evolved whereby coffins could be purchased equipped with an adequate supply of air piped in from the surface as well as signaling mechanisms - very often, a bell or bells of some sort, with strings tied to the head and limbs below. These became the basis of my programmatic material: wooden knocks, scrapes, music boxes and triangles for the bells, all built around a static piano line intended to evoke a sense of being trapped, or simultaneously, the image of Mary’s ghost walking the grounds of Evergreen Cemetery, haunting those who dared to visit her grave at midnight.
Mike Olson is a Minneapolis based composer with a richly eclectic musical history. He started out as a self-taught composer, but went on to a formal musical education, receiving a Bachelor of Music degree in music composition and theory from the University of Minnesota, where he studied composition with Dominic Argento, Eric Stokes, Lloyd Ultan and Paul Fetler. After college, Mike when on to receive various grants and fellowships, including two McKnight fellowships, a residency at the Headlands Center for the Arts, and grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board, New Music USA, the Jerome Foundation and the American Composer's Forum among others.
Mike's work spans an unusually broad range of compositional styles and instrumental combinations. That being said, there are two aspects of his work that can be viewed as being relatively present through most of his career, and which are clearly evident in his current work. These are a highly linear through-composed compositional style and a love of electronic music. There have been of course, numerous exceptions along the way where Mike had done purely acoustic pieces and nonlinear conceptual or strictly formalistic works, but he has always gravitated back to the electronic palette and the highly linear through-composed compositional form.
Queen Drea Voice-Loops N Effects (°1969, Chicago, United States) creates conceptual soundscapes. By applying a poetic and often metaphorical language to her lyrics and compositions, she tries to approach a wide scale of subjects in a multi-layered way and likes to involve the audience in conversation as they accompany her on her musical journey. Her performances directly respond to the surrounding environment and uses everyday experiences from the artist as a starting point. Often these are framed instances that would go unnoticed in their original context. With a conceptual approach, her works references love, pain, the feeling of not being “enough as a form of resistance against the logic of the “Normalcy” box people try to put her in.
Her works demonstrate how life extends beyond its own subjective limits and often tells a story about the effects of putting limits on one’s self in favor of fulfilling someone else’s expectations. Sometimes her poems and lyrics challenge the binaries we continually reconstruct between self and other, between our own ‘cannibal’ and ‘civilized’ selves. Queen Drea wants to amplify the astonishment of the spectator by creating compositions or settings that generate tranquil poetic images that balance on the edge of recognition and alienation.
Queen Drea’s compositions appear as dreamlike images in which fiction and reality meet, well-known tropes merge, meanings shift, past and present fuse. Time and memory always play a key role. By referencing romanticism, dark humor and symbolism, she creates work through labor-intensive processes which can be seen explicitly as a personal exorcism ritual.
Queen Drea Voice-Loops N Effects currently lives, works and plays in the Twin Cities.
Described as a “passionate and gifted soloist” (Libby Larsen - 2015) with “flawless technique and intuitive musicianship” (Craig Kirchhoff - 2016), Dr. Benjamin Cold is currently Professor of Single Reeds at Bemidji State University, where he teaches applied saxophone and clarinet, single-reed techniques, applied world music and instructs woodwind chamber ensembles including saxophone quartet. As a passionate advocate of new music, he has been involved in the commissions and premieres of dozens of compositions for solo and chamber saxophone, most of which were dedicated to him. His specialty is electroacoustic saxophone, and he works diligently to find creative and unique ways of performing and improvising using live electronics, loop pedals, distortion effects and pre-recorded synthesizer. His work has been performed and recorded on Classical Minnesota Public Radio, National Public Radio, and The Skeptics Guide to theUniverse. Dr. Cold's upcoming album, flux-mirror, is planned for release in August 2018.
Dr. Cold completed his D.M.A. in saxophone performance and pedagogy at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, where he studied with Eugene Rousseau. There he was a recipient of the prestigious Berneking Fellowship, the Cohen Fellowship and instructed undergraduate and graduate saxophone quartets. Benjamin Cold received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire, and his M.M. from Kansas State University in saxophone performance and pedagogy. During his graduate education, Dr. Cold expanded his studies to include private instruction in conducting, teaching strategies and score study with KSU – Director of Bands, Frank Tracz, and jazz band rehearsal techniques with KSU Director of Graduate Studies, Frederick Burrack. His previous teachers include Anna Wytko, Nancy Mcmillan and Greg Keel.
Reverend Debra Ting is an ordained interfaith minister, a spiritual director, retreat leader, speaker, and master storyteller. She divides her time between the San Francisco Bay area and Minneapolis/St. Paul and is available both locally and nationally.
Mezzo-soprano Alyssa Anderson's vocal repertoire spans the ages from Baroque masterpieces to contemporary experimental music, with a focus on American and twentieth/twenty-first-century artsong and chamber music. A native of Falconer, NY, Alyssa received her BM in Vocal Performance summa cum laude from the State University of New York, College at Fredonia, and she completed her MM in Performance summa cum laude at the University of Minnesota. She was recently awarded the Doctorate of Musical Arts from the University of Minnesota for her thesis on the solo vocal music of American composer Henry Cowell and a recital performance of a number of his unpublished, and virtually unknown, songs for voice and piano.
As a founding member of the Twin Cities based contemporary music ensemble RenegadeEnsemble, Alyssa has performed premieres of several new works for voice with the ensemble including Peter Billam's Tres Casidas del Divan del Tamarit, Ton Bruynel's Le Jardin, Zac Crockett's Dance 1, and Eric Schwartz's The Owl and the Pussycat.
In her fourth year with The Rose Ensemble, Alyssa is thrilled to explore early music and performing with this award-winning vocal ensemble. 2018-2019 also marks her first season performing with The Mirandola Ensemble and her third with Consortium Carissimi.
Founded in 2004, RenegadeEnsemble originated as a choral ensemble at the University of Minnesota and gradually evolved into a mostly-instrumental chamber group. RenegadeEnsemble has performed a large variety of modern music, including such 20th century staples as “Ballet Mécanique,” “In C,” and “Sextet.” Stationed in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, RenegadeEnsemble is comprised of practicing professional musicians devoted to the promotion of music by living composers. In 2008, the ensemble performed at the Spark Festival titled “Art and Commitment” on the University of Minnesota campus alongside renowned composer/performance artist Pauline Oliveros. RenegadeEnsemble also has been a performer for the 2015, 2016, and 2018 St. Paul Classical Music Crawl, and as a guest ensemble for the Schubert Club's 2016-2017 Courtroom Concert Series.
deVon Rusell Gray, multi-instrumentalist, is best known as dVRG in the acclaimed live hip hop band, Heiruspecs. Lesser known are his classical and chamber music works, film scores, experimental collaborations (SPCO Liquid Music Series), arranging credits (Poliça, The Cloak Ox, Allan Kingdom), session work, and production. Gray, has studied orchestral conducting with world renowned artists Manny Laureano (MN Orchestra) and Donald Palma (Orpheus Chamber Orchestra); and composition with Lee Hyla, & Michael Gandolfi, to name a few. Redefining versatility, dVRG draws inspiration from an enviable record collection, from Claudio Monteverdi to Shuggie Otis, and communicates through nuanced sounds; a musical polyglot disguised as a lone star…ready to super nova.
Laura Packer has been telling stories her whole life – her mother reports she was born talking. The daughter of a children’s librarian and a writer, it seems inevitable that she become a storyteller and writer herself, since her childhood was steeped in narrative. By second grade, Laura was telling stories to her classmates, creating her own magazines and writing letters to the editor of her hometown newspaper; her deep love of fairytales and mythology eventually led her to obtain a degree in Folklore and Mythology from Boston University. Imagine her surprise when she discovered, upon graduating, that there isn’t a crying need for folklorists!
Undaunted by the lack of job openings for folklorists, Laura has built a career helping people and organizations find their own story, performing original and traditional tales around the world, and creating written narrative that draws the reader into new possibilities.
A collaboration between Zeitgeist, composer/flutist Julie Johnson, writer Cheri Johnson, and filmmaker/actor DJ Mendel, Crocus Hill Ghost Story is a macabre tale of a house possessed, accompanied by a wildly evocative and colorful score performed live by Zeitgeist, Johnson, and Mendel. Studio Z is transformed into a haunted Victorian mansion using real world set pieces, video, and projected images to tell the story of a Summit Avenue mansion with a disreputable past and unwelcome spirits. Narration by KrisAnne Weiss.
Flutist and composer Julie Johnson has a distinct sound and approach—rougher and more soulful than a typical classical sound, yet more pure than a typical jazz player's—that she brings to many multi-genre projects, including places where, she’s been told, the flute doesn’t belong. As a creator and a performer of new music, Julie’s work walks the line between composition and songwriting, art music and popular music, between genres as seemingly different as classical and blues. A finalist for the McKnight Fellowship for Performing Musicians and a winner of grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board, the American Composers Forum, the Lanesboro Arts Center, Springboard for the Arts, MacPhail Center for Music, MRAC, and a Banff Centre residency, she plays in many styles, working to bring both the flute and her audiences to music they haven’t been in contact with before.
Writer Cheri Johnson has received awards and fellowships from the Minnesota State Arts Board, the McKnight Foundation, the Bush Foundation, Yaddo, the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, and The Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. Her poetry, fiction, plays, and reviews have been included in magazines such as The Hollins Critic, The Rio Grande Review, Pleiades, Glimmer Train Stories, Puerto del Sol, Cerise Press, New South, Phantasmagoria, The Emprise Review, and Provincetown Arts. She has studied writing at Augsburg College, Hollins University, University of Minnesota, and as a part of the Loft Literary Center Mentor Series, and she has taught writing at the University of Minnesota, Augsburg College, the International Music Camp Summer School of Fine Arts, and The Loft Literary Center, as well as through the SASE Wings program at Intermedia Arts.
D.J. Mendel is an actor, director, writer and filmmaker who has worked extensively with avant-garde theater-makers as well as emerging new writers, directors, and theater groups. His one man show, Dick Done Broke, was recently presented at the Bushwick Starr Theater and he most recently starred in the European Premiere of Elizabeth ou l'equity, which played at the prestigious Theatre du Rond Point in Paris. Mendel recently starred in Hal Hartley's feature film, Meanwhile, and other film roles include Richard Sylvarnesʼ The Cloud of Unknowing, and H.C.E (2007), both debuting at the Tribeca Film festival, and the title role in Salvatore Interlandiʼs critically acclaimed Charlie. As a director, Mendel has been a longtime collaborator with Cynthia Hopkins, directing many of her shows and others such as Daniel Bernard Roumainʼs Symphony for the Dance Floor and Darwins Meditation for the People of Lincoln, both premiering in NY at BAMʼs Next Wave festival. He has directed two feature films: Make Pretend (which he also wrote) and Planet Earth: Dreams, penned by Richard Foreman as well as many shorts, including the award winning, Crazy for The Ballet. His own plays, Tom, Dick & Harry and Dick Done Broke, were presented at The Ontological-Hysteric Theater in New York and his play Exhaust Pipes and Manifolds was produced and presented by the Ground Floor Theater Lab. Mendel is also a professor at NYU's Tisch School for the Arts where he is the Head of Advanced Actor Training at Playwrights Horizon's Theater School.
KrisAnne Weiss, mezzo-soprano, has performed leading roles in many operas, including L’Italiana in Algeri, The Dangerous Liaisons, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Le Nozze di Figaro, Così fan tutte, Carmen, and Madama Butterfly. She has appeared with the Lyric Opera of the North, Pine Mountain Music Festival, Fargo Moorhead Opera, Opera Omaha, Central City Opera, Minnesota Concert Opera, and Minnesota Opera. Her concert appearances include solos in Bach’s B minor Mass, St John Passion,and St Matthew Passion; Mozart’s C minor Mass, Coronation Mass, and Requiem; and Vivaldi’s Gloria and Magnificat. She has performed with Zeitgeist, Valley Chamber Chorale, St. Catherine Choral Society, the Bakken Trio, Lawrence University Symphony Orchestra, Mississippi Valley Orchestra, Plymouth Symphony, Bel Canto Chorus of Milwaukee, Duluth-Superior Symphony Orchestra, Exultate, the Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, and Nautilus Music-Theater, among others.
An advocate of contemporary music, Dr. Weiss has premiered and workshopped countless new compositions, among them John Tartaglia’s orchestral work Dark Night, Glad Day, Edie Hill’s dramatic concert work Amy Lowell: A Rare Pattern, and the lead role in Chris Gable’s opera The Ladysmith Story. In 2014, she was one of five performers selected to join Nautilus Music-Theater’s Composer-Librettist studio, a two-week workshop that yielded 25 new music-theater works and culminated in two Rough Cuts performances. Also an accomplished recitalist, chamber musician, and narrator, Dr. Weiss has given many solo recitals in the Twin Cities and can be heard in frequent collaborations with other local musicians.
Dr. Weiss completed her Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees at the University of Minnesota, where she received the University Fellowship, the Graduate Research Partnership Program Grant, and the Schuessler Graduate Prize in Voice. She has taught on the voice faculties of the University of Minnesota, Lawrence University, Luther College, Mount Olivet School of Music, and Lutheran Summer Music Festival and Academy. Currently, she teaches privately in the Twin Cities and is Visiting Assistant Professor of Music at St. Olaf College for 2018-2019.
Eric M. C. Gonzalez is a composer of solo works, chamber pieces, electroacoustic, electronic music and works for film and theater. Eric is the director and cellist of the string ensemble Forest City Chambers. Eric studied composition with Andrew Rindfleisch and Greg D’alessio, cello performance with David Allen Harrell of The Cleveland Orchestra, and film music with Michael Baumgartener at Cleveland State University.
Ensembles Eric has composer for include the Cleveland State University Chamber Orchestra, the Cleveland State University Experimental Ensemble. In 2011 and 2012, the works Elliptical and A Priori Music No.2 were recorded by engineer David Yost at the Cleveland Composers’ Recording Institute at Cleveland State University.
In 2014, Eric performed, arranged and composed music for the avant-garde mixed-genre musical Tingle Tangle, which consists of works for cello, electronics, guitar, vocals and percussion. Eric has composed music for plays with the Cleveland Theater company Theater Ninjas, and Cleveland Public Theatre.
Eric won the No Exit New Music Ensemble Commission Competition in 2011 and 2013, for which he composed PILLS for solo piano, and Late Spring for piano quartet. In 2013, Eric was the recipient of the Bain Murray Award for Composition.
Equally at home in a wooded glade or on a cabaret stage, singer-songwriter and composer Carlisle Evans Peck strives for the heart of human connection through musical performance. Like an acoustic ballet, his diligence and pain become a thing of dainty and powerful beauty. His transformation of emotion into music pulls at the tears between us and our loved ones, between us and the bountiful earth that we walk, opening a wound that we are compelled to tend. He puts his rawness on display in the sense of a dew-dropped flower tentatively unfurling in hopes of meeting the morning sun. And through this vulnerability he gathers us into the story with him. We leave with the feeling of having made something tremendous together, of having fallen in love. Or rather, we are left heartbroken with the rich memories of a life lived fully.