Our View: Increased collaboration will help region sing

Sometimes all it takes is a conversation.

That's how the collaboration between the Choral Arts Ensemble and Great River Shakespeare Festival started. Amaria O'Leary, a fan of the Rochester singers and Winona actors, said she was simply discussing her family's support of both groups when she was struck by the idea of seeing if the two groups could create a joint project.

Choral Arts Ensemble artistic director Rick Kvam said it all fell into place shortly after the idea emerged. "It was a pretty easy thing to do once someone thought about it," he said, noting he reached out to his counterpart at the Great River Shakespeare Festival, Doug Scholz-Carlson, and preparations started immediately.

The collaboration between 2014 Ardee Award winners — Kvam for leadership in the arts and the Shakespeare fesitval for outstanding greater Rochesters arts — hits Rochester and Winona stages this weekend. While it may have been easy to put together, it wasn't rushed. Plans started forming at the beginning of the year, during the last choral arts season and before the summer's Shakespeare festival in Winona.

Through months of email exchanges and cooperative efforts, "The Food of Love: Shakespeare and His Songs" was born, and those planning to attend will likely be thrilled by the results of the collaboration.


Participants hadn't met on stage until this week, holding their first dress rehearsal on Tuesday to work on the transitions from the choral group's songs and the festival actors' scenes from plays that include "As You Like It," "Much Ado About Nothing" and "The Tempest." Scholz-Carlson said today's dress rehearsal, the collaboration's second of the week, likely will be the first time the singers and actors hear the full production.

The combined effort likely will lead the groups to seeing the work of Shakespeare in new ways, he added. The music and sound of the words will have greater focus for the actors, and singers likely will take away new insights based on the written word.

While all involved said they hope the effort helps fans of either group crossover and become fans of both groups, we see the benefits going beyond that. Most obviously, the latest collaborative effort of the Choral Arts Ensemble, which has already worked with Rochester-based filmmakers, visual artists and dances, should help create other artistic collaborations throughout southeast Minnesota.

Kvam and Scholz-Carlson said working together was a natural choice for the two artistic groups, especially given the wide range of Shakespeare-related material that is available. "In general, artists get a kick out of that cross fertilization of media," Kvam said.

But artistic ventures aren't the only ones that should be able to find benefits through starting regional conversations. Economic and social efforts are also prime for growth through collaborative efforts. Several groups, including Rochester Area Economic Development Inc. and Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, are already working to start the conversations.

Through RAEDI's Journey2Growth plan, the group is seeking to diversify the economy in Rochester and beyond, including Dodge, Olmsted and Wabasha counties. The Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation is working with 10 communities in the region to identify projects that can be undertaken in response regional growth related to Destination Medical Center.

For these efforts to be successful, the communities involved must step up and be willing to work together. Following the lead of the Choral Arts Ensemble and Great River Shakespeare Festival, they will need to find ways to work around geographical separations and show their communities the mutual benefit that stems from working together.

Where the works of Shakespeare provides fertile ground for singers and actors to combine their talents, housing and transportation needs do the same for communities throughout southeast Minnesota. Poverty is another issue that can unite communities and organizations as the region searches for answers.


None of the problems are exclusive to one city or town. As a result, the answers likely won't be found by one community working alone. We know there are already other agencies and communities working on these efforts behind the scenes. We know they are struggling to make connections.

But, we also know community pride, unwillingness to share credit and a desire to go it alone can get in the way of true collaboration that could benefit the entire region.

As the Choral Arts Ensemble joins members of Great River Shakespeare Festival on stage this weekend in two communities, we hope the music and words help inspire others to start conversations and see the benefits of true collaboration.

What To Read Next
Get Local