Northeast Orchestra celebrates 40 years

The Northeast Orchestra celebrates 40 years of performing this year.

Violinists Agnes Wolf, left to right, Charlotte Jensen and Tricia Clarke, members of the Northeast Orchestra, will perform as part of a joint concert with the Fridley City Band. Photo submitted

The group, under the direction of Jeffrey Stirling, appears in an annual joint pops concert with the Fridley City Band March 18 in Fridley.

Fridley City Band is in its 52nd year. Phil Raaen directs.

This year the annual pops concert theme is “Dance ’Round the World.”

The orchestra will play selections from Antonin Dvorak’s “Slavonic Dances,” Jean Sibelius’ “Valse Triste” and Richard Rodgers’ “Carousel Waltz.”

Among band numbers to be performed are John Cacavas’ “Concerto Americana,” Bruce Chase’s “George Gershwin” and Henry Fillmore’s “Americans We.” Another selection is James Ployhar’s “Patriotic Sing Along.”

The Northeast Orchestra started out with seven musicians, but now draws its members, a mix of retired teachers, band directors, business people – some siblings and married couples – from the Twin Cities area. The average age of its players is 67.

“Even though a majority of the members are retired, there’s nothing retiring about their musical ambitions,” said Stirling, who has directed the orchestra for 10 years or one-quarter of its existence.

During his tenure, Stirling has noticed improved playing of the members and an increase in audience attendance.

“I enjoy spending my time with them,” said Stirling, who also directs the St. Paul Civic Symphony and one of six Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies. “I’m a professionally trained director. They deserve that kind of leadership I’m able to provide for the musical guidance they deserve and they can benefit from.”

Violinist Agnes Wolf was a founding member of the Northeast Orchestra. Throughout the years, Wolf has seen the group grow from seven members to about 65. She plays in the orchestra with her sister Marie Bevans, a cellist.

“It means a tremendous amount,” Wolf said about being a part of the orchestra. “We do beautiful, beautiful music.”

Paul Tidemann of St. Paul, president of Northeast Orchestra, has been a member of the group for about 20 years. He joined after learning from a friend in the orchestra that the group was seeking a French horn player.

“It gives me a break from the other business of life, even though I’m retired,” said Tidemann, a former Lutheran pastor.

“It has been life-giving to me.”

Started in a living room

A group of seven League of Women Voters members started Northeast Orchestra 40 years ago when the women decided to come together to play music in their homes. It soon outgrew their living rooms and was billed in its early stages as a chamber orchestra.

Now a full-blown group, Fridley remains the home of the orchestra with a majority of its concerts held at the Church of St. William just north of I-694. The group plays four concerts a year.

Three charter members are still with the orchestra. They are violinists Wolf and Karen Peters and French horn player Bev Kinsman.

The orchestra rehearses weekly from 9:30 a.m. to noon on Friday mornings from September through May.

Stirling likens the music in the upcoming pops concert to a buffet. “The pieces are shorter. There’s more variety,” he said. “You get a good taste of something and you go on to something else…. It’s wonderful for people who want a taste,” he said.

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Church of St. William presents
annual joint Pops Concert
“Dance ’Round the World”
featuring the Northeast Orchestra &
the Fridley City Band
Sunday, March 18, 3 p.m.
Voluntary donations welcome
6120 Fifth St. N.E., Fridley.
For more info visit or

Elyse Kaner is at [email protected]