A musical mentor gets a Minnesota Fringe Festival tribute

August 01, 2015
Leaving St Paul Minnesota Fringe Festival

When I started work as a digital producer at MPR in October 2013, the very first story I assigned and edited for Classical MPR was Barb Teed's moving (and amusing) tribute to her musical mentor: her father.

My father was fond of Vivaldi. As we listened to The Four Seasons, my father pointed out violin solos. "Do you realize how difficult it is to play that?" he said. As a first-generation German immigrant, my father had us listen to Mozart's Eine kleine Nachtmusik and he spoke in German as he pointed out the different parts. [...]

Beethoven's ninth symphony was always played in its entirety, never just in isolated movements. During our lesson, my father pointed out the different instrumental parts ("the French horn! the bassoon! listen to the oboe!"). The seventh symphony blasted at us in high wattage as we sat in the middle of our living room concert hall.

Yesterday, I finally met Barb's father in person—when he appeared, in a tuxedo, at the University of Minnesota's Rarig Center to attend the premiere of a play about his own life, adapted and directed by Meredith Larson from a story by Barb. Leaving St. Paul is now playing on the Rarig Thrust as part of the Minnesota Fringe Festival.

The play isn't about music, except for an offhand mention of a piano that had to be sold after Arnold—the character based on Barb's father, played by Kevin McLaughlin—loses his St. Paul real estate business because he's willing to sell houses in all neighborhoods to people of all races and ethnicities at a time (the 1960s) when many whites were still trying to enforce housing segregation.

It's a sad but true chapter of local history, and when the play ended—with Arnold's character broke but defiant—Barb's father made his way to the stage, flanked by both Barb and by her daughter Lindsay Teed, who portrays a young Barb in the play. To the strains of a jubilant performance by the group 94 East, Barb's father took the stage and turned to receive a standing ovation.

Leaving St Paul

Before the show, Barb introduced me to her dad as her editor at Classical MPR. "I used to play piano by ear," said her father, shaking my hand, "but then my ears started to hurt from hitting the keys."