Live concert series performs in Farber Hall on Valentine’s Day
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Live concert series performs in Farber Hall on Valentine’s Day

On Valentine’s Day, the National Music Museum (NMM) held “Classical Valentine”, a performance by the Mahr Quartet, as part of their on-going NMM Live! Series. 

From Omaha, Nebraska, the Mahr String Quartet celebrated the holiday of love with a mixture of classical favorites. Melissa Holtmeier, principal violinist and manager, said the Mahr Quartet focused on a theme of love for their performance.

Matt Collinsworth, director of the National Music Museum, said the quartet and the audience got into the Valentine’s Day spirit during the concert.

“The Mahr Quartet was a lot of fun,” Collinsworth said, “They played a lot of popular pieces centered around a Valentine’s Day theme and the audience really responded well to them.”

Performing in Farber Hall on Friday, the quartet filled the space with familiar notes with popular tunes from the movies, the Beatles and more. They gave a new twist to well-known songs. 

Michael Suing, Deputy Director of Curative Services, said NMM was pleased to bring in the Mahr Quartet to Vermillion for the public.

“Concerts and other programs are just one way the NMM serves the community,” Suing said. “Our concert series is supported by the University of South Dakota Student Government Association, the South Dakota Arts Council and the generosity of our members.”

The live concert series is part of NMM’s mission to curate and preserve music throughout history according to Suing.

“The thinking behind the NMM Live! Series, and those that preceded it, is to create a connection between instruments in the collection and the music they make,” Suing said. 

NMM’s association with USD and Vermillion stretches back to 1973, when the museum was founded. In April 1975, the first concert of turn-of-the-century American band music was performed at W.M. Lee Center for Fine Arts and was the beginning for hundreds of concerts to be hosted by NMM on campus. 

“Almost as long as the National Music Museum has been on the campus of the University of South Dakota, we have offered concerts as an extension of our mission; to explore, enjoy and preserve the world of musical instruments,” Suing said. 

NMM’s focus on the care and preservation of musical instruments is an aspect in their work and their concerts.

“For most of us, hearing musical instruments is what brings them to life. I have a colleague who describes them as art objects that make art,” Suing said. 

During the concert series, Suing said some groups may perform with some of the instruments in NMM’s collections.

“Sometimes, performers play musical instruments from the collection, under the watchful eye of NMM experts; more often, they play their own instruments that are similar to those in the collection,” Suing said. 

Currently, the NMM is under expansion and renovation. The construction began in the fall of 2019, so concerts like “Classical Valentine” have been performed in Farber Hall since early 2019.

With the expansion, the NMM has had to move over 4,000 musical instruments including other archives and libraries. Since USD and NMM have been in partnership for 47 years, the concert series has not been affected by the renovations.

“Access to (venues on campus) is another example of how much the NMM benefits from a long partnership with the University of South Dakota,” Suing said. 

Along with the renovations, the NMM is adding a new performance space to its property.

“When renovations are complete we will have a wonderful new performance space that will provide us with the opportunity to be more flexible with our concerts,” Collinsworth said.

The concert hall is planning to have daytime performances and multi-day events.

The Live! concert series continues through the spring semester with three more performances in March, April and May. These performances include a mix of classical, Americana, blues and Celtic folk genres. Tickets for all NMM concerts are free to USD students, staff, faculty and NMM members.