Remembering the Blizzard of 1991

Snowy Jack O Lantern

Few people living in Minnesota 25 years ago have forgotten the remarkable Halloween Blizzard of 1991. For the SPCO, it was a memorable weekend featuring a concerto performance by a 24-year-old Joshua Bell. It was also the night of our very first subscription concert at Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, which has been one of our Twin Cities venues ever since.

It’s a rare storm indeed that keeps musicians away from their scheduled concerts. With that in mind, we asked a few long-time musicians and staff for their memories of that weekend.

Lynn Erickson, Trumpet:

1991 was my first year in the orchestra, and I believe this concert that took place on Halloween 25 years ago was the first program we did at the Wooddale Church venue. I remember the snow starting late in the afternoon, and giving myself about two and a half hours to make what normally would have been a 20 minute drive to get to the church by concert time. My memory is that all the musicians arrived safely and on time. It was even more amazing to me that we had a good sized audience—but who would want to miss Josh Bell playing the Mendelssohn? Principal trumpeter Gary Bordner arrived coated in snow and without his glasses. He had been clearing snow out of his driveway with his snowblower and had to take them off because of the snow build up on the lenses, and left them somewhere at home. I’m not sure how he could see his music, but he did just fine without them. It took even longer to get home after the concert!

 Julia Bogorad-Kogan, Principal Flute:

BOTH of our Volvos, one after the other, got stuck in the snow as they pulled out of the driveway—so we waded into the snow and walked to the end of the block, where we got a ride from Fred Bretschger and Evelina Chao in their Subaru and made it to the concert!

Jim Kortz, Orchestra Librarian:

As I recall the snowstorm started in early evening. My one-year-old son was dressed in his Halloween costume. We could only get to the house next door and then called it quits.  The snow was already coming down too hard to go any further.  I remember staying home from work on November 1.  There was no way to get to work from my home in South Minneapolis. … The scheduled concert for Friday, November 1 at the Ordway was postponed until Sunday, November 17….  The concert on November 2 at the Ordway took place as originally scheduled.

Another longtime SPCO staff member vividly remembered a different way in which it was a real mess:

The concert wasn’t cancelled, but turnout was understandably small – I remember the drive home from Eden Prairie to Saint Paul was one of the most terrifying drives I’ve ever made.

We had many, many bottles of natural apple cider that had been donated for a reception that evening (along with cookies, etc.). Because we couldn’t get back to the church for several days, it sat in a warm room and fermented, eventually blowing the tops off of many of the containers and spilling gallons of cider over the carpeting. We had to have a professional cleaning service come in to deal with the mess. Not a fond memory, for us or for Wooddale, I’m sure!

I believe a few of us did make the slog into the office on Friday to deal with the concert postponement and patron calls.

Fortunately, in 2016 there’s no snow in sight. Happy Halloween!