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Minn. Orchestra trumpeter storms off stage in protest of performer's anti-GOP comments

Chris Riemenschneider, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Entertainment News

MINNEAPOLIS -- Performing in a classier place than usual with a fleet of musicians behind him working on union time, Rufus Wainwright didn't shoot his mouth off nearly as much as he usually does during his elegant and dramatic two-set performance Saturday night with the Minnesota Orchestra at Orchestra Hall.

In the one instance when he did go on a brief political tangent, though, the 44-year-old piano-pop tunesmith was met with protest by one of the orchestra's veteran members, principal trumpeter Manny Laureano, who stormed off stage.

The awkward moment came midway through the second set, as Wainwright sat at the grand piano and introduced "Going to a Town," one of many fan favorites performed on Saturday -- essentially a greatest-hits show with the added orchestration.

"I'm so tired of you, America," is famously/infamously the refrain in the Juno Award-nominated 2007 song, which also offers lines questioning Christians intolerant of gay marriage. (Wainwright, a Toronto native and New York resident, has been married to husband Jorn Weisbrodt for five years and they are raising a daughter together, Viva).

Wainwright actually kept his comments relatively brief and, by his standards, rather innocuous, saying he had refrained from political talk at shows in prior months but was "a little in shock over what happened last night," a reference to the GOP tax plan that passed in Congress overnight.

"It's a call to arms," Wainwright said. "We have to fight for this country."

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Even before the short speech was finished, Laureano conspicuously rose up from his seat in the back row of the stage, swung his arm in an exasperated gesture, put his horn down and walked off toward a rear exit. Conductor Sarah Hicks and other members of the orchestra offered no visible reaction and carried on without him.

Reached by phone Monday morning, Laureano explained he was already mad that Wainwright "mocked" the performance of "Cantique de Noel" earlier in the show, aka the original French version of "Oh Holy Night."

The singer made light of the awkward French-to-English literal translation of the song (he stuck to the French lyrics), and he seemed a tad put off to have to sing it at all, saying, "One of the requirements for this evening's performance was I had to do a Christmas song." The concert was sold amid this year's holiday programming.

"The evening was already too snarky," Laureano said. So by the time Wainwright got around to the political talk, the trumpeter added, "It got incredibly self-indulgent."

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