Minnesota is known for many things: Scotch tape, “Minnesota nice,” Goldy the Gopher, Betty Crocker, fried food on a stick, the Mayo Clinic, the Coen Brothers, Red Wing boots, the Juicy Lucy ... the list goes on and on.
The land of 10,000 lakes is also known for its music. The Crow River Singers will salute Minnesota’s music tradition with two concerts: 7 p.m. Friday, April 5, at New Journey United Church of Christ Church, and 2 p.m. Sunday, April 7, at Peace Lutheran Church, both in Hutchinson.
When you think of Minnesota music, what comes to mind?
Depending on your age, it could be the Andrews Sisters who hailed from Minneapolis. LaVerne, Maxene and Patty walked the hit parade from 1938 to the 1950s. The North High graduates recorded more than 100 singles. The trio of Robin Kashuba, Lucy Newcomb and Gail Lehn will pay homage to the singers with “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.”
For others, it could be Bob Dylan. The Hibbing native released his first album, “Bob Dylan,” in 1962. From then to present, he has released 38 studio albums, 13 live albums and 91 singles. He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1988. The community chorus will salute this Minnesota rocker with “Blowin’ in the Wind/America.”
I’ve written about it before, but it remains one of the truly memorable moments of my life. I saw Bob Dylan perform on Oct. 25, 2001, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. As part of his encore, he played an acoustic version of “Blowin’ in the Wind.” It was in response to Sept. 11. Who better to play it than the man who wrote it?
The words were as poignant that day as they were when Dylan penned, the song in 1962: “Yes, ’n’ how many times must the cannon balls fly, before they’re forever banned? The answer my friend, is blowin’ in the wind. The answer is blowin’ in the wind.”
Another Minnesota namesake who may come to mind is John Denver. He was one of America’s best-selling performers during the 1970s. He released approximately 300 songs — of which about 200 he wrote — and sold more than 33 million records worldwide. Among his greatest hits: “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” Rocky Mountain High,” “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” and “Sunshine on My Shoulders.”
The Crow River Singers give a nod to Denver with “Annie’s Song.” If you’re of a certain age, you can hear the words and music in your head: “You fill up my senses, like a night in a forest. Like the mountains in springtime. Like a walk in the rain.”
You can’t talk about Minnesota musicians without mentioning Prince. He released his first album, “For You,” in 1979. He was 17 years old. In 1984, he hit the big time when he released “Purple Rain.” It’s this song the Crow River Singers will perform at their concerts. It’s not surprising. It’s probably the best known of his many hits. When it was released on June 25, 1984, “Purple Rain” was met with commercial and critical success, spending 24 consecutive weeks at the top of the Billboard 200 chart and selling more than 20 million copies.
While the Crow River Singers are hitting the high notes of Minnesota’s famous sons and daughters, there’s a nod to the state’s German and Scandinavian roots with catchy tunes such as the “German/Minnesota Anthem” and “Swedish/Minnesota Anthem.”
While musicians enhance our lives with their music, they also add to events such as baseball, football and hockey. Expect to hear director Paul Otte’s arrangement of “The State of Hockey,” the official song of the Minnesota Wild, the “Vikings Fight Song” and the “Twins Fight Song.”
The words of the baseball song may be most familiar: “We’re gonna win Twins, we’re gonna score! We’re gonna win Twins, watch that baseball soar! Knock out a homerun, shout a hip-hooray! Cheer for the Minnesota Twins today!”
While secular music is what drives the hit parade, Minnesota has made its contribution to sacred music as well. Time and time again, Crow River Choir members have told me they appreciate the background information Otte shares about the composers of the songs they perform.
Take, for instance, F. Melius Christiansen. Who knew the Norwegian-born violinist and choral conductor was instrumental in creating the St. Olaf Choir? He was recruited in 1903 to head the music department at St. Olaf College in Northfield. He arranged the St. Olaf Choir’s signature piece, “Beautiful Savior,” which the community choir will perform during its two concerts.
Paul Christiansen, the youngest son of F. Melius Christiansen, followed in his father’s footsteps and spent his career developing the Concordia Choir at Concordia College in Moorhead. He conducted it from 1937 to 1986. Christiansen is also credited with establishing the Concordia College Christmas Concert, which is seen annually by more than 30,000 people. In a salute to him, the choir is singing his arrangement of “Wondrous Love,” with a solo by the Rev. Kevin Oster.
I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea. The Crow River Singers have a reputation for excellence and they don’t disappoint in this salute to Minnesota music. It’s wonderful entertainment and we should be proud of our state’s contribution to the world’s musical repertoire.