Music with Minnesotans: Steve Heitzeg

by Alison Young, Minnesota Public Radio
December 15, 2010
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St. Paul, Minn. — Steve Heitzeg writes music that beats and breathes with the rhythm of the earth. His evocative and lyrical music is inspired by the natural world, even going so far as to introduce 'instruments' of found objects like stones, bones and shells.

Steve is an incredibly generous person bringing a pile of CD's for us to preview for his Music with Minnesotans session and even leaving the Yo-Yo Ma disc with me as a little Christmas gift.

My first introduction to Steve's music was listening to the Dale Warland singers' recording of his luminous "little tree" with words by e.e. cummings. We've had this disc for years and have listened to it hundreds of times. It is like a children's story told gently through the perspective of the tree. It's magical.

It should be no surprise that Steve would be attracted to a piece for the winter solstice that merges the natural world with classical instruments. There is a moment where you are not entirely sure if you are hearing Paul Winter on his soprano sax or a wolf call - and it's all in the sacred space of St. John the Divine.

Steve Heitzeg also drew my attention to music that calls on God to grant us peace - Dona Nobis Pacem - from the African Sanctus by David Fanshawe. It is an amazing melding of the primitive, tribal music of Africa with the Catholic Mass sung in Latin. It's searching and reaches us in a visceral way that's simple and feels real.

We had way too many pieces to cover in our short session - it's always hard to choose just a handful of our favorites! So Steve ended the session with a piece by his idol John Lennon. It's a Christmas wish and directive - to end war is really up to us. It's so poignantly played by Yo-Yo Ma and ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro.

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Steve Heitzeg's playlist:

little tree, Steve Heitzeg - Dale Warland Singers/Kathy Kienzle, harp

Winter Solstice: Return of the Sun, Paul Winter/Paul Halley - Paul Winter Consort

African Sanctus - Dona Nobis Pacem, David Fanshawe - Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Choristers of St. George's Chapel, Windsor

Happy Xmas (War is Over), John Lennon - Yo-Yo Ma, cello and Jake Shimabukuro, ukulele

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Check out more from music with Minnesotans:

Linda Z. Andrews of Zenon Dance, Philip Brunelle, Mayor Chris Coleman, Joe Dowling, William Gurstelle, Karen Hansen, Stuart Loughridge, Stephen Paulus, Lois Quam, Mayor RT Rybak, General Larry Shellito, The Reverend Spenser Simrell, and Classical Music in the OR

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Join me next Wednesday when famed choral conductor Dale Warland visits the studio to share his most cherished musical favorites for the season, including a not-oft heard work by Arvo Part and a fabulous rendition of "Lo, How a Rose" with a Swedish Choir.

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