Music with Minnesotans: Anne Swenson

by Alison Young, Minnesota Public Radio
March 9, 2011
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St. Paul, Minn. — The first time I met Anne Swenson she was sitting at her desk in the bustling office of the Ely Echo. The phone was ringing off the hook, papers strewn about and to-go coffee cups stacked precariously on the last remaining fringe of free desk space. She looked up and smiled a sly grin as she pulled out a souvenir program from 1952.

It was in surprisingly pristine condition sporting photographs of very young Leontyne Price, William Warfield and Cab Calloway. The show was from the touring company of "Porgy and Bess" - the unusual jazz/folk-opera that was playing in Anne's hometown of Chicago - and it had a profound effect on her.

She took singing lessons herself and attended shows regularly to hear the great singers. In her teens, she did not lead such a sheltered life that this show would be missed. But it was the singing, the heart-felt story and the black cast that she remembers and she says from that day forward, she's been a die-hard classical and jazz fan.

Anne is very active, publishing one of the town's two weeklies and helping to shepherd the arts in this northern Minnesota region as chairman of Ely Greenstone Public Arts and their recent push to save the dilapidated Pioneer Mine and turn it into a world-class venue for the arts.

Music and art are in Anne's genes. At 20, she spent a year in Rome looking at art, listening to music and learning about life. Her daily walk to town took her through the Villa Borghese gardens and the towering pine trees that Respighi memorializes in music in his "Pines of Rome."

The surprise piece on the list is a Charles Ives Symphony. Anne is fascinated by Americana, but especially Ives' double-life as an insurance salesman by day and a composer by night.

Enjoy this sunny and warm playlist from the far north!

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Anne Swenson's playlist:

Ottorino Respighi, Pines of Rome - Minnesota Orchestra/Eiji Oue

Giacomo Puccini, La Rondine: Ch'il bel sogno - Renee Fleming

George Gershwin, Porgy and Bess: Summertime - Leontyne Price

Charles Ives, Symphony No. 2 - Leonard Bernstein/NYPO

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Check out more from Music with Minnesotans:

Linda Z. Andrews, Ann Bancroft, Charles Baxter, Philip Brunelle, Mayor Chris Coleman, Michael Pearce Donley, Joe Dowling, Dr. Victoria Elmer, Nancy Gibson, William Gurstelle, Karen Hansen, Steve Heitzeg, Stuart Loughridge, Stephen Paulus, Consie Powell, Lois Quam, Mayor RT Rybak, Nick Schneider, General Larry Shellito, The Reverend Spenser Simrell, Dale Warland, and Matt Wehling.

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Next week we're joined by one of our newest residents in Minnesota, Allan Naplan, the president and general director of the Minnesota Opera who only started work here earlier this month. He shares some of his favorite arias as well as one of his own pieces that was the inaugural wake-up song for NASA astronauts.

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