Music with Minnesotans: Ken Holmen

by Alison Young, Minnesota Public Radio
November 16, 2011
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St. Paul, Minn. — Dr. Ken Holman is an anesthesiologist and physician executive at Regions Hospital and HealthPartners.

So it's no wonder that his relationship to the singing comes from the space of a scientist. He sets up the image of our ancestors from the beginning of time discovering that they were the only creatures that can make the range of sounds with their voices - but also have the ability to hear and appreciate music.

Ken - who would not allow me to call him "doc" - calls himself a passionate music "appreciator" and avid amateur musician. He has been singing tenor with the National Lutheran Choir for the past 20 years. He is certainly passionate and when he describes the experience of first being blown away by a pipe organ in a grand cathedral, you think for sure he is less scientist and more creative writer --- or hey, even radio host!

One of my favorite parts of this interview was that Ken introduced me to some new music including a thrilling setting of "O Clap Your Hands" by Ralph Vaughan Williams. I can say honestly that Ken's ability to be moved by music - and gush about it - matches my own. This is exceedingly exciting music that brings the words of the Psalms alive and makes us feel close to a higher power.

There was one incredible moment in our chat when Ken describes a medical condition that British composer John Taverner lives with. It's deadly. A heart condition that will at some point - a point no one can predict - will simply stop his life. Living with that knowledge changes the way he approaches his life and work. You can hear it in one of his most remarkable pieces, The Song of Athene.

We finish with an excerpt from Beethoven's Ninth. Ken's description of a real human being - Beethoven - creating such spectacular music is spine-tingling.

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Ken Holman's playlist:

Harold Arlen, Somwhere Over the Rainbow - Eva Cassidy

Charles Widor, Symphony in F: Toccata - Jeanne Demessieux

Ralph Vaughan Williams, O Clap Your Hands - Kings College Choir/Willcocks

John Taverner, Song for Athene - National Lutheran Choir

Franz Biebl, Ave Maria - Chanticleer

Ludwig van Beethoven, Symphony No. 9 - Minnesota Orchestra/Vanska

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Next week jazz singer Christine Rosholt is my guest. She says that when she listens to jazz on her iPod, it's work. But classical helps her get into a better space and she just lets the music wash over her.

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