1 | El Hambo (Jaakko Mäntyjärvi) (2:39)
2 | The Day is Done (Stephen Paulus) (3:45)
3 | There Was a Naughty Boy (Dominick Argento) (2:40)
4 | Songs of Our Grandparents (Medley, arr. Paul Gerike) (7:46)
5 | My Beloved is Mine (Chris deBlasio) (3:57)
6 | Zuni Sunrise Song (Brent Michael Davids) (3:13)
7 | Beautiful Star (Libby Larsen) (3:03)
8 | God’s Bottles (Randall Thompson) (1:46)
9 | Le Pont Mirabeau (Lionel Daunais) (2:48)
10| Sino (Carlos Guastavino) (2:14)
11| We Shall Walk Through the Valley (arr. Undine Smith Moore) (2:41)
12| Witness (arr. Jack Halloran) (3:28)
13| Dixie (arr. Norman Luboff) (2:03)
14| My Soul’s Been Anchored in the Lord (arr. Moses Hogan) (3:11)
15| Danny Boy (arr. Joseph Flummerfeldt) (3:09)
16| The North Star Hit Parade (Medley, arr. Paul Gerike) (9:13)
Total Time: 57:40
Minnesota’s musical heritage defies easy categories or glib summary. So many social and ethnic groups have been instrumental in the founding and development of the state that laying out a quintessential musical history could tire an audience. How should one sum up a whole state, from farm to woodlands, from Native Americans to recent immigrants, from imported folk songs to popular music? This embarrassment of musical riches has required VocalEssence and its leaders to devise two medleys to pay homage to the North Star State’s wealth of music.
In “Songs of Our Grandparents,” the emphasis has fallen on reconstructing the musical world of Minnesota’s preceding generations. One can spy the mighty voyageurs, French-Canadians and Métis, which traversed the area that later became Minnesota, syncopating their oar strokes with traditional tunes like Envoyons de l’Avant. On the other hand, songs like Uncle Sam’s Farm and The Battle Hymn of the Republic give sound to the creation of the state itself. The Hutchinson Family Singers, who lent their name to their own town in Minnesota, were in many ways the first popular American musical group; their own original songs (like Uncle Sam’s Farm) and songs they helped popularize (like Battle Hymn of the Republic) sounded out the Yankee optimism and reformer’s idealism that pushed for Minnesota Statehood in 1858 and galvanized the young state in the fire of the U.S. Civil War—the first state to offer troops to the Union cause in 1861, including the storied First Minnesota Volunteer Regiment.
At the same time, songs like The Ballad of Oleana, Die Lorelei, and Hälsa dem där hemma showed how life on the frontier could be challenging, particularly for immigrants. Hope and pride for the future could mix with profound uncertainty, hardship, and longing for homelands. It also became a way for immigrants to make their own impressions on their adopted state. Polka music popularized by acts like Whoopee John Wilfahrt (In Heaven There is No Beer) emerged from distinct ethnic polka styles found throughout Minnesota, while Norwegian-American composer F. Melius Christiansen (Beautiful Savior) helped earn Minnesota a reputation for choral and sacred music. The Andrews Sisters, daughters of a Greek immigrant, gained fame with Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen, itself written by a Jewish composer in German and Yiddish. These tangled immigrant roots, so familiar to our grandparents, fleshed out Minnesota’s grand musical reputation as well as its cosmopolitan sensibility.