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NY Mills cultural center to offer Minnesota heritage concert

Traditional folk music duo Curtis & Loretta will present a new program called "Our Minnesota Heritage in Song" at the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center on Saturday, April 2 at 7:30 p.m.

The concert, which grew out of a project created for the 2008 Minnesota Sesquicentennial, is made up entirely of songs people would have been singing in Minnesota in 1858.

The traditional musical pieces highlight Curtis & Loretta's old world charm. Dressed in 1800s costumes, the duo makes history come alive with seamless harmonies and period instruments, including banjo, celeste (a charming antique keyboard that plays bells), folk harp, mandocello, harmonica and guitar.

The concert will appeal to all ages. It illustrates our state's history, with topical threads that remain relevant today. Besides being entertaining, the show is very educational in terms of Minnesota history. It includes the story of how Minnesota became a state and how it influenced, and was affected by, the rest of the United States. Between songs, Curtis & Loretta will impart their knowledge of Minnesota history.

The duo lets the audience know before "Lincoln and Liberty" that it was Lincoln's campaign song in the 1860 election. It is thought to be written by Jesse Hutchinson Jr., of the family that founded Hutchinson, Minn. The election of 1860 was the first time in U.S. history that Minnesota voted.

Before "Darlin' Nelly Gray," a famous abolitionist anthem, the duo explains that Minnesota influenced national politics in a big way back in 1857. Dred Scott, with his "master," lived at Fort Snelling for a short time.

When Scott returned to Missouri, a slave state, and his "master" died, he petitioned the Supreme Court to become a free man, since he had lived in Minnesota, which was free territory. The following Dred Scott Decision of 1857 turned him down, and helped lead up to the Civil War.

"When This Cruel War is Over," the most popular song in the Union during the Civil War, ties in with Minnesota's sacrifice of so many men during the war.

In 2008, the Friends of Fort Snelling and Bob Waltz (editor of Inside Bluegrass), with a grant from the Sesquicentennial Commission, published "The Minnesota Heritage Songbook," a collection of folk songs either collected in or illustrating the history of Minnesota. Curtis & Loretta recorded 13 of the songs on the accompanying CD (the book was sent to schools and state parks across the state). The duo performed these songs at the Minnesota Heritage Songbook book release concert at Fort Snelling as well as at the Sesquicentennial Bigtop Chautauqua Tent at the Minnesota State Fair.

Curtis & Loretta have performed together professionally for around 30 years. They have toured across the U.S., performing at folk festivals, folk concert halls, universities and on national and regional public radio.

Admission to the concert is $12 in advance or $15 the day of the concert. Student admission is $5 anytime.