Folk Notes

Crazy Cold Beautiful

December 14, 2022

CRAZY COLD BEAUTIFUL is a song cycle about the history and culture of sled dog mushing in northern Minnesota. The composition is inspired by the contributions of 19th century Ojibwe mail carrier, John Beargrease, who worked with his sled dogs to deliver the mail between Two Harbors and Grand Marais during winter months from 1879 to 1900, and by the spirit of the annual John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon. The 16 songs in the cycle were composed by Robin Eschner, 2014 McKnight Foundation Visiting Composer with the American Composers Forum. They include settings of journal entries and letters written and mailed during the years John Beargrease was delivering mail, as well as words gathered from contemporary Minnesota mushers, sled builders, historians, and from people connected to the annual John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon.


I am delighted to let you know that the song cycle is, once again, scheduled to be performed here on the West Coast! There will be two opportunities to hear CRAZY COLD BEAUTIFUL, the John Beargrease Song Cycle, both on Saturday,JANUARY 28, 2023, at the Glaser Center in Santa Rosa. Choose between a 3:00 matinée, or a 7:00 evening performance. Each show will be about 75 minutes long, no intermission. There will be a reception following the evening show. Featured will be • the Acorn MusEcology Project expanded 40-voice chorus–Directed by Sarah Saulsbury Dupre–with chamber orchestra, and a children’s chorus from the Sonoma Earth School. Tickets available now, at We recommend you snap up your tickets soon, as both concerts sold out in 2016, when last the piece was performed.

We will be joined by many of the same performers from the 2016 ensemble, including Steve Adams – Saxophone and flute, Cory Wright – Clarinet and Sax, John Bidwell – dobro, John Tuttle – Upright Bass, Dennis Hysom – acoustic guitar and electric piano, J.T. Devine – acoustic guitar. As well we our excited to welcome aboard some new additions, including Scott Nygard – trumpet, Ned Haran – trombone, Jessica Ivry – Cello, Candy Girard – Violin, Yolande Adams – piano, Kendrick Freeman – drums, Ron Smith – narration, and Dave MacNab on electric guitar.

As many of you remember, my late husband, Bill Horvitz, was at the center of this music last time around. It is now coming up on six years since he died of pancreatic cancer. Missing him continues to be a big part of the daily journey. Returning to this music brings back fantastic memories of Bill’s flat-out enthusiasm for this project, his generous way of being in this world, his beautiful guitar playing, carrying us on… thank you Bill!

Bill admired the lyrical, solid, electric guitar playing of Dave MacNab. It is meaningful to have Dave onboard for these concerts.

Robin Eschner

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