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If it’s the Czech works you’re after, do not hesitate

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

For perusal scores, recordings and further information, contact: STONE CIRCLE MUSIC Steve Heitzeg, 1693 Ashland Avenue St. Paul, Minnesota 55104 USA phone: (651) 644-4700 fax: (651) 644-4500 email: sheitzeg@aol.com

Steve HEITZEG (b. 1959)
Voice of the Everglades (2000)
A Tribute to Marjory Stoneman Douglas
Words from The Everglades: River of Glass and Voice of the River by Marjory Stoneman Douglas
Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra/Joel Eric Suben
Clyde Butcher, narrator
Recorded Olomouc, 2002
STONE CIRCLE MUSIC SCM03 [17:00]


Voice of the Everglades might be described as a spoken documentary set to music, the subject being the preservation of the sub-tropical waterscape of Florida. You could perhaps think of it as a kind of conservationist Peter and the Wolf. Stylistically though it is closer to the narration genre of which Copland’s Lincoln Portrait is a good example. At first I wondered why topographically inappropriate visions of spectacular wooded mountains involuntarily came to my mind’s eye. Then I realised that I was being triggered by memories of Copland’s music evoking Appalachian country, and Trevor Jones’ music on the soundtrack of The Last of the Mohicans, magnificently filmed in the same part of the world. The means by which Heitzeg introduces specific Everglades connotations to his score are to incorporate nature sounds peculiar to the area such as the recorded vocalisations of Manatees, and percussive sounds made from the bones of the animals.

Be warned that the work lasts 17 minutes and that is all there is on the CD. 10% of the proceeds from sales go to The Friends of the Everglades, the organisation that the indomitable Marjory Stoneman Douglas helped form over half a century ago. It is her words that supply the narration, taken from her influential book, The Everglades: River of Grass (1947), together with Voice of the River. Heitzeg’s work is a specific tribute to her and her tireless work in attempting to preserve the last wilderness of its type in North America. Her prose has a poetic ring in its use of imagery. This is a considerable advantage and adds to the impact of the piece. The narrator is Clyde Butcher, a distinguished Florida photographer who has also worked in support of the cause. At the premiere of the work in Florida in November 2000, Butcher’s images of the Everglades were projected as a backdrop behind the orchestra.

Heitzeg is known for his concern for social and environmental issues as well as his sensitivity to nature themes. His music reflects this and is likely, as I imply above, to be accessible to a wide audience. In describing it I can do no worse than quote from the unsigned note in the booklet:

"Voice of the Everglades interweaves heroic fanfares ... and lyrical melodies, as in the elegant, recurring "Marjory Stoneman Douglas" theme and the bittersweet "River of Grass" theme. Here, the moods and the sounds of the Everglades are evoked: flute and clarinet play soaring lines in canon evoking turkey vultures in flight; violins play a fluid repeating pattern with the harp and celesta signifying the river of Grass itself; violas emulate insects by tapping their fingers on the wood of their instruments and percussionists shake actual sawgrass bundles and play rainsticks and sea shells."

Steve Heitzeg and Stone Circle Music have, in recording the work, taken a leaf out of Naxos’s book and gone to East Europe; in this case, to the Czech Republic. The Moravian Philharmonic under Joel Eric Suben make a convincing case for the work.

The battle for the Everglades is by no means won and there are still a number of forces, both commercial and public, conspiring to eat away at this precious nature reserve and its threatened wildlife. It is heartening that this conservationist, campaigning CD has come out at a time when there is such widespread global concern about the USA’s negative attitude to sustainability and related matters. The signals sent out by the current Administration through its refusal to cooperate on the Kyoto Agreement are unmistakable. At least Voice of the Everglades is a small signal that there are people who care about these things.

John Leeman



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