The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music news: Wisconsin Public Radio host Jim Fleming to sign off on Thursday morning with a last hour of live music

December 1, 2009

By Jacob Stockinger

After 40 years, Wisconsin Public Radio host Jim Fleming (below right) — best known as the mellifluous and reassuring voice of “Morning Classics” that airs from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on weekdays — will be signing off and going into retirement this Thursday morning.

So on Thursday morning at 10 a.m. you might want to tune into WERN FM 88.7 in the Madison area. That’s when something special is planned as a farewell and tribute. (Actually, you might want to start Fleming’s last day on the air when does — at 9 a.m. It will be interesting to see what choices he has made to play on his last day.)

Maybe you will also want to leave a retirement message for Jim here as a Comment or, using the link below, at the WPR web site:

For the last hour of Fleming’s show — this Thursday, Dec. 3, from 10 a.m. until  11 a.m. — his retirement will be celebrated LIVE and on the air with live music performed in Studio One in Vilas Hall on the UW-Madison campus, where WPR’s “The Midday” does its live performances with touring and local musicians.

On the program of local performers are the husband-and-wife  duo-pianists and singing partners Bill Lutes (himself a former host and music director of WPR)  and Martha Fischer. They will perform some Schumann music for four-hands (“Pictures from the East”?) and some Gilbert and Sullivan songs, according to a source at the station.

Also performing will be Sila (pronounced Sheila) Shigley (a longtime WPR volunteer and member of the local a cappella singing trio Navan that sings in Gaelic) and bagpiper Michael Dargan. Celtic music is on the menu.

“Jim’s a talented and knowledgeable classical music host and we’ll certainly miss him for that reason,” said “Midday” hosts Norman Gilliland and Stephanie Elkins. “On a personal basis, we’re losing a good friend and colleague.”

Gilliland added, “Over the years, Jim and I have spent a lot of time together behind the scenes. I’ll miss those daily conversations. His leaving iss going to be a big loss.”

WPR music director Cheryl Dring will sub for Fleming, but that so far no permanent plans have been made or changes planned, according to WPR officials.

Fleming’s retirement is a loss indeed, a loss for all of us who care for and about classical music.

Over the years, Fleming — himself a musician who sang in the Madison-based Festival Choir — has been the voice of “Chapter a Day,”To The Best of Our Knowledge” and many holiday specials.

Fleming has received awards for his role in several Wisconsin Public Radio projects including an Ohio State Award for the Memorial Day Radio Special “Guernica” in 1976, and a 2004 Peabody Award for “To the Best of Our Knowledge” in 2005.  Fleming also received the University of Wisconsin-Extension Award for Excellence in 1994.

If you want to know more about the knowledgeable, friendly and ear-easy Fleming, here is a link to a story that appeared last month in the Wisconsin State Journal:

I suspect I speak for many when I offer a deeply felt Thank You to Jim for the many years of service and the countless pleasurable hours I have spent in my home, at work and in the car listening to him bring me the great music of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Chopin and so many other favorite composers.

Fleming’s and Wisconsin Public Radio Radio’s devotion to great classical music is not why I came to Wisconsin first from the East Coast and then from Hawaii. But it is certainly a reason why I have stayed here for so long — and loved my stay.

Thank you, Jim, for bringing beauty to so many of us every day for so many days. And good luck to you in what we all hope is a great retirement.

Posted in Classical music

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