The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music notes: Wisconsin Public Radio’s Cheryl Dring completes her first week as host of ‘Morning Classics.’ She’s a keeper.

December 14, 2009

By Jacob Stockinger

A little over a week ago, we said goodbye to Jim Fleming (below right), the longtime radio host of the weekday “Morning Classics” who had worked for Wisconsin Public Radio for 40 years or more and done so many jobs. (In the Madison area, tune in from 9 to 11 a.m. Monday through Friday on WERN  88.7 FM.)

Fleming’s final and farewell show, with a live audience for live performances — of Mozart, Schumann, Gilbert and Sullivan, and Celtic music –was a good send-off. Everyone was gracious and feelings were kept to good wishes and not dramatic overstatement.

Then the next morning, a week ago last Friday, into the studio to take Fleming’s place walked Cheryl Dring (below).

Dring is the music director at Wisconsin Public Radio. And now she is filling in for Fleming, though I have not yet heard word about whether she is temporary or permanent.

So, how has she done so far?

I think very well.

Dring has a pleasant and straight-forward voice and presentation. She does have the reassuring male lower register that made Fleming’s voice so mellifluous — short of hormones and a sex change, how could she? — but neither is she screechy high and she has outstanding diction. She is friendly without the pretense of being an intimate friend or a lecturing mentor.

Her music picks are a good compromise between tried-and-true masters and works and somewhat more adventurous fare. Yet she does not fall into the off-beat and quirky, and she especially seems to appreciate how the Baroque and Classical composers are particularly welcome to the ear in the morning hours.

Most of all, I like her presentation. She doesn’t try to be cutesy with strained puns and personal asides or forced attempts at humor. She gives some historical background or context, but with her, the music’s the thing.

That’s as it should be.

And unlike one particular host at WPR, Dring is not given to teasing her listeners by leaving out information about the work, composer or performers and letting you guess about what you are hearing. (Sure, if you are in doubt, you can always check the on-line listings — but NOT until the next day if you remember to. Something about federal law.)

All in all, Fleming is a hard act to follow — but Cheryl Dring has done well.

Of course, just as I write this I learn that she will be on vacation this week, visiting family and friends in New Orleans. (Good for her! Good food, good music and good times are all linked.)

But as an avid fan of Wisconsin Public Radio and especially “Morning Classics,” I look forward to her return.

My one piece of advice: Incorporate a half-hour, or even just 15 minutes, of new releases — or at least recent releases — each morning. Some of us can’t hear the Friday morning new releases show or the Sunday afternoon new releases show. Besides, it adds a newsy element and breaks up the routine and predictability. Plus, it keeps classical fans looking forward to being informed of what they may want to acquire for themselves at a time when so many record and book stores (Exclusive Company, Borders, Barnes & Noble) have cut back on classical music stock, whether old releases or new ones.

Want to know more?

Here’s a link to an interview with Dring:

And here’s a link to Facebook where you can be her “friend” and see some of her personal enthusiasms:

Anyway, what do you look for in a morning classical music radio host?

Is Cheryl Dring fulfilling those wishes?

What do you think of the job she is doing so far?

What advice would you give her?

The Ear wants to hear.

And so, I expect, does Dring.

Posted in Classical music

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