The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music Q&A: Creator and host Anders Yocom talks about Wisconsin Public Radio’s “The Sunday Brunch,” which will mark its one-year anniversary this coming Sunday morning from 10 a.m. to noon.

August 15, 2013
2 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

For the most part, the classical music you hear on Wisconsin Public Radio is demarcated by a time of day and the particular host or programmer. Only occasionally does a unifying theme emerge -– say, American composers and American classical music on the Fourth of July or Thanksgiving; or holiday music on Christmas.

However, one major exception is the weekly program called “The Sunday Brunch,” which airs every Sunday from 10 a.m. to noon. (Then the program segues into New Releases with the same host.)

brunch

“The Sunday Brunch” is the brain-child of Anders Yocom, who hosts it and adds his congenial commentaries. The amiable and resonant-voiced Yocom is familiar to Madison audiences in many ways. He is the welcoming voice at concerts by the Madison Symphony Orchestra in Overture Hall and he has served as the narrator in various pieces by local musical groups. (Below is Yocom narrating works by Bela Bartok at a concert by the Sound Ensemble Wisconsin — SEW — at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery.)

SEW Anders Yocum as Bartok

This Sunday’s broadcast will mark and celebrate the one-year anniversary of “The Sunday Brunch.” The play list will feature 17 selections of music in all kinds of musical genres, from a cappella singing to symphonies and concertos to guitar etudes.

The well-known composers on the play list include Cesar Franck, Alexander Borodin, Franz Liszt, Arcangelo Corelli, Antonin Dvorak, Philip Glass, Richard Wagner, Antonio Vivaldi, Franz Schubert, Gabriel Faure, Richard Rodgers and of course Johann Sebastian Bach, for whom Yocom has a special affinity. The less well-known composers to be included are Antonio Salieri, Benjamin Godard, Alessandro Marcello, Etienne-Nicholas Mehul, Giaches de Wert and Giulio Rigondi.

Anders Yocom (below, in a photo by Jim Gill) recently answered an email Q&A for The Ear:

anders yocom studio  head shot cr Jim Gill

How and when did you come up with the idea for “The Sunday Brunch,” and when did show first air?

I have been thinking about it for years, inspired by two classical radio hosts I like to listen to. I heard Carl Grapentine (below) every day on WFMT when I lived in Chicago, and more recently Emma Ayres (at bottom, in a YouTube video busking with her violin for flood relief) on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Classical in Australia on my Internet radio.

Carl Grapentine WFMT

Both people host weekday morning drive programs with short pieces interspersed with information about the day and stories about music. I marvel at the music selection. Each piece they choose, one after another, seems to perfectly fit the moment. I wanted to follow their lead. I proposed “The Sunday Brunchfour years ago and it began one year ago.

Is your show part of a larger strategy by Wisconsin Public Radio for attracting new listeners? What are the future plans for the show?

WPR is always looking for new programming ideas and ways to attract new listeners, not just over the air, but via the growing digital technologies as well.

I was hosting music on WPR last summer, and when Mike Arnold (below), WPR’s Associate Director, heard my proposal for “The Sunday Brunch,” he gave it an immediate green light.

Mike Arnold Wisconsin Public Radio

Next month, Peter Bryant (below), a veteran public broadcaster and music lover, will come from Kentucky to WPR as the Program Director of the News and Classical service. I look forward to his encouragement and guidance to make “The Sunday Brunch as good as it can be.

peter bryant

What are your goals for the show? And what has been the public or listener response so far?

What weekly time feels warmer or more enjoyable than Sunday morning? I think of families and friends at leisure, possibly before or after church; maybe enjoying their own Sunday breakfasts or brunches; or sipping their favorite hot beverages while reading their favorite publications.

My goal is to enhance whatever pleasant and relaxing Sunday environment they may have created for themselves. All of the response I have received so far has been very positive. And over the last year, we are seeing increased audiences on Sunday mornings.

People eating Brunch

How do you choose the music that is suitable for The Sunday Brunch? Do you look to celebrate certain special holidays like Mother’s Day or Father’s Day?

I like to play music that somehow addresses what listeners might be thinking about on given days such as holidays. I also call attention to music anniversaries.

In general, I select short pieces and excerpts from longer works, with varied instrumentation from solo to chamber to symphony, including choral and vocal, representing the music periods from Baroque to contemporary. Also, the fun and joy of an occasional movie or Broadway show tune.

The Sunday Brunch specializes in joyful or “feel good” music. I hasten to add that not all music meets these criteria, and much of the music I don’t play should be heard on radio. And it is played at other times every day on WPR.

You often use sections – single movements of a larger work. What do you say to critics of that practice?

So far, we have received not one complaint about the practice of playing single movements. And I agree that complete performances of symphonies, concertos and other works are often required for a satisfying listening experience.

I respect adherence to the artistic intent of composers. However, the composers of most of the works I play never envisioned electronically reproduced performances heard in kitchens, bedrooms, cars or any of the places where mobile devices can go.

At concerts, audiences focus on the music. For radio listeners, the music is there to accompany something else listeners are attending to. I wish we could ask Mozart what he thinks about one of his rondos playing through speakers in my kitchen, followed immediately by a Philip Glass waltz.

anders yocom studio wider cr Jim Gill

What else would you like to say or add about “The Sunday Brunch” or about Wisconsin Public Radio in general?

I am a music lover and listen to music nearly every waking hour. I am also a veteran radio listener and broadcaster. I look for ways to please people who like to have music in their environments, wherever they may be. “The Sunday Brunch is a unique approach, and I hope listeners like it as much as I like presenting it. I am grateful to WPR for supporting me in this effort.

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