The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Longtime NPR host Robert Siegel brought his love of classical music to “All Things Considered.” Here are 10 interviews and some background to mark his recent retirement

January 8, 2018
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By Jacob Stockinger

If you are a fan of “All Things Considered” on National Public Radio – and The Ear certainly is – you probably already know not to listen for veteran host Robert Siegel (below) on this afternoon’s broadcast.

Or any other ATC broadcast in the future.

That is because last Friday afternoon Siegel had his last sign-off. He retired after spending 41 years with NPR – the first 10 as a reporter, including as a London correspondent, and the last 31 as a host of the prize-winning afternoon news and features magazine “All Things Considered,” which, by the way, was created by Jack Mitchell, who later came to teach Mass Communications at the UW-Madison.

There will be much to miss about Siegel. His qualities included a calming voice, a ready laugh, fairness and objectivity, a convivial studio presence and sharp but respectful interviewing skills.

One of the things that The Ear hopes will survive Siegel’s departure is the much-needed public attention he brought to classical music, which he loved and which the other media today so often ignore.

The mark his retirement, NPR classical music blogger Tom Huizenga compiled a list of 10 important interviews that Siegel conducted over the years. Then he put links to those interviews on an NPR blog.

Huizenga also got Siegel to open up about the formative influences that sparked his love for classical music. They included his young love for the Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 73, by Ludwig van Beethoven — the so-called “Emperor” Concerto, which you can hear played by Alfred Brendel in the YouTube video at the bottom.

Siegel went on to cover big stars like superstar soprano Renee Fleming; medium stars like violinist Gil Shaham (below), who performs with the Madison Symphony Orchestra this month; and smaller and new stars like the iconoclast harpsichord virtuoso Mahan Esfahani.

He also covered a U.S. Army rifleman who performed a violin recital for Churchill and Truman, and the role that music by Beethoven played in Communist China.

And there are many, many more, for which classical music and we listeners owe a debt to Siegel.

Check it out and enjoy! Here is a link to that posting on the Deceptive Cadence blog:

https://www.npr.org/sections/deceptivecadence/2018/01/05/575906745/10-interviews-celebrating-robert-siegels-love-for-classical-music


Classical music: Christmas is Tuba Time. Who knew?

December 18, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

It’s the holidays.

At a time when so much music for the holiday season is predictable from year to year, here is a kind of music that is unusual – at least to The Ear.

Apparently, for some years now Christmas has been a time to celebrate the tuba (below) worldwide.

tuba

The music they play isn’t classical, but it is seasonal. And it is a good excuse to celebrate and orchestral instrument and member of the brass family that too often goes largely unnoticed.

If you go to YouTube and type in TubaChristmas, you can find samples of TubaChristmas celebrations and concerts in Chicago, Portland, Rochester, Kansas City, Boston, Baltimore, New York City, Washington, D.C. and many more.

The Ear hasn’t heard if there is a TubaChristmas celebration in Madison or anywhere else in Wisconsin. If there is, please leave word in the COMMENT section.

Below is a photo from Getty Images of more than 400 tuba players – called “tubists” in the profession – who gathered in Chicago for 2003 Tuba Christmas. (In the YouTube video at the bottom, you can hear tubas playing carols at the Palmer House hotel in Chicago in 2013.)

400-plus-tubas-at-tubachicago-in-2003-getty-images

Maybe you knew about it, but The Ear sure didn’t, even though he should have.

And in case you didn’t either, here is a link to the story that aired this past week on “All Things Considered” for National Public Radio (NPR):

http://www.npr.org/2016/12/16/505878391/at-tubachristmas-an-underdog-instrument-shines

It is a fine story about the event – complete with some tuba music — along with its origin and some background about the tuba.

Enjoy!

And let us now what you think of the tuba and of TubaChristmas.

The Ear wants to hear.

http://www.npr.org/2016/12/16/505878391/at-tubachristmas-an-underdog-instrument-shines


Classical music: For returning students, here is a lesson in the success of persistence

August 24, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

Summer is close to over.

You can feel it the cooler morning air.

You can see it in the earlier sunsets.

And you can notice it with the return of students of the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus as well as Edgewood College and other public and private schools.

Recently, NPR – National Public Radio — hosted a story, which Jeff Lunden first reported on All Things Considered, on its Deceptive Cadence blog about the success of persistence.

The Ear won’t say more other than it involves a timpani student, five tries, the Tanglewood Festival at the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and a stage crew.

It’s not a particularly important musical story. But it has a lot of human interest and some lessons through the personal experience of Miles Salerni (in a photo at bottom, by Hillary Scott for the Boston Symphony Orchestra).

Here is a link:

http://www.npr.org/sections/deceptivecadence/2016/08/11/489621299/if-at-first-or-fourth-you-dont-succeed-join-the-tanglewood-stage-crew

miles salerni hillary-scott- BSO

 


Classical music: Madison Opera announces its 2016-17 season. It’s both reassuringly classical and adventurously jazzy

June 2, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

Even as it prepares for the annual Opera in the Park gala on July 23, the Madison Opera has announced its 2016-17 season, which is a combination of both the classic and the adventurous, even the intriguingly experimental.

http://www.madisonopera.org/performances-2016-2017/

Here is a list of productions with links to more details about the productions, cast, tickets and related events:

Nov. 4 and 6 in Overture Hall: “Romeo and Juliet” by Charles Gounod (below) with conductor John DeMain and members of the Madison Symphony Orchestra:

http://www.madisonopera.org/performances-2016-2017/romeo-and-juliet/

Charles Gounod

Feb. 10 and 12 in the Capitol Theater: “Charlie Parker’s Yardbird” by Swiss composer Daniel Schnyder (below) with John DeMain and members of the MSO:

http://www.madisonopera.org/performances-2016-2017/charlie-parkers-yardbird/

Daniel Schnyder

April 21 and 23 in Overture Hall: “The Magic Flute” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (below) with guest conductor Gary Thor Wedow:

http://www.madisonopera.org/performances-2016-2017/the-magic-flute/

Mozart old 1782

The operas by Gounod and Mozart are well-known staples of the repertoire.

But “Charlie Parker’s Yardbird” is new and will be a local, perhaps even regional, premiere and one of the earliest repeat performances of the new work.

The Ear thinks early Bravos are in order for such contemporary crossover programming that also focuses on race, diversity and African American culture. It also seems like a natural choice for John DeMain, who won a Grammy for the first all-black production of George Gershwin’s opera “Porgy and Bess.”

The new opera opened recently to fine reviews at the Apollo Theater in Harlem in New York City. (Below, in a photo by Dominic Mercier for Opera Philadelphia, is tenor Lawrence Brownlee in the title role of alto saxophonist and jazz great Charlie Parker.)

Tenor Lawrence Brownlee in Charlie Parker's Yardbird CR Dominic Mercier for Opera Philadelphia

Here is a link to a background story about the work that appeared on the Deceptive Cadence blog of National Public Radio, or NPR, which first broadcast it on All Things Considered:

http://www.npr.org/sections/deceptivecadence/2016/03/31/472431884/opera-and-jazz-mingle-in-charlie-parkers-yardbird

Here are members of the world premiere production talking about the work:

And here is a trailer with samples of the music and singing:


Classical music: Meet Zuhal Sultan, the founder of the Iraqi Youth Orchestra

October 17, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

Wouldn’t it be nice for a change to hear good news from Iraq?

Usually we hear about sectarian violence, suicide bombings and widespread government corruption.

So for a change of pace, meet Zuhal Sultan (below), the woman who founded the Iraqi Youth Orchestra.

Zuhal Sultan

Her words remind us of what must have been in the mind of Marvin Rabin when he founded the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra, which is about to celebrate its 50th anniversary.

Sultan’s words about the importance of music education and music performance have meaning not only to Iraq and other nations at war but also to us.

Not that she and the Iraqi Youth Orchestra (below) don’t continue to face major obstacles, especially from The Islamic State (or ISIS or ISIL) as they were preparing for a tour. (You can hear the orchestra during a festival in Scotland in a YouTube video at the bottom. Be sure to check out the comments by readers and listeners as wells by Zuhal Sultan.)

Iraqi Youth Orchestra 2

But NPR, or National Public Radio, has done a public service by offering us a fine interview with her, by showing harmony amid conflict.

Here is a link to the story done by the reporter and new host of “All Things ConsideredAri Shapiro. You can read the set up piece, but you a should also listen to the audio:

http://www.npr.org/sections/deceptivecadence/2015/09/28/443214847/-we-need-to-be-human-zuhal-sultan-on-starting-the-iraqi-youth-orchestra


Classical music: The Minnesota Orchestra will play again – at last — because the long lockout is over. Is this good news in general for classical music? New York Times critic Anthony Tommasini sees optimism amid crises as a lesson of the past year.

January 17, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

By now you have probably heard the good news:

The lockout of the Minnesota Orchestra (below, playing with its Grammy-nominated conductor Osmo Vanska who has resigned) is over. It was ended by an agreement, long sought after and long disputed, between the musicians and the administration.

Minnesota Orchestra with Osmo Vanska

Here are several stories about the ending of the unfortunate situation that even led the superb  and acclaimed conductor Osmo Vanska to resign. (You can hear Osmo Vanska’s farewell speech in a YouTube video at the bottom,  in which he plays with the musicians an performs the “Valse Triste” or Sad Waltz of his fellow Finn Jean Sibelius as a final encore. The sadness of him, the musicians, the audience and the music is palpable.)

The first is a fine summary story from NPR’s outstanding blog “Deceptive Cadence”:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/01/15/262717374/strike-up-the-band-minnesota-orchestra-lockout-ends

And here is a reaction story from NPR about what’s next that “All Things Considered“:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2014/01/15/262788971/the-minnesota-orchestras-labor-dispute-is-over-whats-next

Here is a story from The New York Times about the same situation followed by another summary:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/15/us/minnesota-orchestra-contract-ends-long-lockout.html?_r=0

http://www.redwoodtimes.com/nationandworldnews/ci_24917631/how-minnesota-became-scene-classical-music-showdown

Of course, the Minnesota Orchestra is just one of several American orchestras that faced serious financial crises. You may recall that last year saw problems for other orchestras, and the New York City Opera (below, with its final production, the world premiere of “Anna Nicole”) even went bankrupt.

anna nicole opera

Yet one longtime and perceptive observer of the classical scene – New York Times senior critic Anthony Tommasini – see good news amid the rules and dire predictions.

Here is a column he wrote recently about “The Lessons of 2013” for classical music. In his column he doesn’t downplay the many difficulties, which mostly concern finances and smaller, aging audiences. But he does suggest that if you take a longer view, the future of classical music doesn’t look quite so bleak or dismal.

Read it and see what you think and whether you agree. Then tell The Ear by sending in your remarks in the COMMENT section of this blog:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/09/arts/music/lessons-in-a-year-of-crises.html?_r=0

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Classical music: Learn about – and listen to Rafal Blechacz –- the talented Polish pianist who is the 2014 winner of the unusual Irving S. Gilmore Foundation. Plus, Trevor Stephenson will play a house concert of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Bartok this Sunday afternoon.

January 10, 2014
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REMINDER: Madison keyboardist Trevor Stephenson writes: “On this Sunday afternoon, Jan. 12, at 3 p.m., I’ll play a fortepiano house concert at my home at 5729 Forsythia Place on the west side of music ranging from Haydn to Bartok. (I know that Bartok is not usual fare on the fortepiano—but the other day I was reading through his Romanian Folk Dances at the fortepiano and was simply stunned by how energetic they sounded—since the style of these comes largely from cimbalom playing (Romanian hammer dulcimer, and the fortepiano is really a hammer dulcimer in a tuxedo). So this really makes perfect sense. The concert will also feature Mozart’s charming variations on “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” Beethoven’s “Pathetique” Sonata, Op. 13, two Mazurkas by Chopin, and Haydn’s waggish Sonata No. 23 in F major. Sweet and savory treats, drinks, and will be wine served. Admission is $35. Reservations are required: email trevor@trevorstephenson.com or (608) 238-6092.

House music 2 in the round

By Jacob Stockinger

It happens once every four years.

The contestants for the unusual Gilmore competition,which is based in Kalamazoo, Michigan, for classical pianists don’t even know that they are in the running. Unlike other major competitions like the Tchaikovsky, the Van Cliburn, the Arthur Rubinstein and the Chopin, in the Gilmore the anonymous judges follow an individual’s career over a period of time and then choose the “winner.”

This year’s winner in the polish pianist Rafal Blechacz (below), who has already won the Chopin competition at 20 – the first Polish pianist to do so in 20 years, he also took all the gold medals in individual categories and was so good that no second prize was awarded. He has recorded half a dozen acclaimed CDs of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Debussy, Karol Szymanowski and Claude Debussy and of course Chopin for Deutsche Grammophon.

Rafal Blechacz DG

The year’s recipient has been all over the airwaves and the web, so here is everything you may want to know about Rafal Blechacz plus his inaugural concert as the winner that was streamed live Wednesday night by famed radio station WQXR-FM in New York City, which then archived it for those of who missed the live event.

Here is the official announcement:

http://www.thegilmore.org

Here is an candid and cordial interview done by Tom Huizenga and NPR’s Deceptive Cadence blog that was broadcast on “All Things Considered”:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2014/01/06/260276435/cachet-and-cash-for-rafa-blechacz-named-2014-gilmore-artist

Here is the announcement in a story in The New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/08/arts/music/rafal-blechacz-is-chosen-for-gilmore-artist-award.html

Archived video of his sold-out concert Wednesday at the Greene Space that can be found at WQXR. No one listed the program even though it was live-streamed – but instead announced the works AFTER they were played.

That is too teasing for my taste, whether it is done on WQXR or on Wisconsin Public Radio. Can we please have the pieces to be played up front before the performance and then again after the performance?

The program included a Chopin waltz (the soulful valse triste in A Minor, Op. 34, No 2) and the two Op. 40 Polonaises the “Military” Polonaise and one in C minor;  the Largo slow movement Beethoven’s Sonata in D, Op. 10, No. 3, and the scherzo from the same composer’s Sonata in A Major, Op. 2, No. 2;  the spirited first movement from Mozart’s Sonata in D Major, K. 311; and Debussy’s “Clair de Lune.”

All works except the Debussy and the Chopin waltz are available on recordings. (But you can hear a YouTube video of Blechacz playing the three waltzes of Op. 64, including the famous “Minute” Waltz, at the bottom.)

In the broadcast, Dan Gustin, head of the Gilmore Foundation, speaks about the unusual award, as does the last 2010 winner Kirill Gerstein, who uses Skype. Here is the link:

http://www.wqxr.org/#!/story/webcast-2014-gilmore-artist-award-announcement/

Some of the Gilmore winners seem to disappoint and peter out. I keep expecting to hear big things from the very talented Argentinian Ingrid Fliter, for example, but no such luck. Rafal Blechacz, on the other hand, seems more likely to follow the path of  Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes, who is perhaps the Gilmore winner who has maintained the highest profile and had the biggest career.


Classical Music: Wisconsin Public Radio’s music app is first-rate and gets five stars. The Ear has it, and so should you. Plus, a viola duo performs a FREE concert of music by Bach, Bartok and Stamitz on Friday.

March 7, 2013
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ALERT: This Friday from 12:15 to 1 p.m., the weekly FREE Friday Noon Musicale at the First Unitarian Society, 900 University Drive, Alexis Carreon (below top, the personnel manager of the Madison Symphony  Orchestra who also plays viola with the MSO) and Marie Pauls (below bottom), with pianist Stacy Fehr Regehr, play duets for viola by J.S. Bach (Brandenburg Concerto No. 6), Bela Bartok and Carl Stamitz.

Alexis Carreon

Marie Pauls

By Jacob Stockinger

Increasingly Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR) is one of the few remaining public radio stations in the U.S that still highly values classical music and devotes many, many hours per day to it.

WPR Logo

And now if you have smart phone or an iPod Touch, you can take WPR with you.

True, you need wi-fi -– not just regular FM or AM radio reception. But wi-fi is increasingly prevalent and popular in both public and private places.

This app (below) helps solve the problem that I have always had with Apple and its FM radio capability, which for some odd reason, Apple includes only on the iPod Nano right now, not on the more expensive and fancier iPhone or iPod Touch, even though the hardware and software required for FM reception can’t be that big or difficult to include. (And how about getting a photo card slot on the smaller Airbook? Seems to The Ear like a bad and short-sighted decision on Apple’s part.)

Anyway, now if you have to interrupt a broadcast to go grocery shopping or do some other task, you can take WPR with you.

Wisconsin Public Radio app

I have spent some time experimenting with the app.

It is generally clear and easy to use, although the “program” screen didn’t list titles at one point, and then did.

The “Live” screen is, I find the most useful. It features the regular channel for classical music and news; the Ideas channel for talk and call-ins; and the 24-hours a day digital music channel. It has a pause, store and catch-up function. And the app also allows you to explore WPR schedules, state news stories and archives.

I used it while waiting in a dentist’s office. Also, recently I used it on a bus to Chicago and then once I was in Chicago when I couldn’t find something else I wanted. It worked great for not only music but also for “The Midday” stories, quizzes and guests with Norman Gilliland as well as “To the Best of Our Knowledge” and Michael Feldman. It also worked for bringing me  syndicated programs from National Public Radio: “Morning Edition,” “Weekend Edition” and “All Things Considered,” to say nothing of ‘The Writer’s Almanac” with Garrison Keillor; “Fresh Air” with Terry Gross; “Exploring Music” with Bill McGlaughlin (below); and “From the Top” with Christopher O’Riley.

Bill McGlaughlin at  microphone

You can download the WPR app for FREE at the iTunes stores for MAC-based devices and at Google Play for Android-based smart phones.

Go ahead, give it a try. You can always delete it you don’t like or it doesn’t meet your expectations.

But I am betting that you will like it and that it will surpass your expectations. The Ear gives the app five stars out of five. If you use it, let me know what you think of the results.

Oh, and there are other radio apps I have that I used to stream classical music over the Internet.

One is the famed WQXR station in New York City. It features live broadcasts from Carnegie Hall that you can also access visa NPR’s blog “Deceptive Cadence.”

WQXR app

Closer to home, you can also try the app for WFMT in Chicago, the home base of Bill McGlaughlin.

wfmt app

Other public radio stations have specialized programs for vocal music, opera, piano music, music history and so on. You can check them out at the various app stores.

Are there radio apps you especially recommend?

The Ear wants to hear – and so, I suspect, do many of his readers.

Let all of us know in the Comments section.

 


Classical Music: Is Wisconsin Public Radio trying to cut back on classical music to expand news and talk? Look at the schedule changes in its weekday lineup that start Monday, and decide for yourself.

January 11, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger

Will all the schedule tinkering by Wisconsin Public Radio ever stop or slow down? And what does it all mean? Could WPR’s New and Classical Network (WERN 88.7 FM is the Madison area) be moving bit by bit from classical music to news, talk and popular music and more towards the programming on the AM Ideas Network?

Well, one can hope not, but I fear so. The future will tell and I hope I am wrong. But it sure seems like a good time to raise the question — especially given the remarks at bottom of this posting by WPR’s new director Mike Crane about how easy it is to find alternative sources to radio for listening to music.

WPR Logo

True, Wisconsin Public Radio already boasts more hours of classical music programming than many, maybe even most, public radio stations around the U.S. And we who live in the area and state are deeply grateful for that.

But could it be that after a very successful year of fundraising, which now WPR even trumpets often in ads, that WPR is adopting the salami tactic of gradually reducing its music programming by cutting away thin slices of classical music in order to expand news, talk shows (like the call-in Joy Cardin Show, below) and more popular forms of music?

joy cardin at wpr studio

It sure seems like a solid possibility, given some of the new schedule changes that start Monday and that put one hour LESS of classical music per weekday on the air.

And that comes in the wake of other recent schedules changes that cut back on early morning classical music on the weekends in order to add in “Whad’Ya Know Radio Hour” with Madison celebrity Michael Feldman (below) and “To the Best of Our Knowledge” – not what I like to wake up to. Give me music!

Michael Feldman

Is all this happening because of budget cuts? Staff cuts or staffing changes? Reducing on-duty late afternoon and night hours for local hosts and engineers? It would be good to hear some reasons along with certain of the changes, especially the complete repeating, and then some, of “All Things Considered.” (I love ATC, but enough is enough and I fear somebody has been doing too much focus-grouping with the wrong group.)

It seems like each year brings too much tinkering. In scheduling, predictability would seem a plus, something to strive for in order to build reliable listening habits and popular support.

We’ve been down this road before, many years ago when WPR tried to nix the Saturday afternoon live broadcasts from The Metropolitan Opera (below). The public protested strongly, and WPR backed down. But that was two or three directors ago before the affable Mike Crane, and it took place in a different political climate or context.

metropolitan opera 1

These days, many state and national politicians, especially Republicans, want to defund and privatize NPR. They want to make public radio not an alternative to mainstream commercial radio, as it was originally intended to be, but as a competitor with it. Bad idea, says The Ear.

Of course, we all have our personal preferences. I would also like to hear “Exploring Music” during the regular hours of classical music programming; the always entertaining and enlightening “Fresh Air” interviews by Terry Gross (below) interviews seem a greta fit for mid-afternoon when I am most alert: and music rather than talk seems better background during dinner. What are yours?

terry gross Fresh Air

Anyway, here is a summary of the changes, according to a WPR press release:

“Starting, Monday, Jan. 14, 2013, Wisconsin Public Radio will make some changes to the schedule on its News and Classical Music stations to provide better service to listeners.

“On weekdays, the afternoon news block will expand until 7 p.m. to provide news for listeners who commute later in the day.

“On Saturday evenings, WPR will extend “Higher Ground” with Madisonian and Edgewood College professor Jonathan Overby (below) an additional hour, to 11 p.m. (Editor’s note: The show features ethnic and world music.)

Jonathan Overby in radio studio

“These changes include an extra hour of NPR’s “All Things Considered” in the afternoon. Currently, the popular NPR news program runs from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays. The new schedule extends the program from 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. to help more listeners stay connected to the latest local, national and global news stories that affect their lives and communities.

“The afternoon news block will conclude with “Marketplace” from 6:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.

“The additional hour of news on weekday evenings will shift other programs later in the evening. “Fresh Air with Terry Gross,” which currently airs at 6 p.m., will now air from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.

“Exploring Music” with Bill McGlaughlin (below top),” which currently airs at 7 p.m., will now air from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. “Overnight Classical Music” with Peter Van De Graaff (below bottom) will start at 9 p.m.     

Bill McGlaughlin at  microphone

Peter van de Graaff color mug

“Here are News & Classical Music Schedule Changes at a Glance:

“No programs are being cancelled or replaced with these changes — only the scheduled start times are changing. While we are making slight reductions to our music hours, we remain committed to both classical music and jazz programming. You can find more information about these changes, along with answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) here.”

New Weekday Schedule

3 p.m. – “All Things Considered”

6:30 p.m. – “Marketplace”

7 p.m. – “Fresh Air”

8 p.m.  – “Exploring Music”

9 p.m. – “Classical Music with Peter Van de Graaff”*

New Saturday Night Schedule

7 p.m. – “Higher Ground”**

11 p.m. – “Jazz with Bob Parlocha”

On Friday evenings, “Exploring Music” will be followed at 9 p.m. by “Riverwalk” and “Jazz with Bob Parlocha.”

** Listeners to WHAD – WPR’s Ideas Network station in Milwaukee – will also hear an additional hour of “Higher Ground” on Saturday nights. However, the program will be followed by “Tent Show Radio” at 11 p.m. on that station only.

“Let Us Know What You Think” 

“We at Wisconsin Public Radio are excited about the new schedule and hope that you tune in and let us know what you think. Please listen and share your thoughts with us by emailing listener@wpr.org or by calling Audience Services at 1-800-747-7444.”

Please let them know what you do indeed think.

And please let me and other readers and WPR listeners know too.

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music: Is it a Christmas miracle? Monastic chant outsells “Fifty Shades of Grey” music compilation as well as Taylor Swift and Alicia Keyes as Benedictine nuns from Kentucky top Billboard’s Classical Traditional chart for one whole month with “Advent at Ephesus.” Hear the NPR interview with the head sister Mother Cecilia and selections on public radio stations on Christmas Day. Plus, listen to different version;s of Bach’s “Christmas Oratorio” this afternoon on Wisconsin Public Radio.

December 23, 2012
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ALERT: Wisconsin Public Radio host Marika Fischer Hoyt, an accomplished professional violist who plays both baroque and modern viola, will do something The Ear loves to hear; a comparative listening session that samples different interpretations of a great work. Today from 2 to 4 p.m. on WPR (88.7 FM in the Madison area), Fisher Hoyt will sample six different versions of J.S Bach‘s magnificent “Christmas Oratorio” — The Ear’s favorite holiday choral work that too often gets overlooked in favor of Handel’s “Messiah.” I say: Thank You, Marika, and Tune in, listeners, as part of a Happy Holiday!

MarikaFischerHoyt

By Jacob Stockinger

Still looking for a last-minute music gift for the holidays? You might consider the following unusual item, which comes to The Ear thanks to the publicist at Decca Records and which seems to mark a renewed interest in medieval chant that also swept the US in the 1960s and 1970s.

Dec. 19, 2012 – (New York, NY) — The Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles in Missouri continue their reign at the top of Billboard magazine’s Classical Traditional Chart for the fourth straight week in a row, holding the No. 1 position heading into the Christmas holiday with their recording, “Advent at Ephesus.”

Advent At Ephesus CD cover

American Public Media’s “Performance Today” calls “Advent at Ephesus” “remarkable,” and has featured the recording twice on their program in December, with additional music airing on Christmas Day.  Hailed as one of America’s most popular classical music radio programs, the show has more than 1.3 million weekly listeners, and is heard on more than 260 stations around the country. To find stations carrying the program click here: http://performancetoday.org/stations.

People Magazine recently featured the Nuns on their “People Pinboard” page which highlights “celebrity news, photos and trends” in their Dec. 17th issue, noting that “Advent for Ephesus” “outsells the “Fifty Shades of Grey” classical anthology (below) that author EL James listened to while writing the bestselling trilogy. Can it really be true that God outsells sex — at least at Christmas?

Fifty Shades of Grey CD

The Salt Lake Tribune says the disc is “divinely beautiful,” while The St. Louis Post-Dispatch aptly notes the album is “quietly cutting through the blare and noise of commercial Christmas” and “an ideal remedy for jingle-itis.”

Mother Cecilia of the Benedictines of Mary was also recently featured on NPR’s “All Things Considered” following their No 1 debut, making waves across the Internet and resulting in their record shooting to the Top 5 of both Barnes & Noble.com and Amazon.com rankings, ahead of such superstars as Taylor Swift, One Direction, Katy Perry and Alicia Keys.

To hear the “All Things Considered” story, click here:

http://www.npr.org/2012/11/30/166260517/nuns-top-50-shades-in-classical-music-smackdown

nuns CD benedictined

“ADVENT AT EPHESUS” features 16 tracks including traditional English and Latin hymns, polyphony, Gregorian chants, medieval harmonies, and one original work from the sisters themselves.  The record represents a rare and often forgotten approach — one that focuses on music celebrating the quiet, introspective anticipation of the Nativity that is the foundation of the Advent season, celebrating the four preceding Sundays leading up to Christmas.

nuns singing ephsus

Founded in 1995 and hailing from Missouri, the sisters are young, contemplative and extremely musical.  They do not set foot beyond their Northwest rolling farmland, focusing solely on living an austere, yet joyful life set apart from the world.  Working on their farm and mostly living off the land, they sing together eight times a day as part of their daily monastic schedule, lifting their hearts to God through music.


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