The Autumnal Equinox is almost here — Fall begins on Friday, September 22. Baroque era composer and violinist Antonio Vivaldi famously honored each season with a Concerto, and an accompanying sonnet for each. In his AUTUMN Concerto, Vivaldi depicted “The peasant celebrates with song and dance the harvest safely gathered in,” “cooling breezes,” and hunters who “emerge at dawn, ready for the chase.”
This is a milestone week, and I’m feeling sentimental.
On September 6, 1987 I hosted my first radio program! It was a local show on WSHU Public Radio in my hometown of Fairfield, Connecticut and the manager there entrusted me with the responsibility and privilege of being a radio announcer despite my complete lack of experience. Armed with my newly minted degree in music, I had never even set foot in a radio station before that week, and it was truly seat-of-the-pants learning. “Sunday Morning Baroque” was born on that day.
Listening to the news about the effects of Hurricane Harvey this morning, I heard an inspiring story about a Houston businessman who reached out to his neighbors needing shelter. He has a large mattress store, so it was the perfect place for people who needed a safe, dry place to sleep in the aftermath of the devastation. The story was inspiring all on its own, and it warmed my heart even more when the announcer added that the businessman also welcomed people’s pets. Our hearts go out to people devastated by such an unimaginable tragedy. And the tragedy is compounded for someone who must leave behind a beloved pet, so it was especially moving that the big-hearted Houston mattress store owner’s heart is big enough to welcome ALL creatures great and small.
Once upon a time, if you wanted to hear Sunday Baroque, you had to listen to it on your local radio station at the time it was broadcast. Once the broadcast was over, it was lost forever into the ether. But time marches on, and since I began hosting and producing this program, technology has exploded and there are now many high-tech options for listening.
A confession: I am not fond of “Best of ..” lists. I even find them a bit exasperating. They are especially popular at the ends and beginnings of calendar years, but they pop up year round, too. People often ask me for lists of the “best” baroque music or recordings.
The main reason I don’t care for these well-intentioned lists is their attempt to put an objective categorization on what is typically highly subjective material. My ten favorite compositions (or whatever) might not be yours … and why should anyone’s ten (or hundred) favorites of anything be deemed the “best”? Don’t get me wrong — I certainly have my favorites, whether it’s music or food or recreational activities, and I know you do, too. That’s a good thing! But my favorites can change as my experiences widen, my tastes evolve and even as my mood changes.
Although I frequently interview people as part of my job, I recently sat on the other side of the microphone and was the subject of an interview for a new podcast. Melodic Connections is a community music therapy studio in Cincinnati offering an array of programs for people of all ages with various developmental disabilities. Its students recently created their own podcast called HERO RADIO:STORIES BEYOND THE MUSIC, and they asked to interview me about Sunday Baroque and my life as a musician. I loved meeting and conversing with my interviewers — Quincy, Ashley and “The Joes” — and was impressed by their insightful and compelling questions. They even composed “superhero theme music” which they asked me to play for them on my flute! (A big relief for me, since they usually ask guests to SING their theme music.)
I hope you will listen to my HERO RADIO interview and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes so you can hear what other people say about the importance of music in their lives!
Rumors of classical music’s demise are greatly exaggerated. As long as I can remember, people have been pronouncing classical music as dying or dead. But last week, I had the pleasure of interviewing a young violinist who doesn’t share that view. In some ways Michelle Ross has pursued a traditional path for a classically trained musician: earning a Juilliard School degree, studying Johann Sebastian Bach’s music from a deeply scholarly perspective, and making her debut recording of music by Bach on a borrowed Stradivarius violin.
The “official” baroque era was 1600-1750. To put that into some context, George Washington was born in 1732, Thomas Jefferson was born in 1743, and Benjamin Franklin was born in 1706. They were all born during the baroque era!
Over the years, I have had the pleasure of interviewing a variety of fascinating people about their relationship with music. Most of them are musicians, including people such as pianists Leon Fleisher and Simone Dinnerstein, guitarist Sharon Isbin, flutist Emmanuel Pahud, and conductors Nicholas McGegan, Ton Koopman and Masaaki Suzuki.
A confession: one of my all-time favorite movies is THE WIZARD OF OZ. I love that the core lesson Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion all learn is that the things they wanted so badly and sought so tenaciously were already in them — they just had to recognize their gifts and believe in themselves. It’s a simple yet powerful lesson for us all, and it came to my mind again last week.