Giving feels good
Recently I had lunch with a friend who is a generous, longtime public radio supporter. He expressed surprise that more people don't support their local public radio stations, and we talked about the excuses many listeners make for not contributing. He looked me in the eye and asked, "Do you know why *I* support public radio?" I threw out a few possibilities, and he said, "No! The reason I give is because it FEELS GOOD. That's it." He's right. It does feel good to be part of something you care about. It feels good to have a personal stake in the success and future of something that's an important part of your daily life. So, now I'm wondering: do YOU support your local public radio station? If not, why? If so, why? Do you agree with my friend that giving feels good? What would you say to your fellow listeners who don't support their local stations to try to change their minds?
The Lowdown on Downloads
Confession: I am not an early adopter. I have no aversion to technology at all. In fact, I savor the many conveniences and treats technology can provide, and I enjoy learning new things. But I won't run out and acquire something just because "everyone" has one; there has to be a demonstrable need or application to convince me. I didn't even bother with a cell phone until a couple of years ago because I truly did not need one. However, once that balance tipped, I went out and bought the newest smartphone on the market at the time. It was similar with CDs and downloading music. I'm still in the transition period for that. Having started in radio right as CDs were becoming the standard, I still have a significant quantity of them. But, slowly, downloading is taking over and I find myself wondering how long it will be until the transition is complete. How about you? Do you buy music to enjoy in your home, car or office? Do you still buy CDs? Do you download? Do you stream from an online service? Besides listening to the radio, how do you listen to music? What devices do you use? Are you still hanging on to your turntable and LPs? Do you have different sources for different genres of music, maybe listening to classical music from CDs but other genres on your iPod, for example? I'm curious to know your listening habits. Now it's your turn to fess up!
Musical Highlights of 2016
As 2016 winds down, I've been thinking about musical highlights of this past year. There were some interesting recordings released in 2016 (see the Sunday Baroque Holiday Gift List for a few of my favorites), and I had a chance to interview some renowned musicians including organist and conductor Ton Koopman and lutenist Ronn McFarlane, to name just two. As an audience member, I heard (and saw) members of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra become animated in a way I'd never seen them before under the direction of Mr. Koopman, and heard violinist Daniel Hope featured in a gripping program of music by composers silenced by the Holocaust. As a flutist, I also had many gratifying performing opportunities in the past year, such as traveling to Guam to perform a chamber music recital with outstanding musicians there. These highlights were only a few of the many satisfying musical experiences I was fortunate enough to have in 2016, and they make me look forward with excitement to what's next in the new year. What about you? What were some of your musical highlights of 2016? Did you have a favorite recording you played over and over, or did you attend a concert that moved you in a way you can't forget? Did you pick up a long-neglected musical instrument again, or maybe learn one for the first time? What is on your musical wish list for 2017?
People often ask how I craft Sunday Baroque each week from the enormous array of options. I start with the general parameters of the baroque era -- 1600-1750 -- and extend it to include some of the music that led up to those years. There are many composers and compositions and many recordings of their works, including familiar "big names" and music, and less well-known musicians and music of the era. Some of those recordings employ "period" or historical instruments. Those can be antique instruments or modern reproductions modeled on the earlier ones, such as harpsichord, baroque flutes and oboes, and early ancestors of instruments such as chalumeau, dulcian, natural (valveless) trumpet, and viola da gamba. There are also many fine recordings of baroque era music played on modern instruments: piano, modern flute and oboe, guitar, cello, and modern valved brass instruments, to name just a few. Some performers even pick and choose from old and new, such as using a modern instrument with a baroque bow, or baroque flute with piano. To me, these many variables and appealing performances are to be celebrated, and I admire the artistry of all these talented performers! The options are like a long and detailed restaurant menu, and just like placing a food order, you can't (or shouldn't) have it all at once! You choose from your personal tastes, hunger, budget, and mood. From my musical menu, my number one priority is to craft a radio program that sounds good to my ear and is entertaining to a broad audience: a main course with many side dishes and interesting spices. The vast array of recordings offers an opportunity to present texture, contrast and variety, and create an enjoyable and satisfying whole. So when you tune in for Sunday Baroque each week, you'll hear a blend of outstanding performances on both modern and historical instruments, and performers who are at the top of their game in playing them. There's no one "right" or "best" way that suits everyone, of course, but that's how I approach it. In the end, I strive to serve an entertaining musical banquet to satisfy a large and diverse group. Bon appétit!
What's your favorite Christmas music?
Quite a few of our most beloved and familiar Christmas carols have roots in the baroque era or even before. Many of them started as popular secular music such as dances, folk songs, or even drinking songs, with festive words added to go with the holiday theme. One of my favorites is Branle de l'Official from Thoinot Arbeau's Orchesographie. It's a dance tune from the 1580s, but you probably know it better as the lively Christmas carol Ding Dong! Merrily on High. In 1924 George Ratcliffe Woodward wrote the familiar words to go with the ancient dance melody. Do you have any favorite Christmas music? Maybe you even sing in a choir and have some hands-on experience guiding your choice of favorites. I'd love to know what music (baroque or otherwise) helps makes Christmas special for you and your family.
Gift ideas for the baroque music lover
This year's Sunday Baroque Holiday Gift List has a broad variety of recommendations, including a few surprises. There is something for just about every taste -- familiar favorites, less well known music, period instruments, modern instruments, and more. And of course, all the performances are top notch. One big surprise is THE PERFECT SOUTHERN ART, which features classical banjo player John Bullard. The eclectic CD features several baroque selections -- familiar music by familiar composers -- as well as music by Robert Schumann and Edvard Grieg. It shows a side of the instrument most people have never heard. I'm looking forward to interviewing John Bullard soon for a podcast we will share with you. If you have suggestions for what you would like me to ask him, please submit your ideas by Monday, December 5th by replying to this blog post. Meanwhile, please check out the Sunday Baroque Holiday Gift list on our website or Facebook page, and be sure to listen to Sunday Baroque for the rest of 2016 to hear selections from the gift list CDs!
Thanksgiving is this week and, like most people, I've been contemplating the many things for which I am thankful. Good health, a warm and safe home, and enough to eat are, of course, at the top of my list. In addition to these essentials, I'm grateful for my relationship with music. What a gift to be able to express myself making music as a performer, listening to music, and sharing it on the radio with you. There are also many people I appreciate in addition to family and friends. There's YOU -- a passionate, curious music lover who listens to Sunday Baroque. There's also the ace Sunday Baroque production team -- Julie, Joelle and Rick -- who do the heavy lifting to provide the program to you each week. And we ALL appreciate your financial support of Sunday Baroque on your local public radio station. Here's wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving with a cornucopia of reasons to be grateful!
Sunday Baroque Holiday Gift List
Every year at this time, I create a list of suggestions for holiday gift giving. Starting November 20th and continuing through December, you can audition some of my recommendations from the annual Sunday Baroque Holiday Gift list. All of us at Sunday Baroque wish you and yours a happy, healthy, and safe holiday season filled with laughter, peace and an abundance of good music! Sunday Baroque Holiday Gift List 2016 BARLEY MOON Ayreheart Sono Luminus DSL-92203 Ayreheart is a quartet whose repertory is eclectic, and this 2016 release features renaissance music by John Dowland and William Byrd alongside traditional folk songs, performed on lutes and voice. Ronn McFarlane (lute), Brian Kay (lute, guitar and voice), Will Morris (colascione, violin, mandolin) and Mattias Rucht (percussion) are the core members of Ayreheart. A spirited and fresh take on some appealing tunes. BAROQUE SESSION ON PIANO Luc Beausejour - piano Analekta AN 2 9128 Luc Beausejour is an expert harpsichordist and organist, but this recording features his performances of baroque music on piano. He selected music that was most appealing to him personally and seemed to work best on piano. The collection includes music by JS Bach, D. Scarlatti, Handel, F. Couperin, Rameau, and H. Purcell. Beausejour brings his knowledge and sensitivity to historic performance practice to these modern instrument presentations. BAROQUE TREASURY National Arts Center Orchestra of Canada, Pinchas Zukerman Analekta AN2 8783 This is a nice sample of some familiar baroque music played on modern instruments. It opens with Handel’s zippy Arrival of the Queen of Sheba, and includes JS Bach’s beloved Orchestral Suite #3 and Concerto in c for oboe and violin, among other works. An appealing and enjoyable sampler collection! COMEDIE ET TRAGEDIE VOLUME 2 Tempesta di Mare Chaconne CHAN 0810 Orchestral music for the theatre by Marc-Antoine Charpentier, Jean-Philippe Rameau and Jean-Marie Leclair. The Philadelphia ensemble Tempesta di Mare is a topnotch group known for superlative playing and imaginative programming. They breathe new life into undeservedly neglected music and composers, and this recording is another terrific example of their fine work. AN EVENING WITH WILHEMINE John Schneiderman – lute, Jeffrey Cohan – flute, William Skeen – cello Hanssler Classic HC 15048 A lovely chamber music collection of interesting repertory by Adam Falckenhagen, who worked for Princess Wilhemine. (sister of King Frederick the Great of Prussia) Light and pretty, this is less well-known music that deserves to be heard. GEMINIANI SONATAS FOR CELLO OP.5 Four Nations Ensemble Orchid Classics 100049 Four Nations Ensemble is comprised of cellist Loretta O’Sullivan, harpsichordist Andrew Appel and continuo cellist Beiliang Zhu. Italian violinist and composer Francesco Geminiani published six Cello Sonatas in 1746 in Paris, at a time when the viola da gamba’s popularity was waning, and the cello was on the ascent as a solo instrument. These imaginative Sonatas are beautifully played by the excellent Four Nations Ensemble. G.Ph. TELEMANN – THE DOUBLE CONCERTOS WITH RECORDER Erik Bosgraaf - recorder, Ensemble Cordevento Brilliant Classics 95249 Georg Philipp Telemann was a multi-talented musician who was skilled at playing several instruments. He was particularly talented on recorder, and this new recording features a virtuoso recorder player collaborating with other instrumentalists to play Telemann’s double concertos for recorder. These are fine performances of interesting repertory. ANTONIO VIVALDI CONCERTI PER DUE VIOLINI Giuliano Carmignola – violin, Amandine Beyer – violin, Gli Incogniti Harmonia Mundi HMC 902249 Antonio Vivaldi was a fantastic violin player, and he composed many Concertos featuring his instrument. Two outstanding baroque violin players – Giuliano Carmignola and Amandine Beyer – teamed up to play seven of Vivaldi’s Concertos for Two Violins. The expert interplay between soloists and ensemble offers double the rhythmic drive and energy, and double the artistry. THE PERFECT SOUTHERN ART John Bullard - banjo, Various musicians Bullard Music JB100 And now for something completely different! John Bullard shows the expressive, classical side of the banjo playing music by baroque composers A. Marcello, Telemann, Handel, and JS Bach, as well as music by Schumann and Grieg. He assembled a topnotch ensemble to present lovely and respectful transcriptions of familiar music including JESU, JOY OF MAN’S DESIRING, and Marcello’s OBOE CONCERTO IN D MINOR. This is great introduction to the classical tradition for a novice, and fun for someone who knows the repertory well and appreciates a fresh take.
Since Singing is so good a thing...
A quote I mentioned on the November 13 program generated a lot of listener feedback and inquiry! It was #8 from William Byrd's list of reasons to sing: The better the voyce is, the meeter it is to honour and serve God there-with : and the voyce of man is chiefely to bee imployed to that ende. [original spellings left intact] People often tell me they listen to Sunday Baroque on their way to and from church, and a number of choir directors and choir members say they sing along as a warm up. What a great image! And here is a personal confession: I am "that person" who usually sings (and whistles) along with music. I'm happy to know I'm not the only one, and that Byrd's reasons still hold practical meaning for us today. Here is William Byrd's complete list (Thanks to © 2008 Ben Byram-Wigfield.) First, it is a knowledge easily taught, and quickly learned, where there is a good master, and an apt scholar. 1 The exercise of singing is delightful to Nature, and good to preserve the health of Man. 2 it does strengthen all parts of the breast, and does open the pipes. 3 it is a singularly good remedy for stuttering and stammering in the speech. 4 it is the best means to procure perfect pronunciation, and to make a good Orator. 5 it is the only way to know where Nature has bestowed the benefit of a good voice: which gift is so rare, as there is not one among a thousand that has it: and, in many, that excellent gift is lost, because they want Art to express Nature. 6 There is not any Music of instruments whatsoever, comparable to that which is made of the voices of Men, where the voices are good, and the same well sorted and ordered. 7 The better the voice is, the meeter it is to honour and serve God therewith: and the voice of man is chiefly to be employed to that end. Omnis spiritus laudet Dominum. since singing is so good a thing, i wish all men would learn to sing. Psalmes, Sonets, & songs of sadnes and pietie (1588) William Byrd (1542-1623) Reasons, briefly set down by the Author,to persuade everyone to learn to sing. © 2008 Ben Byram-Wigfield. May be freely distributed with permission
A brush with greatness!
I've had the great fortune to meet many people who are famous for their extraordinary talents, and today I met another. Dutch organist, harpsichordist and conductor Ton Koopman is an expert on baroque music, and a towering figure in the world of music in general. What a thrill and a pleasure to meet him for the first time today! He is brilliant and articulate, of course, but also charming, approachable, and gracious. He talked about Bach being the center of his musical universe, about his own start in music as a young boy, and he gave a short list of some of his favorite compositions. He also shared his opinion about what makes baroque music so appealing and accessible, and about the need for performers to demonstrate their authentic passion for the music as a way to win over people who might not yet know they love this music. We will be posting my conversation with Ton Koopman soon, and you will no doubt hear in his voice the passion and enthusiasm for the music he lives and breathes and loves so deeply.