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.
What would you ask Ton Koopman?
Ton Koopman is an organist and harpsichordist, a conductor and a teacher -- one of the world's most prominent and respected authorities on baroque and early music. You regularly hear his performances on Sunday Baroque. He founded Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra & Choir, and while he specializes in baroque and early music on period instruments, Ton Koopman's repertory is extensive. He frequently guest conducts modern orchestras playing classical and romantic era music, and has led some of the most prominent orchestras of the world. I am excited to be interviewing Ton Koopman this week. Having listened to and admired the trailblazing and versatile musician's performances for decades, I have a long list of questions I plan to ask him, but I would also like to include your questions for him. Please submit your suggestions by midnight (EST) on Monday, Nov 7. We will publish the audio of my interview within the next week or two, so you can hear his answers!
Happy Culture Day!
November 3 is a national holiday in Japan. It's the annual celebration of Culture Day. There are festivals, parades, and awards ceremonies to honor individuals for their remarkable contributions to Japanese culture and to society overall. In addition to celebrating traditional Japanese culture, the purpose of the holiday is also to promote the love of freedom and peace. I love that "culture" is directly linked to the promotion of "freedom and peace." It's all too easy to forget that a society's culture represents our humanity. As John F. Kennedy said, "I am certain that after the dust of centuries has passed over our cities, we, too, will be remembered not for victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit." So on November 3, maybe we can ALL mark "culture day" in our own ways -- listening to a beautiful piece of music, gazing at a magnificent work of art, reading a great work of literature, or maybe simply encouraging someone who is creating one of these lasting contributions to the human spirit. Happy Culture Day!
It's a funny thing about music, isn't it? It can tap directly into our emotional state, giving a cheery boost, smoothing jangled nerves, creating mental clarity, and triggering nostalgia, among many other sensations. One word I frequently hear people use to describe the emotional benefit of listening to classical music is "soothing." The word "soothing" implies something quiet, slow and gentle, like a balm. But where listening to music is concerned, "soothing" transcends tempo, dynamic level and character. Whether it's big, loud and bombastic, quiet and meditative, or moderately paced and reserved, listeners often describe classical music as "soothing." It's puzzling. I have even heard fellow musicians express frustration or annoyance over the term because they take it as a subtle putdown, as though the word "soothing" implies the music is boring or nondescript or being used merely as background. But I think they might be taking it too literally and missing the more important point. I think it may be the ACT of listening to music that is soothing for so many people. It's a pleasurable activity and because it taps into our emotional state in all those wonderful ways, it feels satisfying and it feels soothing. Turn on a favorite piece and sing along, or air-conduct, or just close your eyes and -- WOW -- it feels great. It doesn't matter if the music is fast or slow, or if it's a big orchestra or solo piano, it goes straight to the heart. If it's something that appeals to you and touches you on an emotional level, the act of listening will feel good. Soothing! It's a treat you've given yourself. I compare it to my daily runs. I am breathless and sweaty as I expend considerable energy, but it feels great during and after. It feels "soothing" overall -- physically and mentally -- because it's my "me time." We live in such a busy, hectic world and daily life is often devoid of these treats. So when a simple pleasure such as music is introduced into the mix it feels good. Whether it's quiet and introspective or loud and bold, it feels satisfying. It feels SOOTHING. And that's not a contradiction -- it's a little treat you give yourself!
On the pleasures of serendipity
Disclaimer: this blog post has nothing to do with music or Sunday Baroque. It is about human connections, and the benefits of going with the flow of events and enjoying the unique pleasures of serendipity. I recently missed a flight connection because of mechanical issues on our plane, and found myself in Calgary for an unexpected overnight stay. Although this disrupted my originally planned trip and delayed my arrival by a day, I savored this serendipitous adventure. I used the opportunity to ask every local I encountered what their favorite restaurant is, to help me decide where to dine. I met a fellow stranded traveler at breakfast, so we sat together and shared stories of our (mis)adventures. He is an educator. A First Nations advocate. A veteran of the Canadian military. A music fan. A hunter and fisherman. A father and husband. His bucket list includes a long overdue trip to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and a visit to the Far East. We talked about teachers, our hometowns, our current homes of residence, politics(!), our travels, our work. We laughed and shared concerns about our world. Then I boarded the hotel van for the airport to try again to get to my original destination. Imagine my delight that the classical radio station was playing. I complimented and thanked the driver, and another discussion ensued. Music, musicians, travel, cities, culture, and more. (OK, I said this blog post wasn't about music, but it was a little bit, after all.) Now I can't wait to come back to Calgary and explore it more fully. These human connections between strangers delight me. What could have been a boring, disorienting, or annoying travel delay turned into an opportunity to connect with other people about things that matter to us. To share and to laugh. I treasure these "mishaps" because they can be as rich (sometimes richer) and more memorable than the things we plan meticulously. And as complicated and disconnected as life can be in the 21st century, it's gratifying to form and foster these human connections. Have your misadventures ever turned into treasured experiences? I'd love to hear about your serendipitous encounters.
A Warm Welcome to Classical Music
Recently I spoke to a group of public radio donors in Phoenix who love the programming on their all-classical station. The topic was my opinion of the general state of classical music, and what I think the future holds. One of the points I made is that we -- as in, those of us who are passionate about classical music -- may inadvertently pose a threat. Really! Inexperienced concertgoers can feel unwelcome because they don't know all the "rules" such as when to clap and other concert etiquette. Some of the insider attitudes we have adopted can exclude people and keep them from feeling welcome. Some people feel one must know about the music to have a valid opinion about whether they liked what they heard, when it's enough just to listen and feel and enjoy. Unfortunately, we have done all too good a job perpetuating a mystique and, as a result, alienating some people from trying out something they might actually find pleasurable and inspiring. After the talk, a woman approached me, eyes welled up. She clasped my hands and thanked me for that specific part of my talk. Voice trembling, she admitted she has no formal music training and doesn't know much about music, but she loves to attend concerts and listen to classical music on the radio, and is profoundly moved by it. She admitted that privately, though, she often feels exactly the way I had described: excluded, self-conscious, and a little unwelcome, even though she is an experienced concertgoer. I concluded my talk by encouraging these avid public radio classical music fans to be ambassadors and mentors to people who haven't yet fallen in love with this music. Take someone to a concert who has never attended, "adopt" a young person (niece or nephew, grandchild, or a neighbor) to attend, share a favorite recording, or play the music on your local classical station (such as Sunday Baroque!) for your friends, coworkers and family. So that's my "assignment" for you, too! Be proactive, and reach out to someone to share your love of music and give them a warm welcome.