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.
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.”
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.
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!
There are so many extraordinarily talented musicians in the world. I had a chance to attend a live performance by one of them last week: Chris Thile. He’s one of those rare people whose technical command of his instrument is so complete and effortless that every sound he makes expresses his exceptional artistry.
Each year, for the Sunday closest to September 11, I try to craft a Sunday Baroque program that addresses this terrible, heartbreaking anniversary. It’s not easy. I start thinking about it months ahead of the date, and it percolates actively in my brain throughout that time, because it is such an enormous and painful wound for our country and for our world. With the musical choices, I want to acknowledge the tragedy, but also honor resilience and heroism. The range of music should be solemn, but also uplifting and hopeful. Despite hosting and producing Sunday Baroque for more than 29 years, I still find the September 11 program my most challenging show to craft every year. It never gets easier, and apparently my classical radio colleagues feel the same way. We have a Facebook forum, and many of the posts recently showed people grappling with the same challenges and sharing ideas for how to approach this important and sensitive day in our history. Reading the variety of input from thoughtful classical music radio programmers all over, it occurred to me that the process of coming together, talking openly, encouraging one another and sharing ideas was much like the process of healing from a tragedy. We really do get by with a little help from our friends. In whatever way you are marking this solemn date, I hope you find peace, healing and inspiration from loving friends and uplifting music.
Flying home from a family wedding over Labor Day weekend, my seatmate on the plane turned out to be an avid and longtime public radio listener and supporter. The lovely and interesting woman described how she had lived in several states over the years, moving for jobs and family. She was flying back to her relatively new home in a new city near her son. Just before our plane landed, she leaned over to add, “You know, I’ve made all these moves to places where I didn’t know anyone, and I didn’t know my way around. But as soon as I found the local public radio stations, and my favorite programs, it was so comforting. I instantly felt at home.” I know exactly how she feels!
Students are returning to school this time of year, and I’ve been thinking a lot about teachers and mentors. Specifically, I’m recalling the many wonderful people who guided me on my path over the course of my educational life and beyond. These caring role models not only imparted their knowledge about the subjects they taught, they modeled what it meant to be deeply committed to one’s work.
Last week I made my third visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.
Are you surprised that someone who hosts a baroque radio program would be interested in a Rock and Roll museum? Are you curious why a classical flutist with a music degree would care about the Beatles, the Stones, Prince and Eric Clapton, to name just a few? Or perhaps it makes perfect sense to you, based on your own musical tastes.
“What’s your favorite piece of baroque music?” I’m asked that question frequently, but it never gets any easier to answer. I like so much music of many different genres — and not just baroque music!
Sunday Baroque Blog
Host Suzanne Bona occasionally shares something interesting with you that is too timely or doesn't quite fit on the weekly broadcast. It might be to give you a behind-the-scenes look at the program, tell you about a terrific new recording, share information about a group's concert tour or latest award, or inform you about the passing of an important musician. Sometimes it might be an observation about the musical scene in general, or a reaction to a news item that relates to the world of music or the arts. Check in with Suzanne's blog to see what she has to say and join the conversation.