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.
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!
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.”
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.