Orchestras Feeding America

The League of American Orchestras is promoting a nation-wide food drive this weekend, called Orchestras Feeding America. Find out more about the genesis of the project here.

At least two local orchestras will participate:

The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra will collect food at its concert at Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie on Friday, March 27, with collections benefiting People Reaching Out to Other People.

The Minnesota Orchestra will accept donations of non-perishable food items at Orchestra Hall before concerts on March 27 and 28.

Miraculous Music makes the blind see

Last week, Gillian Martin wrote a blog Musicians’ Brains and Emotional Subtlety. Well, it seems that not only can music make one more sensitive to others, it may also help the blind see.

A recent study in the UK shows that listening to music can help restore impaired vision in stroke patients. The head of the study says “Music appears to improve awareness because of its positive emotional effect on the patient, so similar beneficial effects may also be gained by making the patient happy in other ways.”

While I write this, I’m listening to the latest release from the British group Stile Antico and it is indeed making this “patient” happy and more aware!

Easter Music

Music for choir is going to be front and center on Classical MPR during the Easter season. Make a note of these:

French music from VocalEssence and the St. Olaf Choir, including Berlioz’s spectacularly imposing Te Deum (April 9, 7 pm)

Reflections: A Lenten Special with the Dale Warland Singers. The quiet and uplifting side of choral music (April 10, 7 pm)

Saint Paul Sunday: The St. Olaf Choir in music of Palestrina, Billings, and many others (April 12, noon)

Handel’s Messiah. Messiah was originally written for Easter, not Christmas. We’ll hear some favorite moments on Easter morning, and later in the week, the complete oratorio. That Tuesday, the 250th anniversary of Handel’s death, there’ll be a performance of Messiah in London’s Westminster Abbey. Hours later, we’ll be bringing you that performance on Classical MPR (April 14, 6 pm8 pm).

Classical Celebrity Gossip

What well-respected conductor was found asleep and apparently intoxicated at the wheel of his car with the engine running in the wee hours of Thursday morning? Find out (and watch the video of his field sobriety test) here.

For balance, find out everything else he’s done in his life here.

How to get to Sesame Street: Practice, Practice, Practice

The website musicradar.com compiled a list of favorite musical performances on Sesame Street. There are fantastic YouTube clips of Norah Jones and Elmo; Johnny Cash and Oscar the Grouch; REM and furry happy monsters. You’ll find the complete list here.

They did NOT include The Chamber Music Society of Sesame Street with Yo Yo Ma.

So I’m adding that one myself:

Meanwhile, if you just can’t get enough of the “Best of” lists, check out “the fifteen American musicals…of indisputably permanent interest,” according to WSJ Theater Critic Terry Teachout.

Walk or roll for Bach

“Who’s the greatest classical composer of them all?” asks Rob Hubbard of the Pioneer Press. If you agree that it’s the guy celebrating a birthday Saturday with 324 candles on his cake, then put your walking shoes on (or maybe a pair of roller-blades) and do the ‘Saint Paul Bach Crawl’ for a whole series of concerts down Summit Avenue this Bach birthday.

Here’s more from Rob’s piece in the Press.

Eric Whitacre at McDonald's

This weekend in Minneapolis, Eric Whitacre conducts his music with the VocalEssence Choir, St. Olaf Choir, and a 170-voice high school honor choir.

Whitacre is no stranger to fame; really, how many other choral music composers have 11,182 Facebook friends?

But even as child he’d already gotten his Warholian fifteen seconds of fame, in a McDonald’s commercial. Click play to watch, and click here to read his charming blog post with the rest of the story. That’s Eric with his face in the books (literally), at about 0:17!

Meanwhile, Eric stopped by Classical Minnesota Public Radio to talk about the Eric Extravaganza; we had a wonderful, wide-ranging conversation that included a look back to the past, a sneak preview of things to come (he revealed that “Paradise Lost” is coming to Carnegie Hall), and the weekend’s world premiere of his new piece, “Nox Arumque.”

Musicians' Brains and Emotional Subtlety

As my spouse so often reminds me, it’s not so much what a person says as how she says it that makes all the difference.

The ability to pick up subtle emotional cues in sound is an important survival skill, and a recent study at Northwestern University suggests that musical training improves that ability. Read more about it here.

Thanks to MPR’s Brad Robideau for the tip.