MPR Legend Tom Keith passes away

Tom Keith

Sad news around Minnesota Public Radio today, as we learned that our dear friend Tom Keith (perhaps better known as Jim Ed Poole) has passed away.

He was a mainstay as the co-host of The Morning Show, which aired on Classical MPR for many years, and on The Current for 4 more until his retirement in December of 2008.

Beyond our state’s borders, he was widely known for his incredible abilities as the Sound Effects man for A Prairie Home Companion (here’s a great interview from this summer).

MPR News has the story:

Before becoming a sound-effects man on A Prairie Home Companion, Keith was a former radio personality who co-hosted The Morning Show on MPR until 2008. He hosted that show as his alter ego, Jim Ed Poole, a character Keillor created for an older early morning radio show.

Bob Collins has a terrific remembrance mixed with the news:

There are a fair number of phonies in the media, possibly because there’s a certain amount of acting involved. But Tom Keith was not one of them. Tom collapsed at home and died last night and could not be revived, according to a spokesman for Prairie Home Companion. The cause is still being determined.

The Morning Show archive goes quite deep, but here’s an hour’s selection of prime cuts:

A good dose of history can be found on The Morning Show’s interactive timeline.

For those who want to share their feelings about Tom, please submit them below.

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Learning about Classical Music from Baseball

Albert Pujols by Aspen Photos/Shutterstock

With last night’s thrilling baseball game, and tonight’s first 7th game in a World Series in 9 years, I wondered how we might help tell that story in Classical Music.

Doing some initial searches, it became clear I wasn’t the first to broach the subject, and I don’t think I’d ever be able to recreate it in as much detail as David Lang’s opinion piece for The New York Times last May. And while it’s a piece about spring and the upcoming season, it fits just as well for the final game of the year.

Lang posits:

It turns out that classical music fans do a lot of the same remembering and measuring as baseball fans. Both baseball and classical music have a great sense of history, a tremendous respect for the past, and a slew of nerdy people like me who want to know all the details. Both are made of people who argue passionately with each other about who was the greatest. We handicap our favorite composers and performers, we buy 20 recordings of the same piece just to be able to argue about interpretations. We want to know as much about where we have been as we can.

But the real home run (sorry) comes at the end:

I think what baseball projects, and what classical music needs, is the sense that one goes to a live event not to experience greatness, but to experience the possibility of greatness. It really comes down to risk. We revel in the risk inherent in the clash of competing ideas and options, before time evens them out into a few straight, orderly narratives. The game, the concert, the experience in front of us — the chance to experience greatness is a risk. Not every game is great but what we go for is the chance that this particular game might be. Maybe for baseball fans the possibility of greatness alone is reason enough to go.

So get out there, and explore the possibility of greatness.

On the Air This Week

Highlights from Oct. 25 to Nov. 1

Thursday, 3 pm hour: Regional Spotlight: St. Lawrence String Quartet

Friday, 8 pm: The Minnesota Orchestra in Sibelius, Beamish, and Mendelssohn

Saturday, 7 pm: Carnegie Live: Live as it happens, the Budapest Festival Orchestra playing in New York City

Sunday, 6 am: Pipedreams: A Thousand Voices

Sunday, 1 pm: SymphonyCast: The Los Angeles Philharmonic‘s program includes Brahms’s German Requiem

Monday, 7 pm: Spooky offerings for Halloween night

Monday, 8 pm: Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra: in Russian music (Kabalevsky, Prokofiev, Schnittke, and Tchaikovsky)

Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie, and Symphonies

Why do so many classical musicians love baseball?

Maybe because when you play Beethoven, you can never win; music is subjective.

But when you play baseball, there’s always the satisfaction of a clear winner and a loser.

In any case, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra is going to bat for the Texas Rangers in this year’s world series, and the New York Times went backstage for a behind the scenes look at symphonic fandom.

On the Air This Week

Highlights from Oct. 20 to 27

Wednesday, noon: Music with Minnesotans: Don Ladig, garden designer

Thursday, 3 pm hour: Regional Spotlight: pianist Misha Dacic plays Liszt

Friday, 8 pm: The Minnesota Orchestra, with guests Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and Robert Spano

Saturday, 11 am: Today is Franz Liszt‘s 200th birthday. Lynne Warfel presents Cartoon Rhapsody, featuring music by Liszt and others used in classic cartoons.

Saturday, 7 pm: Classical Live: Marc-Andre Hamelin plays Liszt

Sunday, 6 am: Pipedreams: Beyond the Liszt List

Sunday, 1 pm: SymphonyCast: the opening of the Los Angeles Philharmonic season, with Gustavo Dudamel and Herbie Hancock

Monday, 8 pm: Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra in an all-Mozart program

"The Liszt Project" Giveaway

Minnesota audiences know Pierre-Laurent Aimard well from his years with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. He’s a musician with keen intelligence and a never-ending curiosity, who loves to make unexpected connections for his audiences.

Aimard’s newest recording is The Liszt Project. It’s a two-CD set with music by Franz Liszt, of course, but also by other composers whose works might not have been the same without the Lisztian model.

Liszt’s sonata, in one movement, appears with sonatas by Berg, Scriabin, and Wagner, also in one movement (Wagner, by the way, was Liszt’s son-in-law). We hear Liszt’s musical depiction of a fountain — and also Ravel’s (written with Liszt very much in mind).

To mark Liszt’s 200th birthday, we’re giving away five copies of The Liszt Project. Enter below, and don’t forget to read the rules.

The London Philharmonic Makes Video Game Music Record

The London Philharmonic is set to release an album full of video game favorites on November 8.

This is an upward trend, if classical knows what’s good for it. Thousands upon thousands of people started listening to classical music back in the days of powerhouse film composers like Bernard Herrmann, Ennio Morricone, Elmer Bernstein and, of course, John Williams. I don’t have statistics on hand, but this is a blog, so I don’t need them. It’s a fact, though, because it’s how I got into it, and how dozens of my friends got into classical music.

And video game music is how today’s generation has an opportunity to become interested in buying concert tickets and classical albums.

I witnessed this firsthand when I attended Video Games Live! at Orchestra Hall in January. The hall was as full as always, with droves of fanboys and fangirls cheering and singing along to all their favorite orchestral pieces from all their favorite video games.

There are 21 tracks on the album – music includes Mass Effect, Legend of Zelda, Uncharted, Oblivion, Halo and more.

I’m glad the London Phil is catching on, especially in light of this news from yesterday; I very much doubt this will be their final dip in the gaming pool, and for that, I thank them.

In addition to being an on-air host on Classical MPR, Emily Reese hosts and produces “Top Score” a podcast about video game music

The SPCO: Bach – The Art of the Fugue

This Thursday through Saturday (Oct. 13-15), The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra is exploring selections from J.S. Bach’s The Art of the Fugue.

From their site:

This season, for the first time in the orchestra’s history, the SPCO presents Bach’s Art of Fugue, the monumental cycle of fugues and canons left unfinished at the composer’s death. The first of two programs, this concert honors The Art of Fugue as the epitome of musical craft by prefacing it with Mendelssohn’s Sinfonia No. 12, and Leon Kirchner’s Music for 12, a masterpiece of the twentieth-century repertoire.

Here, Patrick Castillo, Director of Artistic Planning, discusses Art of Fugue.

Ticket information and details are available on the SPCO site.

Broadcasts of our extensive Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra recordings can be heard Monday nights at 8 p.m. on Classical MPR stations and webstream.

On the Air This Week

Highlights from Oct. 11 to 18

Tuesday, 7 pm: Carnegie Live: conductor Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra, live from New York City

Wednesday, noon: Music with Minnesotans: David Rodrick, journalist and television producer (“Bizarre Foods”)

Thursday, 3 pm hour: Regional Spotlight: From Northfield, I Cantanti

Thursday, 9 pm: The Miro Quartet plays Ives and Barber

Friday, 8 pm: The Minnesota Orchestra plays Wagner, Tchaikovsky, and Bartok

Sunday, 6 am: Pipedreams: A Liszt List

Sunday, 1 pm: SymphonyCast: The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Brahms, Wagner and Strauss

Monday, 8 pm: Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra: in music of Adams, Hindemith, and Mendelssohn