Category Archives: Classical hosts

Enjoying classical music on the go

The day was sunny and warm and music flowed from every venue in St Paul’s Lowertown. I had the privilege of hosting a number of St. Paul Classical Music Crawl tours this past Saturday, Oct. 10.

What a great group of people and what a great collection of musicians. We heard a string quartet from the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra (at Union Depot), the excellent singers from Glorious Revolution Baroque (at the Baroque Room), student music from the Chamber Music Society of Minnesota School (at Black Dog Café), and members of the Minnesota Opera (at Nautilus Music Theater) all in the course of two hours.

In the photos below (taken in the various venues our tour group visited), we’re all smiles because the day was just that good!





Some thoughts on a Sunday playlist

CDs on shelf

We have music on the stereo at home all the time, usually from CDs that I am auditioning (of which there are piles and piles). Yesterday, though, Lise was outside weeding, I was inside beginning to go through stuff brought back from my brother’s house.

But we breakfasted together, in the glowing morning sunlight, to Messiaen’s “Turangalila” Symphony — the new Finnish Radio Symphony recording on Ondine, with Angela Hewitt playing the important piano part — what music is more filled with joy and amazement?! A perfect accompaniment to nature’s cheery brilliance.

Then followed an eclectic mix. Here’s what we listened to:

Barone’s Sunday Playlist

MESSIAEN: Turangalila Symphony … nothing could be finer! (Ondine)

TAFELMUSIK FAVORITES: Jean Lamon’s picks as she retires from 33 years at the helm of one of Canada’s most successful ensembles; I met Jean when she and some other Oberlin Baroque Performance Institute kids came out to play with my little Keith Hill harpsichord in one of the prototype concerts of the Chamber Music Society of Saint Cloud. She’s done well since! (Analekta)

MOZART: Symphonies 38-39-40 in trio arrangements by Hummel … rather disappointing, I must admit, couldn’t listen to more than a few minutes before finding something else (Naxos)

GLIERE: Symphony #3/Buffalo Philharmonic — a sprawling, lush, underappreciated score; Russian Mahler? (Naxos)

PERSICHETTI: Music for Violin and Piano, including a piece he never published that was discovered by the CD soloist, first recording; chewy music but worthwhile (Naxos)

HAYDN: Lord Nelson Mass/Boston Baroque … this one irritated me, sounding as though it was a competition for the most virtuosic and slick performance of the piece, lacking humanity, again I hit “[r]eject” soon (Boston Baroque)

YORK BOWEN: Phantasy Quintet for Bass-clarinet and Strings (and other chamber music) … what a beautiful thing! (Chandos)

STOKOWSKI conducts MOZART, with Philadelphia Orchestra on tour in Milan … they don’t play this way today, but what soul! (and a wild cadenza in the 20th Piano Concerto) (Guild Music)

ROSSINI: Overtures/Prague Chamber Orchestra … perky background (Naxos)

Got through a lot of music on a beautiful Sunday.

A couple uncanny concert coincidences

The Wanamaker Organ is located in the grand court of Macy’s in Philadelphia (photo by Kent Miller Studios for Macy’s)

Just before heading up to Saint Cloud, Minn., to record the Dover Quartet on Friday, Sept. 12, Tesfa Wondemagegnehu was bringing two choral colleagues (singers for a new professional choir in town) through the Classical MPR area and routed past my office.

In conversation, it turned out that the fellow, Steven Soph, had been in Philadelphia the previous Saturday (Sept. 6) and attended the concert at Macy’s by the Symphony in C orchestra and featuring the Wanamaker Organ, at which I was emcee. It was a curious — but fun — coincidence that he should have heard my comments in Philadelphia and then met “the voice” the next week.

So I drove up to St. Cloud on Friday, recorded an interview with and concert by the Dover Quartet kids (everyone is so young!) and, in conversation with the players afterwards, I discovered that their first violinist had a girlfriend in the Symphony in C, and he, too, attended the concert at Macy’s … and sat where I was sitting — in the women’s shoes department.

It’s rather fun that two young musicians, neither of them organists, happened to attend an organ concert (in Philadelphia, no less) at which I was present.

What are some strange, interesting or fun coincidences you’ve experienced? Share your stories in the comments below.

The Dover Quartet on Performance Today:

Click on Classical this Weekend: music picks, choral concerts, and artistic directors

The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)

As you’re browsing the Internet this weekend, perhaps as you listen to Classical Minnesota Public Radio, I’ve got quite a few must-sees for you:

Participate in Music with Minnesotans

This season, we’ve added a new twist to Music with Minnesotans, the a weekly series that I host on Tuesdays at 5 p.m., in which I bring in various people from throughout the state to talk about the classical music they love.

The new twist involves you! At the end of each episode, I invite you to suggest a piece of music to that week’s Music with Minnesotans guest. What do you think this person might like?

We’ll publish the results of the music sharing, as we did this week for Music with Minnesotans guest Grant Johnson.

And if you’d like to send a suggestion to my guest this week, Dan Wascoe; just visit his episode page and look for the form at the bottom.

Check out the choral concerts coming to town

Minnesotans love choral music, so we’re excited to bring you concerts by the Vienna Boys Choir, the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, and St Paul’s Cathedral Choir of London. Tesfa Wondemagegnehu shares his thoughts on each of these choirs, and tickets for the individual concerts are now available for purchase.

What’s up in Duluth? Ask Dirk Meyer

There’s a lot to be found up in Duluth, and this Saturday, the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra opens its season at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center — known as the DECC. On Thursday, I got to speak to the DSSO’s music director, Dirk Meyer, about his vision for this upcoming season.

Can you play bluegrass on a lute?

If there’s someone who can answer that question, it’s Jordan Sramek, the artistic director of the Rose Ensemble. Probably best known for its mediaeval music, the Rose Ensemble will be embarking on a statewide tour that explores the roots of bluegrass. Sramek spoke to my colleague Alison Young earlier this week to give a preview of the Rose Ensemble’s upcoming season and to talk about the connections between early music and bluegrass.

Join the Debate

Is classical music for relaxing, as Sheila Regan posits, or is it for expanding your mind, as Patrick Castillo asserts? There’s a lively debate going on on our site right now — what do you think?

Sorry, Lucy: Beethoven IS on bubblegum cards

Lucy Van Pelt character profile, from ‘Peanuts’ official YouTube channel.

Cartoonist Charles Schulz’s beloved Peanuts characters Lucy and Schroeder have a famous exchange in which Lucy dismisses Beethoven’s greatness given his absence from bubblegum cards.

We included this well-known exchange in a promo we aired before last week’s Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra broadcast. In the comic strip, which we won’t republish here but you could probably find on the official Peanuts site, Lucy and Schroeder’s conversation goes like this:

LUCY: Everyone talks about how great Beethoven was … Beethoven wasn’t so great!

SCHROEDER: What do you mean, Beethoven wasn’t so great?

LUCY: He never got his picture on bubblegum cards, did he? … How can you say someone is great who’s never had his picture on bubblegum cards?

Turns out Lucy had it wrong.

I found out when listener Doug Palmer of St. Paul, Minn., sent me this email:


I’ve been intrigued this week by your clever announcement of this weekend’s SPCO Beethoven concert, featuring Lucy Van Pelt’s declaration that Beethoven never appeared on a trading card. I immediately thought that Beethoven must surely have been included among the 1952 Topps “Look ‘N See” series of famous historical and cultural figures that I avidly collected when I was Lucy’s age.

But when I googled the old Look ‘N See trading card series, I was amazed to find Beethoven absent! The Topps Company only got around to releasing a Beethoven trading card in 2009:

Beethoven on a Topps trading card

I made some fascinating discoveries of Beethoven’s appearance in other series, which I’m sharing with you:

Beethoven did indeed appear on a 1927 series of trading cards that accompanied an elixir distributed by the Liebig Meat Extract Company of Belgium:

Beethoven Meat Extract cards

I found that the Rochester NY-based Amenda Quartet distributes Beethoven trading cards at its concerts (too bad it doesn’t picture them on its site).

For $10 you may obtain three trading card-sized fine art photo rag prints of this portrait of “Ludpig” from When Guinea Pigs Fly.
[Editor’s Note: this item appears to be sold out.]


‘Ludpig’ by Lesley DeSantis of WhenGuineaPigsFly on Etsy.

Hmm … I’m intrigued by the Amenda Quartet’s practice of handing out Beethoven cards at its concerts. Maybe Classical MPR can do that at next year’s State Fair? I guess we’ll see!

Local paper shines spotlight on Tesfa

Tesfa Wondemagegnehu (far right) poses with Classical MPR’s Brian Newhouse and with composer/conductor Eric Whitacre (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)

Fans of Classical MPR’s choral-music programming likely know of Tesfa Wondemagegnehu, having read his work in this very blog.

On Sunday, July 27, the Star Tribune‘s Kristin Tillotson published a profile about Tesfa. Entitled “Putting the Cool in Choral,” Tillotson’s article describes Tesfa’s youth in Memphis, Tenn., his work as a teacher in Orlando, Fla., and his new career in Minnesota.

Tillotson writes:

Wondemagegnehu, a young black singer and conductor from Memphis … has wowed the Twin Cities choral scene since arriving in town last summer … when he accepted a job as assistant artistic director for VocalEssence. Not long after, he was hired to help program and promote Minnesota Public Radio’s 24-hour streaming of choral music.

Last week, he went full time at MPR, where a new choral initiative will bring him to area schools for music outreach. He’ll also head up a new group of young singers, the APM Radio Choir.

The article also makes reference to Tesfa’s participation in the Dominick Argento “Seasons” premiere at the Minnesota Beethoven Festival in Winona, an experience Tesfa shared in this blog post before the concert and in this post recapping the Twitter trends of the festival.

You can read all of Tillotson’s article on the Star Tribune’s website as well as in print editions of the Sunday paper.

Night Gallery: Caption Challenge

Radio, like the Internet, is a 24/7 operation. If, for example, it’s just before midnight on Christmas Day, there are people working in the building at Minnesota Public Radio.

So what do people get up to during those hours?

Scott Blankenship is one of the hosts of Music Through the Night (MTTN), the overnight programming on Classical MPR. The MTTN audience members are a loyal bunch, and they tend to engage with the hosts via the Music Through the Night Facebook page.

Among the many music-related offerings on the page is the occasional caption challenge. Last week, Scott Blankenship posted this picture:

… and then he invited people to submit their caption ideas. Other audience members vote for their favorites by liking (in the Facebook sense) the submissions. Scott writes, “The most likes at the end of the night gets braggin’ rights for the week!”

Here are some of the higher-ranking entries:

Will Anderson: “He was doing alright, right up until he went flat.”

Steve Fusselman: “Sounds like I need a tune-up”

Kat Cooper: “just a little bass-ic soap box derby engineering”

Basha Yonis takes a Far Side approach: “Being from a family involved in classical music, Bobby completely misunderstood when he overheard the older kids talking about ‘driving bass’.”

Rachel Kopel: “School district combines music classes and Shop to reduce budget.”

Looking at the number of likes given to each entry, it appears Rachel may have earned those “braggin’ rights” Scott offers!

You can read these, among 40-plus additional comments and caption ideas, by checking out the full post on the Music Through the Night Facebook page.

What other caption ideas do you have? Share them below.

My unconventional holiday memory

Mom insisted every year that we make one of those holiday photo-cards, and she lined up all five of us one Christmas during our most awkward adolescence. We were on the porch in direct sun on one of the most bitter Chicago Decembers I’d felt (up to that point). We looked squinty, uncomfortable — and, sadly — not fresh-faced. Her moment of genius was to add Molly our stunningly perfect Golden Retriever. Maybe our friends’ and family’s eyes would alight on her! Didn’t happen. She kept looking away trying to escape.

Alison Young and her siblings pose for their family’s holiday card photo.

Even as we complained about how awful we looked, Mom went ahead and made her photo selection for the card, telling us her choice was the only one of “the roll” that didn’t look as though we were charity cases.

Thirty some years later, my brothers and I laugh and cry and hug when we see each other, recalling that day and also that it was to be the last Christmas we’d all be together.

We’re all still here, but life has taken us all over the place — and even if we had one “ugly” Christmas, we managed to survive and grow up to be pretty nice people.

Last night, Bill Morelock shared an unconventional holiday story from his childhood. You can learn more about that here.