CSI: Minnesota?

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Radiologist Dr. Steve Sirr has been using the process of medical forensics scanning to record and analyze stringed instruments for close to 22 years now. But recently, Dr. Sirr has teamed up with St. Paul luthiers Steve Rossow and John Waddle of John Waddle Violins Inc. to use the radiology process of CT scanning and analyzing to recreate one of the world’s most famed violins, the 1704 “Betts” Stradivarius.

In essence, this is a cloning process. Like DNA, a violin can be scanned and analyzed for its physical structure — shape, density, wood type, etc. — and with that knowledge, specialists can essentially recreate any violin.

Setting aside all fantastical images of cloning we see from the sci-fi films, we need to know that these are not exact copies. The replicas are not time-traveled and perfectly molded, but are modern instruments that take into consideration the luthier techniques, shape, style and wood type of the famed violins throughout history.

All instruments leave fingerprints and a bread crumb trail. Like crime scene investigators, the scanning process exposes that history and tells the unique and individual story of each of these instruments. The methods can then be used to ensure the preservation process of these remarkable instruments.

While you further your reading, what I might challenge you to keep in mind are the implications of what may come from this ongoing project. Prior to this point in scientific history, the highest quality violins, namely those in the Stradivarius catalog, have been reserved for the extremely wealthy or the musically accomplished that can be financially supported in obtaining them.

What Dr. Steve Sirr, Steve Rossow and John Waddle have done is narrow the gap of accessibility to quality. They are offering replicas of world-class instruments at more affordable prices that will empower and enrich the playing of young beginners and amateurs.

On the Air This Week

Highlights from Nov. 29 to Dec. 6

Wednesday, noon: Music with Minnesotans: teacher Barbara Mraz

Thursday, 3 pm hour: Regional Spotlight: seasonal music from the Encore Wind Ensemble, Bella Voce Women’s Chorus, Lynn Trapp, and Consortium Carissimi

Friday, 8 pm: The Minnesota Orchestra with violinist Christian Tetzlaff

Saturday, 11:30 am: The The Metropolitan Opera radio season begins with Handel’s Rodelinda

Sunday, 6 am: Pipedreams: Centennial Celebrities

Sunday, noon: From the Top

Sunday, 3 pm: Saint Olaf Christmas Festival, live from Northfield

Sunday, 1 pm: SymphonyCast: The Minnesota Orchestra

Monday, 8 pm: Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, with violinist Gil Shaham

Rose Ensemble Audio Postcard No. 7

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In a chat following the final concert of Songs of Temperance and Temptation, the pleasures of having performed for The Rose Ensemble’s extended family throughout the state hits close to home for tenor Nick Chalmers.

Members of The Rose Ensemble discuss their bittersweet sentiments about the end of the 2011 Greater Minnesota Tour and express interest in taking the program on the road again in the future.

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The Rose Ensemble says farewell amidst a standing ovation in Hutchinson, during their final performance of the 2011 Greater Minnesota Tour.

R. I. P. Montserrat Figueras

It was sad to read today of the death of the singer Montserrat Figueras, best known for her many recordings of early music, from the Middle Ages through the Baroque. In recent years, she, along with her husband, Jordi Savall, had also explored links between that music, and other cultures, in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

With a voice that was pure, and never forced, and performances that were always committed, she created an intimate bond with listeners. Recordings like the one below help explain why (“Yo soy la locura” from the luxurious “Don Quijote” set):

Rose Ensemble Audio Postcard No. 6

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On the second to last night of the Songs of Temperance and Temptation tour, Jordan Sramek hands the microphone over to audience members from the Willmar performance to tell their Prohibition stories. From the young girl asked to sign the Temperance pledge, to a renowned bootlegger, and a young man seeking alcohol for medicinal purposes, it’s clear that audience members had come to the show with diverse insights into the Prohibition struggle. Fun was had by all during Sunday’s post-concert speakeasy reception.

A performance in Hutchinson Monday night, November 21, marks the finale of The Rose Ensemble’s 2011 Greater Minnesota Tour.

The men of The Rose Ensemble enjoying a “drunken” moment during “Just to Pay our Respects to Maguiness” (Frank Hayden, 1886).
Tenor Nick Chalmers coaching the Ridgewater College Chamber Singers in Willmar, MN.

On the Air This Week

Highlights from Nov. 8 to 15

Wednesday, noon: Music with Minnesotans: jazz singer Christine Rosholt

Thursday, 9 am: Giving Thanks

Thursday, noon: A Thanksgiving Celebration with Garrison Keillor

Thursday, 5 pm: Thanksgiving with Cantus

Thursday, 8 pm: Giving Thanks

Friday, 8 pm: The Minnesota Orchestra in Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel

Sunday, 6 am: Pipedreams: Pipedreams Live!, from Dallas

Sunday, noon: From the Top

Sunday, 1 pm: SymphonyCast: Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Symphony Orchestra, from their concert series “Brahms Unbound”

Monday, 8 pm: Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra: in works of Clyne, Kim, and Schubert

Rose Ensemble Audio Postcard No. 5

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The Rose Ensemble’s founder and artistic director, Jordan Sramek, invites listeners behind the scenes as musicians chat with one another while preparing for their performance at the Historic Paramount Theatre in Austin, MN.

Amidst their physical transformation into their stage roles, musicians paint a picture of the dressing rooms and reminisce about their place in the history of Austin’s Spam Museum. The Thursday night show kicked off the second half of the Songs of Temperance and Temptation tour through greater Minnesota.

Next stop: A Center for the Arts in Fergus Falls, MN, Saturday, November 19.

The Historic Paramount Theatre in Austin was the ideal vaudeville venue for Songs of Temperance and Temptation.

The ensemble is joined by the audience in a rousing sing-a-long of “Battle Hymn of Minnesota” (from Minnesota Dry Federation Campaign Songs, ca. 1918).

Classical MPR Presents New York Polyphony

In America’s pantheon of vocal ensembles, and in particular those of the male variety, New York Polyphony has found its niche using the least amount of materials: four voices. NYP mainly sings music from the Medieval and Renaissance, though it ventures into the 20th and 21st centuries, as in their debut release I Sing the Birth, a meditative collection of Advent and Christmas works from Plainchant to Andrew Smith (born in 1970).

New York Polyphony’s only Midwest stop this season will be in Minneapolis on December 9th, 7:30 p.m., at Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church. This is your chance to experience a unique concert of selections from their debut recording and their 2010 release Tudor City, in a beautiful, intimate sanctuary.