On the Air This Week

Highlights from Sep. 24 to Oct. 1

Tuesday, 7:15 am: School Spotlight: Princeton High School Concert Choir.

Tuesday, 5:30 pm: Music with Minnesotans: Christopher Hopkins, the Makeover Guy.

Tuesday, 7:15 pm: School Spotlight: Princeton High School Concert Choir.

Thursday, 3 pm hour: Regional Spotlight: Minnesota Bach Ensemble.

Saturday, 7 pm: Song of America, Part 13: Places That Sing to Us.

Sunday, 6 am: Pipedreams: A Juilliard Student Showcase.

Sunday, noon: From the Top.

Sunday, 1 pm: SymphonyCast: The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra performs works of Janacek, Beethoven, and Tchaikovsky at the BBC Proms.

Monday, noon: Learning to Listen: The Brandenburg Concertos.

Monday, 8 pm: Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra: Soprano Dawn Upshaw and works of Piazzolla, Iglesias, and Golijov. Miguel Harth-Bedoya conducts.

Tuesday, 7:15 am: School Spotlight: Robbinsdale Cantori and Bel Canto Choirs and Chamber Strings.

Tuesday, 5:30 pm: Music with Minnesotans: Dr. Jon Hallberg.

Tuesday, 7:15 pm: School Spotlight: Robbinsdale Cantori and Bel Canto Choirs and Chamber Strings.

The endless joy of music

Last week, our friends at Performance Today created a video of pianists Alessio Bax and Lucille Chung performing a duet of “Libertango” by Astor Piazzolla. The performance is certainly technically masterful, but it’s also fun, playful — and, as one might expect from a tango — kind of romantic and sexy. If you haven’t seen the video yet, you can watch it here on the PT website.

That duet brought to mind another video that’s been floating around the Internet for a few years. They may not be professional musicians, but Fran and Marlo Cowan combine solid piano playing with a sense of joy in their duet of a ragtime piece, “Put On Your Old Grey Bonnet,” performed in the lobby of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., in 2008.

I’m guessing the Cowans have a few years on Bax and Chung, but their enjoyment of the music is just as palpable.

It’s another example of how music can be constantly enriching. Fun as they may be, some activities are generally limited to certain stages in our lives — pole vaulting, hang gliding, running with the bulls in Pamplona, to name a few. But the joy music gives us? That’s ageless.

Was Bach a teenage bully?

New research indicates that one of the greatest composers of all time may have a life story that’s been cleaned-up to preserve the image created by his pristine works.

Conductor Sir John Eliot Gardiner has been digging into the records… and the results are jaw-dropping.

Archival sources, including school inspector reports, reveal that Bach’s education was troubled by gang warfare and bullying, sadism and sodomy – as well as his own extensive truancy.

Find the full story in The Guardian

Gardiner’s findings will be published in the UK on October 3 (stateside Oct. 29) in the book Music in the Castle of Heaven: A Portrait of Johann Sebastian Bach.

(h/t Suzanne Schaffer, Performance Today producer)

O Sole Meow – Opera singer performs 'Meow Mix' jingle

Looking for a little levity in your day? Look no further.

Late Night with Jimmy Fallon has a segment that features suggestions from the audience — appropriately entitled “Suggestion Box” — and last night’s segment featured a wish from Stephanie Ellis to hear the “Meow Mix” jingle sung by an opera singer.

Fallon was more than happy to oblige. He brought out Richard Troxell, best-known for his portrayal of Lt. Pinkerton in the 1995 film version of Madame Butterfly. And he delivered.

For those unfamiliar with the jingle, here’s the original:

Musical Pope

When Pope Francis assumed the papacy, it was widely reported that he was an opera fan.

In a new interview, he proves it, with allusions to “Parsifal, “Tannhauser,” and the “Ring.” When asked about optimism, he responds with a reference to Puccini’s “Turandot.” Full text here.

(h/t Bob Collins)

On the Air This Week

Highlights from Sep. 17 to 24

Tuesday, 7:15 am: School Spotlight: Rosemount High School Choir.

Tuesday, 5:30 pm: Music with Minnesotans: Author LaWayne Leno.

Tuesday, 7:15 pm: School Spotlight: Rosemount High School Choir.

Wednesday, 8 pm: The Minnesota Opera’s production of Puccini’s Turandot.

Thursday, 3 pm hour: Regional Spotlight: The Artaria String Quartet plays music of Erwin Schulhoff.

Saturday, 7 pm: Song of America, Part 12: Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance.

Sunday, 6 am: Pipedreams: From the BBC Proms.

Sunday, noon: From the Top.

Sunday, 1 pm: SymphonyCast: The Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, performing Mahler’s Second, the “Resurrection” Symphony, at the BBC Proms.

Monday, noon: Learning to Listen: Baroque music.

Monday, 8 pm: Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra: Works of Tchaikovsky, Schoenberg, and Prokofiev. Robert Abbado conducts.

Tuesday, 7:15 am: School Spotlight: Princeton High School Concert Choir.

Tuesday, 5:30 pm: Music with Minnesotans: Christopher Hopkins, the Makeover Guy.

Tuesday, 7:15 pm: School Spotlight: Princeton High School Concert Choir.

Miss America, education and classical music

You may be ‘Miss Taken’ when it comes to America’s biggest pageant and its relationship to classical music.

The conventional wisdom about the Miss America pageant is that it is a vapid, image-obsessed parade focused on physical beauty above all else.

Conventional wisdom often gets it wrong.

Two great stories emerged around this year’s Miss America contest — and they’re both tied to classical music and education in a major way.

The first: Miss Minnesota, Rebecca Yeh, (pictured above) is a classically-trained violinist, who competed as a Featured Round Artist in Classical MPR’s own Minnesota Varsity showcase.

While Yeh didn’t get the tiara, (she was an impressive fourth-runner up) she wowed them with her performance of Wieniawski’s “Scherzo Tarantelle.” Her performance was so strong in fact, she won the preliminary talent competition earlier in the week.

But that’s not all. Using her first-person experience with her brother’s Autism diagnosis, she also speaks eloquently of the need for Autism awareness and advocacy in the public school system. Read a profile from her hometown newspaper, the Brainerd Dispatch, or see her introduction from the Miss America YouTube channel.

The second story emerging from last night’s pageant features another violin super star: Joshua Bell.

Perhaps eclipsed by the crowning of Nina Davuluri as Miss America, the Miss America Organization’s announcement of a new partnership with Education Through Music (ETM) to support education in schools didn’t receive too much attention. ETM is an organization that partners with inner-city schools to promote the use of music in schools as a means of enhancing students’ academic performance and general development.

Joshua Bell, world-renowned violinist and ETM Board Member, forged the partnership when invited to become a judge at the Miss America Pageant this year.

“Music enhances the lives of children in so many ways, which is why it is so important that music education be valued in our society. My own commitment to music education has brought me to many public schools, as well as established music academies, and I have seen first-hand the positive effects of music education on these children. Music teaches about beauty, logic, mathematics, language, teamwork, and individual expression. Having seen many ETM students with their own instruments in hand, beaming with a sense of accomplishment after having worked together to create something beautiful is nothing short of thrilling. I don’t think there is a human alive who could witness this and then argue against the importance of music education. Having learned of Miss America’s mission for educating young people, I was pleased to introduce The Miss America Organization to Education Through Music, and even more thrilled at the excited responses received from both organizations to the idea of joining forces to improve music education,” says Bell.

Davuluri, will use the partnership to focus on STEM curriculum in the schools as she tours the country this year.

“During her year as Miss America she will serve as spokesperson for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) this year as she travels to Washington, D.C., to work with the Department of Education,” a statement from the Miss America organization explained.

So the verdict on Yeh and Bell: good looking? Yes. Vapid? Hardly.

On the Air This Week

Highlights from Sep. 10 to 17

Tuesday, 7:15 am: School Spotlight: Apple Valley High School Wind Ensemble.

Tuesday, 5:30 pm: Music with Minnesotans: Bain Boehlke of the Jungle Theater.

Tuesday, 7:15 pm: School Spotlight: Apple Valley High School. Wind Ensemble.

Tuesday, 8 pm: Musical Memories of the High Holidays, with Itzhak Perlman.

Thursday, 3 pm hour: Members of the Mankato Symphony Orchestra play Schubert.

Saturday, 7 pm: Song of America, Part 11: Songs We’ve Always Sung.

Sunday, 6 am: Pipedreams: Hats Off for Horatio.

Sunday, noon: From the Top.

Sunday, 1 pm: SymphonyCast: Mitsuko Uchida joins the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra at the BBC Proms.

Monday, noon: Learning to Listen: Nadia Boulanger and her students.

Monday, 8 pm: Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra: Mozart, Adams, and Richard Strauss.

Tuesday, 7:15 am: School Spotlight: Rosemount High School Choir.

Tuesday, 5:30 pm: Music with Minnesotans: Author LaWayne Leno.

Tuesday, 7:15 pm: School Spotlight: Rosemount High School Choir.

End of Summer Playlist

I’ve had some songs stuck in my head (ear worms) the past several days, including one of my favorite pieces by Schumann, and it occurred to me that the weather might have something to do with it.

Probably not, but my ear worms coincidentally fit the season really well.

Saturday morning, I woke up with the Flower Duet in my head. No clue why, but it was there the entire day. If you’re impatient or short on time, the most famous part starts at about 1:17.

Great music for an end of summer day.

Sunday belonged to Robert Schumann. He wrote several collections of small pieces, and he’d put them in albums like Scenes from Childhood, or Album for the Young, or Colored Leaves.

The piece that stole my ears Sunday came from Albumblätter, or Album Leaves, and it’s called “Wiegenliedchen”, or “Cradle Song”. I’m a particular fan of this performance, because Schumann marks the music Nicht schnell, which means “not fast”.

It makes it easier to hear the beautiful unfolding counterpoint.

Monday, I couldn’t get Josef Strauss out of my head. I’m a huuuuuuuge fan of the Strauss family. Reminder: Richard Strauss is not a part of that family. The Strauss fam includes Johann Sr. and Jr., Eduard and Josef.

So Josef’s awesome waltz called Austrian Village Swallows (or Dorfschwalben aus Ă–sterreich) was running over and over in my head. By the way, it’s really fun to clean house to waltzes.

What music accompanies your autumn?

On the Air This Week

Highlights from Sep. 3 to 10

Tuesday, 5:30 pm: Music with Minnesotans: Teacher and writer Bruce Kramer.

Tuesday, 8 pm: Musical Memories of the High Holidays, with Itzhak Perlman.

Thursday, 3 pm hour: The Prairie Winds play music of David Maslanka at the Madeline Island Music Camp.

Saturday, 7 pm: Song of America, Part 10: Emily Dickinson: Letter to the World.

Saturday, 8 pm: Live from the Ordway, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra begins its season.

Sunday, 6 am: Pipedreams: Historical Eclecticism in Houston.

Sunday, noon: From the Top.

Sunday, 1 pm: SymphonyCast: From the Proms, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, with violinist Vladimir Repin.

Sunday, 3 pm: Last Night of the Proms. Marin Alsop conducts; Joyce DiDonato and Nigel Kennedy are guest soloists.

Monday, noon: Learning to Listen: Music for bands, as schools and their bands begin the new school year.

Monday, 8 pm: Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra: British music, and a symphony by Haydn. Douglas Boyd conducts.

Tuesday, 7:15 am: School Spotlight: Apple Valley High School Wind Ensemble.

Tuesday, 5:30 pm: Music with Minnesotans: Bain Boehlke of the Jungle Theater.

Tuesday, 7:15 pm: School Spotlight: Apple Valley High School. Wind Ensemble.