On the Air This Week

Highlights from July 28 to August 8

Tuesday, 5 pm: Music with Minnesotans: Michael Robins of Illusion Theater.
Thursday, 3:15 pm: Regional Spotlight: the Young Musicians of Minnesota play Glazunov.
Friday, 8 pm: Minnesota Orchestra: Sommerfest.
Sunday, 6 am: Pipedreams: Fireworks and Dreams.
Sunday, noon: From the Top.
Sunday, 1 pm: SymphonyCast: The First Night of the 2015 BBC Proms.
Monday, noon: Learning to Listen.
Monday, 8 pm: Carnegie Hall Live: pianist Andras Schiff.
Tuesday, 5 pm: Music with Minnesotans.

Lyricist Tim Rice shares advice for aspiring artists: ‘You’ve got to be quite enthusiastic’

Sir Tim Rice receives an Honorary Doctorate from Leeds Beckett University, July 24, 2015
Sir Tim Rice receives an Honorary Doctorate from Leeds Beckett University, July 24, 2015 (photo courtesy Leeds Beckett University)

Presented with an Honorary Doctorate by Leeds Beckett University on Friday, July 24, lyricist Tim Rice shares some advice for aspiring artists and provides a look back on the beginnings of his collaboration with Andrew Lloyd Weber.

Lyricist Tim Rice has earned his share of accolades, including Academy Awards, Grammy Awards and Golden Globes for his work on music for such productions as Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, and The Lion King, to name a few. He’s also earned a knighthood for his services to music.

Just last week, Sir Tim was awarded again — this time with an honorary doctorate from Leeds Beckett University in England. “I am very honored to be given any award at all in any circumstance,” Rice says, “and one from such a distinguished university is terrific.”

Rice was presented the honorary doctorate at Leeds Beckett University’s graduation ceremony on July 24. In the context of a graduation, Rice offered advice to those embarking on careers — particularly those aspiring to work in the arts. “You’ve got to be quite enthusiastic about your job, there’s no point in doing something you don’t like,” Rice says. “I started out in law which I thought was a thing I should do, but I didn’t like it so was therefore no good at it. If you are genuinely interested in the arts, even if you don’t think you have an incredibly basic talent, there’s so many things you can do in the arts world that aren’t actually being an artist; you can be behind the scenes which doesn’t involve you getting up on the stage or painting etc. It’s the people behind the scenes that make the most money.”

Rice also shares an amusing story about how he and Andrew Lloyd Weber began their musical collaboration. “I never really thought about going into the theater world when I was young,” Rice says. “I didn’t know much about the theater, but I knew a little bit about musicals from my parents’ record collection. It was through meeting Andrew Lloyd Webber really. I was writing pop songs, he was trying to write theater stuff, our paths crossed and we decided to go for his idea, which was very sensible because we would never have been better than the Beatles or the Rolling Stones, but there was nobody doing what we were trying to do, so we were number one in a field of one for a while.”

Gifted with the perspective of a long life and career, Rice says he’s more interested now in what his children are doing in their careers rather than in his own. “I think when you get to a certain stage you want your offspring to have a happy life and success more than you do for yourself,” he says.

“Sir Tim Rice is an inspirational and prolific figure in the history of British music and theater,” Leeds Beckett University Vice Chancellor, Professor Susan Rice says of honoring the acclaimed lyricist. “It was delight to welcome him to our Headingley Campus and to recognize his enormous contribution to music and the arts.”

You can listen to Sir Tim Rice’s thoughts from last Friday by clicking the audio player here. Audio is courtesy Leeds Beckett University.

Click on Classical: Beds in the concert hall, Horner’s last score, and why we sing

Max Richter Sleep

Every Monday morning at 9:15, I visit the Classical MPR studio to talk about stories we’re featuring on our website. Here’s what Emily Reese and I will be discussing today.

Composer Max Richter has composed a piece that’s so long, its premiere will have concertgoers lying on beds instead of sitting in seats. Richter doesn’t mind if they fall asleep…in fact, that’s exactly what he hopes will happen.
The new boxing movie Southpaw is earning mixed reviews, but one part of the film is winning raves: the score, which was the last to be completed by the late great James Horner.
Last night, the Summer Singers performed at the St. Paul Seminary. As he prepared for the concert, choir member Patrick Coleman shared a moving reflection on the power of song.

An erhu master takes on the ‘Queen of the Night’

Ehru Master George Gao (Courtesy of the Artist)
Erhu Master George Gao (Courtesy of the Artist)

The erhu is a two-stringed bowed instrument — sometimes referred to as the “Chinese fiddle” — with origins stretching back to over one thousand years ago (you can hear examples of erhu in the “Traditional Instruments of China” playlist in our Audio Backpack). The instrument primarily consists of a mahogany sound box (covered with a snake skin head) and two steel strings which are played with a horsehair bamboo bow.

Recently, Chinese ehru master George Gao performed the vocal part of Mozart’s famous ‘Queen of the Night’ aria, with accompaniment from a string quartet. Enjoy the rendition in the video below.

(For more of George Gao, you can see a video of him performing the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in D Major on ehru here)

On the Air This Week

Highlights from July 21 to 28

Tuesday, 5 pm: Music with Minnesotans: Robert Ball.
Thursday, 3:15 pm: Regional Spotlight: highlights from the 2014 Lakes Area Music Festival in Brainerd.
Sunday, 6 am: Pipedreams: Gloria!
Sunday, noon: From the Top.
Sunday, 1 pm: SymphonyCast: The Houston Symphony Orchestra plays Rachmaninoff and Strauss.
Monday, noon: Learning to Listen.
Monday, 8 pm: Carnegie Hall Live: The Philadelphia Orchestra.
Tuesday, 5 pm: Music with Minnesotans.

Steinway and Sons unveils 600,000th piano, inspired by Fibonacci

"The Fibonacci" (Courtesy of Steinway & Sons)

In celebration of the company’s 600,000th piano, Steinway & Sons recently unveiled “The Fibonacci” — designed by master artisan, Frank Pollaro (see some of Pollaro’s other piano designs here). Its Macassar ebony veneer features the Fibonacci spiral, which (for those who may not be familiar) is mathematically represented by the following sequence: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, etc.

“As I considered the number 600,000, the Fibonacci spiral came to mind,” the artist states in the press release. “The way in which it continues to grow but stay true to its form is very much like Steinway & Sons over these many years. Combining the universal languages of music and mathematics suddenly made perfect sense.”

“The Fibonacci” is a nine-foot long concert grand (a Model D) and was christened by pianist Lang Lang during a VIP reception at the Steinway’s Show Room in April of this year. The piano is priced at $2.4 million.

For more photos of the instrument, check out the gallery at classicalfm.com. 

A Strauss soundtrack for babies doing what babies do

And the winner of today’s award for “Best Use of ‘Also Sprach Zarathustra’ in a Diaper Commercial” goes to … (drumroll, please)

Safe to say that Richard Strauss wouldn’t have anticipated Pampers, but in real life, he was indeed familiar with babies in particular and domestic routines in general. In fact, he composed a symphony, the “Domestic Symphony,” which describes a day in the life of the Strauss family. As Strauss described it, “”My next tone poem will represent a day in my family. It will be partly lyrical, partly humorous.” The dedication reads “to my dear wife and our son.” Strauss was 40, he’d been married 10 years, and his son was 7.

A demonstration of natural reverb in 15 different places

The Wikisinger (screengrab via YouTube
The Wikisinger (screengrab via YouTube)

Joachim Müllner (a.k.a. “The Wikisinger”) recently shared a video of himself performing an original song in 15 different places, experimenting with reverb, delays, and reflections — the idea behind the video is to show that every room, building, space you enter has its own unique sonic properties.

There is no artificial reverb applied to the recording — it’s all natural, and it’s an illuminating look into the impact of varied environments on sound.

The Austrian production company behind the video — Touché Videoproduktion — created a similar experiment a couple of years ago with a video featuring “The Wikidrummer.”

U.S. Senate passes Every Child Achieves Act

A high school music class in Alexandria, Minn. (MPR photo/Tesfa Wondemagegnehu)
A high school music class in Alexandria, Minn. (MPR photo/Tesfa Wondemagegnehu)

In April of this year, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee released a proposal called the “Every Child Achieves Act of 2015,” which contained some important elements pertaining to music and arts in education. At the top of the list:

“Arts” and “music” are included in the new legislative definition of “core academic subjects.”

Late last week, the United States Senate passed the bill by a final vote count of 81 to 17 — a move that will help ensure that all students are given the chance to experience music education and the benefits that accompany that experience.

In reaction to the bill’s passing, NAfME Assistant Executive Director Chris Woodside says:

“The music education community has poured its blood, sweat, and tears into getting the Senate’s bill to this point. More than 14,000 letters have been sent to Capitol Hill on behalf of music teachers and students. There is bipartisan support for music and arts in this legislation — senators from across the country are acknowledging that these subjects should be national education priorities. That’s really big, and we’re grateful.”

Learn more about the “Every Child Achieves Act” and its key components by visiting the NAfME website.

Click on Classical: Da Vinci’s dream, a mysterious symphony, and Mickey’s comeback

Screen Shot 2015-07-20 at 8.13.57 AM

Every Monday morning at 9:15, I join John Birge on Classical MPR to talk about stories we’re featuring on our websites. Here’s what we’ll be discussing today.

Leonardo da Vinci invented a strange and wonderful instrument called the “viola organista.” He wasn’t able to hear it in his lifetime, but now you can.

The Toy Symphony has traditionally been attributed to Mozart’s father Leopold, but did he actually write it? Hailey Colwell explains the mystery.

Mickey Mouse was the original Disney cartoon hero, but by the late 1930s he was losing popularity to the hilarious new character Donald Duck. Read about how Mickey’s comeback got an assist from a French composer.