Friday, August 29, 2008

One for the Books

Our featured composer on the Piano this week would frequently sit at the piano reading the Bible and playing his music. At one point Charles Valentin Alkan wanted to set the Bible to music, but time did not permit. It is amusing to think of Alkan as the Cecil B. De Mille of the romantic age. And like the movie-mogul, one needs the resources of a great technique, the pianistic equivalent of Cinema-scope to bring the composer's vision to life.

There is a contradiction in Alkan's compositions. The rhetoric is obviously Romantic, but the structure, the nuts of bolts of this music is decidedly classical. Great symmetry is found here. The endlessly repeated notes form a machine like texture that sounds rather modern to our ears which are used to the music of Riley and Glass. Alkan was also rather shy, as you can tell by this picture (seen right.)

On the Piano this Sunday at 5 we sample some of Alkan's best known works.

host Randy Anderson

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Classical Spotlight: Peter Schickele

Join us Thursday afternoon at 2pm for Classical Spotlight at a new time! Host John Clare talks with composer/performer/humorist Peter Schickele, aka PDQ Bach.

We'll hear about his latest release, The Jekyll and Hyde Tour, as well as the "Howdy Symphony" and "Oedipus Tex."

The two talked on July 17th, Schickele's 73rd birthday...hear more on the TPR website including the show and interview.

Next week, we'll spotlight local performances including The San Antonio Camerata, Musical Bridges Around the World and From the Top!

At the Cinema

Hope you enjoyed Mr. Smith Goes to Washington last night - remember the finale for Cinema Tuesdays changes location next week - At the Death House Door will be at 7pm at Santikos Palladium IMAX Theater - and will include a Q&A session with Rev. Carroll Pickett (seen left) afterwards. Suggested donations of $10 for members and $12 for non-members will get you in for these one-time only showings!
To make reservations, call 614-8977, or 1-800-622-8977, during regular business hours. All proceeds from the Cinema Tuesdays series benefit Texas Public Radio.

In other cinema news, classical fans will want to note this new development about Gustav Mahler (pictured right) on the silver screen!
Percy Adlon develops 'Mahler'
Film to be based on events, eyewitness accounts
"Bagdad Cafe's" director Percy Adlon has teamed up with his son Felix and wife Eleonore to develop "Mahler auf der Couch," a psychological drama about the Austrian composer Gustav Mahler's life. Set in 1910, plot deals with the composer's tumultuous marital life with Alma and his ambivalent relationship with Sigmund Freud.
"This film is a real small drama, it's not what I call a brown period piece," said Percy Adlon, who wrote the film based on actual events, eyewitness accounts and Mahler's journal entries. "And hopefully people will experience this story in musical terms as if a contemporary composer had described it."
Adlon plans on shooting in Holland, Vienna and Munich for a 2010 release, in time for Mahler's 150th anniversary. Budgeted at 3.5 million euros, pic will be co-produced by Eleonore Adlons' shingle, Leora Films, and CultFilm. The Bavarian cast includes Barbara Romaner, Johannes Silberschneider and Karl Markovics. L.A. Philharmonic music director Esa-Pekka Salonen will conduct the film's music. The composer's life has already been depicted in Ken Russell's "Mahler," which earned a Bafta nod in 1975. Adlon is also presenting the director's cut, HD-restored version of "Bagdad Cafe" at the Cannes Market.
Read the full article at:

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Renee Fleming wins the Polar Music Prize!

Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf presented today the 2008 Polar Music Prize to American soprano Renee Fleming and Pink Floyd band members Nick Mason and Roger Waters for their contributions to popular music and opera.
Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said the British rock band had made "a monumental contribution ... and captured the mood and spirit of a whole generation in their reflections and attitudes."
Fleming was praised for her "sublime, unparalleled voice and unique stylistic versatility" by Peter Gelb, general manager of the Metropolitan Opera in New York, who read the award citation.
The audience gave the prize winners a standing ovation when they arrived to receive the awards, each worth $157,700. The ceremony was held in the Stockholm Concert Hall.
Fleming thanked organizers for drawing attention to the importance of culture in everyday life and paid tribute to Swedish opera singers.
A two-time Grammy winner, Fleming, 49, has performed on international stages since her debut more than 20 years ago.
Pink Floyd, founded in the early 1960s, reached critical acclaim and popularity with albums such as "Ummagumma," "The Dark Side of the Moon" and "The Wall."
Mason, 63, said the band was honored to receive the award and that fellow band members David Gilmour and Richard Wright were sorry they couldn't attend.
Waters, 65, paid tribute to his 96-year old mother. "If there is any humanity and empathy in my work, which I think there is, I would rather owe it to her," he said.
Swedish artists performed the band's songs at the ceremony, ending with a sing-along to the hit "Another Brick in the Wall."
Reinfeldt recalled playing the song - which has the lyric, "we don't need no education" - on his school's loudspeakers when he was 14.
The Polar Music Prize is Sweden's biggest music prize and is usually split between pop artists and classical musicians. It was founded in 1989 by Stig Anderson, manager of Swedish pop group ABBA. Past winners include Paul McCartney, Isaac Stern, Bruce Springsteen, Pierre Boulez, Quincy Jones and composer Steve Reich.

CD Review: Beethoven Clement

Coming out Tuesday, September 9th is a new cd with Rachel Barton Pine, Jose Serebrier and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

The two cd set, priced as a two-fer, has the Violin Concerto in D by Ludwig van Beethoven and the world premiere recording of Franz Clement's Violin Concerto in D, written one year before Beethoven's concerto.

Host John Clare spoke to Jose Serebrier (pictured right with John) about this project just after he recorded it...hear their conversation as a
Read more about it here.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Remembering Bernstein

You might have enjoyed last week's Exploring Music that focused on Leonard would have been Bernstein's 90th Birthday.
This fall Carnegie Hall is doing a special project, The Best of All Possible Worlds.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Olympics (c) (tm) (r)

There's some questions to the music arrangements being used at the Olympics and about composer/conductor Peter Breiner in the Washington Post.
And check out a Texas Public Radio interview with Conductor Erich Kunzel who was in Beijing for the opening ceremonies.
Be sure to listen for great music with these musicians on KPAC and KTXI!

That was Then, this is Now

We music lovers often confuse LPs and CDs with music. They are but a snapshot of a performer's conception of a piece of music at a particular time. The music lover wants permanence and a repeatable thrill time after time. On the other hand, the musician grows - changes and usually feels the next performance will be the perfect one.

One artist that has changed over a relatively short time is Stephen Hough. When I first heard his recordings of Liszt, I was thrilled that a late twentieth century pianist would play Liszt broadly and aim for passion. This was Liszt's credo and few of today's pianists in their search for objective perfection care to thrill a listener as they are in meeting the austere needs of music critics. Times change but the notes of the music do not, this could be the reason that the heavy-duty romantic rhetoric of the nineteenth century falls flat with todays easily embarrassed audiences.

On the Piano this week, we return to those early performances of Hough when his playing was tempered by the great pianists of the past.

The Piano this Sunday Afternoon at 5 here on KPAC and KTXI.

host Randy Anderson

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Czech it out

If you were interested in this story on NPR this morning about Prague Spring 1968, be sure to listen to our interview with Czech composer Karel Husa, who's Music for Prague 1968 has been performed around the world, and talks about writing that and his career in music.
Listen to a Windows Media File or MP3 File

Coming to a theater near you

The Metropolitian Opera is expanding their offerings (to 11, up from 8 last year) and to new theaters! In San Antonio, you can see the operas at:
Fiesta 16 Theatres (12631 VANCE JACKSON SAN ANTONIO, TX 78230 210-641-6906)
Cielo Vista 18 (2828 CINEMA RIDGE SAN ANTONIO, TX 78238 210-680-1125).
Tickets go on sale August 22nd to the general public.

The 11 productions scheduled are:
Opening Night Gala Starring Renée Fleming
La Traviata (Act II) – VerdiManon (Act III) – MassenetCapriccio (Final Scene) – Richard Strauss
Monday, September 22, 2008 (6:30 pm ET) - The Americas
For the season-opening gala starring Renée Fleming, Music Director James Levine and Marco Armiliato conduct fully staged performances of the second act of Verdi’s La Traviata, the third act of Massenet’s Manon, and the final scene from Richard Strauss’s Capriccio. Tenor Ramón Vargas and baritones Thomas Hampson and Dwayne Croft join the soprano.
Conductors: James Levine and Marco Armiliato; Renée Fleming, Ramón Vargas, Thomas Hampson, Dwayne Croft
Salome – Strauss
Saturday, October 11, 2008 (1:00 pm ET)
Karita Mattila caused a sensation when she sang Salome at the Met for the first time in 2004. She reprises her stunning interpretation of the part, including her unforgettable Dance of the Seven Veils.
Conductor: Mikko Franck; Production: Jürgen Flimm; Karita Mattila, Ildikó Komlósi, Juha Uusitalo, Kim Begley, Joseph Kaiser
Doctor Atomic (Met Premiere) – Adams
Saturday, November 8, 2008 (1:00 pm ET)
John Adams’s contemporary masterpiece explores a momentous episode of modern history: the creation of the atomic bomb. Director Penny Woolcock makes her Met debut with this gripping story that changed the course of history. Baritone Gerald Finley plays J. Robert Oppenheimer, the title character.
Conductor: Alan Gilbert; Production: Penny Woolcock; Sasha Cooke, Meredith Arwady, Gerald Finley, Eric Owens, Richard Paul Fink
La Damnation de Faust (New Production) – Berlioz
Saturday, November 22, 2008 (1:00 pm ET)
Robert Lepage, one of theater’s most imaginative directors, applies his artistry to Berlioz’s contemplation of good and evil. Using projections, Lepage has created a vision for La Damnation de Faust that seamlessly marries art and technology. Marcello Giordani stars in the title role opposite Susan Graham as Marguerite and John Relyea as Méphistophélès. James Levine conducts this rarely staged masterwork.
Conductor: James Levine; Production: Robert Lepage; Susan Graham, Marcello Giordani, John Relyea
Thaïs (New Production) – Massenet
Saturday, December 20, 2008 (12:00 pm ET)
Renée Fleming stars as the Egyptian courtesan in search of spiritual sustenance. Thomas Hampson is the monk who falls from grace. Massenet’s sensual opera is presented in a new production by John Cox.
Conductor: Jesús López-Cobos; Production: John Cox; Renée Fleming, Thomas Hampson, Michael Schade
La Rondine (New Production) – Puccini
Saturday, January 10, 2009 (1:00 pm ET)
Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna provide the star power to deliver this ravishing romance from the world’s most popular opera composer. Gheorghiu plays the kept woman who gambles on true love, and Alagna is the man who makes her question the cost of her glittering existence. Nicolas Joël directs the new production of this gorgeously melodic look at love.
Conductor: Marco Armiliato; Production: Nicolas Joël; Angela Gheorghiu, Lisette Oropesa, Roberto Alagna, Marius Brenciu, Samuel Ramey
Orfeo ed Euridice – Gluck
Saturday, January 24, 2009 (1:00 pm ET)
Mark Morris’s acclaimed production returns. This complete vision for Gluck, with choreography by Morris and costumes by Isaac Mizrahi, features the artistry of Stephanie Blythe in the male title role. The alluring Danielle de Niese is Orfeo’s adored wife, Euridice, who inspires the hero to face the underworld for her sake. Music Director James Levine conducts.
Conductor: James Levine; Production: Mark Morris; Stephanie Blythe, Danielle de Niese
Lucia di Lammermoor – Donizetti
Saturday, February 7, 2009 (1:00 pm ET)
Anna Netrebko sings the title role of Donizetti’s fragile heroine for the first time at the Met, with tenor Rolando Villazón in the part of her lover, Edgardo. Baritone Mariusz Kwiecien is her tyrannical brother. Mary Zimmerman’s hit production is staged as a Victorian ghost story. Conductor: Marco Armiliato; Production: Mary Zimmerman; Anna Netrebko, Rolando Villazón, Mariusz Kwiecien, Ildar Abdrazakov
Madama Butterfly – Puccini
Saturday, March 7, 2009 (1:00 pm ET)
Cristina Gallardo-Domâs returns to the title role of Anthony Minghella’s stunning production, a new classic of the Met repertory, opposite Marcello Giordani.
Conductor: Patrick Summers; Production: Anthony Minghella; Cristina Gallardo-Domâs, Marcello Giordani
La Sonnambula (New Production) – Bellini
Saturday, March 21, 2009 (1:00 pm ET)
Mary Zimmerman, who directed Natalie Dessay in last season’s hit production of Lucia di Lammermoor, underlines La Sonnambula’s dual elements of sleep and wakefulness in an intriguing staging set in the present. Bellini’s hauntingly lyrical score soars as performed by Dessay and Juan Diego Flórez, back from their sensational run together in La Fille du Régiment.
Conductor: Evelino Pidò; Production: Mary Zimmerman; Natalie Dessay, Juan Diego Flórez, Michele Pertusi
La Cenerentola – Rossini
Saturday, May 9, 2009 (12:30 pm ET)
Hot on the heels of her triumphant Met debut as Rosina in last season’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Elīna Garanča portrays another Rossini charmer in this bel canto Cinderella story. Lawrence Brownlee is her Prince Charming. Veteran baritone Alessandro Corbelli demonstrates his impeccable comic timing to match the gravitas of Met favorite John Relyea.
Conductor: Maurizio Benini; Production: Cesare Lievi; Elīna Garanča, Lawrence Brownlee, Simone Alberghini, Alessandro Corbelli, John Relyea

*Programs and casting subject to change. Running times are approximate.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Mentors: Galen Deibler

We continue a new series of writings, focusing on people who influence our lives...Mentors. Today we hear from composer and broadcaster Dr. Dick Strawser.

It’s not every day you can help a teacher celebrate a milestone. We often lose track of our teachers after graduation, maybe renewing brief contact during a reunion, perhaps. So when my piano teacher from Susquehanna University e-mailed me a little over a week ago about a “video interview” in the local paper’s website, I had to check it out.

Galen Deibler (seen right standing by the piano with student Robert Synder) was my piano teacher through four years of undergraduate study at Susquehanna, as well as a theory teacher and the teacher of the Romantic Music literature course I took one year. Though I never became the pianist those years of study might presume – years later I joked “if practice makes perfect but perfection is unattainable, what’s the sense of practicing? so I quit” – Deibler taught me more than just about playing the piano or how chord progressions worked or what went into the making of a Brahms intermezzo. He taught also by example, not just as a pianist: I can’t say I was ever able to emulate his musicianship or his humility or compassion or sense of adventure in everything he experienced, but he was a major influence on my life and succeeded at least in instilling a love of teaching and a sense of ones own integrity that are part of me still today.

He’d said in the mass e-mail he’d sent out that he was particularly pleased with the Schubert Impromptu, but I had no idea what else he might be playing: curiously, having tried to play it myself years ago, I could recognize he was playing the E-flat Impromptu (D.899, #2) which lies under the hand so well but is still, frankly, a bitch to play – keeping all the running notes in the right hand even while trying to keep the left hand from sound like it’s flopping around playing the harmony.

It’s especially challenging, you’d think, for hands that have been playing the piano for some 72 years, now. It seemed to fly by without a care in the world.

The interview was not just about playing Schubert. It was where and why he was playing it.

Galen’s been the pianist in the little country church of his hometown for fifty years, now, and Sunday, August 10th, was going to be a special service marking the anniversary. In typical Deibler fashion, the service – a “music Sunday” rather than a typical worship service with music – was not going to be about Galen Deibler, but about music and music-making. It was a kind of public performance but not a recital: he was going to be joined by several of his former students, each of whom had joined him over the past years to play in the church.

You can read the article and view the video posted at the website for Sunbury’s Daily Item here. There’s also another article about the event posted at The News Item, another paper that serves the Shamokin area.

*** ***** ******** ***** ***

I decided I wanted to go. St. John’s Lutheran Church is located in Snydertown which, much to my surprise – since it’s always good to know where your destination is, is not located in Snyder County. Galen had often talked of his hometown in such a way, I assumed it was just outside of Selinsgrove, a few miles from the university. Instead, it’s about a dozen or so miles east of Sunbury – not that far away, really, but if I’d been going on my own natural, directionally-challenged instincts, I would’ve been driving around the backroads of Snyder County trying to locate it and missed the whole point of going there. As it was, the day offered me not one but three opportunities to get lost and I managed to live up to my own expectations quite handily.

Googling the church, it was apparently located on Main Street, when I found an address at all; the one article said it was on Snydertown Road. It’s quite possible it could be both. Checking on-line for a map of Snydertown, I discovered there were two roads in Greater Snydertown – Snydertown Road, which ran east-west, and Market Street which ran north-south. The intersection, one would assume, would be The Center of Town. How hard could it be to find a small church in a small country town?

Figuring about an hour to Selinsgrove by old habit (before the highway had been completely re-done), the directions indicated an additional half hour, so I left Harrisburg in plenty of time, following an old route long familiar though considerably changed from the late-60s when I first started traveling this road between home and college. I found my way through Sunbury, taking this street, then that street to get to 11th Street which eventually becomes Snydertown Road once it leaves the city limits. By this point, I passed the house that the Italian poet and would-be-priest Lorenzo da Ponte had built on the square in Sunbury after he had left Vienna and Mozart’s operas behind him to open a dry-goods store in Central Pennsylvania in the early years of the 19th Century (another, long over-due post, by the way).

By the time my tripometer clocked in at the number of miles the internet had told me it would take, I had reached a sign that said “Now Entering Snydertown, PA.” I also had about 30 minutes to spare before the church service would begin, a little better than the time indicated on-line, but then going the requisite number of miles over the speed-limit on Rt.11-15 to Selinsgrove and still getting passed by everybody in the process. In fact, the only thing slower than me was the dead ’possum on the side of the road north of Liverpool.

But for some reason, I was having trouble finding the TOWN of Snydertown. Yes, there was the intersection, though I couldn’t read the street-sign – Market, as the on-line map told me – and the south-bound side had a big ROAD CLOSED sign. Driving past too fast to be able to reconnoiter my bearings, I kept driving on Snydertown Road. Several miles and many minutes later, rarely seeing more than an occasional house and no one about to stop and ask, I decided to turn around, confronting another sign on the way back that said “Now Entering Snydertown.” I returned to the intersection with Market Street and, turning north (since that road was not closed) found a church – wrong one – but little else. At the top of a hill, there was a side-road (the suburbs of Snydertown?), so I turned around in time to realize once again I was “Now Entering Snydertown.” With only one road left to check, I decided to continue on what actually turned out to be marked MAIN Street, not Market Street, and found that the south-bound road is closed a few miles down because of bridge repairs. But there, there were houses and lots of cars and people, and the spire of an old country church, familiar from the video interview.

As I drove past the church, trying to figure out where I could park, I saw Galen Deibler heading inside. This must be the place: it was five minutes to go before the service was to begin.

Slipping into a side pew near the back – the church was quite full, however many of them were from the community – I looked around wondering if I would recognize anybody. Friends from 40 years ago? Other faculty members from school? How long would it have been since I’d last seen them and how much have the years changed us, if we’d recognize each other? Galen looked remarkably the same – a little grayer, a little more stooped in the shoulder, but I would never have guessed he was 77 now. In fact, he seemed younger than I am, stopping here and there to chat with a friend before the service began.

He did his own introduction which is not surprising since he also organized his own celebration. The church had wanted to surprise him but they couldn’t very well just spring it on him so eventually they decided to tell him their plans. He, then, contacted some of his former students about joining him, along with a member of the congregation and his grandson Aaron, now a student at Gettysburg College, who began the service playing the violin for the Meditation from Massanet’s Thaïs. Then he accompanied Betty Phillips in a setting of the old hymn, “How Great Thou Art.” He played the E Major Prelude and Fugue from Book 1 of Bach’s “Well-Tempered Clavier,” then was joined by trumpeter Dale Orris for the Trumpet Voluntary by John Stanley (familiar to listeners as the theme of Loran Fevens’ “The Music Box” on Sunday nights). Then came a hymn, “O God Our Help in Ages Past,” prefaced by a recorder duet played by two of his daughters. Following prayers and readings for the service, baritone Nathan Troup sang two selections – the Largo (Ombra, mai fu) from Handel’s Xerxes and Schubert’s “Ave Maria.” Shawn Daly, a former piano student of Galen’s, played the “Harmonious Blacksmith” from Handel’s Suite No. 5 in E Major, followed by a rather unchurch-like selection, the A-flat Major Ballade by Chopin.

Pastor John Fenton allowed members of the congregation to speak instead of offering a sermon. One of the daughters read a poem sent by her brother who could not attend the service (traveling in Germany with his family), reminiscing about Sundays at St. John’s with the picture of Jesus and the sheep “swimming in a sea of yellow” on the right wall as we all looked over at the painting, and about the old upright piano getting ready to play. The youngest daughter reminisced how she’d use every trick in the book not to have to go to church but no matter how hard she tried, the “express train for Snydertown” always left the house with time to spare, though she eventually came to love this family-time.

Several in the congregation stood up to thank Galen for his years of service or to tell stories about having been his students. I wondered what I might say if I stood up, but I’m very bad at these sorts of things and decided to let it pass.

One of them had been one of Galen’s students a few years behind me: he had also been one of my fraternity brothers (in fact, he was my “little brother” the year he joined Phi Sigma Kappa) and we had probably not seen each other since he graduated 34 years ago. Studying with Deibler even before he was in college, he often went to the house for lessons and became part of the family. His story – about the dazed cat who’d peered out over the piano’s music rack after a particularly intense C Minor Prelude from Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1, having decided ill-advisedly to take a nap inside the piano that afternoon – reminded me of a time when, as a senior, I went out to the house for a lesson (mostly, they would’ve been at his studio in the music building) and tip-toed across the living room floor through wall-to-wall toys (I’m not sure how old his three children then were, but the fourth would be born the following year) and how, perhaps 12-13 years ago, I had gone back to visit him one weekend afternoon and found myself, once again, tip-toeing through a living room full of toys when a wave of serious deja-vu made me realize it’s not that they’d never cleaned up from twenty years earlier but that it was now grandchildren!

As the service resumed, Dale Orris joined Galen for another of the hymns, followed by three pieces performed by pianist Jacob Frasch – “The Sunken Cathedral” by Debussy, the Minuet from Bach’s 1st Partita (the trio kept playing through my head much of this past week), and Brahms’ A Major Intermezzo, Op.118, No. 2, which is a work I still try to play and one that Galen had taught me during my lessons, pointing out some structural things and voicings that not only helped the interpretation and showed me that it’s not just sitting down to play the notes that make the piece, but which also served as a history class and composition lesson (under the chapter, “learning ones craft”).

Then, during the offering, Galen played the Schubert Impromptu I’d mentioned earlier, phrasing it with that same sense of technical understanding, fingers wafting effortlessly over the keys – difficult enough to keep smooth even when you are practicing – and being thoroughly stylistic and aesthetically exquisite, or in the middle section, passionate and dramatic in the process. Even though there was the distraction of passing the offering plates, it was easily the best – or at least most meaningful – performance of the piece I’d ever heard.

After the Lord’s Prayer, Nathan Troup and Dale Orris returned for “The Trumpet Shall Sound,” from Handel’s Messiah. It’s not likely this little church gets its rafters dusted by music-making like this that often. Dale is currently teaching in Lewisburg (and at Bucknell University) and, being close by, plays often at the church with Galen. Nathan, however, won the long-distance award, driving down from Boston to join in the celebration. In fact, Shawn Daly came in from Ohio and Jacob Frasch came up Baltimore. One friend drove in from Washington DC and another from New Jersey – my little 90-mile trek seemed like nothing, by comparison – but that is the sense of dedication, here.

The service ended with “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” and echoes of Psalm 100 (“Be joyful in the Lord, all ye lands; serve the Lord with gladness and come before his presence with a song”), along with memories of Galen’s seemingly effortless Schubert, as well as Shawn’s Chopin, Jake’s Brahms, and the rousing “Trumpet Shall Sound” with Nathan and Dale, personal highlights of a performance that was, from beginning to end, like highlights from a life.

During the service, Pastor Fenton told, among other things, how Galen and his wife, Deanna, had initiated having the box placed by the door where the congregation could drop off food items that can then be given to the local food bank, or how they had argued, when a small church is struggling to survive, their role in the community is just as important. There was the time some Romanian immigrants, escaping from Communist Eastern Europe, had been imprisoned nearby and the Deiblers went to meet them, organizing support for them in the communities and helping with legal aid when they were here with very little understanding of the language, much less the system. When they were moved to a prison outside Philadelphia, the Deiblers continued driving down to work with them. When they were released, some of them came back and lived with the Deiblers until they were able to get their feet on the ground and be on their own.

Afterward, there was a community picnic behind the church during which several graduating high school students were presented with scholarships. I’m not sure whether it was from the town or from a committee of the church, or whether the amount had recently been increased to $100 or $150 each, but even though this may not put much of a dent in a student’s college expenses these days, when you consider there were five of these given out, that’s a good bit of money from a small town of about 350 people and a church that is always struggling to survive.

During the various announcements in between selections played over the sound system – the theme was “The ‘50s” with appropriate music – we sat eating home-made food that most baby-boomers these days would consider “comfort food,” while people in the community were recognized for years of service and dedication, kids got up to sing (one, able to count her age in single digits, going through a repertoire of nursery rhymes with the Alphabet Song like a 13-part Rondo, reminded me that Beverly Sills probably got her start like this), and I realized what magic still exists in what we city folks think of as life in Small-Town America.

At one point, the MC of the event said, “I don’t know how many of you attended the church service this morning and heard all that... [pause] wonderful music,” (several people nodded), “but now we’re going to return to the music we love – the music of the ‘50s.” (Hmmm... I was reminded of my one college roommate who’d been a student-teacher in a town like this where the high school music teacher had defined classical music “as the kind of music nobody likes”...) And back came the CDs. Very loud.

Galen invited me to join them out at the house, giving me quick directions to refresh what passes for memory considering I hadn’t been there more than four or five times in the past 38 years, only once under my own driving and that four years ago. True to form, I got to the one demarking intersection and couldn’t remember “Do I turn here or is it at the next stop-sign after this one...?” A mile down the road, I realized I’d missed the turn, retraced my wheels and found myself shortly in front of the very recognizable house, a minor detour.

Conversation in the living room primarily focused on “shop talk” with four pianists in the room comparing the finer points of Steinway pianos and newer models from Mason & Hamlin – complete with model numbers – that was completely beyond me, until Galen came back into the room, changing the topic to be more inclusive after seeing to his wife and daughters’ preparations in the kitchen ready to be taken out onto the deck. There was food (included something wicked with curry, an Indian dish Deanna had learned to make when she was living in India as a nurse’s aide in one of the country’s poorer areas) , champagne, much conversation and many reminiscences, trying in some cases to catch up with friends I hadn’t seen in 34 years. Comments were made by those who’d followed my now-terminated radio career with questions about the future – yeah, well, “stay tuned” – and one of Galen’s daughters told me about renovations they’d been doing at their really old house in Connecticut, built 50 years ago, as I’m telling others about the house I’m living in now which I grew up in, built, uhm... 50 years ago. Perception is everything.

And then there was knowing the next generation continues: grandson Aaron, who played the violin at the start of the service, will be going off to Argentina for the spring semester. Whether music will be his life or not is not important at this point, but it all adds up to a part of the whole, as I sat there and talked with another friend whom I’d met when he was in Pre-Med and is now a doctor who still finds time to do more than just play the piano.

And Galen told me that he wanted to work on my piano piece, “Poetries,” again “and this time get it right,” though I thought there was nothing wrong with the way he played it in 2004, the second pianist to ever play it since I wrote it in New York in 1979. It amazed me he’d wanted to play it al all, then, considering he doesn’t generally play much 20th Century music, and my style is not one he’d be familiar with. This didn’t stop him: he wanted to do it because it was written by a student of his and he liked the adventure of the challenge. He was telling me that, after his eye surgery these next few weeks, he wanted to work on it again: he doesn’t spend as much time practicing since performing is not the major part of his life, now, and there are many things he still wants to do, but he’s hoping to get back into “Poetries” and play it again.

It’s amazing what something like that can do for one’s sense of self-esteem. He was still being the same sensitive, caring, inspiring person he’d been as my teacher forty years ago, and meaning it sincerely.

Having picked up my old copy of Samuel Beckett’s novels – “Molloy,” “Malone Dies” and “The Unnamable” – which ends with the line “I can’t go on, I’ll go on,” it’s days like this (in fact, that whole weekend) that make me realize “I’ll go on.”

It was a beautiful day for a drive through the country – and real country with rolling hills, woods and farmland, not suburban developments, malls, gas-stations and the increasingly ubiquitous nail salons. I reconnected with the familiar route north of Liverpool (waving at the still dead ‘possum on the other side of the road) and still managed to get home an hour after having left Selinsgrove (checking a map, I realized the road whose turn I missed the first time through was the one I should’ve followed, since it would take me directly to Selinsrgove past the university and deep into more familiar territory). But who cares? I made it home and felt great for having made the effort, after all, getting a chance to visit with friends and pay a small tribute to a mentor still mentoring.
Entry by Dr. Dick Strawser, used and adapted by permission. You can read more on his blog, Thoughts on a Train.
Has somone in your life influenced you or really made a difference? Let us know and submit your entry to Mentors.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Bocelli visit

Andrea Bocelli will perform in San Antonio this November, but today he arrived in New Zealand. (picture from NZPA)
Find out how you can explore the wonders of the South Pacific with other public radio fans here.

Monday, August 18, 2008


Coming up this Thursday is Mozart's wonderous opera Marriage of Figaro on KPAC and KTXI. Meanwhile in New York, the Mostly Mozart Festival continues through Saturday.
Do you have a favorite work by Mozart? Leave a response in the comments, or email us at:

And enjoy this video of Bryn Terfel singing Non pui andrai:

Friday, August 15, 2008

Kathleen Ferrier, part 1

Playlist from Vocal Recital, August 7th on KPAC and KTXI, featuring contralto Kathleen Ferrier:
Stanford- The Fairy Lough
Parry- Love is a bable
Britten- O Waly, Waly
Warlock- O Pretty Ring-time
Bach- St. Matthew Passion: Grief for sin; O Gracious Lord
Gluck- Orfeo, Act I excerpt
Brahms- Two Songs for Viola, Piano & Voice
Mahler- 3 Ruckert Lieder
Brahms- 4 Serious Songs (orch Malcolm Sargent)
Excerpts from the Edinburg Festival 1949:
What the Edinburg Festival means to me; songs of Schubert and Brahms with Bruno Walter, piano

Coming up in September hear our focus on Kathleen Ferrier, part II, September 4th:
Ferrier CBC Interview 1950
More from the Edinburg Festival (live); British Folksongs; music of Brahms, Schubert, Wolf, Handel, Mahler, Bach and Britten!
Schumann: Frauenliebe und leben (complete) with Bruno Walter, pianist (live)
Works written for Ferrier: Songs by Lennox Berkeley and excerpt of Britten's Rape of Lucretia.

Be sure to tune in for Thursday Night at the Opera with Ron Moore, starting at 8pm on KPAC and KTXI.

Classical HD?

Perhaps some good news for HD Classical fans:

Poised to take advantage of the dearth of classical music television stations in the U.S., Unitel Classica is planning a worldwide classical channel formatted for HDTV. The German production company already supplies HD concerts via satellite in Europe on SES Astra, and the Classica standard definition opera and classical channel in several countries. The new channel will launch in Germany first in the fourth quarter, before potentially making the jump over here. With that much experience behind them, and the enthusiastic response to opera and classical broadcasts already available, Unitel should be ready to give the classical fans what they've been waiting for sometime in 2009.

Hyphenated Names

There was a time with piano recital programs had many hyphenated names, like Wagner-Tausig, Beethoven-Liszt and Bach-Busoni. Even though we modern media types are used to hearing baroque music, even on ancient instruments, that wasn't the case in the late 19th century. Great musicians knew of Bach and his contributions, but how to share this music with an audience? The few harpsichords that survived were dilapidated antiques and the piano was considered better in every way so play baroque keyboard music on that. But, what about Bach's great organ works? There was no shortage of organists, but pianists wanted in on the act. It was Franz Liszt, the great transcriber that started the ball rolling by playing Bach's organ music in his concerts.

Later after an organ recital that the mother of one of Ferruccio Busoni's students suggested to the great pianist that he transcribe one of the works enjoyed during the concert for piano. Little did she know what she was starting. Now a days it is Busoni's transcriptions of Bach that are his most performed works.
The piano is the great imitator and can clip away harpsichord-like or fill a hall with its powerful bass like an organ, no wonder it is considered the universal instrument. On the Piano this Sunday Russian pianist Nikolai Demidenko plays the music of Bach through the transcriptions of Busoni and Liszt.

The Piano is heard Sunday afternoon at 5 on KPAC and KTXI.

host Randy Anderson

Thursday, August 14, 2008

My Source - KPAC

Texas Public Radio’s KPAC 88.3 FM is an invaluable resource to the community. As one of the few remaining 24-hour classical stations left in the nation, San Antonio’s Classical Oasis carries our listeners through the day. The music serves as a backdrop to our lives and keeps us connected to the vibrant artistic community that makes this city unique.
Now we want to hear from you. We are inviting our listeners to share unique and personal stories about how classical music impacts their lives. Simply respond to the prompt, "KPAC 88.3 FM is my source for. . . "
We want to know how KPAC entertains or empowers you. Collectively, these stories will illustrate the many ways in which KPAC contributes to a civil, diverse, participatory and artistic society. Whether you are a listener, supporter or community leader, we want you to share your story.
Two Ways to Tell Your Story
Phone: (800) 622-8977
* Be sure to include your name, email and daytime phone number so we can get back to you about recording your story.
We will select testimonials to broadcast on KPAC and to publish on our website. We look forward to hearing from you!

New Release: Star Wars Clone Wars Soundtrack

As the approach of the opening of the movie Star Wars: Clone Wars this Friday, I listened with interest to the new soundtrack, featuring the City of Prague Philharmonic with composer Kevin Kiner conducting.
It's a must for all Star Wars fans, but not necessarily movie buffs. The new soundtrack is based on themes from John Williams, and is skillfully handled by Kiner. Cues are short, and sometimes memorable. There is also a lot of variety, both with orchestrations (electric guitar, erhu and electronics) and in drama. Throughout the score there is lots of rhythmic propulsion,
I think for the upcoming television show, Kiner's music will be far above anything on the small screen, but I'm not convinced how it will play on the silver screen.
For the radio and cd player it seems fine!
John Clare, KPAC host
Listen to excerpts and purchase it here at (and benefit Texas Public Radio.)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Mentors: Mr. Ceasar

We start a new series of writings, focusing on people who influence our lives...Mentors.
Today we hear from KPAC host John Clare.

One of the influential people in my life was violinist James Ceasar.
[Jim is pictured at the right in the Brevard Festival Orchestra with conductor Henry Janiec and soloist Robert McDuffie]
In some ways, I've always been a Ceasar student. My first private teacher was Les Morrison, who taught me in 5th grade, and was one of Jim's students in Derby (Les was a high school senior himself, who wrote difficult etudes for me to play!)

In 7th grade, I took lesssons from Teresa Hiser, and went from 4th chair second violins to concertmaster. She was one of Jim's students, both her and her best friend Dana Venable, were stars at Wichita State, and were from Derby where I grew up.

After Teresa I went to study with Larry Dissmore, who in turn was studying at W.S.U. with Nancy Luttrell - a student of Jim's, and Nancy couldn't fit me in her schedule my freshman year in high school, so a year with Larry was productive (and I went to the back of the 1st violin section in high school.)

The next year, and throughout high school, I studied with Nancy Luttrell, associate concertmaster of the Wichita Symphony and stand partner of Jim Ceasar's for a long time, besides being one of his star students. I also rose to 3rd chair first violins in high school orchestra [an outside seat behind the concertmaster for the next two years, and then became concertmaster] in Youth Symphony I was in the firsts, winding up in 5th chair my senior year. Jim retired before I got to college and Andrzej Grabiec took over at WSU and at the Wichita Symphony.

Later when Grabiec left WSU for Rochester, there was a revolving door of teachers, so I went back to Nancy to study. It was Nancy who suggested I go study myself with Ceasar at Brevard Music Camp in North Carolina. I did for two summers, as an A.D. student and the following summer as a counselor. It was alot of playing, and alot of fun. Jim was always quick to point out that I focused on fun, but he certainly had lots to teach me.

It was two summers there that I really saw his best side, playing with kids and making a real difference - and telling stories - from the Glenn Miller Band to George Szell, who had him play in the Cleveland Orchestra. Jim took the job at Wichita State and taught several generations of violinists - I even ran into a Ceasar student when I moved to Harrisburg, who plays in the York Symphony.

After those two years, I studied with Jim off and on, for a lesson here and there, often before an important performance, and we also became social friends. At one point I lived a few blocks away, and he would invite me over for dinner. It would always be awesome food, and stories about Heifetz, Jack Benny or something local - I got alot of good perspective on conductors from Jim.

Later I had a roommate in college who Jim was fond of, who was from Norway (Jim's wife was Norwegian) and he would invite us both over, and we always had fun.

Jim was a great man, teacher, husband and musician. He was a mentor, friend and hero. I'm proud to say I knew Jim and loved him.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Composer News: Donald Erb

Donald Erb, longtime composition teacher at the Cleveland Institute of Music has passed away.
Of his music, Mr. Erb has said: "A craftsman can create entertainment, but you need more than that to create art. You need an emotional, inspirational quality, because in and of itself craft means nothing. There has to be something inside you pushing out or all a person will ever write is a craftsman-like piece. And that's not quite good enough."
Described by Nicolas Slonimsky in the Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians as a "significant American composer," Donald Erb was born in Youngstown, Ohio in 1927. His orchestral music has been played by literally every major orchestra in the United States and by many eminent ensembles in Europe and Australia. He has received major commissions from the Dallas Symphony and the Houston Symphony, among many others. His composition The Seventh Trumpet has been performed more than two hundred times by over fifty orchestras in the United States and abroad, and was chosen as the United States representative to UNESCO in 1970.
Erb's notable students include Margaret Brouwer, John Mackey, Nickitas J. Demos, and Jerod Impichchaachaaha' Tate, Christopher Kaufman, Kathryn Alexander, Kenneth Durling, John S. Hilliard, and James Mobberly.
Hear some of his music online at Art of States.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Olympic Maestro

Erich Kunzel was in China for a performance with the Cincinnati Pops, and Texas Public Radio caught up with him...listen in to an interview with Barry Brake (seen left with Kunzel) and the maestro:

And look for more classical music and the 2008 Olympics with pianist Lang Lang on Performance Today!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Olympic Song Revealed

The official theme song of the 2008 Beijing Olympics has been revealed, and no, it isn't by John Williams!

Appropriately, a Chinese composer has written the official song, You and Me. Qigang Chen (born 1951; name pronounced "Chee-gang") is one of the leading Chinese composers of his generation. He studied with Olivier Messiaen in Paris.

The song was a closely guarded secret until was performed at the close of the opening ceremonies on Friday. It had been omitted from all rehearsals. You and Me was sung by Sarah Brightman and Liu Huan to an estimated audience of 100,000 in the Bird's Nest Olympic Stadium, and countless billions on worldwide TV.

This is Brightman's second Olympic appearance. She previously sang Friends for Life, the theme to the 1992 Games in Barcelona, with Jose Carreras.

Mr. Chen's other works include the ballet Raise the Red Lantern.

Not the toussled haired folkie you think you know

When we think of Percy Aldridge Grainger we think of his salon music like Country Gardens and Handel in the Strand, but that was the commercial Grainger. His life and mind was much more complex and interesting then you might think.

Grainger was a mass of contradictions. He was a vegetarian that didn't like vegetables, a man interested world music, yet spoke only "blue-eyed" English with no Latin derived words. He was an inventor that imagined a mechanical music composition computer in 1892 and made a working model in 1920's (seen below left).

On the Piano this Sunday a look at the life and times of Grainger with a particular interest in the history you will not find in record notes.

The Piano heard Sunday afternoon at 5 on KPAC and KTXI

host, Randy Anderson

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Honoring Karel

Today is the 87th birthday of composer Karel Husa. Warmest regards to this award winning composer, conductor and teacher!
Recently host John Clare sat down with Husa to talk about his music.
Listen in to their conversation:

{photos taken by John N. Clare}

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Thursday Night at the Opera: Vocal Recital

It is one of the great Cinderella stories in the annals of musical performance: a girl is forced to leave school at fourteen. She does not take up the serious study of the voice until she is twenty-three. By the age of thirty she has achieved world wide acclaim - such is the story of contralto Kathleen Ferrier.
Please join host Ron Moore for this Thursday Recital in part one of a survey of the life and work of this great singer, 9:00pm tomorrow evening, here on KPAC 88.3 and KTXI 90.1 FM.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Opera News

This year's Opera News Awards are going to sopranos Natalie Dessay and Renee Fleming, mezzo Marilyn Horne, baritone Sherrill Milnes and composer John Adams.
Adams' compositions include "Nixon in China" and "The Death of Klinghoffer."
Another of his works, "Doctor Atomic," will be performed at the Metropolitan Opera in October. Dessay, who appeared in two Met productions last season, is hailed by Opera News for her "electrifying style of coloratura."
The publication cites Horne for her "dazzling" mezzo-soprano voice.
Milnes is cited for his artistic integrity and Fleming is hailed for her "vocal intelligence, musical grace and golden voice."
The awards will be presented November 16th in a ceremony at the Plaza Hotel.

Also note that Night at the Opera is moving nights, to Thursdays - join Ron Moore Thursday nights at 8pm starting this week on KPAC and KTXI.

Monday, August 4, 2008

New Release: Jerod Tate

Jerod Impichchaachaaha' Tate's music is spectacular.
On the first release of Thunderbird Records, Tate's Tracing Mississippi and Iholba' are performed by the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. Also, flutists Christine Davis and Thomas Robertello are featured, lending a warm touch to an original voice.
I recently had a chance to speak with Jerod, about his new cd and about composition.

Part 1
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Part 2
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Part 3
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Part 4
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