Arts

Arts and culture

BIFF

The Beloit International Film Festival begins its 10-day run next week. Organizers say it represents the best in filmmaking. On today's Friday Forum, Guy Stephens found this year’s festival also reflects a shift in film culture.

Marty Densch is executive director of the festival, commonly referred to as BIFF. He said, in some ways, the 14th festival is much like it's been in recent years, with a full slate of offerings.

Sessions from Studio A - Eddie B. Smooth

Feb 14, 2019
WNIJ

Eddie B. Smooth performs "Sneaky" in WNIJ's Studio.

Smooth jazz group Eddie B. Smooth recently joined us in Studio A. Hear them play some slow, soulful tunes as well as some upbeat covers of a few jazz standards.

Sessions from Studio A - Raye Zaragoza

Feb 7, 2019
WNIJ

Raye Zaragoza took time out of her busy tour schedule to perform some songs live with us in WNIJ's Studio A.

Find out more about Raye Zaragoza on her Website and Facebook.

Month after month, member stations partake in Heavy Rotation and share with us songs that they cannot stop listening to. Out of the many talents and submissions, we condensed the list into ten songs, all of which scale the possibilities that this year has to offer in music.

This month's playlist is packed with new favorites, including French producer FKJ and a fresh bop from Future's The WIZRD, marking this start in 2019 as a hopeful one.

NIU

A man once described as the “the Stradivarius of the steelpan” and a co-founder of Northern Illinois University’s steelpan program died Tuesday.

 

A native of Trinidad & Tobago, Clifford Alexis started playing steelpan when he was 14. He was a member of the country's National Steelband when it toured the U.S. in 1964. In 2018, the country gave him its highest honor for his steel pan contributions.  

 

The beloved American baritone Sanford Sylvan died Tuesday at his home in Manhattan. Lenore Sylvan, the singer's mother, along with his sister Gwen Sylvan and brother Seth Sylvan confirmed the death to NPR Thursday morning. Marc Mandel, a close family friend and director of program publications at the Boston Symphony Orchestra, said that the death was "entirely sudden" and that it was "deemed to be of natural causes." Sylvan was 65.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify and Apple Music playlists at the bottom of the page.

Opera star David Daniels and his husband, conductor Scott Walters, were arrested Tuesday night in Ann Arbor, Michigan on charges of sexual assault. Representatives of the men and the Houston Police Department confirmed to NPR that the two are currently being held in Ann Arbor and are awaiting extradition to Texas.

Guy Stephens

A Rockford choir is one of several ensembles picked to perform this week at the Illinois Music Educators Conference in Peoria. The choir and its director were excited about the opportunity to perform. They also looked forward to sharing a program of hope and faith.

Rockford Christian Schools Choral Director Andy Bruhn said his group is one of just four in Illinois selected to perform for music educators from across the state this year.

Bruhn noted that the 53 members are not part of some elite ensemble with strict entrance requirements.

In 1933, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra gave the world premiere of Symphony No. 1 by a then little-known composer named Florence Price. The performance marked the first time a major orchestra played music by an African-American woman.

Price's First Symphony, along with her Fourth, has just been released on an album featuring the Fort Smith Symphony, conducted by John Jeter.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify and Apple Music playlists at the bottom of the page.

Conductors, like most music lovers, keep discovering music that is new to them. My own latest discovery is the Turangalîla-Symphonie, a mind-blowing 75-minute orchestral piece by Olivier Messiaen, written in the 1940s. It's a rare treat for me to be able to work on a piece from the middle of the 20th century that I have never even heard performed live.

How do you play an instrument you never physically touch? Watch Carolina Eyck. She's the first to bring a theremin to the Tiny Desk. The early electronic instrument with the slithery sound was invented almost 100 years ago by Leon Theremin, a Soviet scientist with a penchant for espionage. It looks like a simple black metal box with a couple of protruding antennae, but to play the theremin like Eyck does, with her lyrical phrasing and precisely "fingered" articulation, takes a special kind of virtuosity.

Opera star Renée Fleming drew concern last year after a New York Times profile suggested the acclaimed soprano would be retiring. Luckily for fans, it turned out to be a false alarm.

Italian singer Andrea Bocelli is a superstar. The Grammy- and Emmy-nominated tenor is one of the highest-selling vocalists in music. In 1999, Bocelli scored a Guinness World Record for simultaneously holding the No. 1, 2 and 3 spots on Billboard's Classical Top 10 chart. Since then, Bocelli has collaborated with everyone from Celine Dion to Ariana Grande. But on his latest album, Sì, Bocelli tries something he finds really daunting — recording with his 21-year-old son, Matteo.

Growing up in Chicago, Rachel Barton Pine took it for granted that there was a great body of classical music by black composers. She heard it on the radio. She played it in local orchestras as a student. The Center for Black Music Research is in Chicago. So, when the violinist recorded her first concerto album in 1997, she naturally included music by Afro-Caribbean and Afro-European composers.

Sessions from Studio A - Long-Shot

Dec 20, 2018
WNIJ

Long-Shot performs live in WNIJ's Studio A.

Find Long-Shot online at ReverbNation or on Facebook.

Narrowing a list to just 10 is always a painful game. This year, amid a multitude of albums, I found favorite musicians (Víkingur Ólafsson), newcomers (the young Aizuri Quartet) and familiar players in compelling collaborations (Brooklyn Rider and Magos Herrera), all offering fascinating performances of music from the baroque to the freshly minted.

Karim Wasfi became famous around the world because of misfortune. The renowned performer and conductor of the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra played cello at the scenes of suicide attacks in Baghdad in 2015. He was the man who made beautiful music among the wreckage of a great city.

Sessions from Studio A - Lehto & Wright

Dec 13, 2018
Spencer Tritt / WNIJ

Lehto & Wright performs in WNIJ's Studio A.

Find the music of Lehto & Wright online.

SteuartPittman.com

People donate art to museums from time to time. But a really large donation – a whole collection – can help define a museum's very identity. 

Laura and John Fraser, both artists, have collected contemporary art together for decades. Over the years, they amassed a large set of pieces rich - if that's the right word for so subtle a collection – in abstract images and shapes, with the occasional bit of whimsy.

RSO

Rockford Symphony Orchestra Music Director Steven Larsen will be unable to conduct the orchestra's Holiday Pops concerts this weekend.

Larsen was injured in an accident last week and is recuperating in a hospital. Elgin Symphony Orchestra Associate Conductor Stephen Squires will lead the programs at the Coronado Performing Arts Center in his place.

The RSO says Larsen is expected to make a full recovery, but could not say when he would be able to return to the podium. 

As a singer, arranger, composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist, it should come as no surprise that Jacob Collier comes from a profoundly musical family. His maternal grandparents were both professional violinists, his mother is an accomplished violinist and longtime instructor at the Royal Academy of Music in London and so, naturally, Collier taught himself to play every instrument he could find.

Sessions from Studio A - Blue Dream

Dec 7, 2018

Find Blue Dream online.

In a move that is astonishing much of the classical music world, the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) announced Wednesday that it has appointed Finnish composer and conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen as its next music director, beginning in September 2020.

Guy Stephens

Editor's note: Many performances of Handel's most famous oratorio invite audience participation. These are called Sing-Along Messiahs, Scratch Messiahs, People's Messiahs, and Do-It-Yourself-Messiahs. For this article about performances in which unrehearsed attendees serve as the chorus, we'll refer to each of them as "Messiah."

George Frideric Handel's oratorio "Messiah" shows up in concerts regularly this time of year.  But some performances call for the audience to join in.

Sessions from Studio A - Olivia Dvorak

Nov 29, 2018
Carl Nelson / WNIJ

Olivia Dvorak performs "Siren's Call" in WNIJ's Studio A.

Olivia Dvorak performs "Drown it all in Whiskey" in WNIJ's Studio A.

YouTube

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