Arts

Arts and culture

Pianist Jeremy Denk's latest album is a musical odyssey. Starting with the austere tones of medieval composer Guillaume de Machaut, Denk travels in time across the keyboard all the way to the 20th Century landing on the atonality of Karlheinz Stockhausen and the minimalism of Philip Glass.

WNIJ


Katie Belle & The Belle Rangers perform live at Uptown Grill in LaSalle, IL.

Katie Belle & The Belle Rangers (or KBBR) is a roots-rock band whose big sound is making them heard across Illinois. Find out more about the band at their website and Facebook page.

Guy Stephens

This weekend, families in Freeport will have the opportunity to share their American story at the Freeport Art Museum. It's part of a collaboration that includes the Freeport Public Library and the museum's current show, "I Am American."

Standing in a gallery at the Freeport Art Museum, guest curator Sergio Gomez talked about one of the striking displays in the exhibit – a row of decorated animal skulls, each set against, and covered by, a bullseye. They're by Mexican-born Chicago artist Salvador Jimenez-Flores.

In Chicago, musicians have gone on strike. The players in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, one of the country's top orchestras, let their contract expire on Sunday, March 10, and performances scheduled for this week have already been canceled.

Fans of Hector Berlioz — and record companies, it appears — need no excuse to celebrate the music of the pioneering French composer and quick-witted music critic. The sesquicentennial of Berlioz's death falls on March 8, and to mark the occasion, Warner Classics has released a 27-CD box containing, purportedly, every forward-thinking note the composer ever wrote.

Guy Stephens

The Pick Museum of Anthropology at Northern Illinois University is presenting an exhibit this spring that examines the relationship between dogs and humans. 

The first thing you see when you enter "For the Love of Humans: A History of Dogs" is a dog and fire hydrant; a little humor to break the ice. But there's much more to know about the canine-human connection, according to the museum's acting director, Rachelle Wilson-Loring. She curated the exhibition.

Sessions from Studio A - Rodrigo Villanueva Quartet

Feb 28, 2019
WNIJ

Sessions from Studio A - Rodrigo Villanueva Quartet

André Previn, a celebrated musical polymath, died Thursday morning; he was a composer of Oscar-winning film music, conductor, pianist and music director of major orchestras. His manager, Linda Petrikova, confirmed to NPR that he died at his home in Manhattan.

Sessions from Studio A - The Darling Suns

Feb 21, 2019
WNIJ

The Darling Suns perform "Wash Your Blues Away" in WNIJ's Studio A.

An indie band from the Chicago area, The Darling Suns recently released their debut EP in 2018 and show no signs of slowing down. Hear their full performance and interview on this week's Sessions from Studio A.

Guy Stephens

This Saturday, Beloit College's Ferrall Artist-in-Residence will present a sound installation at the college's Wright Museum of Art. In the performance, she will collaborate with works created by Beloit College students.

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.

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.

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