Arts

Arts and culture

For New York Polyphony, it's location, location, location. The four-man vocal ensemble thrives on music from the Renaissance, much of it designed for cavernous, reverberant spaces. Think voices soaring through arched cathedrals. But madrigals by Flemish composer Orlando di Lasso, with their more intimate storytelling vibe, are suited for smaller venues — like, say, the living room of New York Polyphony bass Craig Phillips.

Like the music of his good friend Béla Bartók, Scottish composer Erik Chisholm's two piano concertos rely heavily on folk sources. But in Chisholm's case, the influences come from Scotland and India rather than Bartók's beloved Eastern Europe.

Armed with cameras and microphones, we recently invaded the rehearsal spaces of prominent musicians. The result is "In Practice," a new series of videos you can watch here.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky wrote his piece The Year 1812, Festival Overture in E flat major in commemoration of the Russian Army's successful defense of Moscow against Napoleon's advancing troops at the Battle of Borodino. Most Americans, however, know the piece as the bombastic tune that accompanies Fourth of July fireworks shows all over the country.

  • This week, Gustavo Dudamel was in Scotland to visit Raploch, Stirling, the "former haunt of notorious crime-clan ­matriarch Big Mags Haney and once so educationally deprived it was dubbed a 'higher-free zone.'" It now is the home of Big Noise, a classical music project for kids run by Sistema Scotland.

 Molly McNett doesn't write exclusively about the Midwest, but rural Illinois is a big part of her identity and her writing. "I'm not going to write about hipsters in Brooklyn," she says, "because I just don't know a lot about that."

America's Got Palate

Jun 22, 2012

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Pablo Helguera is a New York-based artist working with sculpture, drawing, photography and performance. You can see more of his work at Artworld Salon and on his own site.

'Next!' How Do You Reduce Audition Anxiety?

Jun 22, 2012

All this week, we've been exploring the ways families help kids learn to play music. Along the way, we've gleaned lots of great tips on everything from choosing an instrument to tantrum-free practice from our readers, as well as young musicians who have appeared on From the Top and their parents.

Molly McNett doesn't write exclusively about the Midwest, but rural Illinois is a big part of her identity and her writing. "I'm not going to write about hipsters in Brooklyn," she says, "because I just don't know a lot about that."

All this week, we've been exploring ways to encourage kids' enthusiasm in learning music, from picking an instrument to finding a teacher to practicin

When friends learn that my nearly six-year-old has been playing violin for three years, their voices shift a bit, especially if they also have a child learning an instrument. Two questions come in quick succession: "Does she like it?" and "How do you get her to practice?" There's a nervous energy to their queries, and usually a little laugh, too. Either they've been struggling with kids who have a hard time practicing, or they recall their own childhood boredom.

The four-man vocal ensemble New York Polyphony sings ancient music built for big resonant spaces. Since they can't just pop into St. Patrick's Cathedral any time they need to practice a renaissance mass, the group rehearses sometimes in the Jackson Heights home of bass singer Craig Phillips. There, in a modest-sized living room, they can hear every detail. "It's a very different experience rehearsing in a dry room and a small room," says tenor Geoffrey Silver. "You actually hear what you and your colleagues are singing, there's no watercolor wash over what you are doing."

It's tough to concentrate on the rigors of Beethoven with jackhammers pounding in your ears. So when they started demolishing the building next to Jonathan Biss, he moved his piano out of his apartment into a separate studio, away from the commotion. "I would get up in the morning, the piano wasn't there, and I had to leave my apartment to go practice and I've decided that's a much more productive way of working," he says. Biss needs a good working environment for his massive project.

Jeremy Denk has his own personal "piano boot camp." Actually, it's his cramped Manhattan apartment. Beside his beloved books, a trusty coffee pot and a laptop, there's not much to do except practice. Which Denk does, hours and hours a day on a Steinway wedged into his living room. On a good day, he brews pot of coffee number one at about 11, then plays for about five hours. Perhaps a run to the gym, then pot number two is brewed at about 6, followed by more playing — until the neighbors complain.

Nurturing young talent is a long tradition in the classical music world, and many professional orchestras have their own youth orchestras. But it stands to reason that an organization with the kind of international stature the Cleveland Orchestra enjoys would have a top-notch youth ensemble. It does. And it's called, not surprisingly, the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra — COYO for short. The young musicians have just embarked on a European tour.

With the current school year wrapping up and our thoughts turning to how to make next year even better, we're teaming up with our friends at From the Top to create "The Young Person's Guide to Making Music." All this week, we're tackling topics for music-loving kids and their families, from how to choose the right instrument to vanquishing the audition monster, with lo

Whether it's learning saxophone in school band, taking Saturday piano lessons, or participating in a top-flight youth orchestra, there are tens of millions of kids in the United States learning to play instruments. Way back in 2003, Gallup pollsters figured that at least 84 million Americans play an instrument — and at least a third of those players were then between the ages of 5 and 17.

  • The Colorado Symphony Orchestra, under the new leadership of chief exec Gene Sobczak has pulled off "a kind of short-term miracle." Less than a year ago, the orchestra was "so toxic that 20 trustees made an angry and abrupt exit," and they've been looking for a new artistic director for about four years.

Wichita (Symphony) Lineman

Jun 15, 2012

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Pablo Helguera is a New York-based artist working with sculpture, drawing, photography and performance. You can see more of his work at Artworld Salon and on his own site.

Amy Newman has published more than 200 poems. She is also a Presidential Research Professor at Northern Illinois University. Her alter ego, "Amy Newman," is less successful but clings to the hope that an editor will publish her work.

Tracing The Trail Of Musical Fathers

Jun 15, 2012

With Father's Day coming up this weekend, Morning Edition music commentator Miles Hoffman has been thinking about a few musical dads and their children.

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(Classical Detours meanders through stylistic byways, exploring new recordings from the fringes of classical music.)

Dress shirts inspired by NASA technology, gourmet pepper mixes and ... a new recording and study guide for Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time? That's just a tiny sample of Kickstarter's current array of "creative projects" seeking funding. Forget writing endless grant applications and long dinners with angel investors, the thinking goes — just tap into your social networks to raise money instead.

Grand Detour celebrates history in cemetery

Jun 11, 2012
WNIJ

hGrand Detour, Illinois is located near the Rock River, northeast of Dixon. It is the site where John Deere invented the first successful steel plow. It was also home to Myron Strong, a direct descendent of Mayflower passenger Miles Standish.

For three of the past four years, the St. Peter's Church Preservation Committee of Grand Detour has sponsored a historical walk through the village's cemetery called "Tales from the Tombs."  The event features volunteers who portray the village's notable residents from the past.

This year, the walk was held Sunday June 10th.  

Car Talk / NPR

Fans of the popular NPR show “Car Talk” are burning up the social media-sphere today with the announcement by Tom and Ray Magliozzi that they are retiring this fall. But don't fret: they still have a place here on WNIJ, according to Program Director Bill Drake.

  • The London Symphony Orchestra, live at the Olympics opening ceremony? Yeah, not so much. The musicians will mime to a recording of themselves.

Introducing Siri Georg Solti

Jun 8, 2012

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Pablo Helguera is a New York-based artist working with sculpture, drawing, photography and performance. You can see more of his work at Artworld Salon and on his own site.

My two-week stay in Europe ended earlier this week with a stroke of luck: My German father-in-law gave me his beautiful old violin, the one he's played since he was 11. But getting it back safely to the U.S. was more of a problem than I imagined.

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