Posts Tagged ‘VPR’

in the aftermath

August 31, 2011

There is so much to say about the flooding from the last few days here in Vermont. Here are a few good places you can check for the latest updates:

Burlington Free Press

Barre-Montpelier Times-Argus

VT Digger

Vermont Public Radio’s storm damage coverage page

This blog isn’t about hard news, it wasn’t really created to be a forum for that kind of discussion. Not that it can’t be, but for the most part I am usually just focusing on those areas that don’t get attention from mainstream media: unique festivals, cool new recordings, local talent and concerts, international music.

Now that the flood waters are receding I’ve been noticing how the landscape has been transformed in both terrible AND, yes, beautiful ways. Today I discovered an entire area near the Winooski River near Richmond, VT where the water lines from the flood were well into the lower tree branches aroud the wetland: anywhere from 7-10 feet above where they normally are. The entire forest floor was a strangely serene scene of ghostly, wrecked beauty.

This blog is also about beauty, wherever it may be found. Here are some photos I took today as the residual floodwaters from Tropical Storm Irene are subsiding.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

jazz, get ready for it

June 1, 2011

This week I had the pleasure of talking on VPR’s Vermont Edition about some of the special events happening at this year’s Burlington Discover Jazz Festival.

The Festival ‘unofficially’ kicks off tomorrow night with the traditional first night reception. Then – we’re off. For the next ten days after that all of downtown will be jammed and jamming in formal and very informal ways. Street musicians and sit-down concerts, international headliners and talented locals are all part of the mix along with the usual dose of the completely unexpected. Here’s the schedule…but keep in mind, this is only part of the story. You just have to come and experience the rest of it yourself.

Over at The Radiator 105.9FM we’re also giving away tickets to lots of the Jazz Festival shows including on my own World of Music this coming Monday, from 3-5pm. Can’t wait to set some lucky folks up with seats to Poncho Sanchez and the Roy Hargrove/Roberta Gambarini shows!

Keep an eye out here for regular updates through the festival.

This is gonna be funnnnn.

 

what yo-yo said

May 25, 2011

Yo-Yo Ma and me (photo by Ty Robertson)

On the eve of his Burlington appearance in late April, Yo-Yo Ma was the guest of honor at the reception we had at the radio station. Around 60 folks came, invited by both us and the Vermont Symphony Orchestra to enjoy some personal time in his company.

When I wrote about that event I mentioned one of the things that struck me was the short conversation we had (in fairness – he did all the talking) as we walked up the long hallway on his way out of the building. He talked about the importance of public broadcasting – radio, specifically – and of its undeniable worthiness for public funding. I still think about that conversation.

The next night, Yo-Yo Ma and conductor Jaime Laredo joined my colleague Walter Parker on the Flynn Center stage for Musically Speaking, the pre-concert talk. I wanted to share some of the highlights of that interaction – there were many, here are some of the most memorable ones:

Walter Parker: “At our reception last night you mentioned you met Jaime when you were 15.”

Yo-Yo Ma: “Jaime warned me you would embarass all of us here at some point. (laughs…)

WP: “We were all 15 at one time.”

Y-YM: “I was 15 for many years.”

————————

Y-YM: (on his relationship with Jaime Laredo) “You ever have a dream where you’re taking a test and you haven’t been to any of the classes? That’s what Jaime inspires in me.”

————————

Later in the conversation, Yo-Yo talked about having traveled all over the world with Jaime in their long relationship. He mentioned the one place they hadn’t been together yet was Jaime’s home town of Cochambamba, Bolivia. Jaime’s response: “Cochambamba, Bolivia might be the only place in the world we could walk down the street and people would say, ‘who’s that guy’ “(pointing at Yo-Yo).

————————

Walter then mentioned Yo-Yo’s website solicitation for musical support of Japan, in the wake of the devastating March 11th earthquake and resulting tsunami – what does musical support mean?

Y-YM: “Music is something very porous. It travels lightly. You can hear it inside you. As an artist you always want to think of how you can offer a cultural response.”

————————

Given Yo-Yo Ma’s well-known omnivorous approach to musical styles, Walter asked about the lessons learned from playing non-classical music.

Y-YM: “It was fortuitous as a classical musician that I played so many wrong notes…” (big audience laugh – of course.)

————————

At the end of the more formal conversation, the floor was opened to audience question. The first was the best – because of the answer it received.

Audience member: “What prompted you to start playing the cello?” (at age four) –

Y-YM: “I wanted something BIG.”

ma in the house

April 30, 2011

(photo by VPR's Brendan Kinney)

We’ve been planning it for months and months. As soon as it was announced that Yo-Yo Ma would be playing with the Vermont Symphony Orchestra this season, preparations got underway to hold a reception for him at the station. It happened last night.

For the first half hour or so guests of both VPR and the VSO gathered in the station’s performance studio, enjoying catering from Cloud Nine and catching up with each other. Then after a little while a short burst of spontaneous applause heralded the guest of honor’s arrival, and, beaming (as usual), Yo-Yo Ma stood at the doorway surveying the packed room.

It didn’t take me long to become impressed with his natural graciousness. He took a few moments to speak personally and genuinely with everyone who approached him. (And everyone did.) Somehow he made his way around the entire congested room within around a half hour’s time before being ushered out to make a late dinner date elsewhere.

Nearly as soon as he arrived, it seemed, he needed to leave. And I hadn’t had the opportunity to introduce myself yet as I noticed him began making his way to the door. So I cleared a path through the room and escorted him out and up the long hallway to the exit. We talked the whole time we walked – actually he did, once he found out what I did at the station. His topic? Expressing avid support for public broadcasting in the face of continuing funding threats. I just listened.

We could have talked about music, we could have talked about his concert tonight with the VSO. THIS IS YO-YO MA (I kept thinking) – he didn’t have to talk about anything at all if he didn’t want to. But there he was, taking the little time he had to share with me a passionate expression of dismay at the ongoing federal budget struggles with funding for public broadcasting, and the arts.

If you’ve ever listened to his playing and wondered about the wellspring that could produce such beautiful and heartfelt music, I can tell you firsthand it’s only possible because it comes from deep within him, it originates from a spirit that is equally genuine and empathetic and human. You simply can’t make music like that if it doesn’t come from a place that’s real.  I’ll listen to him playing the Tchaikovsky Rococo Variations and Saint-Saëns’ first Cello Concerto this evening with that in mind, and be glad I could have that small insight in meeting him last night.

Unfortunately, if you don’t have tickets yet you probably won’t be able to experience the concert this evening. It’s been sold out since it was announced last September, and apparently there is an unprecedented waiting list of more than a hundred people right now. Don’t let that stop you from exploring Yo-Yo Ma’s music, though – in particular I recommend his Sony recordings of the solo Bach cello suites; his ensemble work with fellow musicians Emanual Ax, Jaime Laredo (tonight’s conductor) and Isaac Stern; his recording of the Dvořák concerto; and his sizzling 1989 recording with Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic of the Shostakovich Cello Concerto #1.

And now, for some very serious ‘long hair’ (long feather?) music, Sesame Street’s own Honker and Dinger Quartet:

the classics

June 8, 2010

Brief departure from our week together at  the Discover Jazz Festival here, to mention another notable cultural happening in our midst today.

This morning I was joined by around a hundred audience members, fellow VPR staff, and pianist Annemieke Spoelstra for a live performance/celebration at the Mahaney Center for the Arts, Middlebury College. The exciting occasion was the launch of Vermont Public Radio’s newest radio station in the growing regional classical music network.

I interviewed at VPR, coincidentally, the very day that VPR Classical went on the air – July 20th, 2004. At that time the entire classical “network” consisted of one radio station: WNCH, 88.1FM broadcasting from Norwich, Vermont (just across the Connecticut River from Dartmouth College in Hanover). Two weeks after that interview I was asked to move to Vermont and join the team. It seemed like it was meant to be.

Nearly six years later, as of today, the VPR Classical network is made up of five full-power radio stations and nine translators. The expansion of the network will continue this summer as another full-power station, WVXR (102.1FM) goes on the air to serve Randolph, Orange County, and the southern areas of Central Vermont. After that – yes, there are more hopes and plans but who knows what will actually come together?

One of the things that still makes my job rewarding every day is the talented, creative, and inspiring people I get to meet and work with in one way or another. Being surrounded by energy like that keeps me motivated to do the best job I can.

This morning as I sat on the stage, listening to pianist Annemieke Spoelstra play beautifully from a selection of Schumann and Chopin works, I glanced over at the sound board and saw friends, and then I looked out at the audience and saw even more friends and supporters of classical music. It takes a lot of hard work to put on a live performance, and this one had the added layer of being a live broadcast performance.

Big thanks to everyone who made it happen, and to all of the listeners whose support brought WOXM 90.1 to Addison County today!

hurdy-gurdy man

August 7, 2009
Robert and Babette

Robert and Babette

Impromptu visit this morning at VPR , from Robert Resnik.

I swear the man can’t walk two steps without making music.

Today’s instrument of choice (he plays more than 25):  a gorgeous, handmade French hurdy gurdy.

Bebette the hurdy-gurdy

Babette the hurdy-gurdy

Her name, I was informed, is “Babette”. And can she sing!


music and then some

June 20, 2009

2009-Jun18-OnTheAirThe week started in downtown Burlington with the last sweet notes of this year’s Discover Jazz Festival, and it ended just as nicely: with Thursday evening’s recording session featuring music of Lake Champlain, and last night’s red-hot set of standards with Ray Vega’s new Quartet at the bakery in Richmond.

No doubt: I am very fortunate that both the professional and personal areas of my life are so frequently filled with music, and usually such different kinds. A day that starts with two hours on the air hosting beautiful classical music often continues in the afternoon as I listen to new world music in the barn while working in the Cumbancha/Putumayo database, and concludes later that same evening by catching live music somwehere: classical, jazz, world, or any variety of local performers. Very fortunate.

Both Thursday and Friday this week were days like that: hosting classical music on the air in the morning (commemorating “Juneteenth” on yesterday’s show); working at Cumbancha/Putumayo in the afternoon, and then enjoying live music in the evening.

On Thursday eve around 7,  the forces gathered in the VPR performance studio to record the last artist we’ll be including in the Champlain 400 music showcase. (The program is scheduled to air later this summer, as part of the station’s and the region’s wider Quadricentennial celebrations. You may remember my mentioning it here when the first showcase recording session took place over Memorial Day weekend, included the French Canadian fiddler/guitar duo of Lisa Ornstein and André Marchand, and singer/songwriter Alan Greenleaf. What a day that was!)

Robert & Deb recording in the VPR studio

Robert & Deb recording in the VPR studio

Singer, songwriter and historian Deb Flanders stopped by to share an intimate set of traditional and original songs largely reflecting the personal stories of the Lake’s Anglo settlers. Found and lost love, distant love, struggle and survival and despair and optimism…the 9,000+ songs and ballads that comprise the extensive collection of Deb’s great-Aunt, Helen Hartness Flanders represent a comprehensive narrative of  the collective and individual immigrant experiences. From the haunting ballad of The Butcher Boy to Deb’s original additions to the archive, Thursday evening’s music offered a quietly poignant, very personal cross-section of that vast experience.

Last night’s live music was a nothing short of a mainline into the other end of the intro/extroverted energy spectrum. Late in the week I found out that Ray Vega was going to be bringing his Quartet to Richmond’s On the Rise bakery. Having seen Ray just a couple of weeks ago with the new UVM Jazz Collective, I was ready for more and eager to hear him in a smaller ensemble setting.

The only complicating factor? I work on the Burlington side of the Richmond Bridge (where On the Rise is), but I live on “the other side” of it.

March, 2009: taking the backroads home

March, 2009 - at your own risk: taking the VT backroads home in mud season

A little history: in early March (yes, the start of ‘mud season’ here), the Bridge closed for structural repairs, necessitating any number of creative alternate routes around it on dirt roads for anyone living on ‘the other’ side. That is, anyone – like me – living at the southern end of Chittenden County and dependent on the Huntington Main Road (and the Richmond Bridge) to be connected to the rest of the county. Besides adding another 10 min. (minimum: that’s without school buses or heavy weather or excessive mud) to the daily commute to/from Burlington, the temporary closure effectively bifurcated the Richmond business district and severed the main route through town. The Bridge was scheduled to reopen in time for the annual 4th of July parade to pass through, but I read that the contractors  also had a tiered scale of financial incentives available to them to encourage an earlier completion.

So: back to last night. In considering whether or not I  would go to the bakery to see Ray Vega’s Quartet for their 8pm set, I also had to think seriously about driving home afterward – without the benefit of the Bridge – tired, through the winding (deer, fox, beaver and moose-filled) backroads to get home. It’s funny, I admit it. But a little less so when dodging the wildlife very late at night in the pitch dark. I decided to do it anyway and just be extra vigilant and careful on the drive home afterward. This is just something I never had to think about when I lived in LA, where heading home meant leaving the wild life behind.

I arrived in Richmond yesterday evening around 6 for a pre-concert pizza at the Bridge Street Café, and noticed right away the unusual amount of traffic at the top of the Street. Was the Quartet drawing all the traffic? Or the Friday afternoon Farmer’s Market? Or…?

Turns out the Bridge had just reopened! Two weeks early! I learned when I got to the bakery that when the day’s construction ended (at 6pm), there had been a brief ceremony and the Bridge reopened for business. Great news.

Then the music began. I was just thinking as the Quartet launched into their opener, Cedar Walton’s hard-driving Bolivia, that even if I had the longer (dark, beaverous) drive home to look forward to afterward, it would have been worth it.  They play for keeps, whether straight-ahead grooving or lingering over the delicious notes of a ballad like Tom Jones’ What’s New Pussycat? (the tune Ray dedicated to his wife, sitting at a table right in front: “This one’s for you honey.” And then, as an aside to the rest of the room: “Now I’ll really play the blues! ”  Love his humor. And his fluglehorn sound.)

Ray Vega Quartet at On the Rise bakery

The Quartet: Ray Vega (trumpet & fluglehorn), Tom Cleary (piano), John Rivers (bass) and Jeff Salisbury (drums)

They ended the set with a tribute to Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, in its 50th anniversary year: All Blues.

My week ended with smiles, friends, great coffee and a sunset-lit table in the corner, enjoying the Quartet. And a short, quick drive home thanks to the reopened Bridge.

In other words: anything but the blues.


%d bloggers like this: