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Goodwill Indistries of Kanwha Valley Inc.

Classically Speaking

Classical music in West Virginia and Beyond

WV Classical Stars

(News) Permanent link
by Mona Seghatoleslami

Phyllis CurtinSoprano Phyllis Curtin, a native of Clarksburg West Virginia, has sung and taught singers all over the world, including performing for many years with the Metropolitan Opera.  She retired from singing in 1984, and she currently teaches at Boston University’s School of Music

Next week, Curtin joins composer George Crumb in representing classical music in WV Music Hall of Fame.  George Crumb was inducted last year, and this year Phyllis Curtin will be honored along with Ann Baker, Robert Drasnin, Marceo Pinkard, Charlie McCoy, Red Sovine,Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper, and Frankie Yankovic. 

I have a pair of free tickets to give away to the Induction Ceremony!  The event will be held November 6th at 7:30pm at the Cultural Center in Charleston.  Leave a comment to be considered for the tickets—I’ll draw names from a hat Friday afternoon.  (If you have trouble leaving a comment, send an email to feedback@wvpubcast.org and put “attention: Mona” in the subject line).

Due to health concerns, Phyllis Curtin won’t be able to travel from Boston to attend the ceremony.  We are working on setting up an interview, and I’ll have that posted as soon as possible. 

On the WV Music Hall of Fame website, you can read a profile of Ms. Curtin and hear a sample of her beautiful singing

Update: The deadline to enter to win a pair of tickets to the induction ceremony has been extended through Monday.  Leave a comment or email me to be considered!

The Pipes Heard Round the World

(News, Commentary) Permanent link

by Mona Seghatoleslami

The American Guild of Organists (AGO) has declared July 2008 to June 2009 “The International Year of the Organ.”  

Pipe Organ

Despite growing up hearing an organ played nearly every Sunday in church, the instrument is a bit of a mystery to me.  Organ players talk about all different makes and models, pipe lengths, stops, etc. I’m starting to realize that things are not as simple as an organ is an organ is an organ.  

So, I think I’m going to take this year celebrating the organ to learn more about “the king of instruments” (as Mozart called the organ).  And of course I’ll be sure to share my explorations here.  Any organists out there want to chime in with some suggestions for getting started?

AGO members have already started celebrating.  This past weekend, they sponsored “The World’s Largest Organ Recital.”  It was more than one very large concert; chapters of the AGO held organ recitals on the same day (Sunday October 19th) all over the country.

I wasn’t able to make it to any organ recitals that day, but Chris Nagorka, of Kanawha Organ Works, recorded the Kanawha AGO chapter’s recital at St. Andrew United Methodist Church in St. Albans.  Here are some selections:

Listen  Listen to Andrew Swing perform Toccata in D Minor by JS Bach

Listen  Listen to Paul Isaacs Jr. perform Toccata in F by Dietrich Buxtehude


Ireland, Brahms, and Barry

(Interviews) Permanent link

By Mona Seghatoleslami

Barry DouglasAfter figuring out the vagaries of international calling, I recently got to chat with Irish pianist Barry Douglas. The street sounds you hear during the interview are from London, where he was visiting to perform.  This weekend, he'll be in Charleston, WV to perform Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 2 with the West Virginia Symphony. We talked about the orchestra he leads (Camerata Ireland), the music of Brahms, music as reconciliation, and the challenges of starting a musical career in Ireland.

Listen   Listen to my interview with pianist Barry Douglas

Yo-Yo Ma and You

(News, Commentary) Permanent link

On his new album Songs of Joy and Peace, cellist Yo-Yo Ma collaborates with James Taylor, Chris Botti, guitarists Sergio and Odair Assad, Edgar Myer, Dave Brubeck, Chris Thile, Renee Fleming, and a variety of other artists. 

Here’s a bit of what Yo-Yo Ma has to say about this album:

  "It started with the idea of a party, a party built around the concept of joy and the infinite varieties of joy to be found in the world…but joy can't exist in our world without the comfort of peace.  As we all draw closer and closer together in this world, nothing is more important.  So as much as the music in this album is about joy, it is also about peace, about the two operating in tandem.  I am really excited to know that I have all these fabulous colleagues who think the same way."

Yo-Yo Ma might also want to work with you...

You can download Yo-Yo Ma’s recording of the traditional song “Dona Nobis Pacem” (Give us Peace) through this website.   Then, it’s up to you to record an accompaniment or variations on the tune.  You then submit it through the website for others to listen to. 

There’s a prize for the favorite:

“First Place: The winner will have the opportunity to record with Yo-Yo Ma in a special one-on-one collaboration! The winner's rendition will also be featured on Yo-YoMa.com, Yo-Yo's MySpace page, and here on Indaba Music.”

The top ten will receive signed copy of “Songs of Joy and Peace” album.

So check it out, listen to what some others have done, and start work on your own collaboration with Yo-Yo Ma! 

If anyone reading our little blog enters this contest, let me know—I’d love hear about what you do.  You can comment on the blog or send an email to feedback@wvpubcast.org.

Catching Up and Greatest Hits

(News, Commentary, Meta) Permanent link
by Mona Seghatoleslami

When I started this blog, my goal was to talk to EVERYONE performing a classical concert in West Virginia.  Turns out, there’s so much going on here, I can’t quite get to all of it!

We will continue to interview anyone we can get to, and I hope you can help keep us on our toes--let us know what interviews and information interest you.

Quick note on classical music this weekend: the Montclaire String Quartet opens their season this Saturday in Charleston.  Also, Vladimir Stoupel will be performing with the Wheeling Symphony today (Friday).  There’s a story about the Wheeling Symphony online that ran on WV Morning…I’ll try have our full interview up soon.

Finally, we’ve been talking a lot over the air about a few posts here.  Here’s some links, so you don’t have to go digging:

Jim Lange’s interview with XueFei Yang

Mona’s interview with Joshua Bell

What is the theme to Classical Music with Jim Lange?

How to start your classical music library

There’s plenty more, so browse through the archives, and let us know what you think.

Passions of the Young and Old

(Commentary) Permanent link
As I get a break from the madness of fund drive, I’ve been pondering Leon Botstein’s article in the Wall Street Journal, "The Unsung Success of Live Classical Music."

I keep coming back to one sentence in the article: “Classical music has never been the passion of the young.” 

Perhaps as we get older, we do take the time to seek out things with more substance, things that take longer to appreciate (Botstein cites the acquired taste of fine scotch), and maybe we're also better able to sit still and pay attention to longer musical works.  

But I haven’t yet reached 30, and I love classical music. I love going to classical concerts.  I don’t think I’m that much of an aberration.  Any others (of any age) want to chime in on this subject?

I have noticed my opinions changing as I’ve aged.  In elementary school, we watched Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors in music class. Even though I listened to classical music at home and played the viola, I mocked the opera singing style along with all the other kids in my class.  It just seemed so ridiculous to us.  Then a few years ago, I started going to operas at my school and then attending the HD Met Opera broadcasts.  Now, I love opera (well, I'm still working on French opera, but that's a conversation for another day).  I also generally stay engaged with music for longer periods of time than when I was younger (it’s no longer a given that I will fall asleep during a Bruckner symphony).

On the other side, do people who aren’t exposed to classical music or dislike it in their youth suddenly have a switch flip inside them?  What brings someone to classical music as they age?

One of my older relatives never listened to classical music; she had no use for music other than hymns and the Stadler Brothers.  Aging did not give her patience or appreciation for classical concert music. Her husband played clarinet and loved Brahms, but she just wasn’t interested in any of it.

These are just isolated examples, but they illustrate my skepticism of whether aging is enough to make someone interested in classical music.  I can see appreciation deepening over time, but I have a hard time imagining a sudden conversion.  In fact, I’m inclined to think that listening habits just get more fixed over time.

I am encouraged by Botstein’s observations that audiences aren’t going away and that new audiences are constantly discovering the beauty of classical music and the thrill of live concerts.  I love this music, and selfishly, I want it to stay strong so that I (and others) have the chance to appreciate it in abundance.  

When did you start liking certain genres, composers, pieces?  How has it changed for you over time?

Chamber Music all over WV

(Interviews) Permanent link

Orchestras aren’t the only groups kicking off their new seasons—two chamber music societies are presenting their first fall concerts this weekend.  On Saturday, the Heritage Brass Quintet from Cleveland, Ohio will be playing for the Charleston Chamber Music Society.  Then on Sunday, violinist Marcia Henry Liebenow will perform for the Fairmont Chamber Music Society.  She plays in Peoria—as principal of the Peoria Symphony and a professor at Bradley University in Illinois.

And I apologize--they’ve kept me so busy here with our fund drive, that I’ve gotten these interview up a bit later than I wanted to(and didn’t have much time to edit).  But I hope you enjoy the interviews, and if you go to either of these concerts, let me know what you  think!

Marcia Henry Liebenow

Marcia Henry

Marcia Henry Liebenow is a very active musician, taking on all different sorts of projects.  She shared some great insights into the music she will be playing in Fairmont, by Beethoven, Brahms, and Manuel de Falla. She also plays music of Edvard Grieg.

ListenWe talked about her busy teaching and performing schedule 

ListenShe had insightful comments on the music she’s playing on her concert in Fairmont 

ListenMarcia is also a jazz musician and has some exciting future plans 

Heritage Brass Quintet

Heritage Brass Quintet


From the Heritage Brass Quintet, I spoke with trumpet player and founder Eric Svoboda.  They’re a great group that plays a wide variety of music.  We’ve played some Gershwin off their new CD “It’s Showtime” on Classical Music, and I’m glad to now share our interview!

ListenListen to my interview with Eric Svoboda of the Heritage Brass 

Have a great and musically filled weekend!

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