Loading
Join Us. 170 Million Americans for Public Broadcasting

Our Blog Usage Policy


Want to comment on a blog?

Login and post your comment


Log In
 
 

Register for a free account

Forgot your Password?

Inside Appalachia

Classically Speaking

Classical music in West Virginia and Beyond

Pipe organ: Delivering the baby

(Just for Fun) Permanent link
Share/Save/Bookmark
By Carole Carter
 · February 25, 2010

unloading opgan FPC

A series of blog posts about choosing, installing, voicing, debuting a new pipe organ

It's here! The huge pipe organ built by Casavant Frères of Quebec for First Presbyterian Church-Charleston (FPC) has arrived by semi in thousands of pieces!

Of course, this was not actually Day 1. The impetus for this project came from church members John and Ruth McGee. It’s seems they have quite an affinity for pipe organs. The McGee Foundation donated the funds for the organ itself.


pipes in frt pew FPC
Pews are covered in pipes and pieces - and plastic sheeting.

The project began nearly two years ago when Rev. Bill McCoy invited a handful of people to undertake the selection of a new antiphonal pipe organ to be placed in the front gallery. I was elected chair of the committee and the work began.

We researched. We sought out the counsel of trusted friends. We invited three builders to ”pitch” their company. We sent our organist and music director to listen to instruments previously built by the front-runners. We discussed and settled upon Casavant Frères.

Then of course, we had to get estimates on the total project cost – the expenses of preparing the space to accept the organ (really the weight of it) and all the associated costs of readying our front gallery for use by the various church choirs.


Casavant workshop
Workshop at Casavant

John McGee enlisted some friends to accomplish this funding hurdle. Apparently Chuck Avampato of the Clay Foundation also has a “history” with organs. The final piece of the financial puzzle came later when church members Bob and Nancy Douglas agreed to fund the other needs such as risers for choirs, tables for bells, audio and visual equipment, etc.

Once the contract was signed, the work began in earnest in Quebec in early 2009. About a month ago, our music director and an organist friend traveled to Quebec to inspect the instrument in the Casavant workshop. They were thrilled!So, here we are. A crew from Casavant will begin assembling this “King of Instruments” in the front gallery with cranes, scaffolding and manpower.

Fisk FPC
The Fisk, installed in 1980


 Now – this is not to diminish the fame and reputation of the fabulous Fisk tracker organ which occupies our rear gallery.

Lest you doubt, the 2006 search committee for our current music director received resumes from all over the world – nearly half from organists who wanted to lay their hands on our Fisk. It will remain in service, and services at FPC.



 
Since pipe organs generally last 100-150 years (longer if you really take care of them!), the acquisition of a new one is a monumental task in many respects.


NOTE: And why "Delivering the baby"? That's my personal take on it. The Fisk is about 30 years old, so this instrument is definitely the "baby." I've nicknamed it Cassie - for Casavant.  It's designed to be more flexible and sensitive, so I figure it's a girl. Call it profiling.

Next: Some assembly required

Bartok and the Viola (with Maggie Snyder)

 Permanent link
Share/Save/Bookmark
By Mona Seghatoleslami
 · February 24, 2010
Maggie Snyder, viola
Maggie Snyder

The viola soloist is Maggie Snyder.  We last spoke right before her Carnegie Hall debut last year in May.  We caught up briefly today to talk about the music she'll be playing at this week’s concert. 

Take a few minutes to listen to her thoughts on Bartók's Viola Concerto (and whether the viola is really killing composers):


This audio player requires Adobe Flash
Maggie Snyder speaks about Bartok's Viola Concerto

The concert will be conducted by Dr. Mitchell Arnold, Director of Orchestral Activities at WVU.  Here’s how he describes Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony: “Some composers strive to write symphonies that capture all the joy, grief, tragedy and comedy of life. Few succeed as well as Prokofiev. No wonder this is one of the most popular works written in the 20th century.” 

You can hear more of Maestro Arnold’s thoughts on music in our interview from November 2009


Related links:

* More info about Thursday’s WVU Symphony Orchestra concert
* WVU Prof at Carnegie Hall (New York) – interview with Maggie Snyder 
* Meet the Maestro: Mitchell Arnold
* February WV Classical Calendar 

Teller, Landowska, Bach

(Interviews) Permanent link
Share/Save/Bookmark
By Skip Heller
 · February 23, 2010

To most, Teller is the silent half of the skeptical magic duo Penn & Teller. Offstage, he is as articulate as Penn Jillette is verbose, and is as charming a conversationalist as I've met. 

Also, he is an amateur keyboardist who finally bought a really nice harpsichord.


Pleyel Harpsichord
1937 Pleyel Harpsichord

"As exquisite as St. Matthew's Passion or the Mass in B Minor might be-- and they are -- I don't like music that asserts itself before it justifies itself. Firepower doesn't impress me. I'm much fonder of the small work. You're engaged by the net of counterpoint, then the emotional aspect of it is overwhelming, because you're so much closer to it in a smaller, more personal way, and that's powerful for me.  Much more so, in fact."
 
This is interesting talk coming from a guy whose professional life includes dumping a bunny into a woodchipper, but a second look at Teller's signature onstage moments brings it clearer. The cups and balls, sophisticated revamps of ancient card tricks, the shadow play with the rose -- these are small moments done with virtuosity and with a beautiful eccentricity that would -- to a Bach fan -- suggest Glenn Gould. And Teller is quite the fan of Glenn Gould.

"With Gould, there's the sense that either he has the best idea or the weirdest. His recordings of the partitas are my favorite, just for the way he unlocked the rhythmic power of that work. Certainly he understood what a jig is.

Penn & Teller
Penn & Teller

"[Gould] was himself a showman about himself as much as he was for much of the music he played, certainly, and there's an always an aspect of him that comes from 'This is Glenn Gould plays this work' as much as the work itself.  Which can certainly result in some performances that don't work so well, and one either loves or hates that about him. Gould is certainly the central fact of anything he plays."

(Don't be shocked that he knows this stuff.  I have an email correspondence with Teller where we discussed Art of the Fugue for a few weeks, and his assessment of the work and what Bach's intent for it was would make for a small and very lively, insightful book.)
 
If there is a North Star in Teller's Bach Heaven, it is Wanda Landowska. Her recording of the Well-Tempered Clavier (Book I cut for RCA Red Seal in 1951, Book II three years later) remains one of the benchmarks of baroque music, and the depth and vitality of her playing did much -- worlds, even -- to restore Bach's popularity as history's greatest composer. Her importance to Bach -- along with Pablo Casals'-- cannot possibly be overstated.

Landowska WTC album

I asked Teller if he grew up with her records. His hometown is Philadelphia, a city with a long and very amazing orchestral tradition.  His parents were artists, and they lived walking distance from the Academy of Music.

"No. I discovered Landowska in college, actually, at Amherst.

"I wasn't a good student. I was always behind in everything, and I had a final on the Iliad, in Greek. The night before the test, I just decided to plow through [the book] as much as I could, and I was exhausted and restless.

"I heard this music down the hall, coming from the room of my friend David Corcoran, and it was Landowska's recording of the WTC.  So I went to his room, and studied the Greek with Landowska in the background, until 4 a.m., at which point I was of course completely exhausted, and then I went back to my room, where for the next three hours, I would wake to this dream -- I was traumatized -- where Greek text was rolling past my eyes as Wanda played."

I forgot to ask if he passed. But the contrapuntal music switch was thrown.

"I absolutely pursued Landowska, of course, and -- at the same time -- it opened the Dangerous Door to Bach.

"Deep in my Landowska phase, I was a first year schoolteacher in a suburb of Trenton, NJ, and I read that there was going to be a harpsichord festival in Princeton, which was very close by. There were performers, films, including interviews with Landowska. I was thrilled that this was happening so close to home.

"I went, and Ralph Kirkpatrick was there, and he was very good. But Igor Kipnis blew me away.

Igor Kipnis
Igor Kipnis

"He had his Rutkowski & Robinette harpsichord, which was of course not period precise. The harpsichord of Bach's day was smaller and lighter. It wasn't designed to be shipped to recitals. Kipnis' harpsichord had a metal frame so it could withstand travel, and it had two manuals. Kipnis came out dressed in a red and purple velvet jacket, which wasn't exactly traditional concert dress, but it was his version of it, or at least his nod to it.

"He played two of the little pieces from [Bach's] Anna Magdalena notebooks, just clearly as a warmup, but it was ... These were beginner pieces, but he invested them with something that was just inspired.

"Then he spoke to the audience about the Goldberg Variations, which he was about to play, and he was articulate, and he had some jokes even, and I loved it and him for it, because he presented himself as a human being. As he was concluding his introduction of the work, he sat down, remarked on the virtuosity of the harpsichordist for whom it was named [Johann Gottlieb Goldberg], then turned to the audience with impeccable comic timing and said, 'And the snot was only fifteen!'

"Then he proceeded to play the Goldberg's so... Well, there's an old story about a competition of improvisers in Bach's day, and a theme is handed to each contestant and each contestant is to improvise a fugue. And the last contestant improvises his fugue, and the judge says, 'Either that was an angel from heaven, or it is JS Bach himself!', and that was Kipnis that day. He was transporting. At the end of it, the audience leaped to our feet because we had no choice.

"For an encore, he played the C minor prelude from Book I of the WTC, and he improvised a cadenza that was ... It was one of those evenings of music that becomes the standard you hold.  The only other performance up to that point that had that effect on me was a concert I saw at Amherst in 1969 by (percussionist) Olatunji."

Years after this performance, Teller and Kipnis became friends.

Also, Penn & Teller became, well, Penn & Teller.

Teller has a funny habit of depersonalizing any mention of his own wealth or fame. He never refers to "I" or "me" in this situation, but rather "one", and when I ask him how he came to acquire his new harpsichord, he says as follows:

"When one decides one has enough disposable income, one Googles 'Pleyel.'"


Pleyel Harpsichord - closeup
Not a bad Google search result...

The provenance for the harpsichord he finally bought last year is impressive. It was built in 1937 by Pleyel for pianist Arthur Shattuck.

"He'd loaned it to Wanda Landowska around 1942 until about 1945. She used it as a teaching instrument, apparently. Wanda was just a bully,” he laughs, "and suggested he 'donate' the instrument to her."

(The instrument is described as being in Landowska's apartment in Our Two Lives, Halina Rodzinski's memoir of her life with husband, conductor Artur Rodzinski.)

According to both the provenance and a few conversations with Landowska's life partner Denise Restout, Landowska was fond of this harpsichord and tried to reacquire the instrument more than once, and actually kept close tabs on it up until the end of her life. She never got it.  Shattuck donated it to the Appleton Conservatory in Appleton, WI.

Teller acquired it in February of  '09. I saw him a few months later, and he told me of his purchase all the glee of a high school baseball fan who had just acquired a Reggie Jackson game ball. I asked him how hard it was to care for the instrument in the desert heat.

"A harpsichord meets the Nevada desert with a mighty boom," he said with giddy gravity.

After several attempts to keep the studio room in his home adequately humid -- "I almost suffocated trying to keep the air sufficiently moist" -- he settled on a Dampp-Chaser instrumental humidifier system, which attaches to the underside of the soundboard.

"It keeps the humidity at the desired level with a system of pads that soak and evaporate. Daniel Enet, who tunes all the Penn and Teller keyboard instruments once a month, takes care of the more sensitive aspects of the instrument's care and feeding. He is an artist as very few are."


Pleyel Harpsichord Humification
"Fill the pitcher to the red line with water, add a cup full of pad treatment"

So what do you play on your new Pleyel?

"I've got the Kalmus books of the Two- and Three-Part Inventions and the WTC. I have the Vertag edition of the Anna Magdalena notebooks. I have one called Easier Piano Pieces. I prefer any edition that doesn't require I turn a page."

He laughs again, but he speaks with awe and reverence for the instrument itself.

"It's a substantial instrument, more than any I've ever even sat at before. It has seven pedals, and it's all so confusing to me that I actually made labels with the label gun to keep it straight.


Pleyel Harpsichord Pedals
The seven labeled pedals.

"The sound it makes is so much more satisfying than any keyboard instrument I've ever played before. It has a huge, masculine voice, and to play it and hear it come back at you is like plucking your own nerves. I've been playing -- slowly, of course, not sight reading anything at tempo, mind you -- through some of the three-part inventions, which I've never really tried to play through before, and it's like the skies opening up, every time I get through something.

"I feel like I'm cheating. This instrument is ... I'm starting with materials that are so rich. I'm not making anything from scratch. Even my atonal improvised noodling sounds amazing on this instrument."

Around this point, our conversation moves into a whole other phase, and we're soon enough discussing the Smothers Brothers with deep admiration. Then computers. It's the broad conversation we've had for years now. 

His acquisition of the Pleyel means that he'll have something new on which to report, whether it's the care and feeding of this incredible instrument, or even that he can play one of the Goldberg Variations at tempo. Then, of course, we'll debate as to what that would be, as Bach didn't leave much in the way of tempo markings....
 

Skip Heller is mostly a country singer, but is sometimes a jazz, guitarist, film/cartoon composer, music journalist, or chamber music composer.  His most recent release, The Long Way Home, will be available in March on the Tallulah label.

WV Music Hall of Fame on WV PBS

(Interviews, News) Permanent link
Share/Save/Bookmark
By Mona Seghatoleslami
 · February 22, 2010
This Friday, the WV Music Hall of Fame 2009 induction ceremony will be broadcast on WV PBS at 9pm.
Larry Combs clarinet
Larry Combs

Clarinetist Larry Combs of South Charleston was this year’s inductee from the world of classical music.  In the program, he performs selections from Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet, along with the Montclaire String Quartet.

The other inductees featured during the program are:  Nat Reese, the Bailes Brothers, Hawkshaw Hawkins, Frank DeVol, Doc and Chickie Williams, and Don Redman.

So tune in (or set your TiVos/DVRs) and check out all of this great music, Friday night on WV PBS. Here's a preview:

WV Youth Symphony -- Alumni Search!

(News) Permanent link
Share/Save/Bookmark
By Mona Seghatoleslami
 · February 19, 2010
WV Youth Symphony 60 Years


The West Virginia Youth Symphony is celebrating its 60th birthday this season. 

They plan to celebrate this spring with a concert and gala reception May 2, 2010 at 3:00 pm at the Clay Center.

WV Youth Symphony Violinist
WV Youth Symphony violinist

Before then, they are trying to reach all former members of the West Virginia Youth Symphony or the Kanawha Valley Youth Orchestra in order to invite them to the celebration.

They’ve heard from some alumni dating back the orchestra’s first year, and they are looking to reach as many others as possible.


If you played in the West Virginia Youth Symphony or the Kanawha Valley Youth Orchestra, email wvyouthsymphony@gmail.com  or call (304) 561-3542 to get back in touch.

If you know someone else who was in the orchestra, be sure to share this info with them!


WV Youth Symphony Picture
Musicians in the WV Youth Symphony

-

Baroque Jewels in Wheeling

(Interviews, News) Permanent link
Share/Save/Bookmark
By Mona Seghatoleslami
 · February 17, 2010

This Friday, the Wheeling Symphony continues to celebrate its 80th season, with a concert featuring soloists from the orchestra.  Violinist Rachel Stegman, oboe player Robert Driscoll, Jr., and harpist Fran Duffy will be leaving their customary seats and step out in front of the orchestra to play music by Handel and Bach, Friday at the Capitol Theater in Wheeling.



Wheeling Symphony Soloists
Rachel Stegman, Fran Duffy, Robert Driscoll, Jr.

Take just a couple minutes to listen to Maestro Andre Raphel Smith talk about the concert: 

This audio player requires Adobe Flash
Maestro Smith describes the concert

In addition to these “Baroque jewels” by Bach and Handel, the orchestra will offer some romantic and classical music – Valse Triste by Sibelius and Mozart’s Symphony No. 41 (“Jupiter”). 

Links:
* Program Notes for "Baroque Jewels" 
* The Wheeling Symphony 
* Baroque Basics 
* More about Bach and Handel 

Previously this season: 
* Wheeling Symphony & Zuill Bailey 
* Dancing with the Wheeling Symphony 

From Idea to Opera, Part 4: Off the Page, Onto the Stage

(Commentary) Permanent link
Share/Save/Bookmark
By Evan Mack
 · February 15, 2010
Evan Mack, Composer & Pianist
What does it take to create an opera and get it on stage?  Evan Mack is a composer and pianist living in Charleston, WV, who was interviewed on Classically Speaking in May 2009.  He is currently in the process of having his opera Angel of the Amazon produced, and he will be writing here about the experience, from his first inspiration through the opera being staged. You can catch up here: Part One  Part Two  Part Three .

Long gone are the days in which a composer hands over a score or sheet music and says, “I wrote an opera, are you interested?” It takes too much effort on the part of these opera companies. Also, I have discovered that many artistic directors do not read music, so a score is superfluous. I made the decision to “produce my opera in order to get it produced.”

Now, I don’t have the money to actually produce an opera. I realized I needed to create a packaged product, that I could send to opera companies. I knew I had to make it as informative about the the project without the the time, money, and energy that goes into staging a new work.

So in February 2009, I created a highlights CD for voice and piano and a Listening Companion, as a guide to the music in the opera. It was a compromise between sending an opera company a full libretto and a MIDI CD and producing the entire opera on a CD.

You see, technology in music can help and hurt you. It is easier today to get a good quality recording of live voices than it was 5 years ago. Many of the professional companies look at MIDI recordings as a rough draft and are often suspect, because MIDI can play back anything, even beyond the capabilities of a human voice. Therefore, they are not always convinced that the music is playable.

I had grant money, (about $2000) from the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur to record the works. There are also grants available from the state and federal government, and they are more likely to give you money if you have a structure set up, i.e hall space, performer, an estimate from the sound engineer.  I had enough for a few singers, but I couldn't afford a full choir.

I paid singers from the College-Conservatory of Music to sing the three lead roles and a slightly lower fee to a soprano, alto, tenor, and bass to be utilized in the chorus. I invited music directors to share the news about the project with their choirs and asked for volunteers.

As a results, there were 45 choir members from eleven different churches. I rehearsed with the paid singers on a Thursday morning, and the choir on a Thursday night. We rehearsed together on a Friday, in which I placed the four singers to lead each voice section. We recorded on Saturday.
 
It was a whirlwind, but it was done...I now had a product in which I could send off to opera companies and other groups.

Here's a selection from that recording session.  Check back next week for more, in the fifth installment of "From Idea to Opera." 

This audio player requires Adobe Flash
Luiz's Soliloquy

Lincoln & Music

(Commentary) Permanent link
Share/Save/Bookmark
By Mona Seghatoleslami
 · February 11, 2010

February 12th is Abraham Lincoln’s birthday (and mine!) 

Lincoln portrait

Many people have been inspired by Lincoln, including classical music composers.  Lincoln's words and the story of his life have found their way into several pieces of music. Throughout our Classical Music program on Lincoln's birthday this year, I’ll be playing music connected to Abraham Lincoln. 

The most of famous of these pieces is Aaron Copland’s Lincoln Portrait, for orchestra and narrator, which was composed in 1942.  This past November, the West Virginia University Symphony Orchestra, directed by Mitchell Arnold (interview), with narration by Christopher Wilkinson (interview), performed Lincoln Portrait. We’ll feature a recording from that concert at the end of the program. 

Lincoln Letters


A new piece by Michael Daugherty, called Letters from Lincoln, has just been recorded by Thomas Hampson and the Spokane Symphony, conducted by Eckart Preu. Daugherty sets Lincoln’s letters as an orchestral song cycle, which we’ll also be broadcasting. 



Lincoln Portraits

Last year, Naxos Records released a must-have set for those interested in Lincoln and music. The two-CD set is called Abraham Lincoln Portraits. It includes Copland’s Lincoln Portrait, and also has music by Ives, Persichetti, Roy Harris, Morton Gould, and several others. We’ll be broadcasting a few of these pieces throughout the day on West Virginia Public Radio. 

I hope you can tune in to celebrate Lincoln and hear some of this music.  The show is 11am-3pm (Eastern); you can listen here online or on the radio.  Here's a nice essay on Lincoln's connections to music.  Also, composer Roy Harris was born on February 12th (in 1898 or 1901 -- depending on who you believe).

Catching up with Mark McVey (two interviews!)

(Interviews) Permanent link
Share/Save/Bookmark
By Mona Seghatoleslami
 · February 10, 2010
MarkMcVey
J. Mark McVey

Huntington native Mark McVey will be performing with the West Virginia Symphony this Friday and Saturday in Charleston. 

You can listen to my radio story about his upcoming concert here: “Huntington Native Returns to Perform with WV Symphony.”

McVey last sang with the WV Symphony two years ago as part of gala concert.  His performance of "Bring Him Home" from Les Mis was (of course) wonderful, and I was really taken with his dark, dramatic interpretation of  "Music of the Night" from Phantom of the Opera (so often I've heard people ignore the creepy undertones and sing it as a plain love song).
 
Before that concert, we spoke then about his journey from singing in church choirs in Huntington to starring on Broadway. That 2008 interview, which hasn’t been available online since we moved to our new site, is now available right here:

This audio player requires Adobe Flash
Mark McVey, January 2008

Here he is singing "Bring Him Home," as Jean ValJean in a performance of Les Mis at the Hollywood Bowl in 2008:

The Big Game, Prog-Rock Brahms, and Amore

(News, Commentary, Just for Fun) Permanent link
Share/Save/Bookmark
By Mona Seghatoleslami
 · February 9, 2010


Last year during the Super Bowl, I heard a few commercials using classical music.  I caught two this year, with some help (thank you, @MMmusing)

Bolero by Maurice Ravel

and

Mozart, Piano Sonata in B-flat, K. 570

- - -
 

For those who prefer the arena of love to football stadium -- Yesterday’s radio program included music for Viola d’Amore, and I described the instrument briefly.  You can see some beautiful pictures on the Viola d’Amore Blog maintained by Mauro Righini. Violist Garth Knox has one of my favorite non-traditional albums of Viola d'Amore music 

Speaking of “amore,” let me know if you have any romantic classical music requests this week.  Just send me an email.


- - -
 

In other news, looks like Santana is not the only one who has borrowed from Brahms.  Last week, we featured Brahms’s Symphony No. 4 (from the new Berlin/Rattle Complete Brahms Symphonies set ).  A listener named David called in to mention that the progressive rock band Yes had their own interpretation of this music:

Cans and Brahms (Brahms, Symphony No. 4: Movement 3)


Here’s Carlos Kleiber and the Bavarian State Orchestra, with a more… traditional…version:

-

From Idea to Opera: Part III, Character studies

(Commentary) Permanent link
Share/Save/Bookmark
By Evan Mack
 · February 8, 2010
Evan Mack, Composer & Pianist
What does it take to create an opera and get it on stage?  Evan Mack is a composer and pianist living in Charleston, WV, who was interviewed on Classically Speaking in May 2009.  He is currently in the process of having his opera Angel of the Amazon produced, and he will be writing here about the experience, from his first inspiration through the opera being staged. You can catch up here with Part One and Part Two.
 

I knew that the music had to represent the characters and the worlds in which they originate. As I described earlier, Sr. Dorothy’s musical language begins as very “Western” (i.e. religious and classical) and gradually becomes influenced by the Brazilian landscape. By the end of the first act, her music sounds more Brazilian than Western. In the second act, her musical language turns into one of transcendence as her role of martyr becomes more evident.

Other characters, including Luiz, begin with Brazilian rhythms and harmonies and are influenced by Sr. Dorothy’s musical language, reflecting her influence on the Brazilian people.

I chose serial techniques for Vito. My treatment of the 12-tone practice is not extreme, and it affects how the character is portrayed. Regardless of the universe around him, Vito is unchanged. By treating his music more mathematically, the result reflects the selfishness in his character. Regardless if the Brazilian people are succeeding and the land grants are helping the poor, Vito does not care. His land = his land, so his music = no change.

I use an inversion of the tone row when any other character acts corrupt, greedy, or apathetic to signify that Vito’s influence is everywhere!

This audio player requires Adobe Flash
"10 Years" from Angel of the Amazon

As the plot unfolds, certain motives reoccur to drive the message home. The “inevitability motive” and the “beatitudes motive are the most prevalent, yet the opera is filled with many, many layers.

Once the music was written, then the hard part began ... getting it off the page and onto the stage.  More about that next week in Part Four.

Related links:

* From Idea to Opera: Part I
* From Idea to Opera: Part II, Building the Story 
* You can also find out more about Angel of the Amazon by becoming a fan on Facebook

A Musical Connection

(Commentary) Permanent link
Share/Save/Bookmark
By Mona Seghatoleslami
 · February 1, 2010

Congratulations and thank you for meeting the Chocolate Challenge, by helping West Virginia Public Radio reach our fundraising goal a day early!  Friday night, right before we reached the goal, I learned about a neat musical story.  

Tom Burger, who in 1974 was the first Charleston producer for public radio, returned to the air to help out with fund drive Friday night.  His wife Bettijane and daughter Renee were helping out by answering phones, while the volunteers were being coordinated by Renee’s husband, Todd Frymyer, who works here at WV Public Broadcasting in the development department. 

During a brief lull in the calls, Bettijane told me a story about one of their musical relatives:

My aunt, the late Esther Dickey of Georgia, was the oldest surviving alumna of Eastman School of Music when she died at the age of 97 a few years ago. At 97, she was still playing the piano for her retirement community and by ear! Esther was a classmate of composer and conductor Frederick Fennell, and her diploma was signed by composer Howard Hanson. 

The family has kept that diploma under glass, and Bettijane very kindly agreed to share a picture of it with me:


Esther Eastman Diploma
The Diploma

You can also see Howard Hanson’s signature up close:


Howard Hanson Signature
Howard Hanson's Signature

From Bettijane's description and from what I've read online, Esther was a remarkable woman.  Hearing about her and seeing these pictures of her diploma has had me thinking about music history and personal connections. It's special, even if I can't quite put together the right words to describe why I'm now so drawn to this story. I just know that I wanted to share some of her story, and these pictures, with others who might interested too.

WV Classical Calendar -- February 2010

 Permanent link
Share/Save/Bookmark
By Mona Seghatoleslami
 · February 1, 2010

Feb 12-13: WV Symphony with Mark McVey “A Night on Broadway”

Feb 13: Rumplestiltzkin: Straw Into Gold (WV Symphony Family Concert)

Feb 13: Huntington Symphony “Dreams of America”

Feb 13: Connie Edwards, bassoon; Patrick Joyce, guitar (Fairmont State University Faculty Recital)

Feb 13: ArtsGive: Fundraiser for Haiti Relief (WVU)

Feb 14: Opera in Cinema: Otello (Huntington, Charleston, Beckley)

Feb 14: Marshall University Opera Workshop

Feb 17: Wendell Dobbs, flute (interview); Branita Holbrook-Bratka, voice (Marshall University Faculty Recital)

Feb 17: Scott Beard, piano “The Music of Frédéric Chopin and Theodor Leschetizky” (WVU/MTNA Guest Artist Recital)

Feb 18: Gerald Lee, Piano (West Liberty University Faculty Recital)

Feb 19: Wheeling Symphony “Baroque Jewels”

Feb 19: Shepherd University Wind Ensemble

Feb 21: River Cities Symphony and Marietta College Chorus with Andrea DiGregorio, cello (Parkersburg)

Feb 21: Geoffrey Thomas, “Haydn Sonatas and Stories” (Fairmont Chamber Music Society)

Feb 21: Concord University Composers

Feb 21: WVU Choral Concert, Mozart’s Requiem

Feb 21: Garth Newel Piano Quartet (interview) (Carnegie Hall Lewisburg)

RSS Feed
<< February 2010 >>
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28            

Blogroll

Archive

Subjects

Recent Posts

West Virginia Public Broadcasting is a member station of: