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Classically Speaking

Classical music in West Virginia and Beyond

Last Chance in the Sun (Final classical concerts this summer in WV)

(Commentary) Permanent link
Even though the summer doesn’t “officially” end until September 21st, there’s already a whisper of fall in the air, especially with school getting started for most students.

Sad you missed out on your chance to see a symphony concert this summer?  Cheer up, there are still a couple more summer concerts before orchestras in West Virginia pack up the fireworks, pops music, and those clothesline clips that are so helpful in keeping pages of music from blowing away.

The Wheeling Symphony will be performing free concerts with jazz singer Opie Bellas, first at Oglebay Park Anne Kuchinka Ampitheatre in Wheeling on August 31st and then at Hazel Ruby-McQuain Riverfront Park in Morgantown on September 1st.

The West Virginia Symphony will be playing a free concert in Beckley at the Woodrow Wilson Auditorium on Labor Day (September 1st).  They’ll be featuring cello soloist Tristan Hott and vocalist Ryan Hardiman, the Symphony Idol.  I interviewed Ryan earlier this summer, and you can still listen to it online here.

And if there aren’t concerts in your area now, don’t worry—the fall is looking pretty bright.  Groups all over the state are having “home” and “away” shows throughout the year.  We’ll keep track of those concerts here on Classically Speaking, including some interviews with performers.

Are you planning to be at any of these concerts for the end of the summer? Do you know about any other summer concerts around the state that I’ve missed?  Let me know in the comments section below.


p.s. I'm still working on figuring out how to embed some classical music videos here for you.  I’m definitely more of a musician than a computer programmer!  Thanks for your patience, and I’m sure I’ll have this figured out soon.

A River Runs Through it: Patmore Lewis and The Rillito River Project

(Interviews) Permanent link
At a radio station, you get a lot of CDs in the mail promoting various albums and artists.  It's mostly pretty easy to figure out whether they fit into your programming (hint: punk rock CDs aren't usually played during classical music programs).

But earlier this summer, we received a pair of very different promotional CDs for the same album, titled The Rillito River Project.  One of these discs was marked as Classical, and contained pieces by Richard Strauss, Alan Seidler, and Karl Szymanowski, performed by violinist Patmore Lewis.  The other was labeled World/Classical/New Age, with one piece on it: Elemental Flow by violinist/composer Patmore Lewis (click here to listen to a sample of Elemental Flow).  

I immediately wanted to know more about this Patmore Lewis—how did he reconcile these very different styles of music?  What was the story of the Rillito River?  

After a bit research, I only became more intrigued—he’s a violinist with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, who also writes new age/world music and collaborates with hip hop artists?  I definitely had to talk to this guy.  A few emails and a phone call later, and we got to chat.  

Listen to Patmore Lewis describe the Rillito River Project

Patmore explained how the variety of music he listens to influences how he composes, and that his approach to music reflects “the spiritual and psychological influences of the world becoming a smaller place.” Hear Patmore describe his approach to composing

He then went into detail about his composition Elemental Flow, featured on The Rillito River Project.  Listen to Patmore talk about Elemental Flow

He’s also played with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra for over 20 years.  He says he’s learned a lot from the variety of conductors and singers with whom he comes into contact.  Listen to Patmore on his experiences with the Metropolitan Opera

Finally, I asked Patmore about his other projects and future plans.  He has to keep some of his projects under wraps because they’re still in development, but he was able to tell me a few things. Listen to some of Patmore’s plans.

You can hear selection from The Rillito River Project on Classical Music with Jim Lange and you can learn more by visiting their website.

Special thanks to Max of Crossover Media for helping to arrange this interview.

Back to School -- New Beginnings

(Meta) Permanent link
For students, teachers, and others who are still connected to schools, the new year now, rather than January 1st.  Even a few years after leaving school, I get excited about new plans for the fall as if it's a new year.

On my way back from my vacation last week, as I got closer and closer to home, I kept thinking about trying some new things on this blog.

Here are some of my “back to school” plans for Classically Speaking:

* The summer was a bit slow for classical concerts, but as the new seasons get started, we’ll be hearing from West Virginians and guests who will be performing music around the state.  If you know of something good in your area, let me know.

* I’ve tried a bit of a recurring feature with “Friday Questions”—asking you something about music every Friday.  I’m still looking to hear from any readers/listeners out there, but to make Fridays a bit less work for you, this week we’ll start featuring a classical music video each Friday.  (Perhaps the questions will come back as a monthly survey).

* Finally, I’ve noticed my interview posts getting longer…and longer…I want to try some new things with how we post interviews.  One possibility is shorter excerpts from the interviews throughout a post, and then posting the whole interview separately (you can then dip your toe in the water with the shorter selections, but still have a chance to hear the whole story if you have the time).


What do you think?  We’re still a work-in-progress, so everything’s still flexible, and your suggestions influence how we shape this blog.  If you have any thoughts about what you would like to see and hear, leave a comment on any of our posts.

And if you’re a bit shy about posting a comment, you can send me an email: feedback@wvpubcast.org (you might want to put Classically Speaking or “classical blog” in the subject line just to be sure I catch it).

I think it’s going to be a good new year!

Youtube Classical Music Roundup #1

(Just for Fun) Permanent link
It’s easy to get lost in watching even just a fraction of the classical music videos available online.  And they’re not just all cats playing the piano.  

You can find wonderful historic performances, including Stanislaw Richter and his take-no-prisoners performances of Chopin.  There’s also current classical stars, like conductor Gustavo Dudamel (who will be the Music Director of the LA Philharmonic starting next year) conducting an energetic performance of Bernstein’s Mambo with the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela.

Record labels have started promoting their artists with online video, probably most successfully in the case of Telarc with pianist Simone Dinnerstein performing Bach’s Goldberg Variations.

There seems to be an audience out there for classical music on Youtube, even when the performers aren’t very famous.  A few years ago, I played viola on a conductor’s recital, and I found out that our performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 is online and has been viewed over 93,000 times!

Another one of my favorite videos is of Renee Fleming and Dmitri Hvorostovsky singing a duet from “Don Giovanni.”  Even though it’s just a concert and they don’t have costumes or sets, they act very convincingly.

Check out the comments on some of these videos—in addition to some of the typical back and forth, people are arguing about detailed nuances of diction and performance style!

I’ve certainly whiled a way a good part of my day enjoying these videos.  I hope you enjoy them too, and let me know if you recommend any others that I should check out.

Name that Tune: The Theme to Classical Music with Jim Lange

(Commentary, Meta) Permanent link
"To call each thing by its right name. By its right name."

To name something is very difficult. It requires considerable thought or a silver flash of inspiration. The name must be absolutely right and speak of the nature and essence of the subject.

To find the correct theme music to a show is just as difficult. When big changes were apparent for local classical music programming, I wanted a fresh start. Part of this fresh start was having theme music for the new show.

François Couperin’s Forlane Rondeau from the Quatrième Concert [Fourth Concert Suite] was something I had in the back of my mind for a few years. Hopefully, it speaks of the nature of the new program: fresh, not stuffy and staid, light but not mere confection. In short, it’s our personal invitation to explore the world of classical music with us each week. We are not curators of a museum, but rather act as guides through the incredible diversity of classical music today.

It must be working, because we’ve had a few inquiries about it.

There are other recordings, but there is something magical about this recording. Kenneth Slowik leads the Smithsonian Chamber PlayersClick here to listen to a sample of our theme

Friday Question: What's your favorite musical instrument?

(Commentary, Just for Fun) Permanent link
We always love when people leave comments on the blog; it’s fun to be able to hear back from you about music, interviews, and whatever else we put here. Once every week (or two), I also like to ask questions about your musical experiences.

Previously, we’ve asked about favorite composers, discussed listening, and had some potential interview subjects recommended.  Those discussions aren’t closed; you can still leave comments on all of these older questions.

This week, I’m asking: what’s your favorite musical instrument? What are some of the reasons you like it?

It could be something you play or have played, but it doesn’t have to be.  I play the viola, and it still is my favorite instrument.  It’s the mediator of the strings, bringing together the higher violins and the lower cellos and basses.  I also like the viola's mellow, and sometimes mournful, sound.

Plus, we have all the good jokes.

After the viola, I think my favorite instrument is the clarinet.  It has many different personalities; it can be bright and jazzy or warm and resonant.  It also sounds really nice with the viola.  

I’m going to defeat the purpose of picking favorites if I also mention how I love the (French) horn, especially when a bunch of them get together in a big symphony orchestra, and the oboe and bassoon as a pair (listen to them in the second movement of William Schuman’s New England Triptych).  

So, which is your favorite?

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