Music + Culture



In the United States, 8% of children have a nut allergy. Halloween can be tricky to navigate. Consider this; Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups was the top candy for Halloween in 2013. I love those. And I’m sure my son would too if it weren’t for the asthma attack and hives.    But after 2 reactions and one expensive E.R. visit, “Are there nuts in this?” seems less annoying. 

Feast of Music / Flickr

Mexican conductor Alondra de la Parra is known for her energetic, animated conducting. Take a look at the her joyous body language in this rehearsal video:

Why is classical music so hard to enjoy on streaming services? In one word, it's metadata. Metadata is the information that coexists with every digital music file: each and every piece of information about a selection of music that a listener might find useful to know, and what makes the information in one file discernible from the next. In the case of classical music, relevant and important metadata includes the name of the piece of music, the composer, the album it's from, the performers, the label that released the recording and the year it was recorded.

When the curtain rises on the Metropolitan Opera's new production of Verdi's Otello tonight, opera fans will quickly notice what's not there. For the first time since the opera was first staged at the Met in 1891, a white singer performing the title role will not be wearing makeup to darken his complexion to play the Moor at the center of the tragedy.

Kevin Sylvester says that when most people see a 6-foot-2-inch, 260-pound black man, they don't expect him to also be a classically trained violinist. A recent exchange with a woman in an elevator, when he happened to have his instrument with him in its case, drove that point home.


September marks the beginning of the 2015/2016 Symphony season for many ensembles in the Northwest – mark your calendar for these concerts:

September 15: Explore guitar music from Baroque-era Spain and Mexico with The Early Music Guild of Seattle. The first concert of their season features the Tembembe Ensemble Continuo and a celebration of Mexico’s independence. 7:15 PM, Town Hall Seattle.

Sparkfly / Fremont Brewing

You can’t talk about brewing in Washington State without mentioning Rainier and Olympia beer. According to its website, Rainier Beer traces its beginnings back to the mid-1800s, when Seattle was a pioneering city for lumberjacks and fishermen – after all, hard workers need refreshment. Rainier was officially launched in 1878 and quickly found popularity.  

A member of the All Things Considered family has died. Alan Cheuse, who reviewed books on our air nearly every week since the early 1980s, passed away today after a car accident in California two weeks ago. He was 75 years old.

In two minutes every week, Alan paid his respects to good writing in his soft, intense, passionate voice.

Concierto, WDAV Classical Public Radio

Frank Dominguez has been part of classical music on public radio for more than 20 years – experience he mixes with his Hispanic heritage to produce and host Concierto, the nation's first bilingual classical show which you now hear Sunday afternoons from 2 to 4 on your NPR and Classical Music Service.

Every week, Concierto takes a look at the deep roots Hispanic culture has in the classical genre and includes a roster of composers and musicians from all over the world.

The denouement of a 35-year drama takes place Thursday at the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan. And I trust that my father, virtuoso violinist Roman Totenberg, who died three years ago, will be watching from somewhere.

For decades he played his beloved Stradivarius violin all over the world. And then one day, he turned around and it was gone. Stolen.

While he was greeting well-wishers after a concert, it was snatched from his office at the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, Mass.


A classically trained Shakespearean actor and the BBC’s former Hollywood correspondent,  Edmund Stone is host of one a new program on the NPR and Classical music service. The Score is a weekly celebration of music in film.  

Digging into information for the tidbits you hear next to the classical music on NWPR, we run across some interesting phenomena. Like the use of a composer’s name as an adjective. What makes a piece Brahmsian? Or Beethovenian? Writers about music often take this shortcut to describe a sound. Steve Reeder discovered that the French are fond of the word “Ravelian.” And Mahlerian, but we have that one too.

You've been put on notice, Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!

John Moore of Decatur, Ga., wrote to NPR: "Everyone is allowed one mulligan, and you just had yours."

Moore, who admits he might be an "NPR snob," was referring to the show's "Not My Job" guest appearance this past weekend of—gasp!!!—Kim Kardashian, where she was invited to promote her new book, Selfish, 448 pages of photographs of herself.

Pietro Antonio Lorenzoni / Mozart Museum

You read about music for mom earlier this year - now it's time to celebrate dad in the classical music world. Throughout music history, famous fathers have come in all forms - composers, conductors, musicians and, of course, superfans. This Father's Day, Northwest Public Radio celebrates with a look at all varieties of fathers.

Children’s Corner, Claude Debussy

Kennewick’s Mike Rinker won Grand Champion of WineMaker Magazine’s International Amateur 2015 Wine Competition. Rinker brought home the gold with a red – a 100 percent Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon from 2013.

Rinker, who is the father of Northwest Public Radio’s former operations manager Kevin Rinker, told Great Northwest Wine the Northwest’s wine making abilities are  growing.

Sueann Ramella / Northwest Public Radio

It was a little too hot to weed in the garden this week which may have you frustrated because you know how fast they can grow. Believe it or not, some serve a purpose besides breaking your back. Have you ever noticed that weeds take over bare spots? This is Mother Nature’s way of saving the valuable topsoil from eroding or blowing away. Weeds with deep taproots break up hard soil so other plants can reach water. But let’s face it, some weeds need to go and you have lots of herbicides to choose from. 


Have you ever wondered what classical musicians do when symphony season is over? The answer: summer music festivals! That’s right—festival season is upon us, with accomplished musicians from all over the nation flocking to various Northwest locations to give great performances in some of the most scenic locations in the region.

Haydn, Mozart, Debussy and a world premiere - just a few highlights of the Walla Walla Chamber Music Festival, running through June 27.

"The monastic life is very plain and ordinary," says Father Cassian Folsom, the founder and prior of the Monks of Norcia, ensconced in the St. Benedict Monastery in central Italy. "You get up, and you pray, and you do your work and go to bed and then the next day you do the same thing."

A large portion of the monks' daily routine is singing. "We chant the Divine Office and the Mass every day," Folsom tells NPR's Scott Simon. "And if you put all of those moments together it takes about five hours a day. Three hundred sixty-five days a year."

Jim Cornelison

Raised in Enumclaw and Sunnyside and trained in opera, Jim Cornelison will sing the national anthem for the Chicago Blackhawks when the NHL Stanley Cup finals begins. 


When Oscar Paz Suaznabar plays the piano, he does so with feeling.

The Alexandria, Va., resident has played at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center and on the NPR show From the Top. He is 9 years old.

Oscar started playing his older sister's keyboard by ear when he was just 2. The sorrow he conveys when he plays "The Lark" by Russian composer Mikhail Glinka is drawn from the kind of loss any 9-year-old can understand.

You wouldn't normally expect one of the great composers of the last few centuries to be meek, but how's this for humility?

"Bach and Beethoven erected temples and churches on the heights. I only wanted to build dwellings for men in which they might feel happy, and at home."

Wikimedia Commons

  Music for Memorial Day serves two very different purposes: 1. honoring the nation’s fallen soldiers, and 2. acknowledging the holiday’s popular expression as the official start of summer. Below, you’ll see we’ve gathered a few suggestions for each of these.

“Decoration Day” was the original name of this last Monday in May, designated as the time for decorating the grave sites of American military who had made the ultimate sacrifice.

Every major region of America has local distilleries. Both Seattle and Portland have tours where locals and tourists alike can venture through an array of neighborhood distilleries.

Erika Degens, owner and partner of Stone Barn Brandyworks in Portland, says there is something admirable about local distilleries.


Listen to the recreation of a vintage radio broadcast followed by a thought-provoking panel discussion on Evergreen Radio Live, recorded on April 25. 

Joel Peterson

Picking out a Mother’s Day card has never been easy for me. The cards with feminine designs and gold font catch my eye but the words never convey the difficult relationship between my mother and me. Sure I could go with the clichés of ‘You’re the best mom ever!” or try to fill a blank card with my own feelings. But sometimes those feelings are too intense for a card. Sometimes it's easier to send jewelry and pretend all is well. But so much is left unsaid.

Wikimedia Commons

Every day is a day to be thankful for the moms of the world, but the second Sunday of every May is set aside as a nice reminder to show that appreciation and gratitude.

This year, celebrate Mother's Day with the Classical Music world. Antonín Dvořák, Johannes Brahms and Richard Wagner all felt the need to share their inspiration through music and Northwest Public Radio is sharing that music with you.

Gypsy Songs: “Songs My Mother Taught Me”, Antonín Dvořák

Songs my mother taught me,

Andrew Jacobs

  The Rimsky-Korsakoffee House in Portland, OR recently became the topic of conversation here at Northwest Public Radio. It seemed only natural to send word to my Portland-residing father, who decided to head over to the musically themed café that evening, buy himself some dessert and check things out.

He and I bonded over a love of Scheherazade when I was very young - one of those unconditional, slightly irrational feelings of love that has lasted a couple decades and is safe to assume will never go away.  

Trumpeter Rolf Smedvig, praised for his beautiful tone and virtuosic style, died Monday afternoon at his home in West Stockbridge, Mass. The cause of death, according to his long-time manager Mark Z. Alpert, was a heart attack. Smedvig was 62.