Music + Culture


Independence Day Celebrations Across The Northwest

Jul 1, 2014

There are many July 4th celebrations across the northwest: everything from parades and classic car shows to beer and fireworks. Here are a few you can find on the NWPR Events Calendar.

Greg Rizzo /

Imagine a piece of music feels so important to you that you just have to share it. And you’re in a position not only to share it with your fellow musicians, but also to perform it for the audiences who look to you for just this sort of inspiration. Now imagine that you can't share it after all. Why? Because it would cost you more to program that music than your small regional or university orchestra could possibly afford.

Conductor Julius Rudel, a defining figure in 20th-century opera production, died early Thursday morning. He was 93, and died at his New York home of natural causes, according to his son Anthony Rudel, station manager of Boston classical music broadcaster WCRB. WCRB is part of WGBH and an NPR member station.

Update Wednesday, June 25, 2014: A representative from Sotheby's tells NPR that the instrument did not sell "at this time."

Wednesday, Sotheby's auction house plans to announce the sale of a rare viola made by Antonio Stradivari. The minimum bid is $45 million. If it sells, it will be the most expensive instrument of any kind in history.

Here's an old musician joke: How do you keep your violin from getting stolen? Put it in a viola case.

Most people who attend symphony performances can spot the concertmaster. That's the first chair violinist who enters before the conductor and helps tune the orchestra. But the all important position calls for much more than that — from playing tricky solos to shaping the sound of the string section.

This American Life Live - Their Most Amibitious Live Show Ever

Jun 19, 2014
Wikimedia Commons

This week, This American Life will bring you their most ambitious live show ever. They pulled together a massive team of theater pros at the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Opera House – with nearly 50 singers, actors, dancers and musicians. The result? Journalism turned into a Broadway musical, into opera, and into plays.

Wikki Commons

What is music? Why does it move us? How does the brain process sound, and why are some people better at it than others?

Radiolab posed this question, and seeks to understand the DNA of music - and the connection between music and language.

In a recent episode, Radiolab looked at the disastrous debut of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring in 1913, examined music through modern neurology, and met a composer using computers to decode music and find its essential pieces.

tUnE-yArDs, the award-winning band known for their layered rhythms and politically-charged lyrics, perform live in Washington, D.C. with NPR tonight at 9. They'll perform songs from the new album Nikki-Nack, exploring a mix of Haitian and American music. You can watch the live concert here.

Soccer fans may not immediately bring images of classical music to mind, but for a sixth time Placido Domingo will sing before the World Cup final. He made the announcement that he will perform at Rio de Janeiro's HSBC Arena on July 11.

Music by Richard Strauss is heard in symphony halls and opera houses across the world. He needs little help to boost his considerable fame. Yet 150 years after his birth, the German composer remains an enigma to some classical music fans and a polarizing figure for others. A perfect candidate, in other words, for a musical puzzler.

Mary Ellen Matthews

Are you a fan of the White Stripes or just interested in rock music? Watch Jack White live from the historic Fonda Theater in Hollywood, beginning at approximately 9:45 p.m. PT on Tuesday, June 10.

Kitchen Sisters

“After food - and before love - people need stories.” That’s Davia Nelson. She, along with Nikki Silva, are the Kitchen Sisters. Their mission? To find the stories behind our culinary heritage. Since meeting in 1979, the Peabody Award-winning duo has produced over 200 stories.

From The Top

Yes, this is a group of teenagers - and the piece was arranged by one of them too! The video features the Konpeito Cello Quartet playing a composition from the Hayao Miyazaki film “My Neighbor Totoro.” The piece is called "The Path of the Wind." Jeremy Tai, who is only 15 years old, arranged the piece for cello and plays alongside Minku Lee, Catherine Kim, and Irene Jeong. If the music doesn't transport you to another world, the location will with views of gorgeous glass sculptures from Seattle’s Chihuly Garden and Glass. Stunning!

An astonishing conversation has emerged in the weeks since Irish mezzo-soprano Tara Erraught began her run as Octavian at the Glyndebourne Festival in England. Erraught was excoriated by a handful of male London critics for her weight — prompting a widespread backlash on her behalf in the aftermath of those reviews.


 Symphony season is coming to a close and summertime is on its way!  That means it’s time for the many fantastic summer classical music festivals here in the Northwest, where regional, national and international stars perform in some spectacular venues, both indoors and out.

·        The Walla Walla Chamber Music Festivals brings regional, national and international stars to the city to perform at vineyards, museums, churches, theaters and other intimate venues throughout June.

Arvo Pärt is one of the few living composers to find popularity beyond the borders of classical music. R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe and Bjork are big fans.

Though New York City-based Gabriel Kahane wasn't raised there, The Ambassador feels like a musical tour of Los Angeles. The album makes 10 stops in the city where the composer and singer-songwriter was born and only came to appreciate later in life, each with a specific address used as the song title.

Jenni Chaffin photograph with Sueann Ramella graphics

Summer is a time of sunshine, blue skies and green lawns; better weather and easy days. Each summer seems to have its own soundtrack, songs you discover or rediscover that capture the very essence of summer. Northwest Public Radio’s hosts are no strangers to these summer tracks and they want to share their favorites with you! So, without further ado, here are some of NWPR’s favorite classic and current summer hits.

Jessie Jacobs, Classical Music Host

Old-time favorite: George Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F

Star mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato gave the 2014 commencement address at Juilliard Friday — and it's a memorable one, both for her words and by DiDonato's own example as someone whose own career began under low heat.

Outside the concert hall at Occidental College, in Los Angeles' Eagle Rock neighborhood, children are invited to test out the instruments the Santa Cecilia Orchestra will play later. Alexa Media Rodriguez, 8, says she and her family have never before been to an orchestra concert. She heard about the orchestra when some of the musicians visited her school.

"I brought my dad, my stepmom," she says, "my sister, my brother and my sister's cousin ..."

That's the thing about this orchestra, says conductor Sonia Marie De Leon De Vega: The children are bringing the parents.

Growing up as a violinist, Felix Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto ranked among my top 10 Holy Grail pieces. As I got older, I moved on to his Octet and Piano Trio in D minor, which became two of my favorite chamber works. There's almost nothing comparable to playing Mendelssohn's Octet with seven great string players. It's absolutely thrilling, energetic, virtuosic, youthful, fun and challenging. And to think that Mendelssohn wrote it when he was just 16.

Today at the Cannes Film Festival, attendees marked the 50th anniversary of the spaghetti western at a special screening of A Fistful of Dollars, the Sergio Leone classic that kick-started the genre. Leone's vision of the American West remains singular — and it's impossible to imagine without the iconic music of Ennio Morricone.

Katie Burk / NPR

Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! will say goodbye to Carl Kasell on May 17th. He will no longer be the show's official scorekeeper, but will continue to record voice mail greetings for show winners. And those lucky winners will experience the giddy feeling of hearing Carl Kasell say their name.

In 1986, four women gathered in a casual setting to sing through a bit of medieval chant. Little did they know they were launching Anonymous 4, an a cappella ensemble that has spanned nearly 30 years, 20 albums, countless concerts and more than a millenium of music.

Today the group announced that the 2015-16 season will be its last together. But this isn't the first time Anonymous 4 has thought about calling it quits. The group bid a similar farewell in 2004.

Melanie Burford / NPR Music

The Seattle Symphony performed at Carnegie Hall on Wednesday, May 6, with John Luther Adams' prize-winning piece Become Ocean headlining a concert devoted to sea and sand that includes Debussy's La mer and an Edgard Varèse piece inspired by the New Mexico desert.

You can listen to the entire concert right here on, just click here!