Music + Culture


Bless You!

Mar 18, 2014

We've all been there: You try (and try, and try) to hold back a sneeze, and nature prevails.

With St. Patrick's Day upon us, it's hard to escape the allure of the Emerald Isle, with its rolling heaths, swirling jigs, frothy beer and curious legends. While we can't afford to fly you to Dublin we can offer this humble St. Paddy's Day puzzler. Score high and be rewarded with the pot 'o gold at the end of the rainbow. Mess up and yours is a sad bowl of soggy Lucky Charms.

Detroit's Orchestra Hall is one of the best symphony concert halls in the country. The acoustics are top-notch. The theater itself is grand. Important music is made there by some of the country's most talented classical musicians.

When it comes to musical dynasties, it's tough to top the Bach family. From town fiddlers to court composers, the Bachs dominated German music for seven generations. Today, Johann Sebastian towers above all his relatives, but there's another important Bach we shouldn't forget — especially today, on the 300th anniversary of his birth.

The Vieuxtemps Guarneri is a violin that is older than the United States of America — 273 years old, to be exact. It recently became the most expensive violin in the world, selling for an estimated $16 million. Its new owner anonymously donated the historic instrument to violinist Anne Akiko Meyers, on loan for the rest of her life.

Robert Ashley, a restlessly innovative American composer, died at his home in New York March 3 from complications of cirrhosis of the liver. NPR confirmed the composer's death through his wife and manager Mimi Johnson. Ashley was 83.

Northwest Public Radio

It is late Saturday morning and with the first strains of Heidi Muller’s Good Roads, you know it’s once again time for Inland Folk with Dan Maher, a very popular show that's been around for more than 30 years.

Philippe Jaroussky cuts a masculine figure on the cover of his new album, Farinelli: Porpora Arias, but you might do a double take upon hearing the music. The arias the French opera singer performs on this release were written in the 18th century for a castrato — a boy singer castrated to retain his high singing voice through adulthood.

Stefan Hersh /

The Classical music world was relieved when Milwaukee police found the stolen Stradivarius. But how were they sure it was the genuine article? After all, people have tried to pass off counterfeits before.  Enter this guy: 

Stefan Hersh.

It's no secret that gold-winning American ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White have become favorite faces in Sochi. But it turns out that the charming White has done his share of woodshedding along with his hard work on the ice.

Classical music has managed to take center stage at sports events in the last few weeks. Soprano Renée Fleming sang the National Anthem at the Super Bowl two weekends ago.

Monastic Life At The Top Of The Charts

Feb 11, 2014

When the sisters of Benedictines of Mary, Queen of the Apostles aren't hard at work on the monastery grounds, they're topping the charts with albums of sacred music.

In the 1950s, Philomena Lee was a naive Irish teenager who got pregnant, gave birth in a convent, and was forced by the nuns to sign away her parental rights. The 2013 film Philomena is based on what happened five decades later, when Lee went looking for her son with the help of a journalist. Directed by Stephen Frears and starring Judi Dench and Steve Coogan, Philomena is up for several Academy Awards, including one in an unlikely category.

Police in Milwaukee have recovered "Lipinski" – a 300-year-old Stradivarius stolen last month from a concertmaster as he was walking to his car with the rare violin.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, quoting law enforcement officials, says the instrument has been found:

In two decades of hosting a classical music program every weekday morning, Robin Rilette took you to faraway places, introduced you to new music, and kept you company in the mornings. But Robin is now embarking on a new chapter in her life, as she leaves Northwest Public Radio for the Maine Public Broadcasting Network.

On Friday, February 7th, Robin bade her listeners a fond farewell. You can listen to the three hour show here:

A Holocaust Tale Unfolds On Two Levels

Feb 1, 2014

Composer Dmitri Shostakovich called it a perfect masterpiece without ever having seen it performed. The Passenger, an opera about the Holocaust, was written nearly half a century ago, but was only given its first full performance just three years ago.

Now it's getting its U.S. premiere at the Houston Grand Opera. The opera is based on a story by a Holocaust survivor, with music by Mieczyslaw Weinberg, a composer who lost his entire family in the Nazi death camps.

In The Puppy Bowl, Bach Goes To The Dogs

Jan 31, 2014

Not every sports fan is glued to the Super Bowl. Sunday also brings Puppy Bowl X, the 10th iteration of the immensely successful Animal Planet program featuring playful pups and a beleaguered human referee. This year's new element is a fantasy game, in which each viewer may log in to a Facebook account and pick a trio of cuddly canines destined to dominate the dog-on-dog action.

Bassist John Clayton Talks Jazz Festival

Jan 31, 2014
John Clayton

Moscow, Idaho is gearing up for the 47th Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival in February. Robin Rilette sat down with Artistic Director John Clayton to find out what’s on tap for the festival this year. As usual, there’s a strong educational component to the festival, with numerous workshops and hands-on sessions with the guest artists. Clayton is particularly excited about the lineup this year which includes a number of NEA (National Endowment of the Arts) Jazz Masters.

In 2005, the film Brokeback Mountain broke ground as a major motion picture portraying a love story about two men: a pair of young cowboys, Ennis and Jack, in the 1960s.

They fall in love during a summer spent tending sheep in the isolation of a fictional mountain in Wyoming. They spend the rest of the film — and their lives — grappling with a love that they have to keep secret.

"New classical music is well and alive," Brad Wells, director of the vocal collective Roomful of Teeth, said yesterday as he accepted his Grammy for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance.