FEATURED ARTIST: Jonathan House FEATURED ARTIST: Jonathan House FEATURED ARTIST: Jonathan House FEATURED ARTIST: Jonathan House FEATURED ARTIST: Jonathan House

July 30, 2015

bach

Oregon Music Festivals Bring Diverse and Rich Sounds to the Community

As the summer begins to heat up, so does the music festival scene in Oregon. The Oregon Bach Festival and Chamber Music Northwest are each in the midst of their summer concert series with fresh sounds, artists, and performances.

The Oregon Bach Festival, founded in 1970, is one of Oregon’s and the United States best and most critically acclaimed festivals of Bach’s music. The festival’s mission is to “Inspire the human spirit through the art of music by providing the highest level of performances and educational opportunities.”

On July 8, the festival will present a lecture and concert of Bach’s “St. John Passion” led by Maestro Helmuth Rilling at the Hult Center in Eugene, Oregon. The University of Oregon Chamber Choir, Oregon Bach Festival Orchestra, and Oregon Bach Festival Baroque Orchestra will perform the piece.

The OBF Orchestra will perform the piece again on July 9 at the Hult Center with the Berwick Chorus, soprano Joanne Lunn, mezzo-soprano Roxana Constantinescu, tenor Nicholas Phan, baritone Tyler Duncan, and bass Nathan Berg.

The world-renowned Canadian Brass ensemble will also perform at the festival on July 10. The festival concludes with Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, a true tour de force, conducted by Matthew Halls and played by the OBF orchestra, Berwick Chorus, soprano Nicole Cabell, and mezzo-soprano Roxana Constantinescu. According to the festival’s program notes, Mahler himself said, “A symphony must be like the world. It must embrace everything.” Mahler’s second symphony does just that and the festival raves on its website that the symphony also “Relays the story of life: the essential quest for understanding, and coming to terms with life’s challenges.”

To learn more about the festival and to purchase tickets, visit www.oregonbachfestival.com.

Chamber Music Northwest, now in its 45th season, is one of the largest festivals of its kind. Its mission is to “Inspire listeners through concerts celebrating the richness and diversity of chamber music, performed by artists of the highest caliber.”

The festival is committed to performing diverse chamber works as well as newer 21st century contemporary classical music by premiering a variety of new compositions this summer, many of which are world premieres by Peter Schickele, John Steinmetz, and David Schiff.

Concertgoers are able to attend open rehearsals of festival performances that conclude with a question and answer session, allowing for an intimate setting with the performers and the rich, vibrant music.

The festival is taking on the huge task of performing all of Beethoven’s violin sonatas. The sonatas are being performed in a series of three parts; two remain this summer, including Part II, which includes sonatas 2, 5, 3, and 10, performed by violinist Jennifer Koh and pianist Shai Wosner on Thursday, July 9, at Reed College. The final installment in the series concludes with sonatas 1,4, and 9, performed by one of the worlds’ leading solo violinists—Augustin Hadelich—on July 16, at Reed College.

Other notable concerts during the festival include a celebration of the viola’s diversity with Schubert, Schumann and Massenet, Messiaen’s emotionally-charged Quartet for the End of Time, and the festival’s finale celebrating concertos by Bach and Mozart.

To learn more about the festival and to purchase tickets, visit www.cmnw.org.

Whether you are a devotee to baroque music, contemporary classical, or a combination of the two, there is plenty of music left to be heard this summer. Tune in to Played In Oregon hosted by Brandi Parisi on All Classical Portland on Sunday’s at 1 p.m. for a chance to hear some of Oregon’s most diverse and vibrant classical music performed by local ensembles.

 

 

James Horner feature photo for blog post

James Horner Leaves Listeners a Lifetime of Music

The American composer James Horner, who composed more than 100 film scores, including “Titanic,” “Apollo 13,” “Braveheart” and “Avatar” passed away June 22 at the age of 61.

Horner was a classically trained musician and scholar, who began playing the piano at age 5. He attended the Royal College of Music in London as a youth and later went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in music at the University of Southern California and his master’s and doctorate at the University of California Los Angeles, where he taught music theory.

Alex Harwood, an American composer, is quoted in an article from The Guardian, stating that “James was one of the last of that old school of composers, like John Williams, with proper classical training and unbelievable music knowledge.”

Horner told the New York Times in an interview in 2000 that, “I [write] it at a desk with pen and paper … I don’t use a computer in writing at all. I’m sort of old-fashioned about it.”

Horner notes that many of his scores were influenced by classical composers including Benjamin Britten, Sergei Prokofiev and Thomas Tallis, many of which are often heard on All Classical Portland.

Horner won two Academy Awards, two Golden Globes and received 10 Oscar nominations during his lifetime. His first full length score was for the 1979 film “The Lady in Red” and his first major breakout score came from “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” in 1982.

The success of Horner’s score for “Titanic” as well as his original song “My Heart Will Go On” performed by Celine Dion, for both of which he won an Academy Award, has not been forgotten in the 20 years since he composed it. Many orchestras and vocalists have done recordings of Horner’s work because of its richness and popularity.

His music for “Titanic” focused on Celtic instrumentation in order to reflect the ship’s origins, which was built in Belfast and carried hundreds of Irish natives.

Horner’s music is known and critiqued as music on an “epic scale” with “bolder and more contemporary sounds” and a “subtle and contemplative flare” as critiqued by the New York Times.

James Horner photo for body of the blog post

The Atlantic also noted that Horner’s scores “tended to be more delicate things; rummaging through musical history and diverse cultures.”

James Cameron said jointly with producer Jon Landau from “Avatar” in a BBC News article that, “James’s music affected the heart because his heart was so big.”

Cameron is also quoted in an article from the Hollywood Reporter saying that Horner totally committed himself to “Titanic.” “He blocked out his schedule and sat down and watched maybe 30 hours of raw dailies to absorb the feeling of the film.”

Cameron also mentioned that the orchestra loved Horner and that he worked with a lot of the same musicians and also conducted his own music, which not all composers do.

Horner’s score for Cameron’s 2009 film “Avatar” showcased his experimentation and dedication to providing listeners with exotic sounds that resonated deeply.

Horner said that Avatar was one of the most difficult films he has worked on and the biggest job he has undertaken.

Spencer Kornhaber writes in his article about Horner in The Atlantic that the best film music does two things: “It emphasizes the story on screen and it creates its own parallel story.” Horner’s scores did just that as he was ambitiously driven to produce the highest quality of sounds for film.

Though the world may never again see a composer as gifted, dedicated and thoughtful as Horner, it is left with more than 100 scores for listeners to track down and authors to curate, as many of the great artists who leave us leave with them an astonishing lifetime of work.

Tune in Saturday, July 11, at 2 p.m. for a tribute program to James Horner on The Score with Edmund Stone.

 

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A Parade of Music and Support Mark My First Week at All Classical

During my first week at All Classical Portland, I was able to experience multiple aspects of how the station functions, especially during one of its major fundraisers. Putting faces to the voices I heard during many late nights of studying was a great way to start off my summer at the station.

Sitting in while Jack Allen and Christa Wessel were on air during the fundraiser was especially engaging in seeing how they both coordinated and contributed to one another’s energy, which was audible for listeners. The stunning panoramic view from the second floor of the Hampton Opera Building greatly connects hosts to the city and all that is going on each day. Jack and Christa’s charisma with one other gave volunteers in the adjacent conference room a boost of energy as the phones continued to ring throughout the day. Sharing stories and getting to know those who volunteered during the fundraiser was a great way for me to see how deeply passionate and committed to classical music the community is, as many of the volunteers spent hours answering calls from donors.

Hearing classical music and the voices of on air radio hosts played throughout the office made apparent the connectivity between what listeners are hearing and the staff that creates it.

Meeting Andrea Murray and discussing her show (Northwest Previews), interviewing, audio editing and production were all good starts to my summer of what is sure to be full of great experiences and discussions.

Replying to listener questions during my first day at the station was gratifying since many of them replied back and found the provided information helpful to them. I was also able to learn a lot about The Score, its Facebook page and website as well as Club Mod, which will be invaluable for me throughout the rest of the summer.

Getting my picture taken at the Rose Festival Parade with Governor Kate Brown along with other members of the station was a major highlight of my first week at All Classical Portland.

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It was exciting to see how many people knew about the station and recognized their favorite radio hosts. Hearing shouts of “Edmund Stone I love your show!” and “I love All Classical!” were many of the comments heard from a diverse range of excited spectators.

The classic cars and throng of energetic supporters heightened All Classical Portland’s presence in the parade and was noticed by many in attendance, especially many of the parade’s announcers who knew the station and its hosts.

The station’s participation in the parade also represented a post-modern example that there doesn’t have to be a distinction between “high art” and pop culture: people can enjoy and experience both.

Marching to the familiar cinematic tunes of “Indiana Jones,” “Star Wars,” and other popular, well known classical pieces reinforced the notion that classical music is fun and should be enjoyed by all.

Overall, my first week at All Classical Portland was a great one and I look forward to many more this summer.

cuba

Thoughts on Cuba

Our trip to Cuba with Earthbound Expeditions was a success.  The only complaint that I heard was that we were overfed.  I have heard worse.

Of course, Cuba is not like Puerto Rico or St. Martin, or any other island in the Caribbean.  It is fraught, as much a symbol as a place.  Our history with Cuba is tortuous, from the sinking of the Maine in 1898, to the Castro revolution and its aftermath, the Bay of Pigs, the Missile Crisis of 1962, the Mariel boatlift, and Guantanamo.

Whatever your opinion of Cuba, and its government, the island and its people exist in a separate plane from the politics.  Cuba is a Third World nation.  It is poor.  The government is not open and democratic.  The people on the street, and I admit that this is a small and unscientific sample, live their lives.  They shop, they eat ice cream, they do what jobs they can find.

I believe that they are better off now than when Cuba was ruled by Fulgencio Batista, a vile dictator who was a puppet of the Carlos Marcello Mafia family.  The people were not free then, either.  Nostalgia for those times is misplaced.  When Castro threw Batista out, the tyrant fled to Spain with an estimated $70 million, first to the Dominican Republic and his pal, Rafael Trujillo, then to Portugal and Antonio Salazar, finally to Spain and Francisco Franco.  Birds of a feather, and all.

I understand that the Castro government is not what we would wish for the Cuban people.  The embargo we set on Cuba, first by presidential decree in 1962, and then by the Helms-Burton Act of 1996, is cheerfully ignored by most of the world.  It isolates us more than Cuba.

If we imposed the same standards across the range of our diplomatic relations with all other countries, we would have to embargo a great many of our “friends.”

Fidel is old, and not well.  Raul is old, but has shown a flexibility beyond anything his brother demonstrated.  I have no idea who is waiting in the wings to succeed the Castros.  I do know that the small opening of recent US policy is important.  Remember that there are many in Cuba who are as firm in their mistrust of the US as there are Americans who cast a wary eye on Cuba.

I hope that, soon, Cuba joins the nations whose governments we don’t love, but with whom we trade and have diplomatic relations.  We once felt this way about China, and Russia and Viet Nam.  The current policy has produced nothing but mutual animosity and distrust.  Let’s see what a few-hundred-thousand American tourists and businesses can do.

DanielandEd3

Get To Know The Hosts: Ed Goldberg

Tell me about growing up in NYC.

I was born in the Bronx. We moved out when I was six, to Rockaway Beach, New York.  It was 6 years of living probably 500 yards from the surf.  It turned me into a beach kid; I’ve always loved the ocean, always wanted to live near water. I’ve lived in river cities all my life:  New York, Washington, DC.  Even the time I was in Buffalo, there was Lake Erie. The Niagara River is right there.  And of course, Portland.

I lived in Rockaway Beach until I was twelve, then we moved out to Long Island, and I spent most of my youth on Long Island.  Graduated from high school there, went off to college.  When I flunked out of college in 1962, I hung out for a while, and then moved into the city as soon as I could. I lived in Brooklyn, lived in Manhattan, got married.  The first 29 years of my life were spent either in the city or in the suburbs.  Then we moved to Washington, DC. I lived there for 18 years before I moved here.

How did you get started in radio?

I was always a radio kid. When I was a kid, there was no TV, although we did get our first TV in 1947, the first one, as far as I know, on the whole block.  So I was as radio kid from the beginning.  Even after I started watching television like everyone else in America, I was very close to radio.  When NPR came on, which was preceded by certain antecedents that were like NPR, I was right there.  No ads, a lot of news, interesting features.  I always got my music over the radio until I started buying a whole lot of records in my high school years.  I was primarily listening to rock and roll and jazz in those days.

I always wanted to go on the radio. There was no radio program, per se, at the college I went to.  I think there was a college radio station, but nobody I knew worked there or ever listened to it. When I lived in DC, I made several attempts to get on one of the local NPR stations, WAMU. Every time I got a producer interested in using me, he or she would quit or leave the station, and I really wasn’t high on their to-do list.  I did do a lot of guest shots, on college radio like University of Virginia in Charlottesville, a couple of local NPR stations in DC:  WETA and WAMU.   I did a couple of guest things on local jazz radio.  But I wasn’t sitting down in front of a console and doing things on the air.  That didn’t happen until I moved here.

I volunteered at KBOO when I first moved here, say ’92. KBOO was a great place to learn radio, because it was very hands-on in those days.  There was no digital editing, everything was done with razor blades and tape and that kind of thing.  So you got a real feel for the way radio should be made.  Plus, all their equipment was outdated and falling apart, so you had to learn to think quickly on the air.  The best thing about KBOO was that if you screwed up, nobody cared, unless you did something major, like said one of the “magic words” on the air, or broke a piece of equipment because of negligence.  So it was a great place to learn.  I’m very grateful to them.

I was interim station manager for a while.  Then they hired Suzanne White to be station manager. I became friends with her. Then she took the job at KBPS, which is what we were called back then.  She needed someone on weekends at their classical station, so she asked me.  That’s how I started here, as much as 15 years ago.  I was here before Edmund or Robert.  John Pitman was here.

What do you like about radio?

Do you know who Marshall McLuhan was?  He was a theorist and a writer about communication.  He coined the term “global village”, among other things.  He foresaw what we have now, which is being marinated in information 24 hours a day.  In those days, there wasn’t even the idea of an internet.  He foresaw that that’s where we were headed.  He said that TV is a “cool” medium.  That is, you sit there and it washes over you:  pictures, sounds, whatever you need.  Radio, on the other hand, is a “hot” medium.  You have to participate in it.  You have to listen.  And even if you’re getting news or information or talk shows, you are in the conversation.  With music, it’s even more intimate, because you have to pay attention.  There’s nothing between you and the music.  Radio has been a companion to me for as long as I can remember.  Literally, since I was three years old.

You had mentioned buying a lot of records. Do you still collect?

Not so much anymore.  I really have to be impressed by something, or it has to hit one of my niche interests, like European cabaret music from the early 20th century.  I have klezmer music at home.  I have obscure country and western artists from the 30’s and 40’s and 50’s.  Mountain string bands from places like West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina.  All of that folky type stuff really interests me.

Any particular favorite musicians or bands come to mind?

I saw Bob Dylan when he first came to New York.  I had all of Dylan’s, Hendrix’s, Rolling Stones’ records.  I liked the garage bands of the 60’s.  The Seeds, The Shadows of Knight, bands like that, they used to knock me out.  This was kids with two weeks of guitar lessons making music, you know?  Anything by Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane.  I found a compilation LP of Armstrong’s early stuff, and discovered the Hot Five and the Hot Seven, bands before he became a star.  That stuff is magic.  It’s stunning, even to this day.

You’re an award-winning novelist of detective fiction.  How many have you written?

I’ve written five novels:  Three under my own name with a detective named Lenny Schneider, and two under a pseudonym, basically as a contractor writer.  I didn’t even own the characters, but I liked them.  The first one was published in 1994.  It was called Served Cold, set in New York.  It was based on a real incident I read about in the newspaper, where a concentration camp survivor was walking down the street in New York one day, and saw one of the concentration camp guards that had tortured him in the camps.  He strangled the guy with his bare hands.  The judge said “Give this guy a medal.  Next case.”  Revenge is always a great hook to put a crime novel on, it really motivates people.  And revenge is the dish that is, of course, “best served cold”, so the title of the book is Served Cold.

I was at a mystery convention in Seattle, at my publisher’s table, and somebody came and collected all the books.  My pal from the publisher was very excited, but I didn’t know what this was about.  I learned a few months later that I won the Shamus award, which is given for the best private investigator novel of the year.  I had never even heard of the award before I won it.

You’ve conducted a lot of interviews over the years.  Who would you love to interview?

I’d love to interview Stephen King.  I don’t even think his books are as good as they used to be.  But this man would sit down and write every single day, even if he never sold a book.  He is driven to write.  I wish I had some of that.  Also, he’s free with his advice and his assistance to other writers.  He’s a genuinely nice man, who wants to tell you how to write a good book.  He’s generous with his time and generous with his work.  All writers should read his book On Writing.

My father died just before I was born, and I would love to interview him.

I would love to interview Mark Twain.  I’d love to go out and have a drink with him.  Drink some bourbon whiskey.  Just to sit down and listen to that man ramble would be okay with me.

And James Joyce.  My two favorite books in the English language are Huckleberry Finn and Ulysses.  So we could all sit around and drink.  I would drink Irish whiskey with Joyce.  Each of these guys was inventing something new every time they put pen to paper.  In the case of Joyce, I still don’t have the guts to read Finnegan’s Wake.  I think Ulysses has an undue reputation for being difficult.  It’s not easy, but it’s not torture to read that book, especially if you have a British English dictionary, or an Oxford Universal.  But in Finnegan’s Wake, he’s inventing some of those words as he goes along.

I’d love to go drinking with Louis Armstrong.  And probably John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy.  I’d like to just sit down and shoot the breeze with them.

New Scenery, New Sounds

It’s the first day of July, and the ninth day of our residence in Suite 200 of the Hampton Opera Center.  If you’ve visited the All Classical Portland Facebook page recently, then you’ve no doubt seen some of the photos and video that I’ve posted as we packed up equipment, documents and 25,000 Cds, and moved into this beautiful new space.  Or, maybe you haven’t?  Well, here’s an illustration…

The old FM booth, where your hosts made radio for over 20 years at Benson high school:

Old FM booth

Now, to Master Control, facing the Willamette River and with a view of the new Tillicum Crossing bridge:

Taken June 23 at 6am, just moments after Brandi Parisi signed on for the first time

Taken June 23 at 6am, just moments after Brandi Parisi signed on for the first time

Some of you know that I’ve worked at “89.9 FM” for a long time.  I use that term, because the station, while consistently classical for 30 years, originated as an outgrowth of the KBPS high school radio program at Benson.  That’s where the station broadcasted from, until June 23 of this year.  The station ceased to be licensed to Portland Public Schools in December 2012, after nearly a decade of fundraising to pay off the license.  Free and clear, we still inhabited our studios on NE 15th, on the school’s campus, and rapidly feeling less and less a part of the scenery there.  It was time for a new home.

When I started at KBPS, my “office space” consisted of a file drawer and a mail slot.  When we moved out of the gym wing (early history, here) , and into the newly-built facility in 1992, I graduated to having a two-door cabinet and some table space.  Wow!  Well, in 1997, I did get a desk, in a room shared with three of my colleagues:

John Pitman, having cleared his desk and packed up tens of thousands of CDs, gets ready to move to "Suite B"

John Pitman, having cleared his desk and packed up tens of thousands of CDs, gets ready to move to “Suite B”

Now, thanks to the generous contributions of many dedicated listeners, some of whom I will probably never meet, but am eternally grateful to; and also to the vision of our managers and hard work of engineers, this is the loom where I now weave the sounds we hear each day:

Suite B:  Music director John Pitman's new office, complete with sound mixing console for recording

Suite B: Music director John Pitman’s new office, complete with sound mixing console for recording

The second floor of the Hampton Opera Center is the new home for your hosts, staff and volunteers of All Classical Portland.  It’s the place where “we love this music” more than ever.

Thank you, for helping to make it a reality.

 

Alison Roper

Extended interview: OBT dancer Alison Roper

In this wide-ranging interview, veteran dancer Alison Roper discusses her impending retirement from the Oregon Ballet Theater.

She talks openly about the transition from stage to office (she’ll be taking on an administrative and teaching role at OBT) and the awkwardness of now not being able to “punch people in the face” at work, as well as weight and body image issues that haunt those in her profession.

Click below to hear this charming, thoughtful and articulate woman discuss what lies ahead for her –after 18 seasons with OBT– as she prepares to take her final bow on April 26.

Christa Wessell

Get To Know The Hosts: Christa Wessel

As All Classical Portland’s mid-morning host, Christa Wessel has brightened up the workdays of many listeners with her distinctively bubbly voice. When she’s not on air, she can usually be found interviewing local artists for Northwest Previews, or busy with production for On Deck with Young Musicians.  

 

Christa talks about how she got into radio, her favorite pieces, and what she’s discovered about today’s young musicians:

 

Hometown: Indianapolis, IN
First Job: A fast-food chicken joint in Indy. (The first job I was proud of was as Box Office Manager for a small Chicago-based ensemble, Music of the Baroque.)
Years in Radio:  I started volunteering at a free-format community station in Durham, NC around 1994. I took my first job as a professional classical radio host in 1998 at WCPE in Raleigh, NC.
Years at All Classical: I came aboard at All Classical Portland in the summer of 2007.

How did you become a radio announcer?
It as a total fluke! I studied classical music in college with the hope of becoming a professional French horn player, but when that dream fell apart I was left with a music degree and nothing to apply it to. I started working in Arts Administration (principally in IT and Box Office) and to pass the time in those office jobs I started listening to free-form “college” radio. I began volunteering as a DJ at a community station in Durham, NC, and LOVED it. After a few very happy years there, exploring all kinds of genres, I noticed a job posting on the bulletin board: the classical station one town over looking for an announcer. Something clicked in my brain: “I love radio and I love classical music. I wonder if they’ll hire me?” They did. Answering that job notice was one of the best decisions of my life.

Christa in the Studio

Do you remember your first time on air? What was it like? 
The first time I was on the air as a volunteer at the community station, it was absolutely no big deal.  That station had a broadcast radius of about 10 square blocks and my first air-shift was from 2a-5a. I figured no one was listening! But the first time on the air as a professional, classical radio host? That was TERRIFYING. I remember putting my headphones on as I watched the timer on the CD player count down to zero, and my heart began to race. The only thing I remember is that the composer I was announcing was Richard Wagner. Everything else is a blur.

Do you do anything special to keep your voice in shape for radio?
Not really, though I have learned that keeping a humidifier running in the house really helps. And when I start to feel that tickle in the back of my throat indicating an oncoming cold, I immediately pop one of my favorite cough drops, made by a company in Beaverton: Golden Lotus Lung & Throat Drops. They’re amazing!

You’ve done interviews with many people in the classical community over the years. Anyone you’d still like to interview?
I would love to interview Jordi Savall, the Spanish viol player. He’s a major figure in the world of early music, and I’m utterly captivated by his drive to continually unearth Medieval and Renaissance music. Also, from his photos, it appears he has very kind eyes.

For many years there’s been concern about the aging of classical music audiences. Do you think that classical music can connect with younger people?
Absolutely! It’s just a shame that it’s becoming more difficult for young people to discover classical music in their schools. The thing that really helped propel me into a life of music was participating in school music programs – making music with my peers. It’s an incredibly rich, bonding experience that I wish for all humans, young and old.

What have you discovered about young musicians since you started On Deck?
I’ve learned that kids love being a part of something bigger than themselves. That they deeply enjoy creating something with their peers. And I’ve learned that they’re not interested in thinking of music in firmly delineated genres – that for them, the term “classical music” has morphed into something that also includes fiddling, beat-box and electronics. I can’t wait to see where this generation takes us!

You also host Divaville on KMHD, which features jazz vocalists from the 1920s-1960s. Are there any similarities between classical and jazz formats?
Generally speaking, I think that classical and jazz work on similar parts of the brain. They are both complex musical forms, with dense chords and fast-moving progressions. Divaville, though, really highlights great old tunes, with simple lyrics and delightful turns of phrase. Those classic songs performed by those legendary voices – Ella, Frank, Louis – well, I never get tired of hearing the artistry of those musicians.

What is the last concert you attended that really blew you away?
Oh goodness, there is so much going on in this town that I feel like I have a new favorite every week!  One of the most memorable, though, was Third Angle New Music Ensemble’s program “In the Dark.” They performed –in utter darkness at the OMSI planetarium—Georg Hass’ String Quartet No.3. That experience was, for me, as much about the experience of attending a concert blind as it was about the music itself.

What are some of your favorite composers or pieces?
Until recently I would have answered that my favorite composers are the Romantics (the ones who tended to write great French horn parts!) – Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsky, Mahler. (OK, well Mahler is still on that list.)  But these days I can’t get enough Baroque music. The math and buoyancy of Bach and Vivaldi kick-start my brain in a really delightful way.

What is some of your favorite Non-Classical music?
I adore old jazz vocalists, of course. But I also am a HUGE Talking Heads fan. Don’t get me started.

What do you do when you aren’t at the station? 
I see as many cultural events as possible, and I try to get out to explore the Pacific Northwest whenever I can. I love hiking and camping and just taking long, winding road trips to the far reaches of the state.

What excites you most about All Classical’s impending move to the Hampton Opera Building?
At our current location we have been lacking a performance space, and I can’t wait to invite music-makers into our new facilities to share their art with the world!

 

microphone

Get To Know The Hosts: Andrea Murray

If you stay up all night listening to All Classical Portland, you might be familiar with the voice of Andrea Murray, who hosts the coveted 12 to 5 am slot. During the day, Andrea can usually be found sitting at her desk wearing big headphones, busy with production for The Score and editing interviews with local artists for Northwest Previews. After midnight, she is a soothing companion for a late night spent listening to classical music. 

Andrea Murray talks about how she first got into radio and tells us about some of her favorite artists and composers:

 

What was your first job?

McDonald’s.

How did you get into radio?

There may be two answers to this one. 1)  My dad got me and my sister a portable reel-to-reel tape recorder when we were little.  We used to spend a lot of time pretending we were on the radio, and creating skits that were pretty much plagiarized straight from the pages of Mad Magazine. 2) I volunteered at my first real radio station, playing new wave and punk rock records for my college campus.

Where did you grow up? What radio stations did you listen to as a kid?

I guess I spent most of my formative years in St. Louis.  I don’t remember particular stations, but I remember that before the internet came along, I liked to listen to stations in other cities and countries on a shortwave radio.  My parents introduced us to classic radio dramas and comedy, and we listened to recordings of a lot of those too.

Do you remember your first time on air? 

I remembering feeling something like, “Oh, wow.  Everything makes sense now.”  For me, being on air feels more natural than real life, somehow.  I’m not saying that’s a healthy thing, but there you have it.

Before coming to Portland, you worked at WETA in Washington DC, what did you do there? 

I produced arts features, was a substitute classical announcer, and was host and producer of a weekly arts magazine program.

What is a typical workday for you now?

Preparing for my on-air shift; producing interviews with local artists for Northwest Previews; doing the final mix of this week’s The Score.  At the moment, I’m working on a 3-part audio documentary that will be hosted by Edmund Stone about the evolution of symphonic film music.  At lunchtime, I go home and let my dog, Louie, out for a quick walk.

What do you think differentiates the nighttime broadcasts from the daytime broadcasts?

I think the intimacy between audience and announcer is even more pronounced in the overnight hours.  Yes, it’s daytime for our overseas listeners, and some local folks are working the third shift, while others are natural night owls. But many of my listeners are awake reluctantly – plagued by insomnia, or worry, or illness.  I try to provide a sense of ease and continuity for them.  I’m trying to be a good companion – polite, reassuring, pleasant – rather than a Radio Personality.

Andrea says her name into a microphone.

Andrea says her name into a microphone.

How did you get interested in Classical music? Do you play any instruments?

Music was a big part of my early life. I was extremely lucky to have parents who could afford to take us to the occasional concert, and give us music lessons.  I took piano beginning in first grade, then later took flute and classical guitar.  I consider myself to be a musical person, but not really a musician per se.

What are some of your favorite episodes of The Score?

My favorite so far has been the one about the music for the old b-grade horror films from England’s Hammer Studios. I’m a huge fan of classic monster films, so this was especially fun for me.

What is some of your favorite Classical music?

Ravel, Debussy, Satie, Poulenc, Arvo Part, Osvaldo Golijov, lots more.

What is some of your favorite Non-Classical music?

Nina Simone; Neko Case; Bjork; PJ Harvey; Sweet Honey in The Rock. I would give anything to be able to sing like Mavis Staples. My favorite local songwriter is Rachel Taylor Brown.

What do you do when you aren’t at the station? 

Listen to music. Write poems. Volunteer at the Humane Society. I’m currently practicing ear training with an Android app I stumbled upon. And I nap like a champ.

John and Hali Nov. 27, 2013

Get To Know The Hosts: John Pitman

John Pitman has been working at All Classical Portland since 1983, back when the station was little more than a small FM booth inside a converted classroom. After taking a radio station class at Benson Polytechnic and working part-time at the AM station, John realized that radio was what he wanted to do in life. He currently works as Music Director at All Classical, responsible for choosing the music we hear, and fills in as on-air host when needed.

I spoke with John Pitman about his first time on the radio, how he first got into classical music, and the particulars of being All Classical’s Music Director.

 

What was All Classical like 30 years ago?

Well, it was a very simple setup thirty years ago compared to what we have now. A very small staff, and a lot less equipment. We didn’t even have a studio at the very beginning; we were just out in a room. It was sort of like, if you went down the halls here, where the rack machines are and all that noise, and just sat there for eight hours, that’s what it was like. It was noisy. There were a lot of distractions and, because we’re in a high school and KBPS AM, which we were affiliated with at the time, has a broadcast course, every 40 to 45 minutes a troupe of students would come and go. Those were the kind of things that went on all day. And then a few months after that they built an FM booth. And we were there from ‘83 to ‘92. So just about the first nine years of the station was in this converted classroom.

And what did you do?

At the very beginning, I was not on the air; that didn’t happen until about three years later. I was playing the tape recorded programs that we had. And we had a lot, many many more than we do now. We were much more reliant on outside material to fill our broadcast hours.

Do you remember your first time on air?

Your John PitmanI do actually. What I remember most is waiting to leave my house. I was about twenty years old and still living at home. I didn’t drive yet, so my mom would drive me down to the station every day. It was the first day where I was going to have a really significant amount of time on the air. I was quite nervous about it, but I had all my music selected and I can remember sitting in the living room and feeling like ‘I think we need to go now.’ So my mom drove me down here and I had to wait around for a while before I finally went on the air. It was very intense. I think it was like, if you have ever performed on stage before, unless you have no nerves at all, you get this kind of sense of time standing still. In one sense it seems like you’re there forever and in another sense it just flies by. I can’t really explain what it’s like, but it certainly doesn’t feel like time is passing in a normal sense when you’re on the air.

What kind of feedback did you get?

In order to get on the air, you have to make a recording as though you were on the air. Fortunately, you can just go into a studio and make an aircheck, as it’s called. I had already done that, handed it in, got some feedback from the program director, and he gave me one or two tips. One of them was don’t over-pronounce the names and the other was just basically don’t over-elaborate your explanations of what’s going on.

Did you have a ‘Radio Voice’?

Oh yeah, I think so. I think it was very different from what it is now and very different from my conversational voice. Back then you went by most of the announcers that you tended to hear, either the program director, or broadcasters from other networks. By and large, it was very formal. It wasn’t really as conversational as it is now. It was very professional, but very formulaic. There was a very particular way you went about saying whose piece it was and who performed it.

Do you think it’s better to be conversational?

I do. It’s easier for the listeners to approach the music in the first place. And that’s what we want them to do; we want them to connect to the music. It’s nice that they connect to us, and it’s nice to hear from them in emails, and from postings on Facebook, and meeting them, no doubt about that. But we’re there to connect them primarily to this great music, so that they’ll appreciate it, and love it, as much as we do.

Growing up in Portland, do you remember what radio stations you listened to?

I actually didn’t listen to the radio that much as a kid. It was coming to Benson and finding out from a couple of friends that a) there was a radio station here and b) there was a radio station class that you could take here, that got me more interested in radio. Then in 1983 I graduated and was working part-time on the AM station and they said there’s an FM station going on in August and would I be interested in continuing on and working there. So after two years in the class and three months working on the radio, the radio bug had definitely bitten me. And I immediately said yes, absolutely.

So what do you do now, as music director?

I receive the latest releases from all the different classical labels, and I do what I call “auditioning” them, deciding, first of all, is this music we want to play on the air, is it performed well, and is the recording up to our standards. The other part of the job, is going back into the existing library and finding things that we’re not yet playing on the air. I know a lot of what we have on the shelves, but there are thousands of CDs that I still have never listened to.

So you’re the Decider?

Yeah, that’s it in a nutshell; I decide what goes on the air. But I don’t have total autonomy. This is a collaborative effort with John Burk, our program director. He has developed a very clear vision of the sound of the station, so working with the set of ideas that he has actually informs my decision about what to recommend to add to the playlist.

Do the other hosts ever give recommendations?

Yeah, all the time. Because they’re interviewing visiting artists, or in the case of Christa Wessel, receiving local recordings, they’ll recommend from time to time something that they’ve come across. They’ll say, you know, ‘give this a listen.’

What’s the best part of working here?

Getting to listen to all that music!

John Pitman puts his feet up in the FM Booth in 1991

John Pitman puts his feet up in the FM Booth in 1991

How did you get into Classical music?

I credit my dad. He was a serviceman in World War II. He went into the service loving Glen Miller and the big bands, Boogie-woogie and things like that – popular music. A fellow serviceman was into classical music, which got my dad into classical music. And after that he just plunged head long into classical music for the next couple of decades. The only group that ever distracted him was the Beatles. He was crazy about The Beatles from the time they hit the scene until they broke up, and then it seems like once they broke up, he wasn’t interested in any other pop music, he just went back to classical. My dad played me Beethoven, Mozart, and Brahms records, and he also took me to my first concerts. My first Oregon Symphony concert was Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, and my first opera was The Barber of Seville.

So it was actually my dad and my next door neighbor, an Italian American who loved opera and had old 78 RPM records. He would put these records on and play for us these singers – I mean, Caruso and Gigli and these golden age singers. So by the time I got into KBPS, I knew who Toscanini was, I knew who Caruso was, and how to say some of these names. And I understood the form, too. I understood that there were four movements in the symphony, and three movements in the concerto.

But you never studied music?

Not ever seriously, no. I took clarinet for part of a year around sixth grade, but didn’t stick with it. My dad tried to teach me piano. We had a lot of fun at the piano, but I didn’t get very far. Finally, in the mid 90s, after I had been at the station for some time and had kind of settled into a routine, I thought, well I’m kind of interested in learning a new instrument. Tania Thompson had started taking cello lessons, she was our original live announcer, and she recommended a couple of guys who might be good teachers. I chose Jerry Bobbe and took lessons for about three years. I kind of plateaued. I still have the cello with some vain hopes of getting back into it, but other interests diverged me from that.

I gained a huge amount of respect and appreciation for real musicians, serious musicians, almost from the first time I drew the bow across the strings. I thought, oh my gosh, I can’t believe how hard this is. I hadn’t even done anything yet and it was hard! That was a really good learning experience for me because now I feel like I can listen to music and have a better appreciation and understanding of what it’s like to learn the language of the music, and stick with it. And also an appreciation for people who have musical talent.

If you weren’t working at All Classical, where would you be?

Well, it’s a very good question. I majored in electronics here at Benson and up until I got the job in radio, I thought, well, it will be something in electronics but I don’t really know what it will be. Maybe it will be, you know, soldering circuit boards or something like that. I didn’t really have a clear idea then what it was going to be.

What is your favorite Non-Classical Music?

The Beatles, thanks to my dad. I went through a phase in the early 90s, my last foray into what was then the music everyone was listening to, and that would be the Seattle grunge scene – Nirvana, and Pearl Jam and those guys. But then when Kurt Cobain died, I kind of lost interest after that. I love jazz, the jazz of the 40s, primarily. I appreciate Miles Davis. I think Duke Ellington is a genius. And I like world music. I like music of different cultures. Latin American music is a big favorite of mine.

So no Top 40?

Okay, in the 80s, my formative years, I was listening to, you know, the Eurythmics, Duran Duran, and stuff back then.

What is your favorite Classical music, if you had to choose?

My favorite? Mozart. Even before you’d finish your sentence it was Mozart. Orchestra wise, I’d be happy with anything by the Berlin Philharmonic, the Vienna Philharmonic, or The Academy of St Martin in the Fields. I never get tired of listening to those orchestras. I could also go for a long time listening to Beethoven and never get tired of him.

Do you have a favorite era of recordings or conductors?

I’m continually interested in what the latest conductors are bringing out. There are a lot of really dynamic, young conductors right now. I’m really happy that we have conductors right now who aren’t just the Americans, the British, and the Europeans. I’m happy to see South American conductors. I’m really happy to see women conductors, not just getting attention for the novelty that they are women, but because they truly are good conductors – JoAnn Falleta, Marin Alsop, a couple of examples.

And, finally, what is your dream Jeopardy Category?

Classical Music, of course.

And, embarrassingly, Star Wars…something else from my formative years.