Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Sounds and Stories of 2009

In the news business, we often take a little time at the end of a year to look back at what made news over the previous 12 months. It's always surprising how much material there was in a typical year.

At VPR News, we've tried over the years to package some of the highlights in a year-end package for our listeners.

This year, we decided to devote a full hour to the subject. We discovered there was an awful lot of interesting, quirky, meaningful, funny, sad and memorable material to choose from.

It wasn't easy deciding what to include -- and what to leave out. But we've made the choices and, this Thursday at noon and Friday at 7, host Neal Charnoff takes on a review of The Sounds and Stories of 2009.

From all of us here at VPR, thank you for a remarkable 2009, and we look forward to serving you in 2010.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Say It With Pizza

Did you know, pizza is the #1 Christmas Eve lunchtime choice at radio stations around the country? True story! A little pepperoni, a few green peppers and onions and a bunch of black olives can work wonders to replenish the spirit and keep the staff running in top form right through the end of the year.

What else could we do today at VPR but keep up our end of this time-honored tradition? As Willem Lange was telling stories of a New England Christmas on VPR, and VPR Classical was serenading the lunch hour with Handel's Messiah - the few staffers and volunteers in the building took a break. We swapped favorite Christmas carols, shared holiday plans with each other, and enjoyed two large, fully loaded pies.

Holidays are all about traditions. From favorite recipes and tree ornaments, to the colors we wear and the songs we sing. As a public radio station we're glad you're part of our tradition. Thank you for all you do to support Vermont Public Radio. Cheers to you, the New Year, and...many more pizza dates!

See VPR's holiday page for recipes and vintage staff photos, and please send us yours!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Where Is "Classics For Kids"?

No worries, your VPR Classical hosts may be taking a little time off for the holidays but you don't have to miss Classics for Kids!

On Christmas day and New Year's day you'll be able to hear Classics for Kids at a special time: 1:54pm, just before Performance Today.

Kids will then return to its normal time starting on Friday, January 8th.

Best wishes for a lovely new year, and thank you from all of us here for making great programming possible every day!

Friday, December 18, 2009

VPR's Annual Holiday Concert

This year we were very pleased to invite Constance Price, the Essex Children's Choir, and members of the VPR Broadcasters Club & Producers Circle to our annual holiday concert at the Elley-Long Music Center. Cheers, from all of us at VPR!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

VPR Classical Campaign for Addison County a SUCCESS!

VPR’s headquarters are usually a fairly reserved place, but this afternoon there was quite a bit of whooping and hollering in the main hallway when VPR’s Manager of Major Giving, Retta Huttlinger, told me that the VPR Classical Campaign for Addison County had met the goal of $346,000!

We were under $5,000 to go at the beginning of the week, and we weren’t sure we would make the goal by the end of the month. Thankfully, several gifts came in over the last several days that put us where we needed to be for the $10,000 Vermont Community Foundation challenge to end the campaign successfully. Many thanks to the VCF, and to every donor who contributed to the campaign! It’s wonderful to have such a generous outpouring of support for classical music on the radio dial.

Now that winter is upon us, it’s not possible for our engineering team to do their work safely to get the station on the air in the next several months. But, the equipment is ordered and as soon as the snow clears in the spring, and there’s easy access to Chipman Hill in Middlebury where the station will be situated, WOXM- 90.1 FM VPR Classical will make its debut!

This campaign was a success thanks to an energetic group of community volunteers who forged ahead despite the interesting challenges that the economy provided. Special thanks to Bonnie McCardell and her husband John (a member of the VPR Board of Directors) who lead the effort tirelessly and who deserve a big round of applause for their efforts to bring VPR Classical to Addison County. Well done, and thank you!

4 o'Clock And All Is Well....

VPR's Colchester studio has a clear view to the west. I am one of those people who has a very difficult time with the lack of daylight that befalls us each December. But sometimes, a 4 p.m. sunset is not so bad, because it allowed me to capture this.

(I did, however, forget my coat and ran back inside very fast. Brrrr!).

May We Help You?

Fact: New Year's eve is two weeks from today.

If that's not enough to induce a momentary jolt of reality, then consider what else that means: Christmas Eve is ONE week away.

So, what do you think? No pressure, but maybe it's time to get that gift list together?

Your VPR music team is here to help with a few suggestions of our favorite music and books from the past year. From sublime opera to classic New Orleans-style piano, and comprehensive Woody Guthrie - you can't go wrong here.

The end of 2009 is also giving list-happy music fans occasion to begin making their picks for "best of the decade". Both and the UK's Guardian have turned their sites on Vermont (!) for their choice; the Belizean singer/songwriter Andy Palacio's release Wátina (I Cry Out) was released in 2007 on the Charlotte-based Cumbancha world music label and it's been cited in several recent articles as one of the decade's best. You'll be able to hear more about that on the December 29th Vermont Edition in the show celebrating world music.

What's your favorite recording of the year, or decade? You can check in with your choices on Vermont Edition's annual Music Show conversation page, and best wishes in finding just the right gifts for the special people in your life this holiday season!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Bob Kinzel Goes Viral

From John Van Hoesen, VPR's vice president for news and programming:

"Sometimes, the digital age can be so cool.

Yesterday, for example, Bob Kinzel, who's been writing about health care reform for many years, decided not long after our morning news meeting that he would try to reach Howard Dean to get his reaction on the progress of health care reform in Washington. So let's first honor the tradition of analog, because the idea started in Bob's head! But next, Bob shot an email off to Dean and got a positive response.

So in the noon hour, Bob was on the phone to Dean, who was on his mobile phone in Puerto Rico. And in his news-making way, Dean said to Bob and Bob recorded the following:

"This is essentially the collapse of health care reform in the United States Senate. And, honestly, the best thing to do right now is kill the Senate bill and go back to the House and start the reconciliation process, where you only need 51 votes and it would be a much simpler bill."

So Bob began to organize his story for VPR. Meanwhile, a blogger at the Washington Post had heard that Dean had talked to VPR about health care and got on the phone to Bob to find out just what was up and Bob confirmed the quote. In minutes, the digital world was alive with blogs and tweets about VPR's news in the making. Bob also began work on a story for NPR's newscast and we provided the information to Mara Liasson for her interview with Robert Siegel during All Things Considered.

VPR posted the text of the story online and the whole piece aired in our 5:50 p.m. newscast.

In the meantime, the big news organizations were at our digital door, all wanting instantaneous audio for their own news programs. I don't think we've had so many emails and phone calls in such a short period of time.

In the end, dozens and dozens of blogs repeated the news, page after page of them on Google, and news organizations were posting on their sites, entry after entry.

In addition to hearing this story on VPR or seeing it online, you may have heard VPR's audio on CNN, The Today Show, MSNBC or ABC.

And so far, thanks to our digital analytics, we can tell you that Bob's story was the fourth most-viewed story on in 2009. The Crown Point Bridge is still leading this category!

It's a fast world but, as always for all of us here at VPR, as cool as the digital age is, it's the coolest when we can provide meaning to something that's important to you. "

Monday, December 14, 2009

VPR Classical is Coming to Addison County!

Over the last several months, VPR volunteers have been working hard to raise the necessary funds to bring VPR Classical to Addison County. We’re very close, with less than $5,000 to go! With your help, we can reach our goal by December 31st.

We started in March with a goal of $346,000 to build a new full-power transmitter at 90.1 FM. When it’s on the air, this new signal will broadcast VPR Classical to more than 83,000 people over an area that stretches from Vergennes to Brandon and from Port Henry, NY to the Green Mountains. VPR engineers can begin work in the spring and – if all goes well – we’ll have WOXM 90.1 FM on the air by early summer at the latest.

Many thanks to the generous individuals and businesses that have helped us out along the way.

We’re asking classical music lovers to give what you can to help expand the reach of VPR Classical. Your tax deductible contribution today will help bring VPR Classical to Addison County in 2010. Please call Retta Huttlinger at 800-639-2192. Thanks!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Celebrating Grace Paley

Family and friends of author Grace Paley are celebrating her life and writings Friday. She was born in the Bronx on December 11, 1922, but later made her home in Thetford, Vermont. She passed away two years ago at the age of 84.

Today on Vermont Edition, you'll hear a 1998 recording of Paley reading "The Loudest Voice". First published in 1959, "The Loudest Voice" is told by Shirley Abramowitz, a little Jewish girl in the 1930's who remembers her childhood as a place where “every window is a mother's mouth bidding the street shut up” and where her own voice is always the loudest.

Shirley is called upon to narrate her school's Christmas play, a situation that prompts some pretty interesting conversations. The characters, humor and insight are classic Paley and a wonderful holiday story.

Listen at noon or at 7 to Vermont Edition. You can post your own reflections on Paley's life and work here.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Your Wish Come True

You're in the car, cooking dinner, or getting ready for bed. As usual, VPR Classical is on. A melody catches your ear and captures your heart. You MUST know what it is! But alas, you don't catch the composer or artist. Is the name of that sweet piece you'd love to hear again lost forever? Thankfully, the answer is no.

The new and improved VPR Classical Playlist is now available at All you have to know is the day and time you heard the piece. You can look back at what you've heard today, yesterday, last week - even last month, 24 hours a day. You'll find all the information you need, including a link to ArchivMusic to purchase the CD if you wish.

Please let us know how the VPR Classical playlist works for you. And, as always, we love to receive your comments and requests.

P.S. Remember, copyright restrictions prevent us from publishing playlists before the music is played.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

185 down, 66 to go

That's the count in my quest to visit all 251 of Vermont's cities and towns and become a fully vetted member of the 251 Club.

My most-recent trek took me through the southern tier of the state, where I visited Bennington, Pownal, Stamford, Readsboro, Whitingham, Wilmington, Searsburg, Jacksonville and Woodford. Time and again, I'm amazed at how many lovely towns there are in this state. And I'm agog at finding places and facts that I'd never heard of before.

This trip introduced me to Brigham Young's birthplace in Whitingham (yes, both Young and Joseph Smith (Royalton) were born in Vermont), the Museum of Black WWII History and the Green Mountain Racetrack, both in Pownal. I've wanted to visit Readsboro ever since listening to Susan Keese's audio postcard about the town's inhabitants who were drawn there because of its similarity to the Tyrolean Alps of northern Italy. It didn't disappoint. And I loved stopping into Old Bennington to see the Congregational Church, the Bennington Battle Monument and the site of the Catamount Tavern.

My dilemma now is how quickly I want to reach 251. I think it's so much better to take it slowly and savor each stop along the way.

[Editor's Note: Listen to the entire series of Audio Postcards from Vermont Towns at]

Monday, December 7, 2009

No Starburst Were Harmed in the Making of this Documentary (well, not that many...)

On Tuesday evening, VPR will air "States of Marriage," a documentary examining how several states have approached legal recognition for gay and lesbian couples. VPR's Patti Daniels shared her experience producing this project:

Most mornings last week I came in to work thinking, ‘this might be the final day of production and we’re done!’ But today it’s official – VPR’s documentary on same-sex marriage airs tomorrow evening and we’re ready to go. Our crack production engineer Chris Albertine and I will finalize a few details this afternoon, but right now I have a few minutes to give you a behind-the-scenes look at the final stage of producing a radio documentary.

We’ve logged many hours over the past few weeks in an editing suite working to finalize the elements of this broadcast. This is the detail work, tinkering around the edges. We stare at a computer screen with row upon row of audio files as Chris engineers the sound to make it just right.

The bigger part of the challenge has already been overcome by now. We started in the spring with one big question: how to tell the story of so many different states finding their own approach to the question of same-sex marriage? Our initial research generated a multitude of possible directions. Over the summer Jane Lindholm and I recorded at least 20 interviews, some of them lasting hours, with key political and advocacy leaders in five states. In addition to that, we combed through hours of archival sound to document the events that unfolded in Vermont and elsewhere. All of those dozens of hours of tape needed to be transcribed, prioritized, and developed into a cohesive, compelling story... all in just 51 minutes. Throughout the project, we wrestled with journalistic questions of balance, interpretation, and historical record.

And now, Chris and I are down to the nitty gritty: fueled by coffee and Starburst candies, we fixate on mere seconds of audio: should the music fade in more gently here? Where can we shave off seconds to meet the time limit? Do we have another take of that voice track? Can we get more cowbell? (Just kidding about the cowbell...)

You can learn more about States of Marriage at I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I enjoyed putting it together.

-- Patti Daniels, producer, “States of Marriage: The Debate Over Gay Rights”

Friday, December 4, 2009

Live Music In The House

What's better than a live music event in the performance studio? Two.

Robert DeCormier and Counterpoint stopped by last night for a dress rehearsal, in advance of their concerts next weekend:You can listen to VPR Classical next Wednesday morning at 11 for a sneak preview of Counterpoint's upcoming holiday concerts.

Today we're pleased to welcome Ensemble Liber to the studios! They're in concert tonight at 7:30 as part of the UVM Lane Series, and they're warming up as I write this for an 11am live recital with Walter Parker, starting in around 10 minutes:I haven't seen their set list but as I was taking pictures in the studio I caught a few bars of Hugo Distler, a few bars of Tomas Luis de's going to be a special performance, I can tell already.

Also coming up next Wednesday evening, local bassist (and poet, and photographer...) Ellen Powell stops by for conversation and music in Jazz with George Thomas, starting at 9pm. You can hear these, and many other, live performances after broadcast: visit the Live Performances page at

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

VPR's prEview E-Newsletter for December 2, 2009

Ask me what my favorite time of year is in Vermont, and I’ll respond like a kid in a candy store. At the sight of the first snow, winter is the most miraculous thing that’s ever happened. But by February, it’s all about ANY sign of life under the melting snow. In August…well, we all know nothing can top August in Vermont. Ooh! Ooh! Until October, that is.

If you think that’s bad, don’t even try to ask me to pick a favorite public radio program. I can’t even pick a favorite from this edition of prEview. Before you call me wishy-washy, I dare you to try! Read on for more about “States of Marriage,” VPR’s documentary that examines the path to same-sex marriage in Vermont – and around the country. Plus, share your favorite music of 2009 for Vermont Edition’s annual music show, and a recipe for ginger tea to ward off oncoming colds.

Documentary: States of Marriage
Tuesday, December 8, 7 p.m., and Saturday, December 12, 4 p.m.
Ten years ago this month, the Vermont Supreme Court set in motion a historic change in the legal status of gay and lesbian couples. VPR examines how Vermont's civil unions law was a precedent for same-sex marriage in other states, and how the political fight over marriage has been waged across the country. Learn more online here.

Specials: Climate and Copenhagen
Wednesday and Thursday, December 2-3 on VPR
World leaders meet next week in Copenhagen to find ways to stave off the effects of climate change. Listen to Vermont Edition today at noon for a discussion about the connection between weather and climate change with VPR’s Eye on the Sky meteorologists. Then, listen tomorrow at 8 for “The Climate Race,” a special documentary from Marketplace.

Vermont Edition: Annual Music Show
Thursday, December 17, noon on VPR
2009 has been a great year in music, and Vermont Edition's Annual Music Show is a chance to share your favorites with VPR listeners. Jane Lindholm and Bob Kinzel co-host our annual audio tour of great tunes, noteworthy artists and albums that deserve a second, third, or fifteenth listen. Visit our website to share your music picks for 2009.

Live Classical Performance: Ensemble Liber
Friday, December 4, 11 a.m. on VPR Classical
Walter Parker welcomes Ensemble Liber, a vocal quartet specializing in medieval and renaissance music, to VPR’s performance studio for a live performance. They preview their upcoming Lane Series concert of old and new seasonal music.

Classical Performance: Counterpoint
Wednesday, December 9, 11 a.m. on VPR Classical
Listen for an in-studio performance by Vermont's professional vocal ensemble Counterpoint, led by Robert DeCormier. They’ll preview their upcoming concerts celebrating the winter solstice and talk with Walter Parker.

Live Jazz Performance: Ellen Powell
Wednesday, December 9, 9 p.m. on VPR
George Thomas welcomes Vermont musicians Ellen Powell, Thomas Cleary, and Steve Wienert
to VPR for a live performance next Wednesday. They'll improvise on a mixture of standards and originals, and we’ll discuss the state of jazz in Vermont. Learn more online here.

Holiday Programming
Beginning December 11 on VPR and VPR Classical
VPR has many gifts for you to unwrap this holiday season. From Willem Lange’s rendition of “A Christmas Carol” to the harmonies of Counterpoint, our holiday program schedule celebrates the many traditions of the season. Visit our website to find out when your favorites are on the air, and best wishes from all of us at VPR.

VPR Cooks: Ginger Tea
Every time someone sneezes or coughs at the office these days, it’s followed by an emphatic disclaimer: “It’s not the flu! I swear! It’s allergies! It’s just a cold!” So far we’ve been lucky, but it never hurts to have a special concoction to (we hope!) ward off illness. VPR volunteer Eugenia Saganich shared this recipe for ginger “tea” to do just that.

Want to get prEview via email? Sign up here!

The Eye on the Sky Guys on Climate Change

From Vermont Edition Editor Steve Zind:

We hear a great deal about climate change globally, but we're curious how these changes are affecting our region. So we've asked VPR's Eye on the Sky meteorologists Mark Breen and Steve Maleski of the Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium to talk to us about the long term trends they're seeing in New England's weather - and help us understand if any of the changes we observe from our windows, like seasonal variations and migratory habits of New England birds are related to global climate trends.

It'll be interesting to hear their take, too, on the renewed
debate over climate change research and find out, in their view, what conclusions we can have confidence in and what questions remain.

VPR continues its coverage of the issue tomorrow night at 8 with a special documentary from Marketplace, The Climate Race. We hope you'll join the conversation!