Thursday, March 31, 2011

Poetry Alive!

Vermont's second annual Poetry Alive! celebration of National Poetry Month got underway tonight at Montpelier's Kellogg-Hubbard Library with a reading by former Maine poet laureate Baron Wormser.

He began the evening "with a couple of 'seasonal' poems -- about snow, and baseball".

Wormser continued, "Being a poet I'm not very interested in those people who get rich and famous and make it to the big leagues. I'm more interested in those who never leave the minors."

Poetry Alive! is a joint project between the Library and Montpelier's downtown association, with the purpose of emphasizing poetry as an everyday occurrence, not something reserved only for academics and special occasions.

Along with contributions from notables such as Galway Kinnell, Leland Kinsey, Sherry Olsen, Cora Brooks and David Huddle, for the next month poems will be posted in 70 Montpelier business by local poets at every level, from ambitious amateurs all the way to published professionals. The complete schedule of Poetry Alive! events is here.

I've appeciated and written poetry for most of my life. Learning about its relationship to classical music has only deepened that appreciation. When I listen to songs by Schubert, Schumann, Mahler, Eric Whitacre, Frank Ticheli, and so many others - I try to understand the relationship between the music, and the verse it supports. What makes a successful song setting? Which comes first in the inspiration, the poetry or the music? How does a good singer bridge the gap between words and melodies, by breathing life into the final creation?

This month on VPR Classical I'm going to be featuring a selection of poetry, read in the voices of the poets themselves, along with song settings and other poetic explorations. You can listen in weekdays from 8-10am for a celebration of National Poetry Month, and participate by leaving a comment here to share your favorite poet, poem, or recollection of how poetry has affected your life.

"The time has come, the Walrus said, to speak of many things..."

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Opera Quiz for March

From now through May when you listen to Saturday Afternoon at the Opera with Peter Fox Smith you'll have a chance to play the opera quiz. It's easy: you'll listen to a great operatic voice (past or present), pick up a clue or two, and take your best guess as to who the voice is.

This month's quiz took place last Saturday, with NO clues given except for the voice itself. If you were listening closely, however, you probably realized the very same voice was featured in the Met's production of Tchaikovsky's "The Queen of Spades" at 1pm.

Our singer first came to international attention in 1983 at age 23 when she won the annual Cardiff Singer of the World competition. She was still a student at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki at the time. Her professional debut came two years later in the role of Pamina, in a Covent Garden production of Mozart's "The Magic Flute".

Perhaps her most - celebrated - stage appearance came in 2008, when the 49-year old singer took on the scintillating title role of Salome in the Metropolitan Opera's regular season production. Singers generally have the option with this role to go in the buff, as the screen action calls for, or to wear a more modest tight-fitted skin-colored leotard. Our singer created an outright sensation by saying she "had nothing to hide" when she boldly chose the first option!

With that many clues you probably already know the answer by now, so we'll bring this month's quiz to a "big Finnish" and reveal the mystery voice. She is.................Finnish soprano Karita Mattila!

Thanks to everyone who sent in guesses, the winner of this month's opera quiz is (again!) Edward Roesner of Saranac Lake, NY. Congratulations! He will be receiving an inscribed copy of Peter Fox Smith's book A Passion for Opera.

Listen for the next two Saturday Afternoon at the Opera quizzes on April 16th, and May 7th. And, until then - enjoy this delicious (but appropriately modest - don't worry) "Dance of the Seven Veils" scene from Mattila's famous 2008 Met appearance as Salome.

Monday, March 28, 2011

World Events, NPR and You

The pace of news in recent weeks has been breathtaking. You’ve probably found yourself tuning in to VPR more often, turning the volume up louder, and listening longer to hear the next update on events in the Middle East, North Africa and Japan.

When you look behind the curtain and count up the NPR reporters, producers, translators and editors involved in bringing us the latest news on these concurrent situations – it’s nothing less than amazing. Every story has required agility, expertise, technical know how and dedication in the face of some pretty frightening situations.

When the earthquake hit, NPR’s Asia correspondents rushed to the most devastated areas to report on the damage and recovery efforts. NPR’s Science desk was called in to explain the scale of the quake and why it triggered such a vicious tsunami. Then, when concern about the nuclear power plants near Fukushima escalated, NPR deployed more reporters, producers and the deputy managing editor to Tokyo to coordinate reporting on the ground.

A 12-member team of NPR journalists has been providing wall-to-wall coverage of the spiraling tragedy in Japan, providing expert, round-the-clock updates on the country’s damaged reactors and the profound environmental implications. Reporters have also fanned out to the shattered cities and devastated fishing villages along the coast. They’ve delivered heartbreaking accounts of the many Japanese who’ve lost loved ones, lost their homes and businesses, and drawn a portrait of an entire nation infused with a deepening sense of despair.

NPR is beginning to send in some replacement teams, so you’ll be hearing new voices in short order. Meanwhile, NPR has teams in Libya and Egypt and Suraya Sarhadi Nelson is trying to get into Yemen.

All of these events have required an enormous mobilization of resources for NPR.
Your support of VPR helps make all of this possible. So thanks for listening and thanks for supporting VPR.

(this post sites information provided by Margaret Low Smith, NPR Vice President of Programming and Acting Senior Vice President of News.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Conversation With Robert De Cormier

(Robert De Cormier ................................. with Walter Parker)

This morning Robert De Cormier joined Walter Parker on the air to talk about Counterpoint's "Legacy" concerts next weekend. The performances will be the final ones for De Cormier, who founded the ensemble in 2000 and has been their Artistic Director ever since.

If you missed the conversation or want to enjoy it again, it's now available online - complete with a rich selection of De Cormier's own compositions, performed by Counterpoint!

Radiolab Returns: Season 9

The wildly popular program Radiolab returns to VPR this weekend with a brand new season.

We start off on the right foot with a GOOD show, in fact, it is “THE Good Show”. Jad and Robert tackle altruism, kindness, selflessness, and generosity. Radiolab asks the questions: if natural selection boils down to survival of the fittest, why would one creature stick its neck out to help another? Is altruism an aberration, or just an elaborate guise for sneaky self-interest? Do we really live in a selfish, dog-eat-dog world? Or has evolution carved out a hidden code that rewards genuine cooperation? Experts and everyday folk tell their tales.

Join VPR for 5 weeks of Radiolab from WNYC beginning tomorrow afternoon at 4. Next week, Jad and Robert steer their way through a series of stories about getting lost, and ask how our brains, and our hearts, help us get home. In “Help!Radiolab looks for ways to gain the upper hand over those forces inside us - from unhealthy urges, to creative insights – and explores stories of unlikely (and surprisingly simple) answers to seemingly unsolvable problems in “Soul Patch” . In the last episode of this season, Radiolab will set out in search of order and balance in the world around us.

Tune in Saturdays at 4 for brand new episodes of Radiolab.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Disney Jazz

It started with a listener's request for The Dave Brubeck Quartet's "Dave Digs Disney," which wasn't in our library. We ended up purchasing the CD (thank you generous listeners) and it has become a favorite of staff and listeners.

Up until recently, it was the only jazz compilation of Disney tunes. Oh, there was Disney's Jazz Album-Big Band & Swing CD (unfortunately
out-of-print) and there was Miles Davis' cover of "Some Day My Prince Will Come" and similar one song performances of classic Disney tunes, but no grand collection.

Until now.

Now there's "Disney Jazz Volume 1 / Everybody Wants To Be A Cat" with real jazz artists, such as Esperanza Spalding performing "Chim Chim Cher-ee" and guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkle doing "Feed The Birds (Tuppence A Bag)”, both from Mary Poppins. There’s also vocalist Roberta Gamborini backed by the Dave Brubeck Trio on "Alice In Wonderland".

The list goes on and on, but for my ears the extraordinary achievement is that the jazz ensembles are small - duos to seven players - and the readings are melodic and true to each artist's style. No added strings, no sweetening, just great jazz. Plus, you already know most of the songs.

Join me Wednesday at 9 as we feature Disney Jazz.

Federal Funding Update: March 15

The past week has been very difficult for public radio. The unfortunate events at NPR have put the public radio system in greater jeopardy of losing federal funding, and have eclipsed the incredible service provided every day by the reporters, producers, and hosts at VPR, NPR, and at public radio stations across the country.

Federal funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting provides approximately $600,000 annually to VPR, and these funds, combined with listener contributions, business underwriting, and some foundation giving provide the essential revenue VPR needs to bring you the news, music, and cultural programming you count on every day. If CPB funding were lost, VPR would need to make cuts that would affect our program schedule and newsroom. 
This week, the U.S. House will take two very important votes regarding funding for public broadcasting:

On Thursday, the House is expected to vote on a “Defund NPR” measure that would prohibit any CPB funds from going directly to NPR and that would prohibit stations from using CPB money to buy programs from NPR, including programs like Morning Edition and All Things Considered.

The House will also consider H.J. Res 48, a three-week continuing resolution (CR) that would fund the government through April 8th. While we are pleased that this legislation preserves the FY11 funding for CPB ($430 million), it eliminates funding for the Public Telecommunications Facility Program (PTFP), which has helped VPR repair, rebuild and/or replace critical broadcast equipment. Vermont’s harsh winters are tough on our broadcast equipment, and the mountainous terrain means that we need more broadcast facilities to provide a clear strong signal throughout the region. Most recently, PTFP funding allowed VPR to double the power of WRVT 88.7 in Rutland, increasing the quality of the signal for all listeners and expanding the coverage area to bring public radio to some residents of that area for the first time.

These two votes will have lasting implications for the future of public broadcasting. Please contact your Members of Congress in the House today to express your opinion. You'll find links to take action at or at the170 Million Americans Facebook page.

Thank you for all you do for VPR and public radio!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Read Tomorrow's Authors & Poets Today

We're very excited at VPR to have a new partnership with the imaginative and creative Young Writers Project. We look forward to working with the students involved as well as project director Geoff Gevalt, a longtime journalist.

The Young Writers Project is a community of young writers who share their work online. VPR will feature a new piece each week. The first essay is by Rae Ellis, a senior at Woodstock Union High School, who gives us insight into her life through a a relationship with a special traveling companion - her trusty car.

This is a great partnership for VPR, because it expands the opportunity to hear the public voice. Already, VPR broadcasts essays from dozens of people from our region in the VPR Commentary Series, and the YWP will add even more perspectives.

As we work together with the YWP we hope to hear all kinds of cool things. In addition to written essays, we hope to post some audio, some video, and perhaps some blog posts.

Read Rae Ellis's essay, and check back every Monday for a new post.

VPR President Robin Turnau on Monday's Vermont Edition

When NPR has a high-profile scandal -- like the secretly videotaped comments by an executive and the resignation of its president -- it focuses scrutiny on member stations, like VPR, and their relationship to the national network. Monday on Vermont Edition, we examine NPR's leadership problems and the proposed elimination of federal funding for public broadcasting, and how these two national stories affect the operations of VPR. Our guest is VPR President Robin Turnau.

Post your comments here or email, and join us today at noon.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

NPR President and CEO Vivian Schiller Resigns

We received word this morning that NPR President and CEO Vivian Schiller has submitted her resignation, following news yesterday that former NPR fundraiser Ron Schiller (no relation) was secretly videotaped questioning whether public radio needs federal funding and criticizing conservatives.

We found Mr. Schiller’s comments to be deeply distressing. NPR has also publicly disavowed Mr. Schiller’s comments and insists they are not consistent with its policies or practices. I want to stress that VPR is committed to unbiased coverage that brings independence, fairness, civility, and respect for a wide variety of viewpoints to our programming every day. You can read VPR’s editorial policy here.

What was equally troubling was Mr. Schiller’s assertion that NPR and public radio stations would be better off without federal funding. These comments do not reflect reality. The elimination of federal funding would significantly damage public broadcasting as a whole. VPR, NPR, and public radio and television stations across the country will continue to make the case for federal funding for public broadcasting. You can learn more about VPR’s efforts here.

Vivian Schiller brought vision and energy to NPR when she assumed the post of CEO two years ago. During that time, she led NPR back from enormous economic challenges and was passionately committed to NPR's mission. She also improved NPR’s efforts to work collaboratively with member stations to strengthen our local-national news network.

However, I believe Vivian Schiller’s departure is in the best interest of both NPR and the station community. While she has been an inspiration for many in the public radio system, this and other recent gaffes by NPR management could undermine efforts to protect federal funding for public broadcasting and have called into question NPR’s impartiality. I believe that her decision to resign, and the NPR Board’s acceptance of her resignation, is in the best interest of NPR and the station community moving forward.

For more information, read this story in the New York Times' Media Decoder blog, as well as analysis by NPR's David Folkenflik.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Federal Funding Update

We’ve heard from many listeners who share our concern about the potential loss of federal funding for public broadcasting. The situation in Washington is fluid, so I wanted to update you on the latest news.

In an effort to avoid a March 4 shutdown of the federal government, the House passed a short-term, continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government for two more weeks. While this stopgap measure cuts $4 billion in discretionary spending for FY 2011, it continues to fund the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) at current levels.

This is not a guarantee that public broadcasting won’t be targeted for elimination again in a few weeks, but this short-term CR gives us more time to speak up and spread the word. The good news is that your efforts are helping! In the VPR listening region and around the country, public media users have contacted their representatives to voice their support of federal funding.

The exclusion of public broadcasting from the list of targeted cuts in the short-term CR is a clear victory. But the battle is far from over and we still need your help. The threat remains real as the Senate will likely be asked to vote on the CR that the House passed in February, which eliminates all federal funding for public broadcasting.

The total federal appropriation for public broadcasting for this fiscal year comes out to just $1.35 per American citizen. This compares to Germany’s $25, Canada's $44, Japan’s $60, Britain’s $80, and Denmark’s $100 per person investment in their public media.

I know that times are hard and tough choices need to be made. But I also believe the return on the investment made by the federal government in public broadcasting does more than fund station operations; it strengthens communities and provides the educational, economic, and cultural impact we need - especially now.

I believe our country needs public media today more than ever, and I hope you will sign up at 170 Million Americans for Public Broadcasting to stay informed about the situation.

Many thanks for all you do!

Beethoven Sounds Better Today

It's been around a month and a half since Vermont Public Radio's 1970-vintage Yamaha C7 performance studio piano underwent a major process to replace its wires.

You may recall, on the day the process was completed (January 14th) we gave the piano a test run with the opening of Beethoven's "Moonlight" Sonata just to see how it sounded, even though the instrument hadn't yet had its first tuning. This was the...clamorous...result:

Today I met again with Piano Technician Allan Day and VPR Classical's afternoon host Joe Goetz for a followup session. Since that last video was taken, the piano has had half a dozen tunings and a few other adjustments. Let's hear how Beethoven and Schubert sound now:

The real test will come next Friday, March 11th, at 11am. I hope you'll join us for a live performance with pianist Martina Filjak as we inaugurate the "new" piano!