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Mixed Company®

Mixed Company is written by Saint Paul Sunday staff, giving you a behind-the-scenes look at the show and the classical music they love. We welcome your online comments.

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February 24, 2006

Joyful sounds

I'll be honest. Making radio is a cool job. But public radio budgets don't allow for huge production staffs and each one of us on Saint Paul Sunday pulls more than our own weight. That's why when it comes to booking musicians for the show, we ask one question out loud: "Are they interesting musicians?" and a quieter one among ourselves: "Yeah, but are they any fun?" The answer to both questions for the Imanis is a resounding "yes!"

These are musicians who are filled with joy. There is a clear "vibe" about them that you don't encounter with many other chamber groups, even ones who play beautifully together. Whether it's Valerie Coleman's arrangement of the spiritual "Steal Away" or a more traditional work from the classical catalogue, you'll hear that joyful vibe in their voices and their music.

As our country celebrates Black History Month, I want to ask another question. A few months ago, guest host Brian Newhouse asked how race mattered in classical music, whether onstage or in the audience. The Imanis describe themselves as an "African American/Latino" ensemble and it's clear from their repertoire and projects that their heritage is vital to their music. I've witnessed pure white crowds in central Minnesota stand up for this quintet's performances with little regard for descriptions. So…does it matter?

Posted by Mary Lee at 3:05 PM | Comments (2)


February 15, 2006

Green & White

It's fitting that Seattle's nickname is the "Emerald City"—it's always felt foreign, even a little magical to me. When my father first took me there as a kid on a business trip, I remember even then being charmed by its sea air and the lime-green moss along every crevice and rooftop. Years later I grew to associate Seattle with coffee (of course) and Nirvana (whose music still moves and unsettles me), but it never lost the charisma of that first impression. So when after months of planning we brought Saint Paul Sunday to Seattle for a live event co-hosted by KING-FM, I hoped I'd rediscover the city I loved from childhood and my college years.

Happily, I did, and working with the Seattle Chamber Players and Seattle Pro Musica only deepened my ties to their hometown and its people. It's quite rare for us to mount any live event with an audience for later national broadcast. Given our recording standards for both music and conversation, doing so introduces vastly more variables into an already demanding process. And somehow, the Seattle Chamber Players convinced us to let them perform an all-Baltic program of four separate set-ups, the last which included a 40-voiced choir! Then too, the morning of the performance I looked out my window to see white—the first snow Seattle had seen in several years. Would anyone show up?

As you can hear, not only did they show up in capacity numbers, but they responded to the musicians' beautiful performances and to Bill with sincere warmth and engagement. And the Seattle Chamber Players and their friends—in perfect synch with the cosmopolitanism of the port city whose name they bear—took all of us through new musical landscapes. How was the journey for you?

Posted by Vaughn Ormseth at 2:23 PM | Comments (11)


February 3, 2006

"Aahs" abounding

At 51 years young, the Beaux Arts Trio certainly lives up to its legendary reputation. Founder and pianist Menahem Pressler brings so much heart and soul to the group, and violinist Daniel Hope and cellist Antonio Meneses match him note for note at that high level of performance. The trio plays with a warmth and affection for the music that is never saccharine and always made our control room at the recording session sigh "aahh" at the end of each piece (especially Mendelssohn's Dumky Trio).

But Menahem Pressler is clearly the trio's inspiration. Both Daniel Hope and Antonio Meneses are celebrity soloists with brilliant solo careers so it was amazing to see them treat him with such respect and deference. Watching world-renowned musicians hang on Menahem's every word made me realize that I was in the presence of a truly great master.

During the program, Daniel and Antonio each reflected on the first performance of the Beaux Arts Trio that they ever attended. Have you ever seen the Beaux Arts Trio in performance? What was the experience like?

Posted by Suzanne Schaffer at 12:32 PM | Comments (5)