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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.

« June 2006 | Main | August 2006 »

July 31, 2006

Dynamic Duo

At the end of this week's program Bill refers to the Music @ Menlo Festival which David Finckel and Wu Han have started (now in its fourth season) and which is going on strong even as I write. (http://www.musicatmenlo.org/) It's a remarkable community of musicians, volunteers, teachers and audience members. Click on "Comparing Notes" for a more intimate view of daily life at the Festival by our own Brian Newhouse. Also listen to the the past 3 years worth of concerts at American Public Media's Web coverage of the festival.

I always like to prepare myself for a day with David and Wu Han by having an extra cup of coffee...or three. But then again, the coffee shop is the first place you hit after picking them up at the airport. It's not coffee, however, that gives them their energy, but their tremendous passion for the music and a desire to make it as accessible as possible to anyone interested. Listen to them talk about Beethoven in today’s show…it's not musicologists talking, but musicians who have lived the emotional experience of playing a Beethoven sonata.

Posted by Mary Lee at 4:13 PM


July 26, 2006

Past Lives

I'm just reading Suzanne's post from this week about the Endellion Quartet's ways to play together as musicians and still remain good colleagues. Now multiply the four musicians from the quartet by 3 to get the 12 musicians traveling as Chanticleer! Basically, anytime Chanticleer arrives in the studio, it’s as good as a party…only with really excellent singing.

One of the things I love about this group is their range of repertoire. I think that for singers, particularly, this is very impressive as the technique for singing Purcell well is quite different than it is for a work written in our own century. And speaking of technique...tell us what you think of "Past Life Melodies" by Sarah Hawkins!

Posted by Mary Lee at 1:57 PM | Comments (6)


July 19, 2006

Like old friends...

It was a real treat to meet these members of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. The very first thing that struck me about them was their comfortableness with each other. Clearly old friends, they could joke around and give each other a hard time while also being really supportive of each other.

When I picked the six of them up at the airport the night before cellist Ronald Thomas mentioned that he thought he might have a cold coming on. By the next day when we recorded them, it was in full swing. As soon as he mentioned the word "cold," the other five musicians whipped out all different sorts of remedies from their instrument cases or bags. I guess when you're constantly on the road it's good to keep a full pharmacy close at hand!

But that proved to me how professional these musicians are—ready to play incredibly well no matter the circumstances. And clearly they always have fun doing it. Have you ever noticed how musicians' camaraderie on stage or on the radio makes a difference in their performance?

Posted by Suzanne Schaffer at 10:09 AM | Comments (2)


July 18, 2006

Dazzle ships and junk culture

"Hello my friends," I'm Christopher Danforth, the new associate producer for Saint Paul Sunday.

After working for Saint Paul Sunday for a couple of weeks, I am realizing that each of its episodes are fantastic vessels, loaded with a cherished cargo and then cast out into the airwaves to destinations both near and far. I was a young college student majoring in music when I first heard Saint Paul Sunday. And like a lot of people, my first time was in a car: a once-white, now rusty '83 Ford Escort complete with its original AM/FM radio. I was headed back to school after spending the weekend at my parents' house in the suburbs. It was a four-hour drive back to Moorhead, MN, a small college town on the North Dakota border. I was driving alone along a very lonely stretch of highway.

At some point during the drive, Saint Paul Sunday came on the radio. Instantly my journey was transformed. I was now on a road trip in a car filled with music and friends. In the seat next me, riding shotgun was the host, Bill McGlaughlin. In the back seat was the duo made up of bassist Edgar Meyer and guitar/ mandolin player, Mike Marshall. For one hour during my trip I wasn’t alone. Saint Paul Sunday was riding along, keeping me company. Since then, Bill and his guests have kept me company on many Sunday drives or just weekends in my St. Paul apartment. I now have a B.A. in music and enjoy writing, recording and performing my own compositions on the weekends. When I have few extra minutes in the day, I’ve been known to transform junk from thrift stores into my own musical contraptions. I’m looking forward to joining Mary and Vaughn on the Mixed Company weblog and giving you my own perspective of what’s happening behind the scenes at Saint Paul Sunday.

Posted by Chris Danforth at 12:07 PM


July 12, 2006


Once in a while our guests devote the entire hour to exploring the work of a single composer. The results can be especially compelling—the kind that echo in your mind for days afterward—because they’re inspired by a strongly felt connection. One from the recent past that still resonates for me is Jean-Yves Thibaudet’s touching tribute to Erik Satie. Later this summer two more programs follow suit, though quite differently. In the first David Finckel and Wu Han trace the arc of Beethoven’s cello sonatas. In the second the Emerson String Quartet delves into Dmitri Shostakovich’s often searing string quartet cycle. In each of these programs there’s palpable electricity, whether grounded in great admiration or sheer love, or both.

Nowhere is this affection plainer than in the all-Fauré program Gil Shaham brings to us this week. Gil is himself beloved for the warmth of his playing, a blend of Old World expressiveness and the utter technical fluency his own generation prizes. But what I find even more remarkable about this violinist is his willingness to give himself over wholly to the music—and the composer behind the music—without ever submerging his own voice. In these hypercompetitive, self-aggrandizing times that is in itself an act of rare generosity. More importantly, it’s why Gil's artistry is so deeply affecting. We know with him we’re always getting the real thing. By letting us feel why he’s in love with Fauré, we fall in love with him, too, mystery and all.

Posted by Vaughn Ormseth at 9:39 AM


July 4, 2006

Rare sighting

The fog in San Francisco is a common occurrence. Sightings of the FOG Trio, however, are much rarer. Three musicians who once made their home in SF make up this special piano trio: Jorja Fleezanis, violin; Garrick Ohlsson, piano and Michael Grebanier, cello. (If you take the initials of their last name in the order I just wrote them, you’ll find where they get their name.)

The FOG met when Jorja and Michael were playing the in the San Francisco Symphony and Garrick was a frequent soloist. These days, Jorja leads the Minnesota Orchestra, teaches and plays chamber music, Michael is still busy in SF, and Garrick is flying around the world soloing with orchestras and in recital. With datebooks like theirs, it’s virtually impossible for them to get together.

Why do they try? And why do we encourage them? Because as with all wonderful friendships, each one is unique and the music-making that results is a tribute to the human creative process. Am I overstating the case? Tune in and find out!

Posted by Mary Lee at 2:37 PM