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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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December 8, 2006

Like Sunshine

My own history with Jorja Fleezanis dates back to the mid-80's when she was with the San Francisco Symphony and came to Saint Paul Sunday as part of the FOG Trio (with pianist Garrick Ohlsson and cellist Michael Grebanier). We both share a strong memory of the trip back to the airport in my '79 Chevy Nova, driving down a particularly bumpy St. Paul street... not the cushy life of the classical musician that many imagine!

Since then, Jorja has worked with us on programs ranging from solo violin and piano, to an ad hoc nonet performing Stravinsky's "L'Histoire du Soldat." Probably one of the highlights of our shared experiences is the commission of Nicholas Maw's Solo Violin Sonata for her to play on this show. Each encounter with her has been a little like encountering the sun after a long stretch of grey days. You're always a little surprised by the warmth and light and you find your shoulders relaxing as you soak up the good energy that comes from that source.

This is my last blog for Saint Paul Sunday. In some ways, this program with Jorja and Karl is exemplary about what I've loved most about my involvement with the show. The two of them have a remarkable relationship that is immediately apparent in their performance together and I suspect that it is fueled by three of my favorite human characteristics: a sense of humor, curiosity and acknowledgement for how lucky we are to be able to participate in the world of music creation.

Thank you for your participation in the work that we've done all these years. Don't ever stop surrounding yourself with music. No matter what your day is like, it will always be better for hearing Brahms, Beethoven or Peter Mennin.

Posted by Mary Lee at December 8, 2006 2:17 PM



What an interesting program: four composers who I've had only minimal aquaintance with, and four pieces I've never heard before.

Each of these pieces require the listener's complete attention; these are not background music: they're engaging and demanding but, boy, do they deliver.

And what fine musicians these are: Jorja is a wonder of a fiddle player (why haven't I heard of her before?) and Karl is much more than an able accompianist. Nicely played by both.

Some thoughts churned up by a previous program: Claude Frank, like several pianists past and present, has the annoying habit of humming while playing. Why do audiences stand for this? And why is this fault almost completely limited to pianists? I think audiences tolerate this because the occassionaly brilliant Glenn Gould started this sad practice, and because we know that pianists are the prima donas (and worse: the nut jobs) of the music world.

As for the other instruments, it's a bit hard to hum when you're blowing into a reed or piece of metal, or when you have a large piece of wood under your chin. What about humming cellists? I don't know of any.

In my opinion it's more than rude to hum while playing: it inteferes completely, not just tangentionally, with the apprehension and appreciation of the music the way persitent skips or pops on a CD or LP do. Would musicians stand for an audience who hummed along while they played? I think not.

In fact I'm reminded of a Steve Martin joke from the '70s which I'm adapting for this:

Pianist to audience: "Do you mind if I hum?"

Audience: "No. Do you mind if we fart?"

John Niesyn
Fairfield, CT

By John Niesyn at December 10, 2006 10:29 PM


As an addendum to Mary Lee: You've been a welcome voice on this blog with your inciteful and enlightening commentary. I wish you the best of luck on your new ventures. Like SPS, you've been very good company.


By John Niesyn at December 10, 2006 10:42 PM


Dear Bill,
I often listen to your program, and enjoy your informal and spontaneous style, as well as the unpredictability of the program content. But I am moved to write today and express my particular pleasure with last evening's show. As a musicologist and critic, I am quite familiar with most of the music played by last evening's performers. In fact, I have often expressed the opinion that Mennin's Sonata Concertante is the greatest of all American violin sonatas, and that Bloch's Violin Sonata No. 1 is one of the greatest 20th-century works of that genre. But to hear them both represented on one program!! What a treat!! And as thrilling as it was to hear the selections from each piece, it was equally gratifying to hear the enthusiastic and highly perceptive comments about both works made by you and the performers. I only hope that other listeners might be moved to search for complete recordings of both works.
I strongly support your effort to use your program as a means of introducing listeners to lesser-known areas of the repertoire--especially those--like the Mennin and Bloch--whose obscurity is utterly undeserved.
Walter Simmons

By Walter Simmons at December 11, 2006 9:35 AM



By Marilyn Buol at December 31, 2006 1:11 PM


your programs are always so good and such fine company but today's program with steven isserlis a true standout. my girlfriend the cellist is ever trying to convince me between sunday beers to turn off the basketball game and listen to this or that. today in the car i was a captive audience. lucky me. beautiful. thanks, sebastian (and claire)

By Sebastian Long at January 7, 2007 12:54 PM


Mr. Isserlis brightened our morning. But when I try to play the show back online I had no luck which seems to be the sad case with your programs and Mac users like us!! Any fix? Is it possible to buy the program? Also it has been weeks since the comment log has updated - and has Vaughn o. stopped writing for it? I miss that voice. I'm a big fan but wish st. Paul's kept pace with minimal technology.

By Tim Fosse at January 7, 2007 1:03 PM


St. Paul Sunday is one of my favorite public radio programs, but unfortunately it airs locally when I'm in church each week. Today we were snowed in and what a treat that today's guests were Anonymous Four! (Also a favorite!)As if those weren't enough treats, the Appalachian music touched my soul at the very roots of my West Virginian heritage. As much as I love the a cappella Renaissance music, I believe the addition of instrumentation for the American music is a wonderful addition.
A historical footnote on the Cherry Tree Carol: during the McCarthy era when folk musicians were blacklisted, Jean Ritchie notes that the Cherry Tree Carol was one of the songs considered UnAmerican. (which I suppose it was, coming from England,but that not what they meant!)

By miriam at January 21, 2007 12:12 PM


St. Paul Sunday is a breath of fresh air here in the cultural wasteland of the very southern tip of NJ by the sea......Each week it helps me as I do chores or schoolwork....preparing for my lessons....I love the programming on this show!
Thank you!

By janice at January 21, 2007 7:28 PM


While my schedule today ( 1/28/07) didn't allow me to tune in as I usually do for Saint Paul Sunday, not only did I listen to last week's program with Anonymous 4, but told a friend of mine who loves these wonderful singers about it who without internet access wouldn't have otherwise known! I'm so sorry I'm a week late in reporting on it. I LOVED the shape note singing of Anonymous 4 and I generally don't take well to "different" things within the realm of classical music. This being relatively contemporary and American in origin. But the ensemble brought the technique to life for me! No surprise as I already liked them.

On a separate note, I noticed a few things of concern within the most recent posts. One I could personally relate to. Not being able to stream Saint Paul Sunday as a Mac user. And a related one from a listener who can't enjoy the program because it's broadcast only when she's in church. Valid point. There used to be a rebroadcast of the show on Tuesday nights but that disappeared. It seems both the aforementioned problems might be solved in one go by replaying the show once during the week when everyone is home from work and not at church. And for those of us Mac users who are unable to stream MPR.

By Vinca K Renner at January 28, 2007 3:26 PM


The program would be much better if Bill McLaughlin wouldn't have such a breathless rave about each and every artist that appears on the show. A bit more reasoned comments would appeal to the kind of audience that probably listens to the program.

By BUD ARONSON at January 29, 2007 11:04 AM