If you appreciate opera, whether casually or fanatically, you already know that fall, winter and spring Saturday afternoons are something to be anticipated on KMFA. That’s when — thanks to the generous support of Sarah and Ernest Butler — KMFA presents the weekly Toll Brothers–Metropolitan Opera International Radio Network broadcasts, bringing listeners a different opera each week from the stage of one of the most renowned and active opera companies in the world.
Radio has been called “theater of the mind,” and KMFA listeners are able to conjure up the visual elements of Met Opera productions thanks to the detailed descriptions of the program hosts and our own vivid imaginations. Now, a recent New York Times web feature will enable you to view the backstage doings of the Metropolitan Opera House even more clearly.
A March 21, 2013 New York Times Magazine article spotlighted Met general manager Peter Gelb, his leadership of The Met, and the company’s recent $16 million production of Wagner’s Ring cycle. Major updates are planned for the stage’s currently-used traditional tech systems (many of which have been in place since the house opened in 1966).
Knowing that these tech systems are to be renovated or replaced over the next several years with integrated, computerized ones, the New York Times (a world leader in producing online interactive news features) complemented its article on Peter Gelb by publishing an intriguing and informative interactive look backstage at the Met: “Inside the Metropolitan’s Stage.” (On a personal note: This online interactive – with its moving graphics and time-lapse video – was the single item that enticed me to read the report on Peter Gelb and his leadership of The Met. Not the other way around.) Want to learn more? Investigate the backstage workings at The Met here.
Specifically KMFA, specifically for You:
Never to be outdone by The Met, KMFA will present its own live broadcast of The Austin Lyric Opera’s 2013 production of Charles Gounod’s Faust, at 2:30PM, Sunday, April 28, 2013. Cheryl Dring and Jeffrey Blair will be your on-air hosts from The Long Center for the Performing Arts on KMFA, Classical 89.5 FM (Austin) and online at http://kmfa.org/. The magic of opera, the magic of radio!
The Met will continue its Ring revival (started on April 6 with Das Rheingold with performances of Die Walküre on April 13, Siegfried on April 20, and Götterdämmerung on May 11 – all to be carried live on Classical 89.5
We’d love to hear about some of your favorite operatic moments (Wagnerian or otherwise)!
~posted by Whit Martin-Whitaker, KMFA’s Saturday morning host
From the General Manager
Evergreen. The theme of KMFA’s spring pledge drive speaks to the freshness of this time of year, as new growth begins to color the landscape. It also describes the music you hear on Classical 89.5 – masterworks of great beauty that flourish anew on each hearing, a timeless source of inspiration and creativity. Evergreen is also a great way to describe the membership of KMFA, all those who provide annual support to sustain this remarkable radio resource for the citizens of Central Texas year after year. What a gift you are to our community!
All of us at KMFA thank you for the beauty you help us to create with your generous support. This spring, if you have not already done so, I hope you’ll choose to go evergreen with a sustainer membership — a monthly installment plan that is automatically renewed each year. That means no membership renewal notices in your mailbox – helping the environment as well as saving you the time of processing annual renewals. When you call in your pledge during this year’s drive, please tell our volunteers that you want to “go evergreen” — or check the sustainer/evergreen box if you make your donation online. A little further on in this newsletter, you’ll find more information about the pledge drive – including information on how you can help replant the Bastrop Lost Pines while sustaining KMFA. Thank you for your support!
~ Ann Hume Wilson is General Manager and President of KMFA-FM.
~posted by Whit Martin-Whitaker, KMFA Saturday morning announcer
Around the turn of the New Year, I was browsing the TED Talks online, when I ran across one that drew me in. Even though the TED talks are invariably interesting and informative, one in particular caught my eye with a name I knew: conductor/pianist/composer Michael Tilson Thomas. The title of the TED Talk is “Music and emotion through time.”
In this presentation, Tilson Thomas presents addresses his view that music answers two basic questions: (1) what, and (2) how. He provides a brief overview of western music over the last 1000 years, crediting the development of musical notation with facilitating “a dialogue between the two powerful sides of our nature: Instinct and intelligence,” and with allowing composers and musicians emote through music across time.
Tilson Thomas posits “what classical music does is to distill all of these musics [of everyday life] down, to condense them to their absolute essence, and from that essence create a new language — a language that speaks very lovingly and unflinchingly about who we are. It’s a language that’s still evolving.” But what happens to us when the music stops? What are we left with? How might that change our lives?
He concludes that even after the musical performance is over, we are still joined to the indescribable and intangible we have absorbed from it. We don’t need to be musically savvy — we need only to stay engaged.
I recommend this video for any fan of classical music!
~posted by Whit Martin-Whitaker, KMFA’s Saturday morning host
~posted by Phil Pollack, KMFA’s Technical Operations Manager
I thought some of y’all might be interested in seeing the view from the top of our STL (Studio to Transmitter Link) tower. These were taken earlier today by our very friendly tower inspector at a height of 40ft above the building roofline.
One is of campus/downtown…
…this one is the view from our rooftop , up North Lamar Blvd…
…and this one is the line-of-sight path our audio takes from the studio to the tower site.
Our tower is the second tall one from the right, and our main antenna is the big reddish stick on the top-right (it makes our tower look sorta lopsided).
~posted by Dianne Donovan, KMFA mid-day announcer
[Dianne Donovan had the honor of introducing Texas Choral Consort’s Concert, Sounding Joy -- Navidad Nuestra, last Saturday, December 1st. It was directed by Brent Baldwin, with soloists: tenor Soon-Chan Kwon, and soprano Kirsten Watson.]
TCC’s annual holiday concert felt like a warm hug to *this* listener. We have so many wonderful choral groups in Austin, but TCC is close to my heart because they feature an un-auditioned chorus of folks who just want to sing great music. That doesn’t mean that Artistic Director, Brent Baldwin selects the “greatest hits” that many of us have already sung in choir, quite to the contrary… In fact, the centerpiece, Navid Nuestra, by Ariel Ramírez, was relatively new, having been written in 1964. Add to that, two world-premieres by Austin-based composers, Donald Grantham and Russell Reed, and this was a concert wherein the audience would lean in, so as not to miss a thing.
Reed’s La Noche Oscura contained gorgeously haunting harmonies that would be a challenge for most choruses. TCC did a fine job of presenting the work. Grantham’s beautiful setting of Maria Walks Amid the Thorn was a feast for the ears. In Navida Nuestra, the chorus was joined by the fabulous tenor-about-town, Soon-Chan Kwon. I have promised to add this piece to my personal Christmas playlist.
TCC did perform some chestnuts (roasting on an open fire) of Christmas Carols, at which time Brent Baldwin asked the audience to sing along. These were place every so often within the concert program, which helped to give the whole program (lasting about an hour) a beautiful flow.
On a warm winter’s night, it really was a Sounding Joy and a warm hug.
Here are some brief video excerpts from a few of the pieces we enjoyed:
The audience sings along with “Angels We Have Heard on High”
A haunting excerpt from “La Noche Oscura”
This part is from “Maria Walks Amid the Thorn,” with Kirsten Watson soloing:
And a short glimpse of guest tenor Soon-Chan Kwon in “Navidad Nuestra”
~ posted by Alison @ KMFA
This year marks the 10th anniversary that Sara Hessel has been hosting/producing KMFA’s program, Ancient Voices. In honor of this landmark event, we’ll be celebrating the 10th anniversary of KMFA’s informative and entertaining radio program with a LIVE performance of the show, with musical performances by La Follia Austin Baroque, and of course with Sara Hessel hosting. The concert will feature exotic instruments of the Baroque, including the cornetto, sackbut, and fagotto. Sara will not only introduce the music, but interview the players. This will be recorded for future airing on Ancient Voices. The venue is the First Presbytarian Church in Northwest Austin, at 8pm. For more info, visit the La Follia website: www.lafollia.org
I got a sneak preview at her introductory speech for the event, and I thought it would be fun to share this glance down memory lane:
The date is Friday, May 3rd, 2002: A nervous, newly minted radio producer sat next to the speaker as Ancient Voices came on KMFA, 89.5 FM, and my fledgling hit the airwaves. The first show was called A British Banquet, and had Sarum chant on it, as well as pieces from the Eton Choirbook (and probably some Purcell!). I considered making the first show about my favorite composer, but decided that would be gauche. Besides, the anniversary of his death would be coming up the next week, so I waited somewhat patiently until then.
I had only been a part-time host at KMFA for a short time when the Program Director contacted me to ask if I would be interested in taking over the early music show. I didn’t hesitate long before saying yes! Hearing the Hilliard Ensemble sing Pérotin in Music History class was all it took for me to declare my love for early music. Oddly enough, those 12th century sounds came across to me as something entirely new and utterly fresh, and today medieval masses, motets, and courtly love songs remain some of my favorite repertoire.
When I told my Mom about becoming the new host of Ancient Voices, a weekly program, her question was “Won’t you run out of ideas?” and I enthusiastically declared that would never happen. For once, that did not turn out to be the bravado of the uninitiated! For one thing, I have about seven bountiful centuries of music from which to choose! Holidays, composer anniversaries, and new releases have saved me more than once when I was (temporarily!) at a loss for a program idea. But most of the time, one show builds from another. While researching one composer, I come across another, and tuck that idea away.
Another fun perk of producing an early music program is the opportunity to interview performers. Early music singers and instrumentalists are a pretty friendly bunch, and even top-tier performers have always granted my requests to interview them very graciously. From a purely personal standpoint, one of my favorites is the interview I conducted with Gustav Leonhardt in 2007. I was never so nervous to interview anyone in my life, mostly because of his status as an early music legend, not to mention one of my favorite organists. It turned out to be the shortest interview of my career, since Mr. Leonhardt was not altogether chatty, but he was an utter gentleman, and answered my questions with grace and a sense of humor.
I’m thankful every day for our thriving early music community here in Austin, especially for the singers and players who take notes and words on a page, add creative effort, knowledge, and passion, and create magic. Getting to work with our local groups and being a small part of the process that allows the voices of the past to be heard again inspires me every day. And I thank YOU, dear listeners, for allowing me to bring early music into your modern lives each week.
~ written by Sara Hessel, KMFA Music Director and Host/Producer of Ancient Voices
More about Sara Hessel:
Michigan native Sara Hessel earned her master’s degree in historical musicology from the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands in 1999. She has been employed as Music Director of KMFA, Classical 89.5 in Austin, Texas since 2005. As producer and host of KMFA’s Ancient Voices, she has interviewed numerous early music superstars, including Dame Emma Kirkby, Ton Koopman, Gustav Leonhardt, Jordi Savall and Anonymous 4. Ancient Voices was named a Critics Pick in the Austin Chronicle’s ‘Best of Austin’ issue in 2010. In 2011, she received a Gracie Award® from the Alliance for Women in Media for her program Michael Nyman: Motion and Emotion.
~ posted by Alison @ KMFA
Thanksgiving Day is one of our listeners’ favorite days to tune in… KMFA provides a wonderful backdrop for this festive holiday, whether it’s cooking in the kitchen or gathering friends and relatives ’round the dinner table.
In addition to programming lots of old favorites, like Shall We Gather at the River and We Gather Together, Dvorak’s American String Quartet, and Morton Gould’s Spirituals for Strings, you can expect little musical surprises sprinkled here and there throughout the day.
We’ll also be airing our traditional favorite, Giving Thanks with host John Birge, at 7pm on Wednesday and noon on Thursday (click the Play button to hear the short promo):
And if you’re an early riser, we’ll be offering a holiday program at 6am on Thursday, called Thanksgiving with Cantus:
Let KMFA provide the musical backdrop to whatever your Thanksgiving Day holds in store!