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Hallelujah Chorus Manuscript
Hallelujah Chorus Manuscript
(British Library)

The first performance of Handel’s oratorio Messiah was around Eastertide, but you’d never know it – in our time it’s become a Christmas season standard.

This December (2013), though, it’s not on the concert schedule for any of Northeast Ohio’s big-name ensembles – the Cleveland Orchestra, Apollo’s Fire, the Akron Symphony Orchestra, or the Canton Symphony.

But that’s OK. You’ll still have plenty of chances to hear it – or even sing it yourself – especially if you don’t mind doing a bit of traveling.

This upcoming Sunday (8 December) yields something close to a surfeit of Messiah programs, if that’s even possible! But if none of these half-dozen performances suits, you’ll still have a few more opportunities before the season passes.

That includes a rare chance to hear a performance that bills itself as the entire oratorio – all the choruses, all the arias, all the recitatives.

Why would this be so unusual? It’s a purely practical reason. By the AFM (American Federation of Musicians) definition, an orchestra service is 2 1/2 hours long with one 15-minute break*. An uncut Messiah performance can blast right past that, sometimes taking the better part of 3 hours.

I’ve seen conductors squeeze in every selection right under the wire by taking some very brisk tempi, but normally a complete Messiah means overtime for the orchestra – and that’s not usually in the budget. So, it’s standard practice to omit a few sections of the oratorio.

Although I’m sure I’ve missed some, here’s the Messiah concert list I’ve compiled, in order of performance date and time. Feel free to add any others you know about in the comments below.

Sunday 8 December, 2pm: Toledo Symphony. The orchestra joins with the Toledo Choral Society, BGSU choruses, and soloists Cheryl Babb, Katherine Calcamuggio, Richard Mathey, Shawn Mathey, and Kevin Foos. Peristyle Theater, 2445 Monroe Street, Toledo, 43604. Admission is $35 (419 246-8000 or online).

Sunday 8 December, 3pm: Tuscarawas Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus. First Baptist Church, 878 Commercial Ave SW, New Philadelphia, 44663. FREE Admission. Excerpts.

Sunday 8 December, 3pm: Galion Community Chorus with orchestra. First United Church of Christ, 248 Harding Way West, Galion.

Sunday 8 December, 4pm and 7pm: Warren Civic Chorus. Blessed Sacrament Church, 3020 Reeves Road, Warren 44483. Like public radio, it’s free, but your contribution will help them keep it going.

Sunday 8 December, 7pm: Messiah Chorus of Lake County. St Gabriel Church, 9925 Johnnycake Ridge Rd, Concord Township. Free (but they’ll pass the hat).

Sunday 8 December, 7pm: Orrville Community Chorus. Seventieth Annual Messiah Performance. Central Christian School, 3970 Kidron Rd, Kidron 44636. The chorus is accompanied by piano. Admission $5, free for students through 8th grade.

Friday 20 December, 8pm: Mansfield Symphony Orchestra & Chorus, with St Peter’s Traditional Choir, OSU-Mansfield Chorus and soloists. St Peter’s Catholic Church, 54 S Mulberry Street, Mansfield 44902 (419 522-2726). Thomas Hong conducts a real rarity – the complete Messiah. Suggested donation $15.

Saturday 21 December, 7:30pm; Sunday 22 December 2pm: Cincinnati Symphony, with May Festival Chorus. John Nelson conducts. The Saturday concert is an abbreviated ("family friendly") version at Hope Church, 4934 Western Row Rd, Mason 45040. Saturday’s concert is a more nearly complete reading at Cincinnati’s Music Hall, 1241 Elm St. Admission Saturday: adults, $25; kids, $12. Admission Sunday: $25-105. Ticket info at 513 381-3300 or online.

Sunday 22 December, 6:30pm: Dayton Philharmonic and Dayton Philharmonic Chamber Choir. Westminster Presbyterian Church, 125 N Wilkinson Street, Dayton 45402. Admission $14-28 (937 224-3521 or online).

Messiah Singalongs. If you really love Handel’s oratorio, there’s nothing like being in the middle of it! These performances give you the chance. If you know the music, or if you’re a good sight-reader, grab a score and join in. If you’d rather listen, you can just sit and soak up Handel’s glorious choral writing.

One is a couple of hours away: Columbus’s Promusica Chamber Orchestra is putting together a Messiah singalong on Friday 13 December at 7pm. Take your score! It’s at Southern Theatre, 21 East Main St, Columbus 43215. Admission is $20 (614 464-0066 or online).

On Sunday 15 December at 7:30pm, Credo Chamber Music will give you the opportunity to sing Hallelujah and more, and in Severance Hall’s Reinberger Chamber Hall to boot. Oberlin viola professor Peter Slowik will conduct, with soloists from Oberlin Conservatory. Admission is $15 (216 231-1111 or online). If you don’t own a score, another $5 gets you one to use for the evening.

If you’re free on Wednesday 18 December at 12:10pm, you can join in a long-standing Cleveland tradition – the annual "Messiah Sing" at Cleveland’s Trinity Cathedral. Music director Todd Wilson conducts Trinity’s justly famous chamber orchestra – and you – in Part 1 (the Nativity sequence), and then wraps up with the Hallelujah Chorus, which Handel placed at the end of Part 2 (the Easter sequence). This will be about an hour’s worth of music. Admission is FREE (say thanks to sponsor Mrs Robin Hitchcock Hatch). Even the parking is free.

Know of a Messiah performance that I’ve missed? Add it in the comments below!


*That’s also one reason that concerts have intermissions. Yes, Handel had intermissions in his oratorios, too. But that was because the singers demanded them. The poor orchestra players – and Handel himself – didn’t get a break. They were expected to keep the audience entertained while the singers did whatever they did to relax.

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Osmo Vanska
Osmo Vanska
(Minnesota Orchestra)

Last year at about this time, unable to reach a contract agreement with the Minnesota Orchestra’s musicians, the orchestra’s board took extraordinary measures: they locked out the players and cancelled the 2012-13 season.

As the 2013-14 season looms, the two sides are no closer to a resolution, making Minnesota’s the longest labor dispute in US orchestral history. With the upcoming season now in doubt, many music lovers fear for the Minnesota Orchestra’s future.

On Tuesday (1 October 2013), the musicians voted to reject the board’s fourth contract offer. The board promptly cancelled this Friday’s season-opening concert, and two Sibelius programs set for Carnegie Hall in November.

In 2003, noted Finnish conductor Osmo Vanska moved from Finland to the Twin Cities to take the helm of the Minnesota Orchestra. Over the last decade, Vanska has raised the orchestra’s status worldwide and has helped them win Grammy nominations for recordings of Beethoven and Sibelius.

"The Carnegie Hall project represents for me one of the most significant goals of my entire Minnesota Orchestra tenure," Vanska said in a letter to the orchestra’s board in April. He said he would resign if the Carnegie concerts were cancelled. Tuesday he made good on that vow, casting a still darker cloud over the orchestra’s future.

Last summer, former US Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell tried to mediate the dispute between the orchestra’s management and the musicians. He proposed a compromise which would have kept the music flowing while negotiations continued. However, the orchestra’s management rejected his proposal.

According to the musicians’ union, the board’s fourth contract offer Tuesday (1 October 2013) bypassed the mediation process altogether. Their proposal called for pay cuts spread over 3 years, from the former contract’s $135,000 to an average of $104,500. (Earlier proposals from the orchestra had included salary reductions of 30%.) The musicians said "No thanks."

In addition to the regular season and the Carnegie Hall concerts, Vanska and the Minnesota Orchestra were scheduled to record for the Swedish label BIS next spring. That’s now in doubt.

Orchestra Hall may be dark, but Minneapolis won’t be musically muted – at least not yet. The orchestra’s musicians will play their season opener as scheduled, this Friday and Saturday – but not at Orchestra Hall. They’ll perform at the University of Minnesota’s Ted Mann Concert Hall. Pianist Emanuel Ax will solo in Mozart and Beethoven, just as originally planned. Who will be at the podium? That’s not yet clear, but rumors point to Vanska as a strong possibility.

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September 15th through October 15th is Hispanic Heritage Month. It’s dedicated to folks with roots in Central and South America, the Caribbean, Mexico, and Spain. But it’s also a time for all of us in this great melting pot to celebrate who we collectively ALL are.

PBS Western Reserve Public Media (Channels 45/49) is airing a month long series. Latino Americans is six one-hour documentaries featuring interviews with nearly 100 Latinos – and more than 500 years of History. (See times and dates here.)

I. Foreigners in their Own Land (1565-1880)
II. Empire of Dreams (1880-1942)
III. War and Peace (1942-1954)
IV. The New Latinos (1946-1965)
V. Prejudice and Pride (1965-1980)
VI. Peril and Promise (1980-2000)

Uncounted musicians from Central and South America have transformed lives round the world through their artistry. Here are just a few:

Manuel Barrueco is a Cuban classical guitarist, born in 1952 in Santiago de Cuba. He has toured in the US, Europe and Japan, and serves on the faculty of Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, Maryland.
Manuel Barrueco
Manuel Barrueco (ML Films)
Carlos Bonilla
Carlos Bonilla
Carlos Galo Raúl Bonilla Chávez – better known as Carlos Bonilla – was born in Quito, on March 21, 1923 and died there on January 10, 2010. He was one of the pioneers of the Ecuadorian classical guitar and an important figure in 20th-century Ecuadorian music.
Juan Leovigildo Brouwer Mezquida was born March 1, 1939 in Havana. He is a Cuban composer, conductor, and guitarist. He usually goes by the name of Leo Brouwer.
Leo Brouwer
Leo Brouwer
(Wikimedia Commons)
Gustavo Dudamel
Gustavo Dudamel
(Music Education UK)
Gustavo Adolfo Dudamel Ramírez is a rising Venezuelan conductor and violinist. He is the music director of the Orquesta Sinfónica Simón Bolívar and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and honorary conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony.
Antonio Lauro (August 3, 1917 – April 18, 1986) was a Venezuelan musician, one of the foremost South American composers for the guitar in the 20th century.
Antonio Lauro
Antonio Lauro
(WVPM)
Tania Leon
Tania Leon
(Wikimedia Commons)
Tania León (born May 14, 1943 in Havana) is a composer, conductor, educator and advisor to arts organizations. She has been profiled on ABC, CBS, CNN, PBS, Univision, and Telemundo. She’s also been the subject of independent films.

— Sylvia Docking

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Leonard Bernstein
(Wikimedia Commons)

For all the years that I’ve been doing classical radio (and it’s been a few), I’ve pushed back against this idea that somehow only folks with music degrees can Truly Appreciate classical music. It just isn’t so. At the same time, I have to say that music is like almost anything worthwhile – say, baseball or ballet – in that the more you understand about it, the more you love it.

So, about 6 months ago, I wrote about a few ways to build up your music chops. As I suggested then, one of the most enjoyable ways is through Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts. These were – and are – not just for kids!

Bernstein’s YPCs were originally broadcast on CBS television from 1958 to 1972. Stop and think about that for a second. We’re talking classical concerts – with music education, no less! – on prime-time commercial television. Let that sink in, and ask yourself where you might find the equivalent today. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Back to Bernstein. Over the years of YPCs, he answered the kind of questions that make a real difference in understanding music, for people of all ages: What does music "mean"? What makes music symphonic? What’s a melody? What’s a mode? What’s sonata form?

When last I wrote about the Young People’s Concerts, some were available on DVDs – but only about half of them. It wasn’t at all clear what had happened to the rest, or whether we’d ever get to see them again.

Many of these programs are over a half-century old. It’s apparently taken some sleuthing to locate them. (I can understand that. I’d rather not discuss the state of my own personal audio archive, and it’s not 50 years old – yet.)

There are technical considerations, too. These programs were produced for the 1960s, when a 23 inch screen was as much as anyone needed for the living room. With today’s 6-foot wall mounted screens, viewers are more demanding than they used to be. The programs are no doubt suffering a little middle-age physical deterioration, too (aren’t we all). Thus they’ve had to undergo some digital alchemy in an effort to reverse some of that aging process, and bring them as close as possible to modern video standards.

I’ve just learned that the folks at Kultur, who brought out the earlier YPC set almost a decade ago, have finally finished rounding up and polishing the programs for a second volume. They say that they’ve now located and restored all the original YPC episodes. The second volume comprises 27 hours on 9 DVDs, bringing the total to a whopping 52 hours. List price for the second volume is $150. The new set will be released in about 7 weeks’ time (19 November 2013).

Further Exploration:

Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts, Volume 1 at Arkivmusic

Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts, Volume 2 (pre-release) at CD Universe

Leonard Bernstein’s The Unanswered Question (Harvard Lectures) at HB Direct


Disclaimer: WKSU receives no financial advantage from your use of any for-profit vendor(s) cited in this message. Recordings are available from a variety of sources, both local and online. Links are provided for your information and convenience. They don’t signify an endorsement.

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Radio Silence
(Gnokii / openclipart.org)

(Pssst. This way. Over here. That’s it.)

Our daytime classical music hasn’t gone away – it’s just moved to a different neighborhood. We’re now on the digital side of town. But that doesn’t mean you have to be a computer expert to listen. Let’s see how.

First up: HD radio.

For about the last decade, American radio has been cautiously dipping its toes into the digital stream (so to speak). We’re not like television, belly-smacking the icy digital lake and leaving the analog laggards unplugged on the beach. None of that for us; Grandma’s Atwater Kent still picks up stations, thank you very much, and I don’t see that ending any time soon.

The downside of that strategy is that because you don’t have to get a digital radio, chances are pretty good that you haven’t yet. Right now, digital radio is in about the same state that FM was in, say, 1964.

Make no mistake about it, though; digital radio is here. The FCC approved it over a decade ago. In July of 2008, WKSU signed on with a digital transmitter. By the following summer, all of our stations except the Ashland repeater were broadcasting digitally.

Generically, our digital system is called In-Band On-Channel (IBOC) digital radio. HD Radio is a type of IBOC, but the two terms might as well be interchangeable – so far HD is the only IBOC flavor that’s made the scene. (That’s probably a good thing. Remember the Betamax and VHS wars?)

HD Radio is a proprietary system from Ibiquity Digital Corporation. If you’re interested in the details, you can read more about HD radio here in Wikipedia.

This isn’t television, and the letters "HD," Ibiquity reminds us, don’t mean "high definition." What do they mean? Ibiqity isn’t saying. However, I like to think of HD as meaning "hidden digital," because hidden inside WKSU’s radio signal are four extra digital signals. One of those signals plays classical music 24 hours a day. Another is 24-hour folk music, and one is 24-hour news and information. The last one is a digital version of what you hear on an ordinary analog radio.

If you’re just after WKSU’s classical music, an HD radio receiving that 24-hour classical signal is hands down the easiest way to get it, and possibly the most economical. A few HD radios sell for $50, a couple for even less than that. Unlike satellite radio, you don’t need a subscription, and there are no ongoing fees.

If you have a high-end component audio or home theatre system, you may want to consider an HD radio tuner.

I’ve seen one very inexpensive model – well under $100 – but can’t recommend it. The good stuff is assuredly not under $100. HD tuners are aimed at audiophiles, with price tags to match. A Denon TU-604ci with an HD radio card will run you between $800 and $1300, depending on how sharp your bargain-fu is this week. The Macintosh MR88 is, well, the Mac of HD radio component tuners, with a price about what you’d expect for a Mac.

If you don’t mind used gear, you might look for a Sony XDR-F1HD. They’re no longer made and have a strong audiophile following – strong enough that used ones now sell for 2-3 times what they cost new! Another discontinued HD radio tuner to watch for on Craigslist and Ebay is the Sangean HDT-1X.

Given the cost and availability of component HD radio tuners, I recommend that you think about an Internet radio tuner instead. We’ll talk about that a bit more later.

What if you want to listen in your car? In the last few years, the major automakers have been gradually adding HD radios to their lines. They’re starting with the most expensive and sophisticated cars and working down the range, which is the way they handled FM radio vs AM radio about 4 decades ago. But it’s a pretty good bet that the next car you buy will have an HD radio.

If you don’t want to wait, you can get an HD radio installed in place of your factory car radio. See below for some Yelp reviews of Akron-area car audio installers.

Something new has shown up on my radar recently – a HD radio adapter for the factory radios in many cars. I have to admit I don’t know how well these work, so if you try one, please post a comment below.

They remind me a little of the FM adapter I had for my ’65 Dodge Dart (yes, I actually drove one, back in the day). However, these don’t hang under the instrument panel like the FM adapters did. According to the manufacturer, your car looks the same, but the radio gives you HD radio reception. The cost depends on what car you have, but typically it’s around $200 plus installation.

You can also add one of our apps to your smartphone or tablet (see below), and plug it into your car’s auxiliary audio input jack. Our IT folks and engineers can walk you through the process, and help you get the proper cable. Just call us during business hours at 800 672-2132.

Another answer is to plug a portable HD radio into that same auxiliary jack. How well this works will probably depend on how close you are to our transmitters. Make sure you can return the radio if it doesn’t work for you.

How’s digital radio sound? Great! You’ll sometimes see it advertised as "CD quality." I don’t agree with that, but if you’re OK with YouTube sound, you’ll probably be OK with digital radio. Now and then choral voices and applause can sound a bit watery, but – glory be! – the hiss and crackle of analog radio are gone.

However, as with any appliance, you’ll want to make sure you get an HD radio that suits your needs. Although WKSU’s digital signal covers about 90% of the area our analog signal reaches, you may find you’re not too happy with a $50 set if you’re at the outer edges of that region. A digital radio that can’t get a strong enough signal will revert to ordinary analog reception. That means no classical channel, so what’s the point?

Before you lay down your cash, read the online reviews, and make sure you can return the set for a different model if it doesn’t work for you.

You might also want to consider a few other options.

If your home or office has wireless internet (WiFi), check out Internet radios. For about the same price as an HD radio, or maybe a bit more, you get a compact box that sits on your desk or counter, and reaches out to your WiFi access point or router. Unlike an HD radio, it doesn’t matter whether your Internet radio is 5 miles from our transmitter or 5000. Anywhere you have Internet service – even halfway round the world – you can have WKSU’s 24-hour classical music.

If you already have an audio or theatre system, you might want an Internet tuner instead. They don’t have built-in amplifiers or speakers, so you have to plug them into your existing system. They look like an HD radio tuner, but cost way less, and they’re available in a wider variety of models and prices. Most will work with WiFi Internet, or can be plugged into an Ethernet port. Sangean and Grace are two brands, but there are others.

An Internet radio or tuner has one somewhat fiddly requirement, which applies only if you use WiFi for it: you’ll probably have to enter your WiFi password to get it working. That usually means a couple of minutes to find it in your files, and a couple more to press the keypad or turn the knob. You’ll only have to do this once, though. And radios and tuners that connect to the net via Ethernet don’t need passwords at all.

Like most media gadgets these days, Internet radios are really single-purpose computers. (You could argue that, these days, that’s also true of almost everything, from cars to heating systems.) You can listen to WKSU’s 24 hour classical music on the computer you already have. So why would you want to buy an HD radio or Internet radio?

It depends on how and where you listen, and what kind of sound satisfies you. Let’s face it, the teeny-tiny-tinny speakers in the average laptop, netbook, or tablet probably aren’t quite what Franz Welser-Moest has in mind for his orchestra’s sound. That’s no problem if you’re listening on good headphones, but if you don’t want to be tethered to your computer – or if you want to share the music – the bigger speakers in an HD radio or Internet radio are probably going to make you happier.

You could add a better set of speakers to your computer, of course. Good quality speakers can make our mp3 and AAC streams sound remarkably clear. Of course, if you’re using a portable device – laptop, netbook, or tablet – it becomes rather less portable with wires and extra boxes hung on it.

And it’s hard to beat the little hand-held gadgets for convenience. If you want to go that route, with or without added speakers, we have apps for Android and Apple smartphones and tablets. More on these here.

Bottom line: our daytime classical music may be missing from your old analog radio, but it’s not gone. It’s just in those Hidden Digital signals. Check the links below for some ideas on HD and Internet radios that can uncover it.

Explore more:

HD Radio Reviews from CNET
HD Radio Reviews from HD Radio Home
Car HD Radio Reviews from CNET
Internet Radio Reviews from CNET
Internet Radio Reviews from Good Housekeeping
Mobile Device Apps from WKSU
Custom Auto Audio Installers in the Akron area from Yelp.com
HD Radio Adapters for Factory Car Radios from Axxess*

*Please note: I have no direct experience with these adapters and thus can’t endorse them. If you try one, please let us know how well it works for you.

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