Frank Dominguez

Reflections on 9/11

by Frank Dominguez

None of us who experienced September 11th, 2001 will ever forget it. The 20th anniversary of the event this year brings the memories back with special force. Many reflections on this milepost will mention how the world changed that day. For my part, I think of it also as an event that defined in many respects the future direction of WDAV.

On that unimaginable morning, I happened to be on the tarmac at Charlotte-Douglas airport on a flight waiting to take off for Baltimore. I was a newly minted program director traveling to attend my first public radio conference in that capacity. The plane never left, of course. An announcement informed us that all flights were cancelled, and we were directed to leave the plane.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I was annoyed as I entered the skywalk back toward the terminal. Why should all flights be canceled because of an accident? I don’t believe the announcement specified what had happened, but somehow that was the impression I had formed.

It was only as I walked through the terminal, and saw the images on the television screens around which crowds with nowhere to go had gathered, that the unthinkable reality sunk in. When it finally had, I found a pay phone (remember those?) and called the radio station, fired up with the initiative of my newfound status as PD.

At the time, we carried NPR newscasts during the morning and afternoon commuting hours, and my idea was that we should increase them to hourly while the information regarding the events continued to come in. Fortunately for me, our general manager at the time, Kim Hodgson, had something more to suggest.

“I think we have to give some thought to the music,” he told me. I braced myself, expecting Kim to say that we should discontinue our classical music format temporarily to join the continuous NPR news coverage. On the contrary, what Kim proposed was that we adjust the music programming to the circumstances. “People are going to need a break from this horrifying coverage,” he said to me. “We need to give them something calming. It’s not the time for Offenbach’s Can-Can.” I will always be indebted to him for that sage advice.

Over the next week, we strived to provide an oasis from the devastating images with a mix of sacred classical selections as well as introspective pieces. As the days went by and our leaders urged us all to go on with our lives, we gradually shifted back to our usual, upbeat sound. Eventually, even Offenbach returned. But we had been changed.

We put off on air fundraising that autumn as late as we possibly could. When we finally began, we didn’t know what to expect. Instead of resentment or indifference, though, listener/donors responded with exceptional generosity. It seemed every contributor had a comment about how the classical music on WDAV helped them get through the most awful national catastrophe most of us had ever experienced.

While nothing that nightmarish has happened since then, the world has given us all too many shocks in the intervening years, not the least of them the pandemic we’re still living through. And even when things are relatively calm, individual listeners are always experiencing personal calamities, along with the mundane highs and lows that are part of life.

9/11 taught us what an important role classical music plays in the lives of our audience, and the profound responsibility WDAV has in sharing this music with them. That is a lesson that, like the day itself, we will never forget.

Pictured: Main image by © rabbit75_ist via

Summer Festivals Play On(line)

By Frank Dominguez

As the pandemic drags on in the Carolinas, the arts continue to feel the repercussions. Particularly hard hit are the regional summer music festivals that have been a haven of culture for both locals and vacationing visitors for many years. With customary creativity, these festivals have pivoted to present virtual programs in the spirit of the in person festivals.

Given how long WDAV has benefited from close partnerships with An Appalachian Summer Festival in Boone, the Eastern Music Festival in Greensboro, and the Brevard Music Center and Summer Festival in the western Blue Ridge Mountains, we feel an obligation to keep their presence front and center with our listeners.

Every Wednesday at 10 a.m. during the month of July, we feature a different classical music performance from An Appalachian Summer Festival, many of them featuring the acclaimed Broyhill Chamber Ensemble.

The Eastern Music Festival, helmed for decades now by the distinguished American conductor Gerard Schwarz, enjoys a similar showcase on WDAV Tuesdays and Saturdays at 10 a.m. beginning July 14th through the 28th. We’ll share concert highlights from the festival that have previously aired on our weekly concert program, Carolina Live.

Our strongest ties are with the Brevard Music Center, which shares Davidson College as a “parent” in common with WDAV. The college is where music professor James Christian Pfohl first hosted the summer music camp that eventually moved to Brevard in the 1940s. It has grown to be one of the premier music centers and festivals in the nation. For more than a decade, WDAV has produced a concert series drawn from festival performances. A retrospective of the best of Open Air Brevard is available on WDAV Saturday evenings at 6 through August 15th, as well as on demand at our website.

Information about the online offerings of all these festivals is available at the WDAV Events Calendar.

Spoleto at Home

Pictured: The St. Lawrence String Quartet plays Haydn’s “Emperor” quartet during the Bank of America Chamber Music series. Photo by William Struhs.

By Frank Dominguez

I didn’t travel to Europe for the first time until 2012, when I accompanied a group of WDAV supporters on a trip to Paris and Provence. Immersing myself in the history, food and culture of Europe was an experience that is still vivid in my mind.

Before that, I experienced that kind of euphoric heightening of the senses regularly without plane travel – in fact, just a few hours’ drive away – at the annual Spoleto Festival USA.

With Charleston, SC, providing the historic atmosphere and gourmet cuisine, the festival provided the cultural stimulation any arts lover covets, with a kaleidoscopic array of theater, dance and music of all types.

For me the highlight was always the incredible classical music, with performers from around the globe presenting chamber music concerts twice daily, rarely heard operas, and the types of orchestral programs that are simply not practical for our beloved regional orchestras to present most of the time.

The Spoleto Festival USA has been the site of some of the most intense memory making of my artistic life. So while the news of the festival’s cancellation this year because of the pandemic came as no surprise, it was nevertheless an intensely sad moment for me, and I expect for many of WDAV’s listeners who are also fans.

That’s why we’re bringing them highlights of past festival performances virtually, every Wednesday at 11 a.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. through June 6th, to coincide with what would have been the festival’s run this year.

And for die hard festival lovers, the news is even better, as Spoleto at Home offers free digital programming for audiences to enjoy in lieu of the 2020 season.

Until we can again contemplate the prospect of crowds in Charleston’s French Quarter, these offerings provide a wonderful way to keep alive the spirit of one of the nation’s most distinctive cultural events.

Remember to tune in to WDAV Wednesdays at 11 a.m. and Saturdays at 2 p.m. through June 6th to hear highlights of past festival performances. Broadcast from the Spoleto Festival are made possible by DaisleyLegal.

Keep Calm and Carry On

By Frank Dominguez, General Manager and Content Director

The current public health situation has affected us all, and WDAV isn’t immune – no pun intended… Okay, maybe a little bit intended; it helps to keep things light, right?

While the pandemic is no laughing matter, WDAV is committed to keeping our listeners calm so they can carry on. That’s why we significantly abbreviated our Spring Campaign. We realized that, with all the unusual circumstances and stresses everyone is encountering right now, the need for the respite that only classical music can provide is greater than ever.

Like all of you, we’re taking extraordinary measures to stay healthy, precisely so we can continue to serve you. Immediately after the early conclusion of our fundraiser, we sent the office staff home, with instructions to work remotely for as long as necessary. Since then we’ve been forwarding phone calls to personal cell phones, conducting meetings via Slack, and sending program logs and other documents to printers remotely.

Even the on-air staff is taking the steps necessary to work from home. As I write this, we’re training on newly acquired USB microphones and other gear that will let us host from makeshift studios where we live. While announcing in your jammies may sound like fun, working outside the studio is actually much more complicated and cumbersome than you might imagine. But we feel the extra effort is worth it. This is no time to deprive you of Your Classical Companions.            

Which brings me back to that interrupted fundraiser. While it was incredibly successful, and we stand by our decision to end early, we did fall short of our $235,000 goal by about $14,000. Since then many generous listeners have been going online to contribute, or sending renewal mailings back with their gifts enclosed, so we’re hopeful we’ll be able to close the gap. But if you haven’t yet made your contribution to WDAV, we hope you will now. You’ll be doing your part to assure that we can “carry on” with our mission to build community around classical music.

Music for the 50th Anniversary of the Moon Landing

When it comes to heavenly bodies, none has provided more musical inspiration than the moon. The most frequently celebrated element of the earth’s satellite is its light, an aspect captured by composers as diverse as Beethoven and Debussy.

Numerous selections evoke the calm of night, while others imagine fanciful travel to the moon, and the wonders that await there. The phases of the moon stir the musical imagination in some of these works, as do the places from where we see it.

Most striking about this list is the number of romantic songs, from opera arias and choruses, to lieder and vintage Americana. We’re pleased to offer this contemplative sampling to observe the anniversary of the adventurous lunar landing fifty years ago.

  1. Beethoven – “Moonlight” Sonata
  2. Daniel Elder – “Ballade to the Moon”
  3. Elgar – In Moonlight
  4. R. Strauss – Moonlight Music from “Capriccio”
  5. Otto Nicolai – Moon Chorus from “The Merry Wives of Windsor”
  6. Debussy – Claire de lune
  7. Stella Sung – Dance of the White Lotus under the Silver Moon
  8. Lu Wencheng – Autumn Moon on a Calm Lake
  9. Dvorak – “Song to the Moon,” from “Rusalka”
  10. Frank Bridge – “Moonlight,” from “The Sea”
  11. Offenbach – Overture from “Voyage to the Moon”
  12. Haydn – “What a Delightful World,” from “The World on the Moon”
  13. John Williams – “Over the Moon,” from “E.T.”
  14. Schubert – “An den Mond” (“To the Moon”)
  15. Joe Burke/Benny Davis – “Carolina Moon”
  16. Mili Balakirev – “The Crescent Moon”
  17. Richard Rodgers (arr. André Previn) – “Blue Moon”
  18. Eric Whitacre – “Goodnight Moon”
  19. J. Strauss, Jr. – “From Earth to Moon: Blue Danube Waltz,” from “2001: A Space Odyssey”
  20. Brahms – “The Moon Veils Its Face”
  21. William Walton – “Moonlight,” from “As You Like It”
  22. Nico Muhly – “Moondrunk,” from “Three Moon Songs”
  23. Alexandre Desplat – “New Moon,” from “The Twilight Trilogy”

WDAV’s Endless Summer of Classical Music Playlist

Classical music is ideal for enhancing the summertime state of mind. Many of the compositions in our Endless Summer of Classical Music playlist capture the gentle, lazy, dreamy nature of the season.

Others celebrate the sights, sounds and sensations of being out of doors at this special time of year. Ubiquitous summer thunderstorms featured in works by Vivaldi and Haydn, while other selections idealize the special character of summer nights.

Perhaps most evocatively, summer memories are stirred by works such as Barber’s “Knoxville: Summer of 1915,” as well as themes from some memorable film scores. Whether encountering this music on WDAV, or listening to this playlist, we hope you’ll be refreshed and inspired by the selection and the season.

  1. Mendelssohn: Scherzo from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
  2. Grieg: Lyric Piece No. 2, Op. 71 “Summer Evening”
  3. Delius: “Summer Night on the River”
  4. Vivaldi: “Summer” Violin Concerto from “The Four Seasons”
  5. Alfven: Swedish Rhapsody No. 1 “Midsummer Vigil”
  6. Samuel Barber: “Knoxville: Summer of 1915”
  7. Mark O’Connor: “Summer” Concerto from “The American Seasons”
  8. Copland: “Midsummer Nocturne”
  9. Michel Legrand: Theme from “The Summer of ‘42”
  10. Edward MacDowell: “Summer Idyll”
  11. Emile Waldteufel: “Summer Evening” Waltz
  12. Frank Bridge: “Summer”
  13. Gershwin: “Summertime” from “Porgy and Bess”
  14. Robert Muczynski: “Serenade for Summer”
  15. Dmitri Tiomkin: “The Green Leaves of Summer” from “The Alamo”
  16. Prokofiev: “A Summer Day”
  17. Arnold Bax: “Summer Music”
  18. Arthur Honegger: “Summer Pastorale”
  19. Samuel Barber: “Summer Music”
  20. Leroy Anderson: “Summer Skies”
  21. Max Steiner: Theme from “A Summer Place”
  22. Astor Piazzolla: “Verano Porteño” (“Buenos Aires Summer”) from “Four Seasons in Buenos Aires”
  23. Berlioz: Villanelle from “Le nuit d’ete” (“Summer Nights”)
  24. Tchaikovsky: “June: Barcarolle” from “The Seasons”
  25. Haydn: “Summer” from “The Seasons” Oratorio

Be sure to listen for these selections throughout the summer on WDAV or find our playlist on Spotify.

WDAV Dispatch from Spoleto: Reflections


Several of the people from the Spoleto Festival USA I’ve interviewed for this series have expressed the same idea: that attending these varied events in close proximity to each other gives you an enhanced appreciation for each event that you might not have otherwise. As the end of my latest visit to the festival draws near, I can heartily confirm that’s true.

Pianist Pedja Muzijevic plays one of the pianos in the Hamburg Steinway & Sons showrooms in Germany. Photo by Christina Czybik.

Pianist Pedja Muzijevic plays one of the pianos in the Hamburg Steinway & Sons showrooms in Germany. Photo by Christina Czybik.

Some of the concerts I’ve attended have distilled that concept to its most basic. For example, the Dialogues recital given by the brilliant pianist Pedja Muzejevich as part of the Music in Time series. He gave a performance at the Simons Center Recital Hall at the College of Charleston that juxtaposed the familiar language of Haydn piano sonatas with much more unusual works, such as John Cage’s Bacchanal for Prepared Piano, which at times makes the piano sound like a rhythmic machine, and in slower passages like an exotic Asian instrument. Having that type of sound experience gives you fresh perspective on how Haydn sounds now, and how his music might have sounded when it was first heard.

Other combinations aren’t as stark in contrast, but just as meaningful. My favorite was the coupling of two works for chorus and orchestra by Ralph Vaughan Williams in one part of a concert, with the Mozart Great Mass in the other. Comparing Mozart’s stately yet profound religious expression with the lush and rapturous writing of Vaughan Williams made the qualities of each composer’s work stand out all the more. Of course, I would have enjoyed that program in any event since it featured one of my all-time favorite pieces. The Serenade to Music by Vaughan Williams featured exquisite solo violin work by the uncredited concertmaster, as well as beautiful vocal solos from soprano Sherezade Panthaki and tenor Jamez McCorkle (who also stood out during this festival for his moving rendition of Lensky’s aria in Tchaikovsky’s opera Eugene Onegin).

Soprano Pureum Jo performs with the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra during Mahler 4 and Dreaming. Photo by William Struhs.

Soprano Pureum Jo performs with the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra during Mahler 4 and Dreaming. Photo by William Struhs.

The pairing of Mahler’s 4th Symphony with a contemporary orchestral piece was another concert program which worked wonderfully well. Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s atmospheric Dreaming (with its rumblings, chirps, groans, cracks and other sonic effects) brought to my mind images of great whales swimming in frozen seas, and majestic glaciers drifting in icy flows. Its introspective quality was offset nicely by the exuberant Mahler, which under John Kennedy’s direction was everything music by that composer can be. Imaginative, quirky, mercurial and sublime, the score frequently built to spine-tingling explosions of orchestral color perfectly modulated by the Spoleto Festival USA orchestra.

Franco Pomponi as Eugene Onegin and Natalia Pavlova as Tatyana Larina in Eugene Onegin at Spoleto Festival USA. Photo by Leigh Webber Photography.

Franco Pomponi as Eugene Onegin and Natalia Pavlova as Tatyana Larina in Eugene Onegin at Spoleto Festival USA. Photo by Leigh Webber Photography.

Similarly, the contrast between the three opera productions made each more memorable. After the mannered Baroque approach of Vivaldi’s Farnace, and the austere modernity of Quartett by Luca Francesconi, Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin seemed the pinnacle of lush Romanticism. It was also distinguished by the cinematic staging of director Chen Shi-Zheng, which used projected film of the striking soprano Natalia Pavlova (in close-up as well as silhouette) to take us into the inner life of her character, Tatyana.

Franco Pomponi as Eugene Onegin with cast in Eugene Onegin at Spoleto Festival USA. Photo by Leigh Webber Photography.

Franco Pomponi as Eugene Onegin with cast in Eugene Onegin at Spoleto Festival USA. Photo by Leigh Webber Photography.

I also admired the forest of stylized birch trees that formed the main feature of the set (though they did cramp the choreography a bit in the ball scene that features some of Tchaikovsky’s most familiar opera music, the famous waltz and polonaise from the score which have become concert staples). The staging of Lensky’s aria was stunningly beautiful yet simple: the stage stripped bare all the way back to the walls of the backstage area, with both real and projected snowflakes swirling against the black background conveying Lensky’s desolation as he awaits the duel which he may not survive.

amez McCorkle as Vladimir Lenski in Eugene Onegin at Spoleto Festival USA. Photo by Leigh Webber Photography.

Jamez McCorkle as Vladimir Lenski in Eugene Onegin at Spoleto Festival USA. Photo by Leigh Webber Photography.

Despite the embarrassment of artistic riches I’ve enjoyed over the past couple of weeks, there’s so much I didn’t have a chance to catch, so I guess a return visit for a future season is in order. After this experience, I certainly won’t hesitate to come back.

WDAV Dispatch from Spoleto: Chamber Music & Quartett

The Dock Street Theatre in Charleston is a remarkable venue. With its graceful exterior architecture, it matches the charm of the surrounding historic neighborhood. Its seating provides an intimate experience for audience members, and its brick courtyard is a pleasant space for refreshment during intermissions. But to me what’s most impressive about it is its versatility. During this season of the Spoleto Festival USA the Dock Street stage is the home of the Vivaldi opera Farnace and the Beckett play Waiting for Godot running in repertory, yet the theater also still houses the twice-daily performances of the justly celebrated Spoleto Chamber Music Series.

Dock Street Theatre in Charleston, SC.

Dock Street Theatre in Charleston, SC; photo by Julia Lynn Photography.

On the morning I attended a performance in the series the program featured a lilting Bach concerto, a contemplative multi-media world premiere for piano and video, and the emotionally raw Piano Trio in D Minor by Robert Schumann, all three works superbly performed. The distinguishing feature of all the events in the series is the charismatic, informal and insightful commentary of the series director, Geoff Nuttall. There’s also the wonderful vantage point provided by the house itself, which enables you to see the interaction between the musicians – and occasionally with the audience – in a way that’s simply not possible in most performance halls.

While the program I enjoyed won’t be performed again during this festival, there are many others planned with a wide range of music and performers. The concerts are given daily through June 11th at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. If you enjoy chamber music, you’re not likely to be disappointed attending any one of them.

My first experience with contemporary opera at Spoleto Festival USA was Kaija Saariaho’s Émelie in 2011, which I found moving and enthralling despite the unusual character of the music – or perhaps because of it. So I was open to a similar experience this season with Quartett, written the same year with music and libretto by Luca Francesconi. And there’s no faulting the skills of all of the technical and performing artists collaborating on this production, which was first staged at the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden, London. My qualms are with the story itself.

A scene from Quartett between Merteuil (Adrian Angelico) and Valmont (Christian Miedl). Photo © Leigh Webber Photography.

Adrian Angelico as Merteuil and Christian Miedl as Vicomte de Valmont in Quartett. Photo © Leigh Webber Photography.

Quartett is an adaptation of a 1980 play by Heiner Müller, which in turns takes as its source the novel which inspired the film Dangerous Liaisons. But in this opera we find no malevolently beautiful figures like Glenn Close and John Malkovich, no occasional moments of wicked humor as relief, no respite in the elegance of beautiful settings, costumes, or for that matter, music. Instead there is an apocalyptic landscape, represented by a narrow playing area for the singer/actors on metal grids downstage of the orchestra. Suspended over the stage are long, pale shreds of fabric on which are projected all manner of atmospheric lights and eerie animations. The only characters in the piece, the Marquise and Valmont, are clad in grimy underclothes and covered in dirt, as if they’ve survived some cataclysm.

The music is atonal and demanding, and the cliché would be to describe it as horror movie music, but that’s actually quite appropriate for a tale in which two human monsters battle to the death while role playing disturbing scenarios. Mezzo-soprano Adrian Angelico and baritone Christian Miedl are daring and virtuosic in the roles, which they inhabit fully. Angelico possesses a ferocious lower register but can still hit penetrating high notes, while his voice has a brassy burnish; Miedl also occasionally uses a “head voice” for falsetto passages to nightmarish effect. Their voices are amplified, not necessarily to compensate for the hanger-like space at Memminger Auditorium, but primarily because at points they are electronically distorted for dramatic effect. The singers are also featured in recorded sections with a larger orchestra and choir.

Quartett by Leigh Webber Photography

Scene from Quartett at Charleston’s Memminger Auditorium during Spoleto Festival USA. Photo © Leigh Webber Photography.

The live chamber orchestra on stage with the singers performs a tour de force of disorienting and unsettling effects, and under the direction of John Kennedy blends so seamlessly with the pre-recorded and electronically altered musical episodes that it’s nearly impossible to distinguish between the live and recorded music.

But ultimately it’s a bleak and unedifying story focused on depraved individuals detached from their own humanity. The composer seems to suggest in his program notes that this is an unfortunate aspect of our world that he wants the audience to reflect upon, but it’s hard to understand how witnessing this in operatic form provides any meaningful insight. Still, it’s gratifying to know that there is a place at Spoleto Festival USA for this type of challenging contemporary work, and there was clearly an appreciative audience for it at the performance I attended.