WDAV Blog

4 Striking Musical Touches at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics

by Lorelei Lin

The Paralympics are finally here, with more athletes competing than ever before

The games launched along with a campaign titled “We the 15,” a human rights movement to end discrimination against the 15% of people worldwide living with disabilities. While the Paralympics are underway in Tokyo, we’ve collected some brilliant musical moments from the Games to share with you. The Paralympics run until September 5th, so tune in to catch some gripping competition and sportsmanship!


  1. Violinist and Paralympian swimmer Manami Ito performs at the Opening Ceremony.

Two-time Paralympian swimmer Manami Ito was studying to become a nurse when her arm was amputated in 2004. Now, in addition to becoming Japan’s first nurse to use a prosthetic arm, she pursues her love of music by playing the violin! Ito deftly wields a custom bow using her shoulder. She has appeared on television programs worldwide and delivered a moving performance at this year’s Opening Ceremony.

Video: Violinist Manami Ito performs at Opening Ceremony | Tokyo 2020 Paralympics | NBC Sports

  1. Japanese and Irish folk music traditions merge in the Irish Paralympic team’s commemorative music.

Composers Donal Lunny, an Irish folk music legend, and Hiro Hayashida of Japan, a pioneer in the Taiko drumming field, collaborated on music for the Irish Paralympic team. Featuring elements of traditional music from both cultures, the music premiered at a “ParaBeats” concert held in Narita, Japan back in February. The event, featured below, includes the commemorative composition as well as other remarkable performances from disabled musicians.

Video: 成田市×アイルランド 共生社会応援プロジェクト PARA Beats! 勇気を奏でよう (Full version)

  1. The composer behind the champion British dressage team’s music shares behind the scenes details.

Great Britain swept dressage once again, maintaining their winning streak stretching from the introduction of para dressage in 1996. The team’s four riders each competed in three events to win the team gold: the team test, the individual championship, and the freestyle test, which is performed to music. In the podcast linked below, BBC’s Hilary Dunn interviews Tom Hunt, the composer who wrote music for Natasha Baker and Laurentia Tan’s freestyle routines!

Audio: Tom Hunt: Dressage music for the Tokyo Paralympics

  1. Paralympian, artist, educator, and activist Leroy Moore comes full circle.

After cycling for team USA at the 1988 Seoul Paralympics, Leroy Moore left athletics behind to focus on the arts. The poet, writer, and filmmaker went on to co-found several disability rights organizations including Krip-Hop Nation, a “worldwide association of artists with disabilities.” Moore’s journey came full circle as musicians from Krip-Hop nation were tapped to perform the title track of the 2020 Netflix Paralympic documentary “Rising Phoenix.” 

Video: Rising Phoenix | Official Title Track for the Netflix Documentary | Paralympic Games

Pictured at top: Sareh Javanmardi from Iran, gold medalist, Aysegul Pehlivanlar from Turkey, silver medalist, and Krisztina David from Hungary, bronze medalist in P2 – Women’s 10m Air Pistol SH1 at the Asaka Shooting Range during the Paralympic Games on August 31. Photo by @Hiroki Nishioka / WPPO

2020 Tokyo Olympics: Classical Moments We Loved

by Lorelei Lin

After a year of delay, the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games were everything we waited for and more. Team USA led both the gold and overall medal count, and we were able to witness the Olympic premiere of several sports including skateboarding, karate, surfing, and sport climbing. Now that the Olympics have ended, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite musical moments from this year’s Games to share with you.


Video game soundtracks surprised fans during the parade of nations.

The Opening Ceremony set classical music fans and gaming communities abuzz with the inclusion of video game soundtracks. Orchestral arrangements of music from role-playing games including Kingdom Hearts, the Final Fantasy series, and Sonic the Hedgehog highlighted Japanese contributions to video game history while providing a nostalgic and uplifting backdrop to the flag bearing procession.


The Opening Ceremony was full of other musical moments.

Ravel’s Boléro played as athletes relayed the Olympic torch and Japanese-Haitian tennis star Naomi Osaka lit the Olympic Cauldron.

The ceremony was somber, commemorating the harsh toll COVID-19 has taken internationally. An original piece of vocal music called “The Anthem,” arranged by Japanese composer Shirō Sagisu, accompanied the raising of the Japanese flag. (Fun fact: Sagisu also scored the popular ‘90s anime Neon Genesis Evangelion.)


The 100+ year old Olympic Hymn sounds again.

The Olympic Hymn marked the official start of the Games. Written by opera composer Spyridon Samaras with lyrics by Kostis Palamas, this choral cantata was performed at the first-ever modern Summer Olympics, held in Athens in 1896. The Hymn has been played at every Games since, often translated into the host country’s language.


This year, Tchaikovsky plays in place of the Russian National Anthem.

Though the World Anti-Doping Agency banned Russia from participating in international sports competitions for four years in 2019, athletes from Russia are permitted to compete for the “Russian Olympic Committee (ROC)” at this year’s Olympic Games. Because of the ban, instead of hearing the Russian national anthem whenever a Russian athlete wins gold, we hear Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1!


Champion swimmer Katie Ledecky has a musical side.

Katie Ledecky, the highly decorated 24 year-old swimmer who took home 4 more medals at this year’s Olympics (including gold in the inaugural women’s 1500m freestyle), has dabbled in music. She started playing piano around age 8 or 9, but quit taking lessons in 8th grade to focus on swimming. Before graduating from Stanford University, Katie joined the marching band for a day on alto sax, attending field rehearsal and a football game. When asked why, she answered, “Because I wanted to!”


Oldest living gymnastics gold medalist Agnes Keleti was also a professional cellist.

Agnes Keleti has lived an incredible century. The Hungarian-Israeli and Jewish gymnast won her first national title at 16, but was forced to miss the 1940s Tokyo Olympics and used a fake ID to survive the Holocaust. She competed in her first Olympics at age 31 and accumulated 10 medals in just two Games. If that’s not amazing enough, she also worked professionally as a cellist after World War II.


Gymnast Jordan Chiles competes to superhero-inspired film music.

In the artistic gymnastics floor event, athletes combine superhuman flips with dance choreography as they tumble across a mat to music. The music lasts about 90 seconds and cannot have lyrics, so many athletes opt for classical pieces or movie soundtracks. Team USA gymnast Jordan Chiles is known for choosing heroic film music for her routines. Her Olympic performance featured the Spiderman theme.

To hear more classical pieces used in competition, look out for rhythmic gymnastics on August 6th and 7th.


Rhythmic Gymnastics puts classical music in the spotlight.

In astonishing feats of artistry and flexibility, rhythmic gymnasts perform choreographed individual and group routines to music while simultaneously handling one of 4 “apparatuses”: ball, hoop, clubs, or ribbon. The music ranges from Beyoncé’s “Run the World (Girls),” which accompanied individual all-around gold medalist Linoy Ashram’s clubs routine, to classical pieces. Watch the Russian Olympic Committee’s Averina twins deliver a stunning ribbon performance to Yasmin Levy’s “TANGO Presentation” and Pablo de Sarasate’s “Carmen Fantasy, Op. 25.”


Folk music creates unique spectacles in Artistic Swimming.

In this event that pairs choreography with music, swimmers perform incredible feats of synchronization—while suspending themselves mid-water! Artistic swimmers compete in duets and groups, performing a shorter technical routine and a longer free routine, with soundtracks ranging from custom dubstep mixes to traditional music. Watch the People’s Republic of China team swim their free routine to theatrical folk music in this video.


Tomotaka Okamoto performs a dramatic Olympic Anthem.

The Olympics Closing Ceremony celebrated athletes with another round of stunning musical performances. One featured performer was Tomotaka Okamoto, a sopranist, or male singer who sings in the soprano vocal range. Not only does his voice turn heads, his striking outfit and makeup do too.


The taiko drum booms throughout the Olympic stadium.

The Closing Ceremony featured a solo performance on taiko drum, a traditional Japanese instrument with roots dating back to the fifth or sixth century CE. It has historically been used in multiple contexts, including for military, religious, theatrical, and imperial court purposes. In modern times, kumi-daiko, the art of performing taiko in ensembles, has become popular worldwide.


Paris 2024: Chloé Dufresne conducts the French National Orchestra to music by Woodkid.

Renowned French conductor Chloé Dufresne led the French National Orchestra in recording pieces for the Paris 2024 preview. She conducted a piece by French singer-songwriter and music video director Yoann Lemoine, known as Woodkid.


A saxophone send-off… in space?!

During the Closing Ceremony, French astronaut Thomas Pesquet performed the French national anthem on saxophone… while aboard the International Space Station! He also teamed up with Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide in a mini ceremony to pass the Olympic torch from Japan to France.

We’re looking forward to Paris 2024. In the meantime, the Tokyo Paralympics begin on August 24th, and the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics are less than 6 months away.


   

Soak in the Sun with WDAV’s “Days of Summer” Playlist

Start pouring the lemonade – this is your sign to slow down and savor the best of summer! Following the course of a perfect summer day, this classical playlist captures the season’s simplest and most blissful moments: an early riser’s view at daybreak, a leisurely afternoon in the sun, a picturesque evening on the water, and a night sky filled with stars.

  1. The Fisherman’s Song (Yi Chen)
  2. Daphnis And Chloe, Suite No. 2: Daybreak (Maurice Ravel)
  3. Dichterliebe, Op. 48: 12. Am leuchtenden Sommermorgen (Robert Schumann)
  4. The Seasons, Op. 37a: VII. July. Song of the Reaper (Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky)
  5. The Seasons: IV. Summer (Thea Musgrave)
  6. Dances in the Canebreaks (Arr. W.G. Still for Orchestra): No. 2, Tropical Noon (Florence Price)
  7. Letniy den (Summer Day), Op. 65bis: III. Waltz (Sergei Prokofiev)
  8. Crosswinds: 1. Blue Ridges, Dappled Sunlight, Mountain Waltz (Margaret Brouwer)
  9. 5 Songs of Sun and Shade: No. 1, You Lay So Still in the Sunshine (Samuel Coleridge-Taylor)
  10. Summer Song (Miguel del Águila)
  11. Kesailta (Summer evening), Op. 1 (Oskar Merikanto)
  12. Pres de la mer, Op. 52: No. 4. Allegro moderato (Anton Arensky)
  13. Summer Night on the River (Frederick Delius)
  14. Beau Soir, L. 6 (Claude Debussy)
  15. The Daisy-Chain: Stars (Liza Lehmann)
  16. Summerland (William Grant Still)
   

You can listen to these selections on our Days of Summer playlist on Spotify.

   

WDAV Host Joe Brant to Retire, Shares Reflections on Career

After twenty-two years, Joe Brant will bid farewell to the WDAV airwaves as a fulltime WDAV announcer. He will retire at the end of the month with his final live broadcast on Wednesday, June 30th. We asked Joe to reflect on his decades long career in public media.

What will you miss the most about announcing classical music?

Being a portal. A host invites people to be a part of the rich world of classical music. Being able to share the music in that world and to touch people with the music has been very gratifying.

What radio stations have you worked at during your career?

I started in 1976 at a small rural station in Galion, Ohio. It was housed in a double wide trailer!

In late 1977, I moved up the road to a station in Mansfield, Ohio. In 1978, I moved back to my native Michigan and got my first job at a public station: WCMU at Central Michigan University in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. I’ve worked at public stations ever since. I traveled to Concord, New Hampshire in 1985 to be the Program Director at WEVO. In late 1985, I made my way to Charlotte where I’ve been ever since.

I was Classical Music Director and then Operations Manager at WFAE until 1998, doing a daily air shift the whole time. WFAE went through many changes during my time there. I worked part time at WDAV starting in 1998 before going full time in July 1999.

Have you ever had an embarrassing moment on the air that you can laugh about now?

Unfortunately, yes. A few years ago, I uttered a certain expletive without realizing my microphone was on! Will Keible came to the control room with a look of stunned disbelief on his face. I can’t even remember the circumstances now. I think we got one comment about it and that listener understood.

Is there a single moment in your career that stands out to you?

Yes, and it’s not entirely positive. My time at WEVO in 1985 was a continual struggle with a demanding job, a job I came to realize I wasn’t prepared for. I learned a hard lesson about my abilities. But leaving New Hampshire led me to Charlotte where I’ve been for almost 36 years.

I met my wife here and I’ve worked and grown at two great radio stations. I think it was meant to be.

Which composer’s music do you enjoy the most?

That would be Mozart. He maintained a stunning level of creativity in all the musical genres over a short life. I like to think his elegant melding of form and content is still a model for composers today.

We heard you’re going on a trip. Tell us about it.

We purchased a travel trailer last August and have taken several short trips. But soon we’ll be heading west. Stops are planned at Mt. Rushmore and the Badlands, the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone National Park, and a few stops in Colorado.

Any parting words for WDAV listeners?

You’ve been very supportive of the WDAV mission and my appreciation for that is unbounded.

WDAV is one of the top classical music stations in the country for many reasons. Financial support from listeners is one of those reasons. Whenever we ask, you always respond with a loud “Yes!” It’s been my honor and pleasure to spend time with you, sharing this musical heritage.

5 LGBTQ+ Classical Artists to Celebrate This Pride Month

by Lorelei Lin

Although many LGBTQ+ artists have gained deserved visibility in pop culture today, contributions by members of the LGBTQ+ community to the development of classical music are often overlooked. This Pride Month, we’re spotlighting LGBTQ+ composers and performers across the classical canon (and you’re sure to find a new addition to your playlist).

Why is Pride Month celebrated in June? Distinct from LGBTQ+ History Month, which occurs in October, Pride Month in the United States commemorates the Stonewall Uprising in June and early July of 1969. This series of riots in response to the violent New York City police raid of the Stonewall Inn was a catalyst for the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement. Parades and memorials throughout Pride Month honor the ongoing struggle for LGBTQ+ rights and celebrate the joy of love in all forms.


Francis Poulenc (1899–1963)

Born to a devout Catholic father from southern France and a cosmopolitan, musician Parisian mother, Francis Poulenc’s music mirrored his multifaceted family background. The self-taught composer and accomplished pianist wrote across mediums and genres, including the critically acclaimed opera Dialogues des Carmélites. His pieces spanned Parisian ballroom ditties to somber sacred music, which earned him widespread popularity and a successful international career.  

Video: Poulenc’s 15 Improvisations, composed between 1932 and 1959.

Wendy Carlos (b. 1939)

Visionary composer Wendy Carlos dramatically expanded the horizons of classical and film music through her pioneering work with synthesizers in the 1970s. Her GRAMMY-winning album Switched on Bach remixed classical music with Moog synthesizers and was the first classical album to sell over five hundred thousand copies, while her score for the film A Clockwork Orange was lauded as “a giant step past the banalities of most contemporary film tracks.” She also composed scores for the films TRON (1982) and The Shining (1980). Carlos’ works show the essential impact that LGBTQ+ communities have had on contemporary arts and culture.

Video: The Thieving Magpie (Abridged) from A Clockwork Orange soundtrack, composed by Wendy Carlos.

Julius Eastman (1940–1990)

Despite his stature in the New York music scene and forward-thinking work in classical minimalism, composer and performer Julius Eastman’s work remained scattered and obscure after his death until the mid-2000s. A talented pianist who thrived in the emerging 1970s Buffalo music scene, Eastman mixed genres and experimented with techniques that would become popular fifteen years after he explored them. His work layered eclectic sounds in arrangements ranging from elegant to furious, carrying titles like “Gay Guerilla” and “If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich?” These statements allowed Eastman to both challenge his listeners and fully be himself: in his own words, “Black to the fullest, a musician to the fullest, a homosexual to the fullest.”

Video: ”Stay On It” composed by Julius Eastman — Performed As A Tribute to Essential Workers 

Tona Brown (b. 1979)

Trailblazer Tona Brown has a breadth of talents, having performed internationally as a violinist, mezzo-soprano vocalist, and actress, with career highlights including a performance of the National Anthem for President Barack Obama in 2011. On June 25, 2014, Brown made history by becoming the first openly transgender African-American musician to perform at Carnegie Hall. Her crowdfunded concert, titled “From Stonewall to Carnegie Hall,” raised awareness for transgender issues through music and speech.

Video: “From Stonewall to Carnegie Hall” featured Ride On King Jesus, a track from Brown’s 2012 album This Is Who I Am.

Jaime Eposito and Stephen Hall (Spectrum Ensemble)

While performing internationally in ensembles including the International Lyric Academy and Britten-Pears Festival Orchestra, nonbinary marimbist Jaime Eposito noticed the distinct lack of LGBTQ+ representation in classical music. Driven to create a space of queer belonging, Jaime co-founded the Spectrum Ensemble with their college classmate Stephen Hall, another percussionist and activist. Based in Dallas, Texas, the Spectrum Ensemble commissions and performs works by queer composers while donating profits to LGBTQ+ advocacy organizations. To explore more works by LGBTQ+ composers, check out their recorded concerts!

Video: The Spectrum Ensemble performs Kevin Rosacia’s Golden Gate.

Carolina Summer Festivals: Live and In-Person

Updated July 15, 2021.

Though virtual offerings have been a sustaining force for music lovers over the past year, there’s something about enjoying a symphony in the fresh mountain air that screens can’t replace. Luckily, more and more beloved Carolina festivals have announced plans to safely return to in-person performances as summertime approaches. With countless opportunities to hear live classical music just a day trip away from Charlotte, where will this summer take you?


St. Lawrence String Quartet during the Bank of America Chamber Music series in 2019. Photo by William Struhs.
St. Lawrence String Quartet during the Bank of America Chamber Music series in 2019. Photo by William Struhs.

Spoleto Festival USA  |  May 27 – June 13

Location: Charleston, SC   |   spoletousa.org

There’s a reason Spoleto Festival USA is recognized as America’s premier performing arts festival. For 17 densely packed days, Charleston, SC explodes with music, theatre, and dance from a vast variety of genres and styles. As Spoleto embraces a hybrid approach, parts of this year’s festival remain virtual, while many in-person performances will be held in outdoor venues. Two Wings: The Music of Black America in Migration and intimate chamber concerts are among the season’s classical music offerings.

Find Tickets Here


Eastern Music Festival  |  June 26 – July 31

Eastern Music Festival (EMF) Young Artist Orchestra overhead with Jose Luis Novo 2018. Photo by Ken Yanagisawa for EMF.
Eastern Music Festival (EMF) Young Artist Orchestra overhead with Jose Luis Novo 2018. Photo by Ken Yanagisawa for EMF.

Location: Greensboro, NC   |   easternmusicfestival.org

Greensboro’s Eastern Music Festival (EMF), a nationally recognized classical music festival and summer educational program, celebrates its 60th season this year with a return to in-person concerts. At EMF, accomplished faculty and renowned visiting artists guide 265+ student musicians each summer as they work toward careers in classical music. Though the festival’s calendar of events and student count have been reduced this season to maintain safety, classical music lovers can choose from over 35 exciting concerts, including Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and Eastern Festival Orchestra performances each Saturday evening.

Find Tickets Here


An Appalachian Summer Festival  |  July 2 – 31

Location: Boone, NC   |   appsummer.org

Now in its 37th season, Boone’s An Appalachian Summer Festival brings the best of music, dance, theatre, visual arts, and film to the Appalachian State University campus every summer. This year, the festival will present a mixture of virtual and in-person, COVID-compliant programming, with live programs rotating between two outdoor venues. Attendees can look forward to a stacked lineup of events for all tastes, including evenings with Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, the Tesla Quartet, Alan Cumming & Ari Shapiro, and more. 

Find Tickets Here


Brevard Music Center Summer Festival  |  July 9 – August 8

Brevard Music Center Students at a Waterfall. Photo by Steven McBride.
Brevard Music Center Students at Waterfall. Photo by Steven McBride.

Location: Brevard, NC   |   brevardmusic.org

Nestled in the heart of North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, the Brevard Music Center (BMC) is one of the nation’s premier summer training programs for young musicians. Students perform alongside distinguished faculty and guest artists in dozens of concerts throughout the summer. This season, Beethoven takes center stage as the festival presents a celebration of the composer’s 251st birthday, and concertgoers will experience the inaugural season of the newly built Parker Concert Hall. Other standout events include Hollywood Under the Stars featuring the Music of John Williams, Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, and featured performances from violinist Anne Akiko Meyers and pianist Lara Downes.

Find Tickets Here


Charlotte New Music   |   Events July 17, July 21 – 31

Beo String Quartet - four members of the group hold their instruments as they look toward the camera.Location: Charlotte, NC (plus virtual performances)   |   charlottenewmusic.org

Charlotte New Music (CNM), the leading new music organization and contemporary music festival in the Southeastern United States, has an exciting lineup of summer fun planned for Charlotteans and music lovers around the globe! At CNM’s upcoming in-person Stargazer Music Fest (July 17, 8 PM – midnight), concertgoers will be treated to a serene evening of original music and night-sky viewing. Read more about the Stargazer Music Fest and find tickets here. Next, after a tremendous virtual season in 2020, the Charlotte New Music Festival returns July 21 – 31 with a full calendar of innovative virtual concerts. Visit the Charlotte New Music website to learn more.


Is your summer festival missing from this list? Contact Mary Lathem at malathem@wdav.org to request an addition.

More Summertime Fun 
SummerStages on WDAV   |   July 3 – August 7

Each summer, with blankets and picnic baskets in hand, millions of Americans enjoy classical music in the casual setting of music festivals. SummerStages takes its listeners on the road each week to summer music venues across the southeast. Listen Saturdays at 6 p.m. on WDAV starting July 3.

The Charlotte Symphony Returns

By Lawrence Toppman

Belk Theater was full Friday night for the public return of the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra.

Not full of listeners: We sat in masked pods of two and four, separated not only by multiple seats but multiple rows behind and before.

Not full of musicians: The stage contained 30 people, including saxophone soloist Branford Marsalis and conductor Christopher James Lees.

But full of delight at hearing an orchestra in person for the first time in 15 months, full of wonder upon rediscovering the power of live music.

Were there glitches? Of course. Lees took over when COVID-19 restrictions trapped music director Christopher Warren-Green in England. The musicians, who’d played just once for an audience – a small group of invitees — since winter 2020 sounded rusty once or twice. Even the drinking fountain in the lobby made a grinding growl when asked for water, like a sick grizzly roused from hibernation. (As I left, I saw it draped in funereal plastic.)

Yet the concert became a celebration and a renewal. Levine Cancer Institute president Derek Raghavan, a current CSO board member, introduced it by saying, “It’s been a tough year folks, and this is our coming-out party.” At the end, after Lees and Marsalis left the stage, the crowd gave the musicians spontaneous applause while they packed up their instruments. As patron Cristina Bolling noted afterward, we’ve all spent 15 months listening to headphones, mobile devices and stereos: Sound resonating around a hall, where we can’t pause the music to grab a sandwich, is new to us again.

Realities of modern concertgoing – perhaps permanent, perhaps not – became apparent immediately: No paper tickets, paper programs replaced by downloadable ones, no cash accepted by staff validating tickets for parking garages, no snacks or drinks in the lobby. Probably no one missed the food and drink during a 55-minute event with no intermission, but that could become an issue at a full-length show.

The symphony offered a much more interesting program than it has traditionally done in its Classical Series, though I’m happy to see that the 2021-22 season contains more unusual fare. (You’ll find a list of those concerts here.)

Concertmaster Calin Ovidiu Lupanu got brief chances to shine in Bela Bartok’s Romanian Folk Dances, inspired by music the composer absorbed in Lupanu’s native land. The tempos, slightly slower than is common, let Lupanu bring out the melodic elements and let us hear more details in one of Bartok’s most accessible compositions.

Marsalis then came on for Erwin Schulhoff’s “Hot-Sonate,” four movements tinged with jazz and blues elements for the soloist and orchestral sections that sound like a slightly discordant jazz band. The musicians seemed disconnected from Marsalis at first, but Lees righted them, and the third movement jelled beautifully: The orchestra tapped out staccato chords as Marsalis played a bluesy melody Duke Ellington might’ve written for Johnny Hodges in 1930.

George Gershwin’s “Lullaby,” an assignment from a music teacher, always seems flaccid to me in both its original string quartet version and his later orchestration. So I couldn’t tell whether the numbing, Mantovani-like wash of sound was his responsibility or Lees’.

But the pace picked up with Jacques Ibert’s Concertino da Camera. Like most of Ibert’s music, it’s insouciant and witty without making emotional demands on the audience. It does make musical demands on the players, though, especially in a long cadenza where Marsalis blew wild riffs – was he improvising? – that yielded moments of pure joy. If anyone in the audience still needed a reminder of why we ought to hear music live, there it was.

The concert repeats at 7:30 p.m., May 15, 2021, at Belk Theater, click here for more details.

Pictured: The Belk Theater at Blumenthal Performing Arts Center; Courtesy Charlotte Symphony.

A Musical Bouquet for Mother’s Day

Treat the mother figures in your life to a bouquet of beautiful music this Mother‘s Day! This playlist celebrates motherhood‘s many forms in classical music, featuring pieces dedicated to mothers, about mothers, and by mothers for their children.

       
“Songs My Mother Taught Me”
– Antonín Dvořák

Portrait of Antonin DvorakAchingly beautiful and heart-wrenching, Dvořák’s “Songs My Mother Taught Me” comes from the song cycle Gypsy Songs. When the narrator’s mother taught her to sing as a child, tears would often spring to her eyes – and now that she is teaching her own children to sing, she understands why.

       
“Mother to Son”
– Undine Smith Moore

Professor Undine Smith Moore aka Undine Eliza Anna Smith Moore (25 August 1904 – 6 February 1989) was a notable and prolific African-American composer of the 20th century.Undine Smith Moore’s evocative choral setting is the perfect match for Langston Hughes’ famous words of encouragement from mother to son: “Well, son, I’ll tell you: / Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.”

Pictured: Professor Undine Smith Moore by Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use.

       
“Muttertändelei”
– Richard Strauss

Levi StraussProud moms, you’ll relate to this one. Strauss’ “Muttertändelei” (“Mother-talk”) gives a mother’s perspective on her child’s best qualities: “Just look at my lovely child! / Not too moody, not too choosy, / Always friendly, always happy! / Folks, do you have such a child? / No, folks, you don’t!”

           
“Empress of Night”
– Amy Beach

Portrait of Amy BeachDepicting a powerful empress responsible for the beauty of daybreak, Amy Beach dedicated the song “Empress of Night” to her mother, Clara Cheney. Beach later incorporated the melody into her Piano Concerto’s Scherzo. 

           
“Oh Yemanja (Mother’s Prayer)” from Scourge of Hyacinths
– Tania León

Tania LeonTania León’s opera Scourge of Hyacinths follows Miguel, a falsely accused prisoner, as he awaits sentencing. The aria “Oh Yemanja (Mother’s Prayer)” poignantly illustrates the depths of maternal love as Miguel’s mother prays for his protection.

Pictured: Tania León by Michael Provost, CC BY-SA 3.0.

       
“Grandmother’s Minuet”
– Edvard Grieg

Portrait of Edvard GriegGrandmothers deserve to feel the love on Mother’s Day, too! This sweet minuet comes from Grieg’s Lyric Pieces, a collection of 66 short pieces for piano. 

               
“Kleiner Walzer (Mi Teresita)”
– Teresa Carreño

Portrait of Teresa CarrenoTeresa Carreño dedicated this playful piece to her young daughter, Teresita Tagliapietra, who would later follow in her mother’s footsteps to pursue a career as a concert pianist.

                   
Playlist