Arts Desk

Throughout the week

Listen to WRTI's Arts Desk features for a daily look into the world of music, arts, and culture. Listen to brief features throughout the day!

Opera star Renée Fleming sang the Irish ballad "Danny Boy" at the memorial service for the late U.S. Sen. John McCain on Saturday, September 1, 2018. Senator McCain, who died August 25 of brain cancer, asked that Ms. Fleming sing the song at his memorial service, which will took place at the Washington National Cathedral.

Renée Fleming is becoming America's go-to singer. The celebrated soprano, who has performed at a broad range of high-profile events off the opera stage, is scheduled to sing at Senator John McCain's memorial service this Saturday at Washington's National Cathedral.

Fleming is slated to sing the Irish standard "Danny Boy" — at McCain's request — alongside tributes to the late Senator by Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, and a homily by Bay Area Catholic leader Father Edward A. Reese.

Library of Congress, Music Division

Conceived in 1949, West Side Story has a serious message that pleads for racial tolerance, delivered in unforgettable song and dance. People have been listening to that message, and humming the songs, ever since the show premiered on Broadway in 1957 and debuted on the silver screen in 1961.


Gift of Henny Durmashkin Gurko, Museum of Jewish Heritage, NY

A 29-year-old Leonard Bernstein stands next to Holocaust survivors—members of the Ex-Concentration Camp Orchestra. They’re at a displaced persons camp in Germany in May 1948, four years after their liberation from the Nazi death camps. 

The Accidental Baton Maker

Aug 21, 2018

Richard Horowitz’s customer list read like a who’s who: Zubin Mehta, Sir Colin Davis, Seiji Ozawa, Sarah Caldwell, James Levine, Sir Charles Mackerras, Klaus Tennstedt, Daniel Barenboim, and Leonard Bernstein.  He was a percussionist, who, quite by accident, came to craft batons for some of the most famous conductors of the world.

A bestiary in the Middle Ages was a book of illustrations of animals, each accompanied by a moral lesson.   Sir James MacMillan’s musical bestiary for organ and orchestra is informed by his Scottish background, different musical traditions, and a sharp sense of social satire. WRTI’s Susan Lewis has more.

10 Fun Facts About Conductors' Batons

Aug 15, 2018

When it comes to batons, one size does NOT fit all. Length, material, and handle are all a matter of individual preference.  Want to know what the professionals look for?  Here are ten facts about the tool that quickly fades into the musical landscape shaped by the person commanding it.

We lost Michael Stairs, longtime organist of The Philadelphia Orchestra, on August 11, 2018. Over the years, he played many of the region's famous organs, including those at the Wanamaker Grand Court, at Longwood Gardens, and the Fred J. Cooper Memorial organ at Verizon Hall in the Kimmel Center. Riccardo Muti appointed him organist at The Philadelphia Orchestra in 1985.

History has painted composer Anton Bruckner as a simple man who gave the world complex and innovative symphonies. WRTI’s Susan Lewis has more on Bruckner’s 8th, which premiered in December of 1892.

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