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The 1930s: World Struggles, Music Lives

This week on Crossover, a look at the struggles of the oppressed in the 1930s, and the music that helped people thrive despite those struggles. Join us on November 9th at 11:30 am. Our first guest is Dorit Straus, daughter of David Grunschlag, virtuoso violinist and the first concertmaster of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.  Ms. Straus speaks with Jill about her father and the events that put him in that very important concertmaster's chair.  We'll  hear two vintage recordings made in 1949 from a radio program in New York on which Mr. Grunschlag and his pianist sister performed.

It was Ms. Straus who gave Josh Aronson the notion to produce the film, Orchestra of Exiles, that was recently premiered on PBS and is showing at the Gershman Y as part of the Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival on November 14th at 11 am. Details here.

If that sounds familiar, you may remember this particular edition of Crossover where we spoke with Mr. Aronson about the film, and one of the central figures highlighted, Bronislaw Huberman.  Huberman was responsible for bringing many oppressed musicians to what was then Palestine to become part of what would become the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, including Mr. Grunschlag.

Ms. Straus will be speaking at the Gershman Y, 401 South Broad Street, Center City, Thursday November 14th, during the Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival.  There will also be a screening of Orchestra of Exiles. More information and tickets at pjff.org or 215.545.4400.

Our second guest is Miche Braden, who is currently appearing at Peoples Light and Theater in Malvern, Pa, in The Devil's Music: The Life and Blues of Bessie Smith, which runs through November 24th.

According to the producers of The Devil's Music, "Sexy and racy, blues singer Bessie Smith was the definition of a Red Hot Mamma and the most successful entertainer of her time. On the eve of her tragic death in 1937, Bessie takes center stage in The Devil's Music: The Life and Blues of Bessie Smith and tells the story of her amazing life and career, her loves and losses."

Ms. Braden, whose first name is pronounced "Mickey," is a singer, actor, musician, songwriter, arranger and musical director. In Detroit she was an artist in residence with the Detroit Council of the Arts, the founder and former lead singer of Straight Ahead (a women's jazz band) and was a protégé of Motown musicians Thomas "Beans" Bowles, Earl Van Dyke (leader of The Funk Brothers) and jazz master composer Harold McKinney. As an actor, she has appeared in and served as musical director-arranger in The People's Temple, Gee's Bend, The Bluest Eye, Mahalia: A Gospel Musical, Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill, Hot Snow: The Story of Valaida Snow and Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. She has been nominated for the Carbonell Award in Florida and the Connecticut Critics Award. She originated the character of Duchess DeLovely in the original cast of Hats: The Red Hat Society Musical. She performed "New York State of Mind" in Movin' Out on Broadway.  She has also appeared as vocalist on her own recording, Diva Out of Bounds, as well as the recordings of jazz saxophonist James Carter.

Jill speaks with Ms. Braden about her life and times, and those of her alter ego, Bessie Smith.  We'll also hear a clip from the show, as well as some vintage Bessie Smith recordings.

For more information on The Devil's Music: The Life and Blues of Bessie Smith at Peoples Light and Theater in Malvern, peopleslight.org or 610.644.3500.

Crossover airs Saturday morning at 11:30 am on WRTI-FM, with an encore the following Friday evening at 7 pm on HD-2 and the All-Classical web stream at wrti.org.

It's his parents' fault. For Joe's sixth birthday, they gave him a transistor radio. All of a sudden, their dreams of having a doctor or lawyer (or even a fry cook) in the family went down the tubes.