Arts Desk

Check out stories and album of the week features by Susan Lewis, Debra Lew Harder, Kevin Gordon, Maureen Malloy, Matt Silver, and Heather McDougall.

October 26, 2020. Guitar quartets, cello, and voices come together in a new album exploring the experiences of pioneering and Native American women. The GRAMMY-winning vocal ensemble Conspirare's recording, The Singing Guitar, includes The Dawn’s Early Light, by Huntingdon Valley composer Kile Smith. He talks with us about the album, his piece, and the fascinating story behind the new rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" within it. 

October 26, 2020. It’s been over 20 years since the release of the Sun Ra Arkestra’s last studio album, 1999’s Song for the Sun. But their new album, Swirling, confirms that space is, indeed, still the place.

Kelly and Massa

Although the COVID-19 shutdown has cancelled live performances, Opera Philadelphia has reinvented its 2020 season with a new subscription channel that uses a filmmaker's approach to opera's powerful music and theater. General Director and President David Devan talks with WRTI's Susan Lewis about the new Opera Philadelphia Channel.

Getty Images/ Silver Screen Collection

When composer Bernard Herrmann made the move from New York to Hollywood in 1951 to score the film, The Day The Earth Stood Still, he already had a taste of what an alien invasion could sound like; in 1938 he had conducted the live music for Orson Welles’ infamous Halloween radio broadcast, The War of the Worlds.

What is multiple Grammy-winning classical guitarist Sharon Isbin's response to everyone wearing masks to stay healthy?  "Welcome to my world!" she says. "I’ve been wearing an N95 mask for almost 20 years on every single airplane flight, and since doing that, I've never gotten sick from flying."

October 19, 2020. Songs can entertain and touch us with emotions, from happiness to humor to heartbreak. The Contrast, a new release by soprano Carolyn Sampson and pianist Joseph Middleton, celebrates the range of works by five English composers writing over the last 120 years. 

Courtesy of the artist

When it comes to the tradition of innovative Philadelphia tenor saxophonist-composers, Odean Pope is heavenly high atop that list.

October 19, 2020. If 2020 is finding you nostalgic for that early-to-mid ’60s lineup of Jazz Messengers featuring trombonist Curtis Fuller teaming up with legendary names like Hubbard, Shorter, Walton, Merritt, and Blakey, then you owe it to yourself to get acquainted with the Black Art Jazz Collective (BAJC).

October 12, 2020. The clarinetist and saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera, winner of a dozen Grammy awards, has nothing but superlatives for Wayne Marshall, chief conductor of the WDR Funkhausorchester in Cologne. D’Rivera’s contribution to Born to Play—Marshall’s swan song after a decade with the orchestra—complements the main course, works by George Gershwin.

Charles Boudreau

(First published in January, 2020.) One of today’s most wide-ranging composers, Vivian Fung’s inspirations range from ancient gamelon music to ideas for preparing pot roast (for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, no less!)

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