Kojo looks back on the local impact of Dick Gregory, the legendary comedian and civil rights activist who adopted Washington as his home town.
Conductor Marin Alsop leads the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. But she’s also been racking up frequent flier miles with recent gigs in London and Sao Paulo. In addition to performances, she’s spearheading programs to connect with the community and make classic pieces relevant to contemporary audiences. Kojo talks with Alsop about upcoming concerts close to home and her forays onto the international stage.
- Marin Alsop Music Director, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
Gustav Holst’s The Planets: Jupiter, Bringer Of Jollity
“The Planets,” Op. 32, is a seven-movement orchestral suite by the English composer Gustav Holst, written between 1914 and 1916. Each movement of the suite is named after a planet of the Solar System and its corresponding astrological character as defined by Holst.
Gustav Holst’s The Planets: Venus, Bringer Of Peace
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. Conductor Marin Alsop leads Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, but she's also been racking up frequent flyer miles, taking up the baton for Sao Paulo Orchestra, and making a recent historic appearance in London. Right now, however, she's in Charm City prepping for a run of performances that will, in turn, capture audience's imaginations, sending them soaring into space.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIAnd put them through their emotional paces with a wrenching and beautiful war requiem. Here to school us on all things classical is Marin Alsop, Music Director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. She's also the Principle Conductor of Brazil Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra. Marin Alsop, thank you for joining us.
MS. MARIN ALSOPMy pleasure. Thanks for having me.
NNAMDIYou can join the conversation by calling 800-433-8850, or by sending email to email@example.com. Marin Alsop, you've been doing a bit of globetrotting of late, which we'll get to later, but you'll be calling Baltimore home through at least the next, oh, four or five years, to 2021. That would be the next eight years, after a recent contract renewal with the BSO. With so many opportunities out there, what keeps you here?
ALSOPWell, I love Baltimore, and we have one of the greatest orchestras in the world, certainly in the United States. And there's something about living here that really appeals to me. I think the sense of community and people stepping up to try to help, and how much they care about their arts and especially their symphony orchestra, to me, keeps me here.
NNAMDIOne of the pieces you're conducting at the BSO this season is Gustav Holst's "The Planets." Who was Holst, and what inspired his work?
ALSOPGustav Holst was a British composer, lived in the early part of the 20th century and, you know, he's not a name that we're that familiar with. I think he was one of those kind of one hit wonder composers, in a way. The one piece that he wrote that everyone seems to know is the piece, the major piece in seven movements called "The Planets." And beyond that, actually, we haven't really been exposed to much of his music, and he was a wonderful, wonderful composer.
ALSOPHe wrote a lot for Voice. And, you know, he came to music early in his life. His parents were both musicians. His father, in particular, taught him the piano. So, he was one of those composers. But, you know, once you get a great hit, I think any songwriters had one hit, knows that it's really hard to follow it up.
NNAMDILet's take a listen to Holst's interpretation of a few of these planets, starting with "Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity."
NNAMDIMarin Alsop, what are we hearing there, both in terms of instrument and mood, and why is it making me smile?
ALSOPWell, yes, I mean, that is, that's the idea that he's trying to achieve, is the depiction of Jupiter. And the subtitle is "The Bringer of Jollity." And Jupiter was the king of the Gods. He was the God of sky and thunder, you know, responsible for those lightning bolts. And if you're born under this planet, you know your horoscope says you're filled with life and vitality. You're cheery, you're hopeful, you have noble disposition. I mean, it's all good, happy things. And the way he depicts this, musically, at the beginning, it's almost a vaudeville kind of tune.
ALSOPSo, it's a kick up your heels. And then this, when he goes into 3/4, the deem bom bom, beem bom bom, that's a folk melody, which is almost childlike in its simplicity, but the way he orchestrates it with the instruments. You have the brass, you have the glockenspiel. You know, it's very, very -- I mean, the only thing it does is makes you want to smile, I think.
NNAMDICertainly had that effect on me. We're talking with Marin Alsop. She is the music director for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. She's also a Principal Conductor of Brazil Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra. We're taking your calls at 800-433-8850. You know, "The Planets" was a gateway to classical. Is there a piece of classical music that served as a sort of gateway into genre for you, into the classical genre for you? Give us a call.
ALSOPOh. That's a harder question for me, because my parents were both professional musicians, classical musicians. So, I was, you know, exposed from an early age. But, you know, I do remember hearing the music of Brahms for the first time, and understanding, suddenly, that music had the capacity to take us on an emotional journey, and bring us in touch with feelings that were hard to articulate. So, for me, the music of Brahms was that gateway, at least into the emotional experience.
NNAMDIBack to "The Planets." Uranus is portrayed as "The Magician." What are the elements that make that magic?
ALSOPWell, "The Magician" is all about, sort of, eccentricity. And it starts with power. Neptune begins -- sorry, Uranus begins with a very powerful theme, but then it turns almost silly and furtive in nature. And it reminds us, immediately, of the piece that was featured in the film, "Fantasia," "The Sorcerer's Apprentice." And there's no doubt whatsoever that Holst is directly quoting that piece. So that brings to mind this idea of the magician, because we have a shared memory of that other piece of music.
NNAMDILet's take a listen.
NNAMDIAs a moviegoer, I have to say this music has a kind of cinematic feel. And it's my understanding that Holst has been very influential on composers. Where do we see that influence today, Marin Alsop?
ALSOPWell, I agree with you 100 percent. And I think many of our great film composers of the 20th century, and of today, looked toward Holst, specifically toward this piece, "The Planets," as inspiration. And, of course, when we hear the opening, the first movement to "The Planets," which is called, "Mars." Of course, Mars is the God of war. Very aggressive, very strong, militaristic. And then we hear some of the film scores of John Williams. There's no doubt that John was inspired by Gustav Holst.
NNAMDIImages of the planets will accompany the performance. How does that addition change the experience for the audience?
ALSOPWell, I think that this will merely enhance the experience. It won't really detract from listening to the music and using one's imagination, but we have some fabulous images, many, many from the Hubble Telescope, which, of course, is something championed by our own Senator Mikulski here in Maryland. And we have beautiful images, and Doctor Mario Livio, who's the Senior Astrophysicist at the Space Telescope Space Institute, is going to help put them into context for us, as well.
ALSOPI'm gonna go through each movement and talk about the musical portrayal, and he's going to then talk about the planetary qualities. So hopefully, one will inform the other, and the music will definitely carry the day.
NNAMDIWhile we're on the visual aspect of a performance, you recently collaborated with designers at the Parsons New School For Design on alternatives for the tails and black dresses we typically see orchestra members wearing. Why has that attire persisted, and what kind of changes would you like to see?
ALSOPWell, this is part of a broader idea, for me, of looking at the 21st century orchestra. And I don't think it's really changing, but maybe redesigning, updating the trappings of what we do. And the first thing, of course, to look at, is the attire. We've essentially been wearing the same outfits for a couple of hundred years, and hopefully not the exact same outfits. But, and why, why can't we change them? Of course, there are a lot of pros to wearing this attire. I mean, it immediately conjures up a certain image.
ALSOPIt's classic. It never goes out of style. It provides a uniform. You know, there are many, many reasons. And, as soon as you update something, it has the capacity to become out of style quickly. So, there are pros and cons, but we've had a wonderful start with the talented students, fashion students at Parsons, looking at not only how to change and adapt the clothing, but repurpose what we wear. And it was interesting, because for the gentlemen, instead of really changing the idea of the tails or the tuxedo, they brought in contemporary fabrics.
ALSOPMany fabrics from sports. And inserted them into the existing garments so that the men would have a lot more ability to move and stay cool while they're playing. So, it's been a really fantastic start to this collaboration. I'm hoping that we'll go to look at, you know, the lobby space, the music stands, maybe it's time for a redesign of those. The chairs, who knows? Maybe everything except the music itself, of course.
NNAMDIHere is Lisa in Hillsboro, Virginia. Lisa, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
LISAYes. Hi. I'm so glad to hear about adding visual element to classical music. I've been trained in music all my life and I've always thought that the world is so visual and so many people see things, obviously, visually. And to see that they're going to add that has often as possible to classical performance, live performance, people can take that away. People who don't just remember things musically will have so much more of a visual remembrance of that. And I think it's things like "The Right Stuff," where they use all of this music so beautifully and a lot of people who don't even have musical training will have heard just the few pieces you've played already today.
LISAAnd they'll probably remember some of the scenes from a movie like that just because the two connect in our brains so brilliantly. Probably in ways we don't even understand yet. So I'm thrilled to hear that. That's great. Keep it up.
NNAMDICare to comment Marin Alsop?
ALSOPOh, no. I'm glad to hear that you're receptive and enthusiastic about this idea. And, as Lisa said, the idea of the connection -- we don't really even understand the connection and the power of the visual when it's in conjunction with the oral. But I think one does enhance the other.
NNAMDIWe're talking with Marin Alsop. She's the music director for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and the principle conductor of Brazil's Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra. We're inviting your calls, 800-433-8850. Are you a regular attendee of BSO performances? What keeps you going back and what would bring you out if you have never been? 800-433-8850. If you have called already, stay on the line. We'll get to your calls. You can also send email to firstname.lastname@example.org or send us a tweet, @kojoshow. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back to our conversation with Marin Alsop. She joins us from the studios of WYPR in Baltimore. Marin Alsop is the music director for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. She's also the principle conductor of Brazil's Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra. 800-433-8850 is the number to call if you'd like to join the conversation. You can also send us a tweet @kojoshow or email to email@example.com. Let's go to Ann, in Catonsville, Md. Ann, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ANNMy question for Marin is about the difference between the musicians and the audience in Brazil. I mean they've got to be very different. I've performed for audiences in Mexico and just incredibly different reception to the music. So I'd love to hear about that.
ALSOPOh, that's a great question. You know, there definitely is a different cultural atmosphere. I think my musicians in Brazil are -- they're more demonstrative and I think more overt in showing how they feel. And the orchestras down there, they move more. I think here in North America we really are focused on a level of perfection that I think is admirable, but maybe sometimes loses a little bit of the spark. And I would say the same about audiences. The audiences seem to be very vocal and very warm, but if they don't like something they'll let you know, too. (laugh) So it's good.
NNAMDIHow do they let you know when they don't like something?
ALSOPWell, so far so good. (laugh) I've only been in the audience when they haven't liked something. I haven't been on stage. Thank heavens.
NNAMDIOh, good for that. Thank you for your call, Ann. We move onto Andrea, in Baltimore, Md. You're on the air Andrea. Go ahead, please.
ANDREAHi. So wonderful to hear you on the show. What a wonderful surprise, as I drive back to Silver Spring. I wanted to ask a question about a wonderful performance of "West Side Story" that my family all heard at the BSO this past summer. And we love classical music -- we -- all kinds. But that was just really magical. And I wanted to ask also, on behalf of my mother who really wants to bring "Singing In The Rain" to the BSO, are there plans for anymore cinematic and orchestral pairings for the coming years?
ALSOPGreat. I'm so glad you enjoyed the "The West Side Story." For people listening, I should just mention there was a newly digitized version of the film where the actual orchestra music was extracted and taken out, so that we could then accompany the film live for the audience. It was pretty spectacular and it's such a great film. And, you know, "Singing In The Rain," is not one that's yet been digitized in that way. But I've got my ear to the ground and the next project I definitely want to do -- or one of them I want to do is "2001," has also -- the music has been taken away and you can play, you know, accompany the film live.
ALSOPBut it doesn't sound like that's really up your mom's alley. She sounds like more of the musical type, so I'll keep you posted, but we're always open to what new technology can do and how we can bring together visual with the incredible film scores to accompany them. Thanks for your question.
NNAMDIAndrea, thank you very much for your call.
NNAMDIMarin Alsop, when this piece premiered, "Mars, The Bringer of War," struck many as so powerful they thought for sure that Holst had served in World War I. What makes the piece so commanding?
ALSOPWell, I think it's a hallmark actually. Especially of this first movement, "Mars." But of the whole piece there's a sense of strength. I think because of the orchestration. He uses a lot of brass. It's a big orchestra. A lot of brass, a lot of percussion. And this movement, "Mars," is all about perseverance. It's built on repetition. It starts, ba-ba-ba bum bum-bum-bum, ba-ba-ba. So you feel this military kind of real adherence. And we're not going to give up. We're going to stay the course. That kind of idea.
ALSOPAnd that -- this repeated note actually occupies more than 60 percent of the movement. And I think that gives it this sense of progression and almost inevitable progression.
NNAMDILet's take a listen to "Mars, The Bringer of War."
NNAMDIMarin Alsop, one of the things that's amazing about that is I discovered Holst actually wrote that before World War I.
ALSOPYes. And, you know, of course people felt or naturally thought that it was a reaction to the impending threat. And yet, it was something that just came to him prior to any of the -- anyone knew that World War I was in the offing.
NNAMDIAfter the "Planets," you'll be conducting Benjamin Britten's "War Requiem, Opus 66." The BSO is performing the requiem, the week of Veterans' Day. I’m wondering if that timing give the piece special resonance for you and the musicians that you'll be leading.
ALSOPOh, absolutely. I think we all feel so grateful to our veterans and any opportunity we have to reach out and collaborate with our veterans and in particular we thought that it would be nice to offer them discounted tickets for those performances. So we have that available. And we have several panels where we're going to be discussing the role of the soldier and all kinds of different aspects that are relevant to the "War Requiem." So I hope people will join us. Not just for the concerts, but also for the panel discussions that will precede them.
NNAMDIOnto the telephones again. Here is Allen, in Washington, D.C. Allen, your turn.
ALLENThere seems to be a pattern here. All the callers begin with the letter A.
NNAMDI(laugh) I have noticed that, Allen. Thank you.
ALLENThank you for having this wonderful guest on. I grew up playing cello in orchestra and ended up in national music camp Interlochen for a summer. And actually I wasn't good enough. I was a radio major, not a cello major, but I played in some ensembles. But I always remember the kind of sneery, oh what's the word, snobbery by my fellow musician friends about something they called program music.
ALLENAnd that's the stuff I grew up listening to on records that my parents gave me -- which is probably why I liked, you know, classical music -- of stories that were set to the music, like "Scheherazade," a story that set to that music or "Diana and the Golden Apples," and I don't remember what the music was, but every time I hear the music I think of that story. And I fell asleep listening to these. In fact, I was told I would fall asleep -- this is before changers -- when the grooves would go swish, swish, swish. (laugh)
NNAMDIYes, of course.
ALLENBut why is there such snobbery about program music? And my other question is how can we get young people more interested in the music? And maybe it is happening with some of these visual things you're doing, which I think are great. Because I know that graying of the audience is something that's troubling opera and orchestral and probably other -- maybe dance and theater. I don't know.
NNAMDIMarin Alsop, the snobbery associated with program music and how do you bring children into the audience?
ALSOPWell, Allen has a good point, that I think there's some kind of prejudice about the accessibility of "program music," but in reality every single piece of music is program music. Because without an underlying narrative of some sort, it just doesn't come to life. So my objective always -- and I guess some artists would disagree with me -- is to make program music out of everything because my goal is to motivate every note that the composer has written so that it fits into a broader narrative that tells a story and brings a story home to each individual in the audience.
ALSOPI think especially for young people it's such a beautiful image of you falling asleep to the recording, the LP of "Scheherazade," or other story pieces. And I think for young people, especially, they're able to let their imaginations go wild, more so than we jaded adults. (laugh) And hearing something like "Scheherazade," and being told this story -- I know I've done that with my son. And I can see an incredible light in his eyes and an understanding and an association and connection to the piece. And I want young people to feel that same kind of spark when they hear a Beethoven symphony. And how do we get to that place?
ALSOPAnd that brings me to the next part of your question, about getting young people connected to the orchestra. I think that we have to remember something also, that in 1934, I think, the biggest concern was that the audience was going to die. And, of course, they probably did die, but now there are new audiences. So we have to remember, also, that classical music is something that has endured and has brought great joy to, you know, hundreds of thousands of people over its time.
ALSOPI think, though, as we're watching young people get involved more in playing instruments, when we see a program like El Sistema, in Venezuela or here in Baltimore we have our program called Orch-Kids, which is an afterschool program and we now have upwards of 700 young people playing instruments. And, you know, they look at all of our musicians as rock stars. It's a different kind of measuring now. And I'm hoping that that will dramatically change the landscape for the future of classical music, at least in Baltimore.
NNAMDITell us a little bit more about Orch-Kids, trying to get instruments into more kids' hands.
ALSOPWell, you know, this started as an idea between me and the musicians of how we could mentor young people in Baltimore and be real citizens of the world, try to contribute to the community, that, and also the fact that our orchestras do not reflect the diversity of the communities in which we live and make music. And part of that is because so many minority kids don't have access to playing instruments when they're young. And you need to start very young in order to gain a certain skill set. And so this is how we started the program. We started with 25 kids in one school. And now we have upwards of four schools, and reaching out to well over 700 kids.
ALSOPAnd my goal -- I think our shared goal is to reach, you know, and modest goal that it is, at least reach all 83,000 kids (laugh) in the public school system.
NNAMDIOnto the telephones. Here is Deana, in Great Falls, Va. Deanna, you're on the air.
DEANAHi, this is Deana.
DEANAYeah, I'm so thrilled to talk to you, Marin, because my aunt, back in Eugene, Ore., was so thrilled -- and everyone was so thrilled with you when you were there and building the auditorium and your involvement with the orchestra there. And I just wanted to express her thanks. She lives up in central Oregon now, but she was involved back then when you were there and just had such heartfelt, you know, thanks for your involvement there. And thanks for all your radio talks. I really love them.
ALSOPOh, thank you. Well, it's nice to hear that shout out from the past. For people listening, my first music director job was with the Eugene Symphony, which is based in Eugene, Ore. And I was fortunate to have that as my first stepping stone job because it's a community embraces the arts and embraces new ideas. And I got to try out a lot of my crazy ideas on them and they seemed to survive.
NNAMDIDeana, thank you very much for your call.
ALSOPThank you, Deana.
NNAMDIAnd for passing on your relative's gratitude. Back to the Benjamin Britten "War Requiem, Opus 66," Marin Alsop, Britten was an interesting choice for this piece because he himself was a conscientious objector throughout World War II in Britain. How did he approach the commission?
ALSOPYes, I mean, this is a fascinating story because the commission was to write -- they wanted to have a piece written for the inauguration of a new cathedral in Coventry, England on the site of where the last cathedral had been destroyed by the Germans in the Second World War. So it was a very emotional, political, poignant decision. And Britten had left England during the Second World War because he was a resolute pacifist.
ALSOPAnd, you know, I think the fact that he was their choice to write this piece, speaks volumes about how much the world changed from the '40s to the 1960s. This piece was premiered in 1963. And Britten is able in this piece, I think, to bring that fundamental conflict to the fore and portray it in a very graspable way.
ALSOPSo what he does is he takes the requiem mass, which we all know, I think, you know the Mozart Requiem, you've heard it with the (unintelligible), with all the different sections. And in between he intersperses music from almost another world, with texts by a poet from the First World War. He was a decorated soldier in the First World War named Wilfred Owen. And he was killed when he was 25 years old. His parents received the letter on Armistice Day, heartbreakingly, that their son had been killed. But he left us with this incredible poetry.
ALSOPAnd he, from the decorated soldier, a hero's point of view, became and gradually grew to be a staunch pacifist because of his first-hand witnessing of the horrors of war. So in between these sections from the requiem mass, we hear the voice of Wilfred Owen speaking to us about the horrors of war. And it's extremely moving.
NNAMDIWe will be hearing that, but first let's take a listen to a part of the opening.
NNAMDIMarin Alsop, this piece features both a chorus and vocal soloists, and I wonder how do the orchestra dynamics change when vocalists are added to the mix?
ALSOPWell, it's wonderful. We have -- in this particular piece there are three vocal soloists. And it gives a different dimension of course because whenever you work with a soloist they bring their own concept and interpretation and dynamics to the table. So it becomes much more of a collaborative partnership and can often result, I think, in an even more inspired performance. This particular work is very, very complex and very large. We have our main orchestra and then there's a chamber orchestra also on stage. And with the main orchestra there's a soprano soloist. And with the chamber orchestra there are two male soloists.
ALSOPAnd then we have a seated choir, you know, an adult choir. And then we have a children's choir, as well. So there are a lot of moving parts to this piece.
NNAMDIAs we go to break we'll return to the "Requiem," for a moment and hear how those vocals can be used to dramatic effect.
NNAMDIWelcome back. We're talking with Marin Alsop. She is the music director for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the principle conductor of Brazil's Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra. We'll go directly to the phones. If you have called, stay on the line. We'll try to get to your calls. If the lines are busy, then shoot us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or send us a tweet, @kojoshow. Here is Gabe, in Alexandria, Va. Gabe, your turn.
GABEYes. Hi, Marin. Thank you for taking my call and thank you, Kojo. My question is regarding performance that you did awhile back with Trey Anastasio from Phish. I'm a huge fan of his and that performance very much introduced me into classical music. And I've seen a lot of other classical music since then. I was wondering if you could just briefly comment on what it was like working an artist like Trey, and if you have done anything similar with other contemporary rock artists in the past. Thank you. I'll take my response off the air.
NNAMDIThank you for your call. Marin?
ALSOPYes. Well, it was great working with Trey. And he approached me through mutual friends to see if we wanted to do some sort of collaboration. And this was a bit a new endeavor for him. So it was nice because it was a learning experience for both of us. And I think the result was very successful. I know he went on to do that same program I think with New York Philharmonic and some other big orchestras, which made me very happy.
ALSOPAnd, you know, collaborating with people from the popular side -- pop side of music is always a lot of fun for me. It's something I've done throughout my career. Even before I was a full-time conductor, I played a lot of recording work, did a lot of recording work with pop artists.
ALSOPMy swing band is featured on a bunch of albums by Billy Joel. So you'll see String Fever listed in the credits. And I work with Paul Simon quite a bit and many outstanding, you know, I wouldn't -- not necessarily from the rock world, but certainly from the pop world. And it's always -- and I find it always illuminating because they bring a different perspective to the table.
ALSOPAnd it's always fun to see how intimidating the classical music world can be, even for these big stars, but pretty soon those walls fall down. And I think that's what we're trying to achieve with the Baltimore Symphony, is to just get those walls of intimidation and this feeling of elitism to go away because that's not what we're about. We're about reaching out and offering access and inclusion to every single member of our community.
NNAMDIAs we mentioned earlier, you've been racking up frequent flier miles. We got this tweet from Jane, who says, "Hi, there, from England, where we are listening to your show. Please ask Marin when she's coming back. We loved her concert here." Of course, Marin Alsop, the London press was a buzz earlier this year when you became the first woman to ever conduct the storied "Last Night of the Proms." Tell us about that event, its significance and please tell Jane when you're going back.
ALSOPOh, Jane, thank you. It was an incredible experience being the first woman to get to conduct "The Last Night of the Proms." I've appeared at the Proms several times prior, but the last night is -- let's see. I'm trying to think of how I could describe it for people who aren't familiar with it. It's like a July 4th celebration on speed. (laugh) You know, it's just wildly patriotic. It's a lot of fun. It's very celebratory. And, you know, toward the end we have 40,000 people singing along on big screen TVs throughout Great Britain. So it was marvelous. And surprisingly I was just in England. So you missed me. So you've got to stay tuned always.
ALSOPMy orchestra from Brazil, Sao Paulo Symphony just performed last week, I guess, or October 25th at the Royal Festival Hall in London. And I will be back soon. I don't remember the dates off the top of my head, but stay tuned.
NNAMDISpeaking of Brazil, we got a tweet from Lynn who says, "How does Marin divide her performances between Baltimore and Sao Paulo orchestras?"
ALSOPWell, you know, it's an interesting career expectations. If you're successful you're expected to have at least two jobs. So that's what I’m busy trying to do and juggle a great desire to be home at the same time. But I probably go to Brazil six times a year, and each time for no more probably than two weeks. So in the end it kind of evens out. And also the fact that they're on a different calendar. So their season begins in March and goes through December. So the main part of their season is during our summer, which is a down time for the Baltimore Symphony. So it kind of works out, as much as it can. (laugh)
NNAMDIHow's your Portuguese coming?
ALSOPYeah, (speaks foreign language) (laugh) but it's coming. It's a (speaks foreign language), it's a little slow.
NNAMDIHere's David, in Alexandria, Va. David, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
DAVIDHi, Kojo. And hi, Ms. Alsop. I don't know if this has been mentioned because I stepped away for a little bit, but at the beginning of the show you mentioned about Holst being a one-hit wonder. And that kind of took me aback a bit (laugh). I think it reflects your biases as an orchestral person.
ALSOPYes. It definitely does.
DAVID(laugh) When I think of -- as a choral person myself and also horn player, I think of it his enormous contributions to the choral repertoire and you think of "In The Bleak Midwinter," and Christmas carols and also larger works. And then, you know, band music, what summer band concert would be complete without the "English Folk Song Suite," so I just wanted to put in a word for some of his other… (laugh)
ALSOPNo, you're absolutely right. And I did say that he wrote a lot of music for vocalists. And so that does show my incredible myopic view of the musical world. And I apologize to Gustav for that.
NNAMDIDavid, thank you so much for your call. (laugh)
ALSOPAnd to you.
NNAMDIHere is Nadine, in Germantown, Md. Nadine, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
NADINEYes. Well, I'll be one of the enraptured audience on Sunday at the Meyerhoff and listening to the program again. We had the pleasure of listening to "The Planets," at Strathmore a few years ago when you premiered "UFO." And I will tell you that the marriage of the chorus, especially at the end on "Neptune," we were way up in the nosebleed seats and the chorus was up there in the wings.
NADINEAnd you could almost see the notes of the voices floating out and mingling with the notes coming up from the stage of the orchestra. It was absolutely magical. Even my younger son -- at that time I think he was 10 -- he couldn't believe how beautiful it was. So we're going back again to hear it, this time at Meyerhoff. We'll be on the floor, in the orchestra, but we hope to have the same experience. It sounds fantastic.
ALSOPOh, I’m so glad you're going to hear it again. And, you know, I think that moment when the sort of disembodied chorus comes in they're hidden away. I don't want to give it away. So now we've told everybody the ending, but it's a pretty special kind of ethereal other worldly experience.
NNAMDINadine, thank you for your call. We move on to Frank, in Salisbury, Md. Frank, your turn.
FRANKYes. I'd like to thank Ms. Alsop for what she's done for the Baltimore Symphony. We're regularly attenders. And the one thing is I really like where she's done the concerts for us off the cuff, and also when she brings in special people, like Mark O'Connor. Who, we lived in Nashville, so we figured all he did was country and jazz and bluegrass, but he had written an orchestral piece that they performed there. And then after the concert they talked. We enjoy things like that that really do break the barrier for classical music.
FRANKThere's also one other thing. When she first came to the symphony my wife and I kept thinking why do we know that name. And then we realized something that through the Cabrillo Festival, our daughter took lessons from a clarinetist who she knows, (unintelligible).
FRANKAnd he's in Sarasota, Fla. And now I think through your relationship with him and what you've done -- I don't know if you know this -- but they now have hired a woman director and this is her first season coming up.
ALSOPYes. I'm thrilled. I was thrilled to hear that. I don't think I had too much to do with it (laugh), but I'll take the credit. But yeah, I'm always very happy to hear when women step up to the podiums of these orchestras. And I have three students, recipients of a fellowship I started for women conductors, who are also now American music directors. So we're making some progress I think.
NNAMDIWe talked earlier about the Orch-Kids, the program for kids. But it's my understanding that for the former band members who might be a little, well, rusty, you've found a way to bring them into the fold, as well. Tell us about that.
ALSOPWell, a few years ago we had an extra rehearsal, a free rehearsal that we didn't need to use to prepare for a concert and we were talking about what we could do with it. And I said, well, maybe we should reach out to non-professional musicians to come and play with the Baltimore Symphony. And, you know, we didn't have any idea really what the response would be.
ALSOPI had an instinctual idea that it would be quite strong, but within 24 hours we had 400 people sign up. So we realized that there are a lot of non-professional musicians out there who perhaps played in their younger years or play in non-professional orchestras now or play chamber music. And we've built this into an incredible program called Rusty Musician and also the BSO Academy in the summer. It's a fantasy camp. So get out those old violins (laugh) and get over here.
NNAMDIMarin Alsop is the music director for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. She's also the principle conductor of Brazil's Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra. Marin Alsop, thank you so much for joining us.
ALSOPIt was great to be with you again. Thank you.
NNAMDIAnd thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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