Jim Cotter

Arts & Culture Editor

Jim was born and raised in Ireland. He began his radio career in Dublin before moving to the U.K. where he worked for BBC Radio Wales and the BBC World Service. He lived on the island of Crete in Greece for 10 years before moving to the United States.

Since 2002, Jim has been the station's arts and culture reporter and then editor. And since 2003, he's been the host and producer of Creatively Speaking, WRTI's much-acclaimed Saturday morning arts and culture program.

Creatively Speaking has been the recipient of several awards and commendations including two Philadelphia A.I.R (Achievement In Radio) awards and an Excellence in Broadcasting award from the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters.

Jim traveled to Europe in 2004, and to Asia in 2005 to report on Philadelphia Orchestra tours for WRTI. He is married to Claire and they have a daughter, Norah, born in 2006.

Jim can be heard on Saturdays from 11 to 11:30 am as host and producer of Creatively Speaking, and throughout the week for arts and culture reports.

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Creatively Speaking
6:04 am
Mon February 4, 2013

The Search for Pennsylvania’s Top 10 Endangered Artifacts

The term "Endangered Artifacts" is most associated with objects from ancient civilizations.  Yet, in Pennsylvania, as WRTI’s Jim Cotter reports, there’s now an effort to track down some of the state’s own most vulnerable historical treasures.

Listen to Jim's interview with Ingrid E. Bogel, Executive Director of The Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts from the start of the competition.

Discreetly tucked away on the second floor of an office building in Center City, Philadelphia is a  conservation studio and digital archiving facility for some of the nation most valuable works on paper.  On the day we visit among the rare books and delicate watercolors by world-famous artists, the original, hand-written constitution of PA, and the notebooks in which Bruce Springsteen jotted down his most famous songs were being pored over by teams of skilled conservation professionals. 

It is from here  - The Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts -  that a call has gone out to libraries, museums, historic sites ,and archives to help locate Pennsylvania’s Top 10 Endangered Artifacts. Ingrid E. Bogel, executive director of the Center says the project aims to save important drawings, paintings, manuscripts, rare books, maps, photographs and other objects.

We’re certainly talking about those kinds of materials, but I’m even thinking about things that perhaps just have a wonderful story.  And that might be just as exciting as something that has a George Washington signature on it.

The initial nominations will come from organizations, historical societies, museums and the like who have these items in their collections.

We are really thinking very broadly.  We would like to have representation from the smallest all-volunteer institution if they have something great that they want to share.  We’re also looking for geographic reach; we would love to have people nominate artifacts from all over the state.

The deadline for nominations is April 13th after which members of the public can vote for their favorite most endangered Pennsylvania Artifacts at a dedicated website.

Creatively Speaking
6:02 am
Mon February 4, 2013

Amidst Strikes, Lockouts and Deficits, Some Good News From The Orchestra World

Today, many orchestras around America are experiencing extreme financial problems. Yet, as WRTI’s Jim Cotter reports, one ensemble is bucking the trend.

Strikes, lockouts and deficits.  Throughout the past year in particular, tales of rancor between musicians and  management, financial shortfalls, and dwindling audience numbers have been the dominant headlines about classical music.

Though agreements have been reached  in Philadelphia, Detroit, Indianapolis, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis, locked out musicians at The Minnesota Orchestra and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra have yet to begin their seasons.

There are some bright spots: The New York Philharmonic, now the world’s most industrious orchestra, is reporting a bumper year for fundraising while the National Symphony in DC quietly negotiated and signed a new four-year agreement with its musicians.

The most notable good news, though, comes from the Cleveland Orchestra.  In the final months of 2012, it saw a remarkable 47% increase in attendance at Severance Hall, much of it made up of younger concert goers.  In addition, the orchestra is reporting a year-on-year increase in revenue of 24%.

The Cleveland  Orchestra’s chief marketing officer is Ross Binney. He says this upswing is not just about good marketing.

We’re certainly having some fun on the marketing side, but I think we’re seeing a slight pickup in the economy, perhaps, and our diversified programming is certainly at the forefront of that regeneration.

In addition the orchestra has made a concerted attempt to attract music students from local schools, colleges and conservatories

We’ve employed some student ambassadors who are promoting us heavily.

Meantime closer to home, classical audiences  in the first state were relieved to be able to return to the  concert hall as the Delaware Symphony Orchestra recently began its season after a three month delay.

Creatively Speaking
10:41 pm
Sun January 13, 2013

Joyce, Queen of Mezzos

Jim Cotter speaks with mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato.

WRTI will broadcast Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda live from The Metropolitan Opera on January 19th. The performance will also be shown live in hundreds of movie theaters around the world.

In this tale of royal intrigue, set in 16th-century England, the title role of Mary, Queen of Scots is sung by Joyce DiDonato. WRTI’s Jim Cotter spoke with the superstar mezzo-soprano about her latest role, how she constructs her characters, and how her years at Philadelphia’s Academy of Vocal Arts were more useful personally and professionally than artistically.

Today, Joyce DiDonato is firmly ensconced on opera’s "A" list. But when she was training at AVA in the 1990s, such a future outcome seemed very unlikely.

DIDONATO: I wasn’t a star singer there and it wasn’t clear that I would go on and have a career, I had to go deep inside myself and ask do I still want to stay with this?

COTTER: So why did stick with it?

DIDONATO: I had to.

After Philadelphia, she had spells in the young artist programs at Santa Fe Opera and Houston Grand Opera where she says it all began to come together for her vocally.

COTTER: The voice started getting free and I started too find my voice, and that needed to happen. And happily it did and I continuously work to find more freedom.

DiDonato believes that in order to fully explore roles she needs to understand what the composer wanted, the historical context of the story and bring her own life experiences to the process of creating a fully fleshed-out character.

DIDONATO: The pain that I’ve gone through, in various ways, it always comes out of nowhere and socks you over the head. Of course I use that. It informs who I am as a human being and therefore it informs who I am as an artist.

Creatively Speaking
10:40 pm
Sun January 13, 2013

Busy, Busy, Busy!

New York Philharmonic Conductor Alan Gilbert

The hardest working people in show business, at least in the classical music world, can take a bow this week. As WRTI’s Jim Cotter reports, data on the busiest conductors and orchestras in 2012 shows The Philadelphia Orchestra maintaining its place in the top 10 ensembles, while the most active conductor began his professional career in the Philadelphia region.

The survey was undertaken by the website BachTrack.com, which found that for the third year in a row, Beethoven was the most performed of all composers with Arvo Part the most performed living composer.

Predictably, Mozart and Bach came in 2nd and 3rd, but it was not a good year for Mahler who slipped from 9th to 25th -  and Liszt who fell from the 6th to the 24th. Their places in the top 10 were taken by Debussy and Schumann.

The busiest conductor in the world last year was Alan Gilbert whose first music directorship appointment was with Camden’s Symphony in C in the early 1990s. The orchestra he currently directs, the New York Philharmonic, was also, not surprisingly the busiest orchestra in the world, taking over the top spot from the San Francisco Symphony. The Philadelphia Orchestra came in at 9th; slipping one place from last year.

In repertoire, the top three most-performed operas were all by Mozart - two of which had librettos by the one-time Pennsylvania resident Lorenzo Da Ponte.  The Magic Flute was at number one followed by Don Giovanni and The Marriage of Figaro.

And finally, the most-performed works in 2012 were, in ascending order: 3) Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, 2) Bruckner's Symphony No. 4, and in the top spot, 1)  Handel's Messiah.

Here's a link to the full results of that survey.

Creatively Speaking
10:39 pm
Sun January 13, 2013

Conductor Nicholas McGegan At 63

Nicholas McGegan talks about his different conducting style with Jim Cotter.

The renowned British conductor and early music expert Nicholas McGegan's 63rd birthday is January 14th. As WRTI’s Jim Cotter discovered, he’s a musician with a special talent for talking about music. 

Nicholas McGegan’s uncomplicated, witty discourses on the works of the great composers have made him an in-demand speaker at places such as Oxford, Cambridge, and London’s Royal College of Music. What does he say is his reason for mostly conducting without a baton? He’s a klutz. "The less things I have to drop, throw, or break, the better."

In truth, says McGegan, his focus on Baroque, and early romantic repertoire means that his communication with the musicians has a different goal to those doing later and modern works.

MCGEGAN: Generally, when I'm doing the kind of music I d,o which is essentially 17th, 18th and 19th century music, the beat is fairly stable. So I don't have to do those fancy beat patterns that (you) have to do if you're doing The Rite of Spring. We don't have to count in eleven, I'm not sure I can count to 11! What I am doing is trying to communicate the gestures in the music -  and hopefully there's enough of a beat that the orchestra can play together.

COTTER: Often he leads not from the podium, but as an instrumentalist, which presents a different set of challenges.

MCGEGAN: When I'm working with, say, a period instrument orchestra, I'm very often playing the harpsichord as well.  And so if I were to use a baton I'd have to put it between my teeth, and then I would probably look like Carmen with a rose.

Creatively Speaking
8:17 pm
Sun January 6, 2013

Pianist Imogen Cooper: Eloquence Personified

From the perspective of U.S. audiences, the British pianist Imogen Cooper was a late bloomer. Though this student of Alfred Brendell had been working steadily in the UK for decades, she was in her 50s before America became aware of this most eloquent interpreter of the classical repertoire.

This week, on January 10th, 11th, and 12th, she performs Mozart’s piano concerto No. 24 with The Philadelphia Orchestra. And, as WRTI’s Jim Cotter reports, she’ll lead this most rebellious of works - by that most rebellious of composers - with an ensemble that knows exactly how it should be.

Where Music Lives
8:17 pm
Sun January 6, 2013

Grand Opera Readings in Reading at the Berks Opera Workshop

Jim Cotter speaks with Berks Opera founder/directors Francine and Tamara Black.

Follow the Schuylkill westwards from Philadelphia - either the river or the expressway will do - and you’ll eventually arrive in Reading, Pa. The state’s fifth-largest city, John Philip Sousa spent his last days here, the Rabbit series by John Updike was set here, and, Reading once lent its name to a now-defunct railway company with a still well-known Philadelphia terminal. 

Today, it is best known for its outlet malls, its pagoda, and a wealth of regional cultural organizations including the Reading Symphony Orchestra, the Reading Public Museum, and the increasingly influential Berks Opera Workshop (BOW).

Listen to Jim Cotter's interview with BOW co-founders Francine Black and her daughter Tamara Black.

Encore!
2:36 pm
Thu December 13, 2012

The Crossing Choir's Holiday Concert: Dec. 23rd on ENCORE!

Join us on Sunday, December 23rd, 3 to 5 pm, to hear The Crossing Choir's  "@ Christmas" concert, recorded at St. Paul’s Church in Chestnut Hill on Friday, December 21st, 2012. 

Creatively Speaking
11:48 am
Tue December 11, 2012

New Book On Barnes Aims To Dispel Myths

After years of controversy about its move from Merion, and just months after the Barnes Foundation has settled into its new home in Philadelphia, a new book by former Harvard University President and current Barnes board member, Neil Rudenstein has been published,  titled: The House of Barnes:  The Man, the Collection and the Controversy.

The book grew out of research Rudenstein did to inform his decision about whether he was prepared to join the newly expanded Barnes board prior to the move.  

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Creatively Speaking
8:12 am
Sat December 1, 2012

Dancing Around Marcel Duchamp's Bride At The Philadelphia Museum of Art

Bride, 1912, Marcel Duchamp, American (born France), Oil on canvas, 35 1/4 x 21 7/8 inches (89.5 x 55.6cm) The Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection, 1950
Philadelphia Museum of Art

The Philadelphia Museum of Art boasts the world’s largest collection of works by French Artist Marcel Duchamp, known best for his avante-garde works that incorporate common materials.  The Museum is now exploring  his American legacy – in not only visual art,  but dance and music.  In addition to showcasing over 40 works by Duchamp, the interdisciplinary exhibition juxtaposes more than 60 works by fine artists Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, music by John Cage, and performances of choreography by Merce Cunningham. 

The work that drew these four younger artists to Philadelphia to better understand Duchamp was his, then, best-known masterpiece – The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even - also called, The Large Glass, finished in the 1920s.  It is, in fact, two large frames of glass that contain pictures created with materials such as lead foil, wire, and dust. 

Jim Cotter speaks with exhibition curator Carlos Basualdo, (the Museum’s curator of contemporary art), about Duchamp’s impact on these artists, and his relationship with Philadelphia.

Dancing around the Bride: Cage, Cunningham, Johns, Rauschenberg, and Duchamp is at the Philadelphia Museum of Art through January 21, 2013.

Information here. 

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