Arts Desk

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!

Jessica Griffin

The Philadelphia Orchestra has over 100 musicians, and as many stories - often inspiring and surprising.  WRTI’s Susan Lewis profiles Bob Cafaro, a cellist in the Orchestra since 1985, whose artistry is matched by his determination to live fully, both onstage and off.  

Chances are that you're familiar with the names of some of the most popular French Impressionists - Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edouard Manet, Camille Pissarro, Edgar Degas - and some of their most iconic paintings. And chances are that you've never heard of the man who devoted his career to generating a market and public acceptance of their works.  WRTI's Meridee Duddleston has the story.

In its inaugural season, the Pennsylvania Philharmonic performed for 15,000 students in Pennsylvania’s many small cities and towns from Bethlehem to Pottstown, to Oxford, and York and points in between. In its second season (2015-2016), the orchestra will continue its mission of exposing middle schoolers to the magic of classical music. While some students will deepen their experience over last year, others will see and hear a full orchestra for the very first time. 

Former Philadelphia Orchestra Music Director Christoph Eschenbach was awarded The Ernst von Siemens Music Prize for a life in the service of music this past May.

As WRTI’s Susan Lewis reports, music helped heal the emotional wounds Eschenbach suffered as a child in World War II, after he lost both parents. Eschenbach’s mother died at his birth, and his father, an active anti-Nazi, died in a punishment battalion sent to the front. Rescued from a refugee camp in 1945 by his mother’s cousin, the five-year-old Christoph didn’t speak for a year—until he started piano lessons.

Dilworth Park at Philadelphia’s City Hall boasts new attractions - including greenery, a café, and a fountain that becomes an ice skating rink in winter. But the newly redesigned space also draws attention to older works of art and a family that made its mark on the city for nearly a century. As WRTI’s Susan Lewis reports, one need only...to look up.


Bettmann/CORBIS

In the 1940s, when jazz singer Billie Holiday was at the height of her power and artistry, she always performed wearing at least one white gardenia in her hair. WRTI's Meridee Duddleston visits Drexel University professor and fashion scholar Alphonso McClendon, who looks at the meaning behind that statement and fashion in his book Fashion and Jazz: Dress, Identity and Subcultural Improvisation. 

The arts can encourage positive cultural identity and promote cross-cultural understanding. As WRTI’s Susan Lewis reports, that’s the premise of the Philadelphia-based organization Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture, open to people of all backgrounds and presenting and teaching Arab language, art, and music, which can vary among the 22 countries in the Arab world.

Radio script:

Competitions have tested serious music students for decades. They also have prompted the composition of works that continue to enrich the repertoire. WRTI’s Susan Lewis has more on Claude Debussy’s Rhapsody No. 1 for Clarinet and Orchestra.

Ken Howard for Santa Fe Opera


Jennfier Higdon's opera Cold Mountain premiered on August 1st at the Santa Fe Opera to a world that was obviously ready for a masterwork. It was sold out before opening, an extra performance was added, and a major recording company committed to releasing it commercially. The masterwork didn't quite emerge, reports The Philadelphia Inquirer's David Patrick Stearns. But many good things did. 

The symphonic organ had its heyday in the first half of the 20th century, when organists frequently transcribed and played works written for orchestra. As WRTI’s Susan Lewis reports, that practice is now coming back into musical fashion.

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