Arts Desk

If you missed any of our short Arts Desk features on the air, you can always find them right here, along with additional related content. Check out stories by WRTI arts reporters Meridee Duddleston, Susan Lewis, David Patrick Stearns, Debra Lew Harder, Kile Smith, and Maureen Malloy. Arts Desk and Arts News Submission Guidelines

More than 100 years ago, a settlement house in the Southwark section of Philadelphia provided services to immigrants, from English lessons to sewing classes. Soon it began offering music lessons, a mission it continues today.

In 1914, Settlement became an independent music school. And in 1917, it moved into what is still its main branch: the Mary Louise Curtis Building at 5th and Queen Streets. On a typical Saturday, the building is alive with the sounds of kids at play - playing music that is: 

Kid 1: I take ballet, violin and I go to music workshop.

Kid 2:  I play recorder and drums.

Kid 3: I play in a quartet, with piano, cello, violin and viola..

While its conservatory division became the nucleus of the Curtis Institute of Music in 1924, Settlement continued to offer instruction at all musical levels from beginner to pre-professional. Over the years, it has influenced hundreds of people who have gone onto success in various fields. Among them: Twister Chubby Checker, composer Michael Bacon, and the late Star Wars Director Irvin Kershner:

KERSHNER: I consider film as music, because its rhythmic, it has repeats, it has movements..

BACON: So Settlement to me was always a relaxed fun place to be, which is what you want to provide to children with music

CHUBBY CHECKER: Little did I know the things I’d learn there I’d be using in my music career, far beyond my expectations..

Today, in addition to its main building, Settlement has branches in Germantown, the Northeast, Willow Grove, West Philadelphia, and Camden.

Pianist Imogen Cooper: Eloquence Personified

Jan 6, 2013

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.

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.

Listeners may not think about the visuals in an orchestra concert, but body language is an important way in which musicians communicate with one another. From his chair, Philadelphia Orchestra Concertmaster David Kim leads Mozart’s Serenade in G Major: Eine Kleine Nachtmusik the way it would have been done in Mozart’s time, without a conductor, on January 10th, 11th, and 12th in concerts at the Kimmel Center.

Kim talks with WRTI’s Susan Lewis about body motion and playing without a conductor. Concert information here.

A new year, a new book to nurture the hearts and minds of Philadelphians - and everyone!  The award-winning novel by Julie Otsuka - The Buddha in the Attic - is a Japanese-American story of things left behind. It's this year’s One Book, One Philadelphia choice.

Starting January 17th through mid-March, The Free Library of Philadelphia will lead readers on a journey through the lives of Japanese-American “picture brides.” Their story starts with a voyage in steerage in the early 1900s, and culminates as they’re sent away to government internment camps during World War II. Otsuka’s rich portrayal reveals as much about our national character during those years as the personal resilience of these first-generation immigrants.  

This past fall, the author shared her thoughts about writing The Buddha in the Attic - a prequel to her first celebrated novel, When the Emperor was Divine.

More about the Free Library of Philadelphia's One Book, One Philadelphia initiative.

Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA)

Artist Linda Lee Alter began collecting art by women in the mid 1980s after finding a dearth of female artists represented in museums and galleries. She collected a variety of art in different styles and media, and in 2010 donated approximately 500 works to Philadelphia's Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Now on view at PAFA, The Female Gaze: Women Artists Making Their World, is an exhibition of nearly 250 works from the collection. 

Be sure to check out a companion exhibition opening at PAFA on Saturday, January 12th: Modern Women at PAFA: From Cassatt to O'Keeffe.

In the first part of the 20th century, George Gershwin found fortune as a composer of popular songs, which were used in dozens of Broadway and Hollywood musicals - many of which he created with his brother, lyricist Ira Gershwin. 

The work that launched him as a classical composer, however, was Rhapsody in Blue.  It premiered in  1924, and was performed for decades by orchestras throughout the world. Before he died in 1937 at the age of 38, Gershwin would compose many solo pieces for piano, the first great American opera, Porgy and Bess, and a number of orchestral works.

WRTI’s Susan Lewis  considers George Gershwin and his musical legacy.

Happy Birthday, Nadja!

Jan 6, 2013

Her story is - in its way - a great American immigrant’s tale. And this week, the Italian-born American violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg is celebrating her 51st birthday.

As WRTI’s Jim Cotter reports, most of that time has been spent in the spotlight.

Creatively Speaking Retrospective

Dec 29, 2012

As WRTI's weekly Saturday morning arts and culture show transitions to a daily feature format, Jim Cotter, Susan Lewis, David Patrick Stearns and Eric Brannon look at highlights from the show's almost 500 episodes.  

Over the last nine years, the greater Philadelphia region has experienced astounding growth in the scale and quality of music, the fine arts, theater, and dance, as well as a wealth of other cultural activities.

We revisit memorable performances and exhibitions, and recall explorations of the widely varied hubs of artistic endeavors. We look back on our many conversations with international and local superstars, lesser-known and emerging artists, and art lovers who are shaping our world today.

Starting on January 7th, you'll hear 90-second Creatively Speaking features nine to ten times each day. Look for more stories about music, arts, and culture from Jim, Susan, David, and the newest member of the team, Meridee Duddleston.

We'll also be presenting a special series within Creatively Speaking: Where Music Lives; you'll hear 60 stories, throughout 2013, of how music is making a difference in the communities WRTI serves.

The acclaimed Maria Joao Pires announced that she will retire in 2014. The Philadelphia Inquirer's  David Patrick Stearns profiles the demure but exquisite Portuguese pianist.

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