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.
The world-renowned harpist Ann Hobson Pilot - a Settlement graduate - talks with Susan Lewis.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
WRTI’s Susan Lewis talks with PAFA Senior Curator and Curator of Modern Art Robert Cozzolino about 'The Female Gaze: Women Artists Making Their World' and its new insights into art and American culture.
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.
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.