Which Musical Works Are You Thankful for This Year?

Special thanks to Anne Akiko Meyers, who posted a link to this on her Facebook page. 🙂

As we celebrated Thanksgiving, and considered all the treasures for which we are grateful, we saw this on WQXR’s website (the classical music station in New York City):  classical artists wrote about which musical pieces they are particularly thankful for…what a lovely and diverse list of music! Here’s what Austin’s own esteemed violinist, Anne Akiko Meyers, wrote:

Anne Akiko Meyers, violinist

The Prokofiev Violin Concerto No. 1 is one of the masterpieces written for violin and orchestra. I am so thankful that Prokofiev was in Paris and was so inspired after hearing the Szymanowski Mythes that he wrote this concerto. Impressionistic, beautiful, violent and ultra stylish, it is a great workout for me physically and emotionally when I perform this enchanting music. George Gershwin’s Summertime arranged by Jascha Heifetz is one of the most beautiful lullabies ever written… “hush little baby, don’t you cry…” Thank you George!! And Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel has such simplicity yet it’s music that makes you sit still, remember and just breathe. The music is aptly titled, “Mirror in Mirror” and is so reflective. A beauty….

Click here to visit the WQXR website and read more submissions from artists, such as Eric Whitacre, Jacques Lacombe, and all three members of the Claremont Trio!

~Submitted by Alison @ KMFA  🙂

Concert Chorale in the Bates Concert Hall

~posted by Carmel O’Donovan, KMFA announcer

Those who know me well (and those unfortunate enough to sit near me in church) know that I “cannot sing for toffee.” That said, I love to sing, and try not to let this minor disadvantage deter me.

By some strange quirk of fate, two of my children are extremely talented in the vocal department. Back in the UK, I fear that their talent in this area would have “fallen by the wayside” since the concept of choral singing in state-funded schools is virtually non-existent, and in the face of that, it takes real personal commitment from a very early age to develop singing skills. I seriously doubt that either of them would have persisted in their singing. Fast forward four years, and I have two children in the choir program in the Eanes School District.

Sunday, November 7th, was a “first” for me on a number of levels. It was my first visit to the Bates Recital Hall on the UT campus – what an extraordinary facility that is! It was also the first time that I had seen and heard the Visser-Rowland tracker organ. The organ was installed in 1983 and is a musical and engineering feat. With over 5000 pipes ranging from 16 feet to pencil size, the construction occupied staff for 16,750 working hours.

It was also a first for the Westlake High School Chorale. Under the brilliant directorship of Ed Snouffer and Jen Goodner (accompanied by the wonderfully talented Meg Houghton) they joined forces with the University of Texas Concert Chorale, directed by Suzanne Pence and Aaron Hufty, accompanied by Christopher Evatt. The combination was simply electrifying. The Westlake Chorale, numbering over 130 singers, sang four wonderful pieces, my favorite of which was “Sure on this Shining Night,” by Morten Lauridsen.

We then enjoyed a mixture of pieces from the UT choir including Gypsy songs by Brahms, Renaissance-based madrigals by Lauridsen, and a foot stomping piece by Moses Hogan. The two choirs then came together for the finale: Gloria (Movement 111) by John Rutter, and the air was filled with the magical amalgam of beautiful voices accompanied by the wonderful organ, in place of the brass for which the piece was written. Incredibly the two choirs came together for about an hour’s rehearsal prior to the performance; a measure of their combined talents and the skill and discipline of their directors. It was wonderful!

The great news is that, while this was a first, it most certainly will not be the last time that these choirs come together. I eagerly await their next concert!



~Carmel O’Donovan is a part-time announcer on KMFA 89.5; you can read more about Carmel and all our Music Hosts on our website.

Verdi’s La Traviata bears the test of time

~posted by Renee Beale, KMFA announcer… Renee was fortunate to have attended the ALO season premiere of La Traviata

“‘La Traviata last night a failure. My fault or the singers?’ Time will tell.” This has become Giuseppe Verdi’s most famous letter written about the opening night of his opera in 1853, when the performance was not met with success.

His written words convey his faith in the public’s awareness of what is good art and what is not. Opera audiences since then have proven that Verdi produced good art, and its popularity perseveres today. La Traviata has become one of the most performed operas in North America, and it doesn’t matter how many times I see it, I cry every time during Act II when Giorgio Germont requests Violetta to leave the younger Germont, because she is sullying their good name. The performances in Act II by Pamela Armstrong and Grant Youngblood were exceptional, not only in their singing performances, but in the connection they made with each other as actors. Ms. Armstrong’s accurate emotional portrayal of love mixed with shame, and acceptance of knowing the consequences of her choices would ruin her chance at true love, were captivating.

photo: courtesy of ALO's Facebook page! 🙂

While driving to ALO’s season premiere of this beloved opera, I was pleased to catch the on-air conversation that KMFA hosts Dianne Donovan and Jeffrey Blair had with Kevin Patterson, the General Director of the Austin Lyric Opera. Kevin mentioned quite emphatically that opera, and particularly La Traviata, have never been more relevant due to the social implications during that era that continue to exist today. I am always amazed how societies resist change, especially when it comes to whom one marries and whether that coupling will enhance social status (or dilute it). All the performances along with the stage design were extraordinar, and the emotionally charged connections between the actors were strong and believable. “Let’s drink to that sweet ecstasy” that is La Traviata. Bravo to ALO!


~posted by Renee Beale, KMFA announcer. You can read more about KMFA’s on-air hosts by visiting our website.


Preview of Austin Lyric Opera’s “La Traviata”

~posted by Dianne Donovan, KMFA’s mid-day host

On Wednesday’s episode of Classical Austin, we featured a spotlight on Austin Lyric Opera’s Production of “La Traviata,” by Giuseppe Verdi.

I had some special guests in the studio! Namely, the stars of the opera: “Violetta,” Pamela Armstrong (soprano),  “Alfredo,” Texas-born Chad Shelton (tenor), and the Principal Conductor of Austin Lyric Opera, Maestro Richard Buckley. We learned about some of the challenges and thrills of performing this stunning masterpiece. 

There was more to the interview than we could fit into the show, so if you would like to hear more, or if you missed the show,  click here for your listening pleasure.

(If you heard the show, the music I played was from a recording that featured Cheryl Studer, Lucian Pavarotti, the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus, under the direction of James Levine. Deutsche Grammaphon 435 797.)

Austin Lyric Opera performances will be November 6th, 10th, 12th & 14th, at the Long Center for the Performing Arts.

KMFA will broadcast the opening-night event, Saturday, November 6th, with a “pre-game” show starting at 5:30pm.

More information about the performance can be found at www.austinlyricopera.org

~Dianne Donovan is KMFA’s midday announcer and host/producer of Classical Austin.

In the KMFA Studios: Sara Hessel interviews Ryland Angel!

Keith, Sara, and Ryland in Studio 2000

~posted by Sara Hessel, KMFA Music Director

Last week, I had the pleasure of interviewing internationally renowned countertenor Ryland Angel, along with Keith Womer, artistic director of La Follia Austin Baroque. The subject matter of our interview was La Follia’s next concert, “Sacred Music of the Early German Baroque,” which will feature Ryland’s vocal talents, as well as several other exceptional guest performers.

The concerts are happening this weekend (Nov. 6 and 7) at two different venues in Austin. I’ll be giving a preconcert lecture about one of the stars of the early Baroque, Dieterich Buxtehude, starting 30 minutes before before each performance. For more information, please visit www.lafollia.org.

Click here for an extended excerpt of my interview with Keith and Ryland.

Sara Hessel is KMFA’s Music Director, as well as producer and host of Ancient Voices. Tune in on Sundays, 9am and 4pm, to enjoy Ancient Voices, right here on KMFA, 89.5.