Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Community of Listeners and a Call to Action

Become a phone volunteer and you'll see just how
true this cartoon is! (from Barnacle Press)
This coming Monday we begin the 2011 Classical Music Marathon. For a full week, we'll be playing nothing but classical music 24/7. We'll be having a lot of fun, celebrating classical music in all its diversity (and giving our announcers an opportunity to play things they normally wouldn't get a chance to).

But this is fun with a purpose.

And the purpose is to remind our listeners just how unique WTJU is in its programming, and why it's important for our listeners to support it.

This marathon is also a fund drive for WTJU. We need to raise $40,000 in order to meet our operating budget. Some of our money comes from other sources, but a significant portion always has to be raised directly from our listeners.

And that's where you come in. Contributing money is just one way you can help WTJU. This is a community radio station, and the participation of our listening community is vital. So how can you help?

1) Contribute generously
Whether you listen to WTJU locally, or online, you can help! Either call our pledge line number (434-924-3959), or simply go to and make a donation with your credit card. This year we can also do monthly billing (online only), so why not make a pledge for $20 a month?

Just think: if 166 listeners did just that, the fund drive would be over before it even started! (Don't worry -- we'd still do the special programming). I don't know what the other 165 listeners are thinking, but your decision to pledge makes that scenario more likely to happen.

2) Volunteer to answer the phones
We have a very simple system for our phone volunteers. If you're reading this blog, you probably have enough computer skills to handle the job! And it's fun to hang out with the announcers and get to see how radio works on the other end of the microphone. Plus, you get to talk with all the nice folks (like yourself) calling in to pledge.

3) Give us a testimonial
What do you like best about WTJU? What makes it worthy of your support? This year we have a testimonial hotline set up where you can call in and have your thoughts recorded. We'll be using these on the air, so your heartfelt comments about WTJU might be the key to get other listeners to pledge -- perhaps even for the first time. Call us at 434-207-2120

4) Share your love of WTJU with others
Actually, this can happen any time of year. WTJU is perhaps the best-kept secret in Charlottesville, and there's no reason why it should be. If you're passionate about music, then this is the station for you. If your friends are as serious about music as you are, you should do them a favor and let them know about WTJU. Remember, even if they don't live in the immediate area, they can always listen online. And if they -- or you -- miss a show that you really wanted to hear, we keep our broadcasts archived for two weeks. So they (or you) can listen or relisten to any program any time on demand -- for free.

So enjoy this upcoming week of classical programming, and help us continue to serve you by contributing in any or all of the four ways listed above (especially the first).

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Calling all listeners (to take the call)

The WTJU Classical Music Fund-Raising Marathon is almost upon us, and we need your help. In order for our announcers to really do their best on the air, we need one or more volunteers to staff our phone banks and take those pledges.

It's actually a pretty simple process. Most of the entry-taking is done for you on the computer. If your reading this blog post, you probably have all the technical skill you need to staff our phones.

And sign-up is easy, too. Just follow this link to go to the WTJU website and start the process.

There are many ways you can help your favorite radio station. A generous financial contribution is one way, but it's not the only way. Telling everyone you know about WTJU is a great way to help us build our audience and our pool of supporters. And remember: they don't have to live nearby -- online listeners from around the world can also contribute.

And a donation of your time by volunteering for our phone banks is another great way to support WTJU.

WTJU is your community radio station. Why not take a more active role in it?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Riisager Symphonic Music: An Unsung Composer Gets a Hearing

Knudage Riisager 
The Symphonic Edition, Vol. 1 
Aarhus Symphony Orchestra
Bo Holten, conductor 

I have to admit I had never heard of Knudage Riisager before I received this CD (let alone any of his music). But after listening to this outstanding recording, I want to hear more.

Riisager is now recognized as one of Denmark’s greatest composers, although during his lifetime his music was received indifferently, forcing him to support himself in other ways. Riisager studied in Paris in the early 1920’s and was deeply influenced by the cadre of composers there. In this first volume of Riisager’s symphonic works, it’s easy to hear those influences.

Riisager’s orchestral music is written in a lush, post-romantic style, but no matter how many instruments are playing, it always sounds clean and transparent. That Ravel-like elegance is often offset by wry, humorous gestures that one might find in early Stravinsky or Prokofiev. The end result is a music that shows its influences, but remains absolutely unique.

This first volume presents Riisager’s first symphony and four symphonic tone poems. The tone poems, “Danish Pictures 1-4” reference various aspects of Danish life and culture. Structurally, they remind me a little of Richard Strauss’ tone poems. Collectively, the four Danish Pictures show a lot of imagination, both in terms of melodic invention and orchestration.

 Riisager’s first symphony is pleasant work of somewhat modest ambitions, but it succeeds completely in its intent. The structure is well-defined, and the music just sort of ambles along from one major theme to another. And what themes! They’re all very attractive, practically inviting the listener to hum along. The Aarhus Symphony Orchestra plays these works with confidence and precision. Conductor Bo Holten is a composer as well, which may be why the works on this album coalesce so beautifully. The performers believe in this music, and that attitude is infectious.

I'll be revisiting this recording often.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Stephen Mackey: Lonely Motel worth checking into

Stephen Mackey: Lonely Motel: Music from Slide 
eighth blackbird
Rinde Eckert, vocalist
Cedille Records

If you're a fan of eighth blackbird, you wont' be disappointed with this new release. If you're not familiar with this outstanding contemporary music ensemble, Lonely Motel can serve as a good introduction to the group

Stephen Mackey based his work on a series of slides used for psychological testing. Subjects are shown various images and are asked to react to them. Mackey does the same thing musically, and just as with the test subjects, the answers are often deeply significant and often confused.

Sonically the work lands somewhere between modern Broadway (think: Rent) and contemporary classical music. Perhaps it’s the addition of the composer on the electric guitar. Vocalist Rinde Eckert (who's also the librettist for the work) delivers his performance with more a Broadway belt than belle canto.

But that’s fine, because in this composition, it all works. Lonely Motel is a series of 11 short vignettes, sometimes connected, sometimes not. They range from the sparse and mordant musical accents of “Slide of Dog” to the amazingly beautiful falsetto of “She Walks.” My favorite movement is “Addiction” which effortlessly slides from a pointallistic arrhythmic opening to a wild renaissance dance.

This is the kind of composition that can appeal to both adventurous classical and rock music fans. If you like music with an edge, check into the “Lonely Motel.” I think you’ll enjoy your stay.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Saariaho: D'Om le Vrai Sens - Sensuous music for serious listeners

Kaija Saariaho: D’Om le Vrai Sens 
Kari Kriiku, clarinet
Anu Komsi, soprano
Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra
Sakari Oramo, conductor

This is an album of challenging music. But if you’re up to that challenge, you’ll find your listening experience deeply rewarding. Kaija Saariaho is concerned with the nature of sound, and the major work on this release, her clarinet concerto, shows it.

The work was written in consultation with clarinetist Kari Krikku, and really pushes the limits of the instrument. Krikku plays in the extreme high and low ranges of the clarinet, and even uses multiphonics in a sections. But it’s not just to show off his extraordinary skill -– there’s an artistic reason behind it all.

The concerto is a journey through the senses, as depicted in a series of medieval tapestries. with a movement each devoted to hearing, sight, smell, touch, taste, and finally, the “sixth sense” titled “to my only desire.” That final movement pulls the disparate parts of the work together in a transfiguring fashion that (as you can tell) is very difficult to describe.

Also included in this album is the short work Laterna Magica. It draws inspiration from the early form of slide projector, called the magic lantern. Vague clouds of sound emulate soft-focus images cast on walls, moving, combining –- and sometimes interacting in a work that’s both ethereal and deeply moving.

Leino Songs is a set of orchestral songs, based on the writings of Eino Leino, one of Finland’s greatest poets. Saariaho looks to the inherent drama of the text to shape the musical structure, as instruments clash and withdraw. Tying the composition together is the soprano voice. Solosit Anu Komsi worked with Saariaho on this composition, so the music lays very well for her.

Saariaho doesn’t write pretty music – but she does write vital music. You might not be able to whistle the themes, but the raw emotion Saariaho lays down on manuscript paper is powerful indeed. This is the music of contemplation and thought, and reaps additional insights with repeated listening.