Classical Music with Laura Carlo

O mio babbino caro….

By Laura Carlo   |   Tuesday, October 25, 2011
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Oct. 26

My father was facing surgery early one April many years ago and was dismayed that just before he had to go into the hospital his order of a dozen-plus heritage rose bushes was delivered early - too early to plant for our Boston gardening zone. Dad had specified that they be delivered two months later ... but things can go wrong with mail order....and now he had to deal with all these roses.

It was important that these rose bushes were saved because roses are very important to us as a family. When we children were born my father picked a rose from his own prize-winners every day and placed it in a vase near our cribs. He kept that up the whole first year of our lives: Red for his first-born, rosy-cheeked me, yellow for my fair little sister and healthy pink for his strapping son---so that the first thing that his "babies would see when they awoke was a rose.”

I returned the favor when Daddy turned 65---66 ruby red long stemmed roses (one to grown on)!

Now what to do with all these bare root rose bushes scrunched up in a soggy set of cardboard buckets left by the delivery man on the cold front stairs? Even though Daddy was a master rose gardener it was a huge task for one person, and given his impending surgery and the time of year there wasn't any time to waste, so I volunteered to help him.

I had never planted a rose bush before, but my father was very patient with me as he showed me step-by-step how to prepare the planting holes, test and amend the soil with organic compost and materials, carefully part the roots and plant and water just so. He showed me how, and just as important, he carefully explained "why" for each step. My usually quiet father was inspired to share with me how much he had loved roses from when he was a little boy. Although he often went hungry in war-torn Italy, and he was frightened of the sounds of war as a youngster, his mother kept pointing out to him that there was still beauty to be found in the world, including the exquisite, perfumed roses of Rome. He never forgot how roses came to symbolize all things hopeful and beautiful.

We worked quietly, then, side by side, and saving those rose bushes took us most of that day. When we were done my father surprised me by hanging a little sign that he had had a local hardware store make that read “The Laura Rose Garden,” something he was intending to do all along. He secured it to one of the larger front rose bushes for all passersby to see.

I have been winning trophies and ribbons and accolades my whole life but no prize ever meant so much to me.

No, not the naming.

The chance to plant roses with my father.

Rest in peace, my Daddy Carlo.

(image of rose by Parvin via Flickr;  Creative Commons license CC BY-SA 2.0)

Newport: Music at the Mansions

Friday, June 17, 2011
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Classical New England continues a journey to gorgeous places and electrifying performances a different New England destination each Saturday at 6pm and Sunday at noon.  This week, we're off to the stunning mansions of Newport, Rhode Island, for the Newport Music Festival. 

To hear the program, click on Listen above.

The 43rd Newport Music Festival, in 2011, began on July 7 and ran through July 24.

Many musicians from all over the world participate in the festival, and some of the featured performers in 2011 included pianists Daniel del Pino, Gergely Bogányi and Frederick Moyer, violinists Jennifer Frautschi and Livia Sohn, and cellists Jirí Bárta and Sergey Antonov.

There were 57 concerts scheduled during the festival, with most days including concerts at 11am, 4pm, and 9pm. The festival began with a benefit concert for The Mark P. Malkovich, III Memorial Fund and also includes 13 "Lisztiad" concerts, an in-depth exploration of music written by Franz Liszt.

Along with the festival, Newport offers other attractions like the Newport International Polo Series, sailing charters, and more.

Newport is approximately 90 minutes by car from downtown Boston, and there are many options for dining and lodging.  More information about visiting Newport can be found by visiting the Newport Music Festival.

More New England Summer Festivals

Strings Attached

By Laura Carlo   |   Tuesday, April 12, 2011
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April 12

When I was a child I asked, no, begged, my parents for piano lessons. They were so pleased at how enthusiastic I was, giving them the strongest assurances that I would practice faithfully, (please please please) that they agreed. I took lessons for 12 years, starting on the rickety old upright that came with the first house my young parents bought and eventually receiving from them the gift of a collector's baby grand.

I still play and I still love my instrument of choice.

But. Learning classical piano does nothing for your "cool" factor when you're 10 or 12 or especially 15. When I was a teenager the only really cool musical instrument was a guitar. My sister, who tired of piano lessons two years in asked to take guitar lessons instead and in almost no time it seemed, she was able to play popular songs.

She and her guitar went everywhere, surrounded by kids who would ask her to play something they all could sing. The piano player in the family practicing Bach's 2-part inventions? Not.

The thing is, I also fell in love with the guitar. Blues to bluegrass, folk to jazz, rock to classical, even the sultry sounds of Spanish flamenco. It didn't matter ... if it was played on guitar I was drawn to it. A noble instrument known to almost every culture in some form or another, the guitar shows no sign of diminishing in popularity despite its ancient heritage.

This month is designated National and International Guitar month, and I'm so pleased at the enthusiastic response I've received from listeners hearing for the first time some of the guitar music I'm highlighting on the radio.

Please join me in the 7 o'clock hour each weekday as April continues for outstanding guitarists, including Andres Segovia, John Williams, Christopher Parkening, Sharon Isbin, Los Romeros and more playing some of classical music's greatest guitar repertoire. And if you have about 3 minutes ... check out these cutie patuties who are insuring that the next generation will honor the guitar, too...

Erin go Bragh!

By Laura Carlo   |   Tuesday, March 15, 2011
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Mar. 16

Kiss me, I'm Irish.

OK... I'm not, but on St. Patrick's Day, it is said, everyone is Irish (or wishes they were)! I wasn't born Irish, but we were one of the few Italian families in a predominantly Irish neighborhood here in Boston. My friends Kathleen, Maureen, Colleen and company "adopted" me, and since they didn't take ballet lessons, but did take Irish Step Dance, I did too.

From Mrs. H. I learned to bake Irish soda bread (must be slathered with golden Irish butter before eating), and from Mrs. O I learned to make a “proper” corned beef dinner. I knew all the words to “Wild Colonial Boy” and “When Irish Eyes Are Smilin’” way before I knew the words to “O Sole Mio.”

Children live what they know and I have always felt a particular affection for the day and the wearing of the green. This coming Thursday is St. Patrick's Day and we'll join in the celebrations with the "airing of the green." In addition to the classical music that always brightens your mornings, I’ll be playing music about Ireland, or by Irish composers, or performed by Irish performers.

Listen for Charles Villiers Stanford's Irish Rhapsody No. 5, pianist John O'Conor, flutist James Galway, even some cuts from The Boston Pops Orchestra's "Celtic Album," to name a few.

Erin go Bragh!

(image:  Sea Head, Ireland, from Wikimedia Commons)

For March, a Celebration of Women in Music

By Laura Carlo   |   Wednesday, March 2, 2011
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March 2

History is herstory too.  ~Author Unknown

March ... it is said ... roars in like a lion. Hmm, she smiles as she remembers the opening line of the 1972 song co-written and sung by Helen Reddy, “I am Woman, hear me roar..." which became the “anthem” to the women’s liberation movement.

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Mr. President: A Choral Tribute

By Brian McCreath   |   Sunday, February 20, 2011
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Feb. 25

Earlier this week, on Presidents Day, we offered a new set of choral pieces that pay tribute to several US Presidents through the words they spoke or wrote.  They were from a project dreamed up by Judith Clurman, conductor of Essential Voices USA, who was inspired to commission the series as a result of her commitment to music, to politics, and to education.

As we talked through this project here at 99.5 All Classical, I couldn't help but be struck by the dichotomy of the character of these pieces and the character of our current political climate.  The words Clurman found and the music they inspired are reminders that, in the midst of bitter political battles playing out in Washington, D.C, Madison, Wisconsin, Indianapolis, Indiana, and many other places around the country, there are and have been extraordinary people who have approached politics as a way to improve lives and create a better society.

I was also reminded of a few amazing resources about specific presidents that I've found valuable in making their impact and legacy more tangible.  I've listed them below, along with five of the pieces that you can listen to on demand.  See what you think, and feel free to add your own comments and suggestions for learning more about presidents.

And to hear all 16 of the pieces included in the project, on demand, along with interviews with Clurman and several of the composers, visit NPR Music's Deceptive Cadence.

George Washington - “I had rather be on my farm than be emperor of the world.”
1st President: 1789-1797
Washington Round, by Michael Gilberston

John Adams - “I pray heaven to bestow the best of blessings on this house and all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but the wise men ever rule under this roof.”
2nd President: 1797–1801
John Adams’ Prayer, by Jake Heggie

John Adams, David McCullough's Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Massachusetts's own John Adams, an incredible work in its own right, inspired HBO to create an equally incredible television biography of this vastly underrated president.  The series not only includes vivid portrayals of Adams and his wife Abigail by, respectively, Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney, it also gives you a sometimes difficult to watch picture of life in colonial America.  For more info, visit HBO's John Adams.

Abraham Lincoln - “The ballot is stronger than the bullet.”
16th President: 1861-1865
The ballet is stronger than the bullet, by Jason Robert Brown

Garry Wills's 1992 book, Lincoln at Gettysburg:  The Words That Remade America, is invaluable in many ways.  The 272-word Gettysburg Address is so ubiquitous as an item of history that it may occasionally lose its power, but this illuminating book reinforces the staggering work of genius the speech is by weaving in philosophy, history, and cultural practices of the time.  The number of words written about Lincoln over the decades is practically infinite, but for me, this one book is all that's needed to confirm him as our greatest president.

Dwight David Eisenhower - “History does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid.”
33rd President: 1953-1961
Eisenhower Round, by Paul Moravec

A recent issue of The Atlantic featured an article entitled "The Tyranny of Defence Inc.," written by Andrew J. Bacevich, in which a sobering portrait is drawn of a Dwight D. Eisenhower as he left office.  More prophetic than even he himself knew, Eisenhower comes across as a man at once responsible for much of the dangerous state of our current geo-political situation, and wise enough to recognize that danger.  Ultimately, it's a complexity not often credited to Ike.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy - “The best road to progress is freedom’s road.”
35th President: 1961-1963
Freedom’s Road, by Robert Beaser

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