Arts & Culture

Arts and culture

Roy Kral (1921 – 2002) was working in Chicago with the George Davis Quartet when he met Jackie Cain (1928 – 2014). They formed a duo, Jackie and Roy, and the rest is history. The vocal and piano duo blended witty lyrics and unusual melodies with a light modern jazz feeling. These dear friends of McPartland’s were her guests for Piano Jazz in 1992. A sophisticated and charming pair, the husband and wife team play Alec Wilder’s “While We Were Young” and join McPartland for a trio of “Joy Spring.”

Chucho Valdés
Francis Vernhet/International Music Network

At one time, pianist Jesus “Chucho” Valdés was banned from performing in the United States. Today, he enjoys performing and teaching here as well as in his native Cuba. Valdés is a world-class innovator in Latin jazz. In 1973 he founded Irakere, a group that introduced a new fusion of African traditional music with Cuban jazz. On this Piano Jazz from 2000, Valdés and host McPartland share a love of pianist Bill Evans, and in tribute they create their version of “Waltz for Debby.” Valdés treats listeners to his composition “Claudia.”

Sharon Isbin on Song Travels

Oct 10, 2016
Sharon Isbin
Sony Classical

Renowned classical guitarist Sharon Isbin has released more than 25 albums, toured worldwide, and premiered some of the finest new guitar works of the last century. Trained by the legendary Andrés Segovia, Isbin is the first and only female guitarist to win a classical Grammy, and she is the founder and Director of the Guitar Department at the Juilliard School of Music. On this Song Travels, her mastery is on display as Isbin shares notable recordings of her work and plays from her classical repertoire.

News Stations: Sun, Oct 16, 2 pm | Classical Stations: Sun, Oct 16, 6 pm

Catherine Russell on Song Travels

Oct 10, 2016
Catherine Russell
The Kurland Agency

As a young girl, vocalist Catherine Russell bounced on the knee of Louis Armstrong. She started her career as an ace backup singer for stars including Paul Simon, David Bowie, and Steely Dan. Today she’s a leading interpreter of the Great American Songbook. On this episode of Song Travels, Russell and host Feinstein perform jazz standards with a hint of the blues, including “I Cover the Waterfront” and Duke Ellington’s “Mood Indigo.”

News Stations: Sun, Oct 09, 2 pm | Classical Stations: Sun, Oct 09, 6 pm

Overture 1

Oct 10, 2016

Miles Hoffman discusses where the word "Overture" comes from and the earliest iteration of the overture.

A Minute with Miles - a Production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the JM Smith Corporation.

Wind Instruments

Oct 7, 2016

A wind instrument is any instrument whose sound is produced by a column of air vibrating inside some sort of tube, or pipe.  But I’d like to clear up a common misconception: Wind players aren’t blowing away to try to fill up their instruments with air —the air inside a wind instrument is already there.

The Waltz

Oct 6, 2016

When the dance known as the waltz first became popular in Europe in the late 1700's and early 1800's, it was considered by many observers to be the ultimate in lewdness and licentiousness, a corrupter of youth.

Songs about the Pisgah National Forest

Oct 5, 2016
Courtesy of artist

Jon Grier's piece Pisgah Songs captures the beauty of the NC National forests. The poets kindly allowed their poems to be posted below.


Looking Glass (Keller Cushing Freeman)

I send you winter love:

ice crystals glittering like mica

in the stiff red clay; the caught breath

of a silent creek, turned glass

by last night's cold; the oldest stars

shivering light from distances

re-marked in years; lines

a severe wind drew and then erased,

tracks a-cross the landscape of a face,

The Double Bass

Oct 5, 2016

The double bass is the one member of the modern violin family whose roots are in the viola da gamba, or viol family. The next time you see a double bass, notice that its back is flat, like a viol’s, not arched, like a violin’s, and it has the steeply-sloped shoulders of a viol.

Art Song

Oct 4, 2016

Art song is a general term that refers to the kinds of songs written by classically-trained composers for classically-trained singers. Composers themselves don’t talk about writing “art songs,” they simply say “songs.” But it can be a useful term for distinguishing songs in the classical tradition from folk songs and pop songs.

"Resumption," A Musical Interpretation of the Flood

Oct 3, 2016
Recording "Resumption" at South Carolina Public Radio.
AT Shire/SC Public Radio

Resumption is a violin, drums, and piano composition inspired by the flood in South Carolina last year. The trio attempts to capture the musical personality of the storm from early rain to recovery using the diverse expression of our instruments.


Oct 3, 2016

Fantasy is the English translation of the Italian fantasia, a word that first appeared as a title for instrumental works in the 1500's. Since then, it’s a title that’s been used over and over: there have been fantasies for lute, guitar, harpsichord, viols, organ, piano, and orchestra; Renaissance fantasies, Baroque fantasies, Classical, Romantic, modern fantasies, and fantasies ranging from abstract exercises to extravagant variations on operatic arias.

Musical child prodigies have always fascinated the public. Far more rare than the child prodigy performer, though, is the child prodigy composer. The first name that comes to many people’s minds when they think of child composers is Mozart, and it’s true that Mozart started writing music at the age of four or five. But of all Mozart’s great pieces, very few were written before his twentieth birthday. Felix Mendelssohn, on the other hand, composed works when he was fifteen, sixteen, and seventeen that are still considered masterpieces, and that far surpass anything Mozart wrote when he was a teenager. 

Dr. Jon Grier teaches music theory and is the Composer-in-Residence at the Fine Arts Center in Greenville, South Carolina.  In this segment, Jon joins host Kate McKinney to speak about his role at the FAC and recent projects, including winning the Rapido! competition hosted by the Atlanta Chamber Players. 

How Sonata Form Works: A Guided Tour Part Two

Sep 29, 2016

On this two-part series on tonality and sonata form, David Kiser gives the microphone over to Professor of Piano at Converse College, Douglas Weeks who guides us through the sonatas of Mozart and Beethoven.  In the course of this series you’ll learn about tonality and the importance of key structure. Douglas Weeks likens it to moving to different rooms of the house, where “Tonic” is the hearth, home base, the center of the house.

It’s popular, in some circles, to find links between creative genius and mental illness. Among composers, Robert Schumann—who attempted suicide after years of inner torment—is usually Exhibit A, but there are others who are regularly mentioned, as well. My own view is that the so-called link is no link at all. 


Sep 28, 2016

The word sonata comes from the Italian sonare, an old form of suonare, which means “to sound,” or “to play,” as in “to play an instrument.” And indeed, a sonata is always an instrumental piece.  During the Baroque period, the term was applied to pieces for one, or sometimes two solo instruments, with or without keyboard accompaniment, but since about 1750 the term has most often referred to pieces either for solo piano or for piano and one other instrument.  

The Lure of Music

Sep 27, 2016

In 1918 the music critic Olin Downes published a book called The Lure of Music.  It’s a collection of biographical sketches of famous composers, and it includes listening suggestions, samples of the composers’ works on Columbia records. Most of the composers Downes writes about—people such as Verdi, Chopin, Berlioz, Dvorák—are among the immortals… They were famous then and they’ll always remain famous. But what’s fascinating to me is that I know hardly any of the performers’ names on the recordings. 

Jitterbug Vipers
Clayton Hodges

Austin, TX based quartet the Jitterbug Vipers play 1930s-style viper jazz. Their original music recalls classics by Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Cab Callaway. The Jitterbug Vipers are vocalist Sarah Sharp, bassist Francie Meaux Jeaux, percussionist Masumi Jones, and guitarist Slim Richey (who passed away in 2015). We remember Slim Richey this week with the group’s Song Travels session. The band presents a set sure to make you want to get up and dance!

News Stations: Sun, Oct 02, 2 pm | Classical Stations: Sun, Oct 02, 6 pm

Grammy and Emmy Award-winning conductor, pianist, composer, and arranger Lee Musiker has long worked with leading jazz, classical, pop, and Broadway performers. He conducted the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the National Orchestra in the US and Canada. He has also worked as a music director for top artists, and his work can be heard on the soundtracks of Hollywood films. Musiker brings a wealth of knowledge to this 2005 Piano Jazz, performing "Fascinating Rhythm" with McPartland.

News Stations: Sat, Oct 01, 8 pm | Classical Station: Sun, Oct 02, 7 pm

Heartless Musicians

Sep 26, 2016

Many years ago I was having dinner with a group of colleagues when the name of a viola player we all knew came up. When I mentioned that this violist had just had his third heart attack, the instantaneous response from an old-timer across the table was, “Really? I didn’t know he had a heart.” As it happens, the heartless violist in question was not a terribly good player, to put it mildly. But we musicians have all known people we’ve found to be thoroughly unpleasant, even cruel, or thoroughly insipid and boring, who walk on stage and play or sing beautifully, movingly. How is this possible? 

Audio Pending...


Sep 23, 2016

Counterpoint, also called polyphony, is the art, in musical composition, of combining two or more simultaneous lines of music. The word counterpoint comes from the Latin punctus contra punctum, meaning “note against note,” and the adjective derived from the word counterpoint is contrapuntal.  Now you might ask, why isn’t it called contrapuntal writing when a melody is combined with an accompaniment? The answer is that in contrapuntal writing, the simultaneous musical lines are distinct and independent—each is a theme or melody that could stand alone. 

How Sonata Form Works: a Guided Tour Part One

Sep 22, 2016
Converse College

On this two-part series on tonality and sonata form, David Kiser gives the microphone over to Professor of Piano at Converse College, Douglas Weeks who guides us through the sonatas of Mozart and Beethoven.  In the course of this series you’ll learn about tonality and the importance of key structure. Douglas Weeks likens it to moving to different rooms of the house, where “Tonic” is the hearth, home base, the center of the house.


Sep 22, 2016

There are many musical terms that get translated into several languages, depending on the native language of the composer who’s using the terms. The Italian term Allegro, for example, might appear as “Lively,” in English, or “Vif,” in French, or “Lebhaft,” in German. But there’s one musical term that for some reason you’ll only ever see…or hear…in the original Italian, and that’s Pizzicato. Pizzicato is the Italian word for “plucked.” To play pizzicato on a stringed instrument means to make the notes sound by plucking the strings with the fingers, rather than by using the bow. 

Program Music

Sep 21, 2016

“Program music” is instrumental music that attempts to tell a story, paint a scene or picture, or convey impressions of a character, place, or event. But no matter how sonically descriptive, music is always open to a range of interpretations—sometimes far removed from the composer’s intentions—and no two people will ever hear the same work in exactly the same way. I’ll go further: in most cases, without descriptive titles we wouldn’t have the first foggiest clue of what an instrumental piece was supposed to be “about.” And what does “about” even mean, when it comes to music?

Hayes and Olivier

Sep 20, 2016

Your strange job as a performing artist—musician, actor, or dancer—is to immerse yourself completely in the work of art you’re performing—to lose yourself, in a sense—and yet at all times to remain aware of precisely what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. It’s not easy, and sometimes the process—which is complicated to begin with—becomes downright mysterious. I once heard the actress Helen Hayes tell a story about Sir Laurence Olivier. She was performing in a play with Olivier, and one night he give a performance that was absolutely staggering—especially brilliant even for him. 


Sep 19, 2016

Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in classical music, the final movements of instrumental pieces—the finales—were almost always in fast tempos, and they usually ended loud, and emphatically. No matter where the rest of the piece had taken us, the finale was meant to provide a resolution, a sense that we’d just heard a complete work of art, a satisfyingly complete narrative, with a beginning, a middle, and—in no uncertain terms—an end.  There was a kind of affirmative philosophy underlying the composer’s work, and a projection of certainty: I know what I meant to say, I’ve said it, and there’s value in my having said it. 

Rickie Lee Jones
David McClister

  Multiple Grammy Award-winning vocalist and songwriter Rickie Lee Jones has been pushing down musical boundaries for more than four decades with her hauntingly beautiful voice. She has carved her own unique path, collaborating with artists from Alison Kraus to Dr. John. On this Song Travels, Jones employs her sultry voice to perform some of the standards that have inspired her along the way.

News Stations: Sun, Sep 25, 2 pm | Classical Stations: Sun, Sep 25, 6 pm

  Vibraphonist Cecilia Smith is a leading proponent of the four-mallet technique. She has performed at nightclubs, concert halls, and festivals all over the world and collaborated with greats such as Mulgrew Miller, Cecil Bridgewater, and Randy Weston. On this Piano Jazz from 2000, she and McPartland combine talents in a rendition of “Old Devil Moon.” Smith solos on her “Lullaby for Miles and Bill” and a piece dedicated to her mother, “Mourning Before Grace.”

News Stations: Sat, Sep 24, 8 pm | Classical Station: Sun, Sep 25, 7 pm

Outdoor concerts can be delightful, especially when the music and the natural surroundings make a perfect mix. Then again, when you’re playing outdoors, things sometimes happen that wouldn’t ever happen in the   concert hall—and I’m not just talking about thunderstorms. I’m thinking of a concert I played many years ago at a festival in France. The setting was beautiful—we were in a valley in the Alps—and the music was Schubert’s “Trout” Quintet. What could be better? The performance received an unexpected interruption, however, when a Labrador retriever puppy decided to run up on stage and say hello to all the musicians, wiggling his cute little hind quarters at the audience the whole time.