Monday, October 25, 2021

Have you heard of the Dies irae?

In light of Halloween this weekend, let’s talk about deathly sounds found within the classical music world:

Have you heard of the Dies irae? This theme comes from the Mass of the Dead and has been used by composers for hundreds of years as an underlying message or symbol in their own work. Today, I want to share three famous examples of where this Dies irae can be heard in the music of Berlioz, Liszt, and Rachmaninoff. First, why not familiarize yourself with this theme with a clip taken from a film that chose to foreshadow death through its soundtrack, The Shining.

During the 19th century, composers were fascinated with anything macabre and sought to incorporate deathly sentiments in their music. One such example is the fifth movement of Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique known as “Dream of a Witches’ Sabbath.” Berlioz uses what is known as the idee fixe or “fixed idea” throughout his composition. This fixed idea is a musical theme that comes back in each movement, changing each time it appears in order to match the story the composer seeks to convey through his music.

During this finale movement, “Dream of a Witches’ Sabbath,” Berlioz distorts the idee fixe and combines it with the Dies irae theme in order to depict a dream of his beloved appearing at his own funeral as a witch. As you listen to this excerpt, note the distorted sounds of the idee fixe in the E-flat clarinet and the Dies irae theme that Berlioz weaves throughout.


Another example of the Dies irae can be found in Liszt’s Totentanz, a work for piano and orchestra. Many musicologists believe this work was inspired by a fresco (above) Liszt saw while visiting Pisa. Created by Orcagna, the fresco was entitled The Triumph of Death

Liszt begins this work with the Dies irae theme in the trombones. This theme, along with sudden shifts in dynamics and the use of low registers creates a creepy atmosphere for the listener.


Lastly today, let’s listen to Rachmaninoff’s haunting Isle of the Dead. This piece is based off of the painting by Arnold Bocklin (above) that Rachmaninoff first saw a reproduction of in Paris in 1907. The composer felt uneasy as he gazed at the boat holding a coffin as it approached the eerie island.

Reflecting on this as he composed, Rachmaninoff begins his piece with the sounds of oars in water using the dark sounds of low strings accompanied by timpani and harp. The music evokes a lack of direction and a sense of urgency as it progresses, the Dies irae appearing once the boat arrives at the island. This theme seems to win out over any sounds of joy in the piece. Can you hear the Dies irae?

Do you have a favorite use of the Dies irae? Let us know in the comments below and happy Halloween!

Monday, October 18, 2021

Cincinnati Asian Arts Festival 2021

by Elaine Diehl


The Cincinnati Art Museum is collaborating with local Asian community groups to jointly present the Cincinnati Asian Arts Festival 2021.

Composed of two parts, Hello Cincinnati and the East Meets West Concert, this free one-hour event will begin streaming at 3 p.m. on October 24, 2021 from the museum's website.

This event is sponsored by ArtsWave. WGUC's Elaine Diehl chatted with Russell Ihrig of the Museum about the event.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Toscanini: The Maestro, My Father And Me

By Brian O'Donnell

Samuel Antek was first violinist in the acclaimed NBC Symphony Orchestra for 17 years under the baton of the legendary maestro Arturo Toscanini, widely considered the greatest conductor of the mid 20th century. In his musical memoir, Antek shares his keen observations of Toscanini’s singular approach to music making, his unpredictable moods, his passions, his relentless demands on himself and his musicians, and his unwavering dedication to faithfully interpreting composers’ works.

Antek’s daughter, former TV producer Lucy Antek Johnson brings this stellar work back into print with this new and expanded edition, This Was Toscanini: The Maestro, My Father And Me, making Toscanini’s legacy available to new generations of students, musicians, music historians and classical music fans.

I spoke with Lucy about her father, Toscanini, even a bit of baseball with the NBC Symphony Orchestra:

Monday, October 4, 2021

Latin Grammy Winners FLOR DE TOLOACHE Coming to Xavier Gallagher Theatre October 9

There should be fireworks named after this band, for all the intensity and color and life that bursts forth from Flor de Toloache.” - Marisa Arbona-Ruiz, NPR's First Listen

One is German, another a New Yorker of Egyptian descent. Others are Cuban-American, Colombian, Dominican and Argentine. They are a mariachi band that has collaborated with John Legend and Miguel, and their massive repertoire includes covers of AC/DC, No Doubt and The Bee Gees. They are FLOR DE TOLOACHE and on October 9 at 8:00pm, they will put their stunning artistry onstage at Xavier University’s Gallagher Theatre, as part of the 2021-2022 Music Series.


Flor de Toloache began their run as New York’s first and only all-female Mariachi band in 2008 when founder Mireya Ramos, the daughter of a mariachi musician and her friend, singer/vihuela/guitarist Shae Fiol teamed up and began busking in the subways of NYC to work on the music and to get their name known. Julie Acosta, trumpet and vocals joined along with guitarrónist Eunice Aparicio. Their sound is flawless, effortless, immaculate and perfect – a relaxed tightness and sublime blend that can only result from playing thousands of gigs, rehearsing endlessly and perfecting their live presentation. Some of those gigs include NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert, a collaboration with rock group The Arcs that landed them on Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and BBC 2’s Later with Jools Holland and Harry Connick, Jr’s show.

Flor de Toloache says their influences are all over the musical spectrum – jazz, hip-hop and of course the mariachi music they so cherish. They dress in traditional costume with one not-so-subtle difference - rather than the mariachi skirt with bolero jacket typically work by women, Flor de Toloache wears slacks and jackets. Mireya Ramos said she gets a small, subversive thrill from donning a costume like the one her father used to wear. “Wearing the suit, it’s kind of empowering,” she said. “You’re like, ‘I can wear this suit, too.”

Winners of a Latin Grammy Award in 2017, the group is clearly having a blast! Relentless touring musicians, they’re as likely to toss in a “bom-bom-bom-bom (ala the girl group classic, “Mr. Sandman”) as some “sha-la-la-la,” evocative of En Vogue. They are wildly talented instrumentalists and world class singers. The new album, Indestructible was nominated for a 2020 Grammy Award for Best Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative Album, and Flor de Toloache says, “a testament to the indestructability of Women.”

I was in college when Linda Ronstadt released her albums, Canciones De Mi Padre and Mas Canciones. The sound was shocking to my then-limited ear- I couldn’t imagine what Ronstadt was doing after being a superstar in the worlds of country, rock, Broadway star and singer of standards with Nelson Riddle. Now I hear what she must have heard as a child, the joy, energy, passion, raw emotion and incredible musicality of this genre. It is fitting that when Kennedy Center Honored Linda Ronstadt in 2008, it was Flor de Toloache who was selected to perform at the ceremony, honoring Ms. Ronstadt’s Mexican heritage and her devotion to bringing that music to the rest of the world.

Flor de Toloache performs on Saturday, October 9 at Xavier. More information is available at Xavier University Music Series.

Flor De Toloache's appearance at the Xavier Music Series is sponsored by the Xavier University Women of Excellence Grant.

By Elaine Diehl

Monday, September 27, 2021

Clovernook Center Hosts Jazz Pianist Matthew Whitaker in Concert

Matthew Whitaker is an amazing jazz musician who was born blind. He will be here, performing a concert with his band, on Saturday, November 13 at The Metropolitan Club in Covington.

Matthew called us from his studio and provided his own music bed for our interview – totally unplanned and completely improvised.

Take a few minutes to listen and be inspired by this remarkable young man.

Monday, September 20, 2021

An Autumnal Playlist

There’s no doubt about it – Autumn is in the air here in Cincinnati.


To set the mood, 90.9 WGUC Music Director, Jessica Lorey, provides a playlist here for music for the season.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Polina Bespalko Previews The 2021 Xavier Music Series

By Elaine Diehl

The Xavier Music Series returns with all in-person concerts for 2021-22 and Polina Bespalko previews the season.


“Sometimes we take a little step back in history and learn more about ourselves,” says Pianist and Director of the Xavier Music Series, Polina Bespalko speaking about the Artists she has booked for the 2021-22 Series.  This is the 45th Year of the Concerts at Xavier, incorporating both the Piano and the Jazz Series.  All performances this year are live, in-person at the Gallagher Center on the campus at Xavier.

Listen to our conversation:

For schedule and ticket information, visit xavier.edu/musicseries/.

Monday, September 6, 2021

Chelsea Guo: In My Voice

Chopin: In My Voice is the debut album from 2020 National Chopin Piano Competition top prize-winner Chelsea Guo. And from an early age Ms. Guo was drawn to singing as well as playing piano and she does both exceptionally well.

She has increasingly included vocal selections in her piano programs, providing her audiences the enriched opportunity of experiencing music in a broader context. Chelsea takes us back to the beginning"

Chelsea Guo has picked some little-know Chopin art songs for her debut CD… where did she find these little-know gems?

Monday, August 30, 2021

Bela Fleck: The Impostor

Named after Hungarian composer Béla Bartók, Austrian composer Anton Webern, and Czech composer Leos Janácek. Also a guy who was inspired to learn the Banjo by the Beverly Hillbillies theme song.

Photo credit: William Matthews

If there was anyone who would be able to bring Jed Clampett to the Classical concert hall, it’s Béla Fleck.

Mr. Fleck grew up in New York City and at the age of 15, was given his first banjo- a gift from his grandfather. It was on that train ride home, when a man offered to help tune that banjo (and suggested he get the book “How to Play the Five String Banjo” by Pete Seeger) that a musical icon was born.

Playing in and alongside countless bands since the late 1970’s, Béla Fleck has carved out a marvelous career in Bluegrass, Rock and almost every other genre of music- EVEN CLASSICAL.

In 2001, he joined forces with Edgar Meyer to play his banjo on the album Perpetual Motion- an album that also featured John Williams, Evelyn Glennie, Joshua Bell and Gary Hoffman. After that, he cultivated a relationship with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra that led to a double concerto, a trio concerto and then a true masterpiece- his first stand-alone banjo concerto.

“The Impostor” has been performed over 50 times worldwide and is one of those pieces that stand alone in greatness.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Oscar Rossignoli: Inertia

Pianist Oscar Rossignoli’s debut solo CD, “Inertia,” mixes his love of jazz with his classical training and life as a working musician: “What I love about New Orleans is what I love about Music in general!”

By Elaine Diehl

“Whether the world comes back to normality or not... at least I can say, yeah, I did this in the middle of all this chaos.” Pianist Oscar Rossignoli just released his debut solo piano album, Inertia. And although it took only one day to record, Mr. Rossignoli says he has been preparing for this album his entire life.

I interviewed the classically trained Honduran-born artist who now makes his living playing jazz in New Orleans. Meet Oscar Rossignoli!

Music: “Endless Fall,” and “Preludio for Chick,” written and performed by Oscar Rossignoli

Monday, August 16, 2021

A Radio Family with Community Roots

By Derrick Smith, Classics for Kids Intern

When I started my internship at WGUC, I did not know what to expect—and neither did anyone at the station, really, since I’m the first Classics for Kids intern they’ve ever had. So it’s been a learning experience on all sides. But after two months of trying to absorb and contribute as much as possible, I can say two things for certain: Cincinnati Public Radio is changing (for the better), and is a large family that is deeply rooted within the community.

Cory Sharber and Derrick Smith at Price Hill Creative Community Festival - July, 2021

I was so focused on the “Radio” part, though, I initially overlooked how crucial the “Public” aspect really is. The radio experience was definitely there, from tours through extensive archives and top-of-the-line studios, to shadowing on-air hosts (did you know that Andy Ellis’s golf obsession is on a par with Bach’s feelings about the fugue?), and even learning the process of how all the music you hear on WGUC is scheduled: It’s kind of like a big Rubik’s Cube, week after week, and Classical Music Director Jessica Lorey is a master solver, always mixing in some new colors.

Beyond all that, I learned how involved WGUC really is with the public, in the form of outdoor community events, collaborations with other local nonprofits, and even through my work with Classics for Kids. Yes, seeing the studios in action was all that I expected, if not more, but the many faces I saw seemed to be a bigger portion of WGUC than anything else. From the welcoming Cincinnati Public Radio staff, to regular community collaborators, and even casual passers-by that I had the pleasure of introducing to WGUC... all these people make up the community consisting of the station and the public. It’s like an ecosystem the way the station and the public feed off of each other, constantly trying to build something better and improve communication.

This something better is the change I spoke of earlier. It feels like important conversations that in the past have been avoided are happening more and more at the station. WGUC is working to amplify the voices of historically marginalized groups and truly listen to all those within the community. One example that comes to mind immediately is how Classics for Kids is preparing content for Hispanic Heritage Month (beginning in September). Instead of just throwing out a listening list or featuring one Latinx artist on the website, program host Naomi Lewin and the WGUC team have crafted a full series of original, culturally sensitive content, making everything available in Spanish as well as English, and enlisting the expertise and talent of people within the Latinx community to create said content. This is representation done well, and it’s only possible because WGUC and Classics for Kids have learned something they could only learn from truly listening: that those from historically marginalized communities and identities need to see others like them in these cultural spaces, and need platforms for self-expression, versus having others speak for them.

WGUC, Classics for Kids, and Cincinnati Public Radio are all growing in more than one way currently. Even as an intern I feel like a fully fledged member of the family, and I hope I can keep growing along with them.

Monday, August 9, 2021

Mario Kart and The Great G minor Symphony

Morgan Phillips is currently interning with Cincinnati Public Radio's marketing team. She's a rising senior at the University of Cincinnati, majoring in Communication with a minor in Marketing. For her Clef Notes submission, we asked her to listen to Mozart's Symphony No. 40 (Molto Allegro) and write about what she heard and felt. We thought you'd enjoy her essay.

I have always been a music lover because no matter what you are doing in life, music can be nostalgic and apply to different parts of your life, particularly listening to Mozart's Symphony No. 40 in G Minor, K. 550. I had many feelings and personal experiences rise in me as I listened to the symphony.

 Whenever I listen to an intriguing piece of music, I like to research the concept. Most composers have a message or feeling to get across. Mozart does a great job of reflecting his life in his art. The piece was written in the 18th century. During this time, it was popular in music to put sorrow, and almost a dark, eerie feeling as a concept, especially in the key of G Minor. After the piece, I felt like I went through an emotional roller coaster and felt anxious at times.

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The opening moments with the strings and the melody with brass and low tones reminded me of what it feels like to be working on getting things done, and there is a setback, almost like the last lap in Mario Kart. You are moving with the melody through the music, and it slows down, and the melodic line comes back.

I felt on edge not only during these notes but throughout the entire piece. The moments where the music slows down and the notes are very connected, almost seeming whimsical like you are daydreaming, then the tempo excels, and the intensity appears again. It feels like you are trying to escape reality and falling into a daydream constantly. The clarinets through the slow portions almost give a tugging feeling when it leads into faster sections. As the repetition of the melody keeps repeating itself, it keeps building throughout the piece and the acceleration of the ensemble until the end. It's almost like a sigh of relief I felt finally getting through the music, like in Mario Kart finally finishing a race.

I enjoyed this piece, and if you need a boost, this is the perfect symphony to listen to when you are studying, trying to do homework or need to get going for the day!

Monday, August 2, 2021

Catching up with Mark S. Doss

Catching up with, “your juggling, tennis-playing Grammy-winning Bass-Baritone from Cleveland OH,” Mark S. Doss


Mark Steven Doss
was born on July 2, 1957, in Cleveland, Ohio. He attended Cleveland's East Technical High School, where he was both an athlete and an actor/singer. The school’s production of Godspell, changed his life, as he came down the aisle singing, “Prepare Ye,” he was finding HIS way.

Mr. Doss called to chat, and he sang a bit for us, too!

by Elaine Diehl

Monday, July 26, 2021

Meet Jieun Woo, Maestro Of Tomorrow Runner-Up

By Derrick Smith, Classics for Kids Intern

The last few months have been all about summer, sunshine, and for these young artists, strings! I had the honor of speaking to some of the Maestro of Tomorrow honorees and I'm glad to say that as far as classical music goes, our future is in good hands.

The purpose of the Maestro of Tomorrow contest was to highlight young local musicians and ask them to imagine their lives with music beyond high school. When asking Maestro of Tomorrow runner-up Jieun Woo about her future with music, it was obvious that this was only the beginning. She said that she “definitely planned on continuing orchestra in college and doing more ensembles like this trio” (referencing the Jieun Woo Trio comprised of Jieun, her younger sister, and church friend.)

Music has already taken a large role in these young adults' nonacademic lives in the form of private Zoom lessons, daily practices, and rehearsals. While all these take great discipline, what never ceases to amaze me is how music plays a pivotal role in people's social lives as well as a way to connect. With everyone being inside their houses for the better part of the past year, it is easy to forget how social of a thing music really is, and how it brings us together.

In my interview with Jieun Woo, she spoke about not being able to see her grandparents in person so as an alternative she would play for them over Zoom call. You can listen/watch more of my interview with Jieun Woo below.

Once again, I want to thank the Maestro of Tomorrow runner-up, Jieun Woo, for speaking with me. I'm excited to see where music will take not only our Maestro of Tomorrow contestants, but the new generation of musicians as well.

Monday, July 19, 2021

A Creative Celebration in Price Hill

By Derrick Smith, Classics for Kids intern

We may be running out of ways to state how hard the pandemic has been on everyone, but creative people will never run out of ways to come together and heal as a community. Classics for Kids and 90.9 Classical WGUC are proud to be part of the 6th Annual Price Hill Creative Community Festival, coming to the new ARCO event center at 3301 Price Ave. on Friday, July 23.

Don’t miss out on this family-friendly event, a celebratory staple in the Price Hill community, with music, art, activism, tours of the newly renovated ARCO building (a former Masonic Lodge built in 1912), food trucks, and more. Some of your favorite Cincinnati Public Radio personalities will be at the WGUC/Classics for Kids booth, with some fun giveaways and a chance to connect with listeners in person. How did we ever take that for granted?

WGUC has a history of supporting Price Hill Will programs and events, especially through their outstanding youth orchestra, MYCincinnati, which will be performing at the festival. This year’s event will also serve as the grand opening of the ARCO (Arts+Community) venue, and it’s the first Price Hill Creative Community Festival for Kate Query, WGUC’s new Community Events and Volunteer Coordinator.

“As a public radio station, it is our job to not only provide great classical music programming, but to also be involved and engaged with the communities we serve. At the Price Hill Creative Community Festival we have the opportunity to inspire the next generation of classical music lovers. How exciting is that? If we walk away with even just one kid who has found a new interest in music, that’s a success.”

So be sure to swing by, enjoy some of the live performances, hit the food trucks, and say hi to your Cincinnati Public Radio friends, as we strive to come together and lift one another in these trying times. It’s what creative communities do.

Event details:

The 6th annual Price Hill Creative Community Festival will be held 3-9 p.m. Friday, July 23, at ARCO, 3301 Price Ave. The event is free.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra Summermusik 2021: a Preview with Music Director Eckart Preu

By Elaine Diehl

Last year, our Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra delivered a bit of Music Therapy, or as Maestro Preu says they “lightened up the darkness a little,” with Summermusik.

Now they return to full in-person live concerts at outdoor events all over town with Summermusik 2021.

He tells us what we can expect this summer with the CCO and “a great big party:”

Monday, July 5, 2021

Reed Tetzloff: Schumann

By Elaine Diehl

As the world reopens for live music, Pianist Reed Tetzloff is back with his new record, Schumann.

Reed, a Cincinnati favorite, last performed in town in 2019, and he is happily rebuilding his concert and recital schedule.

He called to talk about the new album, available June 25:

Monday, June 28, 2021

Meet Katie Query

Cincinnati Public Radio would like to introduce you to our new Community Events and Volunteer Coordinator Katie Query.

We're excited to have her skills and enthusiasm working on a range of special events and strengthening our volunteer opportunities.

She spoke with our Social Media Coordinator Ronny Salerno.

Enjoy their conversation!

Monday, June 21, 2021

Salsa On The Square


In 2008, Nicholas Radina and Bill Donabedian had a fresh new idea for entertainment on Fountain Square — Live Salsa Bands, great food and drink and Salsa Dancing and lessons!

Nicholas Radina

In 2020 Salsa on the Square was pretty much sidelined but now thru late September here in 2021 the music, food, drink, dancing and smiles have returned, Thursday nights, to Fountain Square as Nick Radina tells us:

~Brian O'Donnell

Monday, June 14, 2021

Leif Ove Andsnes: Mozart Momentum

By Elaine Diehl

Pianist Leif Ove Andsnes was born in Karmøy, Norway in 1970, and studied at the Bergen Music Conservatory under the renowned Czech professor Jirí Hlinka.

This Summer he releases the new project, Mozart Momentum 1785/1786 with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. The first of two planned Sony Classical releases features Mozart’s piano concertos Nos. 20, 21 and 22 and chamber music written in the same year.

Leif Ove Andsnes called to talk about the idea behind the albums, recording during pandemic, life at home with his three young children and reconnecting with Norwegian Orchestras over the past year.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Make Music Cincinnati

On Monday, June 21, over 1,000 cities across the globe will be participating in Make Music Day, an international celebration of music held annually on the Summer Solstice. Cincinnati will be no exception, turning the city into a stage with free outdoor music events throughout the city.

Classics For Kids has teamed up with Make Music Cincinnati to bring the music to Washington Park with an event for kids of all ages. The event will run from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. and will include a variety of ways for kids to experience music. 

Activities will include:

  • A performance of Ferdinand the Bull with Classics for Kids host Naomi Lewin and local violinist Yu-Kun Hsiang
  • Bucket drumming sessions with Band in a Bus
  • A music lab provided by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Antonio Violins (string Instruments)
  • An audio lab with the Music Resource Center
  • Make your own instrument using upcycled materials with UC College-Conservatory of Music Prep Department
  • Peanut Butter & Jam Sessions with brass instruments provided by Linton Chamber Music

The event will culminate in everyone taking part in a handbell performance of the Bill Withers’ classic ‘Lean on Me.’

Of course, it wouldn’t be fun in the sun without some icy cold treats, so we’ll also be providing popsicles to the first 100 kids who attend the event and complete their event passport.

Kids of all ages are welcome at this event. We hope to see you there!

Monday, May 31, 2021

Richard Hawley: A Gentle Notion

Clarinetist Richard Hawley spent 17 years as Principal Clarinet here in Cincinnati and he retains a love for the City. 

His new album, with duo partner, Conor Hanick, A Gentle Notion, includes music from Grammy-winning conductor Jennifer Higdon along with some classic clarinet/piano repertoire. 

Richie Hawley called to chat about the new album, the pandemic year, and his beloved companion, Gidget, the French Bulldog.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Summerfair 2021

Since the Summer after the Summer of Love, Summerfair Cincinnati has celebrated the beginning of the season with Art, Music and Nature. They’ve been steadfast through heat, cold, wind, rain — and more than one emergence of cicadas.


Now they can say, after a year of pandemic that Summerfair is still standing, welcoming the Summer of 2021 Friday-Sunday June 4-6 at Coney Island.

Jayne Utter, Managing Director of Summerfair told us all about it:

Monday, May 17, 2021

Taking The Sting Out Of The COVID-19 Vaccine

People who signed up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio were treated to some classical music to help take the sting out of getting the shot.

WGUC and Cincinnati Public Radio partnered with the Urban League for the City of Cincinnati and Hamilton County “Get Out The Vax” campaign Sunday, May 16.

“Cincinnati Public Radio is always looking for ways to provide a service to the community. We were proud to partner with the Urban League,” said Cincinnati Public Radio Vice President of Content Jenell Walton. “WGUC hosts Elaine Diehl and Brian O’Donnell were on the air encouraging listeners to stop by the Urban League to get vaccinated.”

WGUC evening host Andy Ellis was at the Urban League headquarters at 3458 Reading Road to greet listeners and visitors during the vaccine clinic.

“I realize getting a shot is not the most exciting thing in the world,” Ellis said. “WGUC music was playing during the event. It was fun to see so many people smiling when they walked inside the building, heard the classical music and realized they were in for a special treat.”

Ellis was joined by Cincinnati Public Radio Community Events and Volunteer Coordinator Katie Query.

The partnership was also an opportunity to introduce classical music to new audiences. WGUC Classical Music Director Jessica Lorey created a special playlist for the community engagement event. Several African American compositions including William Grant Still’s “Miss Sally’s Party,” James Tim Brymn “Cocoanut Grove Jazz,” and Devonte Hynes “For All Its Fury: Press” were part of the specially curated playlist.

WGUC promoted the event on its social media channels and over the air. Visitors also received a swag bag filled with a WGUC mask, pop sockets and other goodies.

The Urban League pop-up vaccine site is open each Sunday from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. You do not need an appointment. If you’d prefer to make an appointment, text the word vaccine to 797979.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Craig Hella Johnson: The Singing Guitar

By Brian O’Donnell

Craig Hella Johnson is known for crafting musical journeys that create deep connections between performers and listeners.

Johnson is Music Director of the Cincinnati Vocal Arts Ensemble and conductor emeritus of the Victoria Bach Festival and he’s also Artistic Director of Conspirare, a grammy award winning virtuoso choir who released a beautiful project not long ago called The Singing Guitar - it’s the choir along with 3 guitar quartets - LAGQ, The Austin Guitar Quartet, and the Texas Guitar Quartet, and cello by Douglas Harvey. Johnson curated a program woven together by exquisitely crafted music for voices, guitar, and stories of women.

I recently spoke to Craig about this gorgeous project:

Monday, May 3, 2021

Nia Franklin: Chrysalis Extended

On WGUC, we often highlight “new” composers, especially during our New At Noon segment. I’d like to use this blog introduce you to an up-and-coming composer who you DEFINITELY need to check out: Nia Franklin.

Yes- the Nia Franklin who in June 2018 was crowned Miss New York 2018 AND the Nia Franklin who on September 9, 2018  was crowned Miss America 2019! Did you know she attended East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina, and graduated with a degree in music composition then earned her Master of Music from University of North Carolina School of the Arts in 2017?

Just this year, she had one of her large-scale pieces, “Chrysalis Extended” performed by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra!

More than a beauty Queen, Nia is firmly at the front of the line when it comes to up-and-coming composers. In her own words:

“Even though I am a black miss America, I’m also the Miss America who composes. I’m the miss America who sings opera. I’m the miss America who cares about her community and the arts. It’s important to celebrate that that’s who I am, my heritage, the culture I come from. Our differences make us special and we should celebrate them.”

Keep an eye (and both ears) out for this composer... if anyone is set for a meteoric rise in the world of classical music, its her.

Monday, April 26, 2021

Spring Music

For those of us in parts of the Midwest, we woke up from our sleep one day last week to snow on the ground as a lovely, but unnecessary, Spring surprise. However, it did get me thinking that the best revenge against Mother Nature’s little trick would be to share with you a few of my favorite Spring-themed classical pieces, and hope you’ll share with me some of yours. Please be kind in your assessment of my choices as I’m not the music director, just the marketing guy who enjoys classical music.

It’s probably no surprise that Vivaldi’s Spring is at the top of my list. I’ve always enjoyed The Four Seasons concerto, and the Anne Akiko Meyers CD is a personal favorite -I’ve added a small clip of her performing it. Is it possibly overused in films, television, commercials, etc.? Maybe, but it is so part of my consciousness that it always causes a bit of a smile when I hear it.

Next for me is Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring. Having grown up near, and went to college in, Appalachia, Copland’s music does evoke the beauty of the land as well as the spirit of the people. Those opening notes, the dawn of another day, so beautifully set the mood for his musical visit to a special part of our country. Here’s a performance from the Cincinnati Pops with Erich Kunzel conducting.

Felix Mendelssohn (who is our Classics for Kids featured composer in May) wrote the lovely Spring Song, perhaps one of the most performed pieces in young pianists’ recitals! I love what I perceive as his upfront honesty about this composition – “here is my spring song, that’s what I’m calling it, and it’s lighthearted and joyous so enjoy!” Here’s a piano version by the one and only Vladimir Horowitz.

My last choice is Smetana’s The Moldau. I really enjoy this symphonic poem and the images it evokes of the river flowing the way many rivers do, one minute serenely and peacefully, the next pounding against rocks, ultimately finding its way to the next river to continue its journey. Here’s a spirited performance from The National Symphony Orchestra.

I know there are many, many more beautiful works celebrating Spring and its feelings of warmth and renewal. Please help me round out my Top 5 by sharing your favorite seasonal piece. Drop be a note at wguc@wguc.org. Thanks for indulging me and I hope your Spring is full of music and hope!

Kevin Reynolds
Marketing Manager
Cincinnati Public Radio

Monday, April 19, 2021

Meet Jenell Walton

Many of you may remember Jenell Walton from her long broadcasting career on Cincinnati television, but now you get to meet her in her new role: Vice President of Content for Cincinnati Public Radio.

She's now responsible for the programming and marketing of 91.7 WVXU and 90.9 WGUC, and she's been on board since March. WVXU News Director Maryanne Zeleznik recently sat down with Jenell so you could meet her.

Enjoy their conversation!

Monday, April 12, 2021

New Music from Miami University's Frank Huang

By Elaine Diehl


Miami University Professor of Piano, Dr. Frank Huang announces his new album, Solo Piano Works of Nikolai Medtner, Vol. 1, scheduled to be available on Amazon, iTunes, and other various outlets on Friday, April 16, 2021.

Dr. Huang remarks, “This album, the first of a nine-disc set, marks the beginning of a long journey that I decided to take in 2017. I had always wanted to perform and record the music of Nikolai Medtner, a composer that I felt has long been neglected by the general public. This project is my humble attempt to bring Medtner’s music to the forefront with the hope that you will appreciate these works as much as I do!”

Frank Huang and I talked about the album and the composer:

Monday, April 5, 2021

A Conversation with Michael Torke

by Brian O'Donnell


It’s always a thrill when we at WGUC are able to play music by living composers... composers whom we may even be able to interact with at times. 

Michael Torke is one such composer. Here, he talks about growing up in the Midwest, taking piano lessons as a young boy AND starting to compose music at a very young age.

Later, Torke got a good break when he was summoned to write music for the Olympic games and that worked out very nicely.

In his own words, listen to composer Michael Torke tell it:

Monday, March 29, 2021

Laughing Along

Why couldn't the string quartet find their composer? He was Haydn.


Everyone loves a good joke... or a really corny one. And classical music composers were no different.

Mozart loved pranks and jokes, in his life and in his music. His Divertimento for two horns and string quartet, also known as A Musical Joke, includes passages designed to mimic bad music notation and terrible playing as a way of having some fun.

Haydn also put jokes in his music, the most famous being his Symphony No. 94, nicknamed The Surprise Symphony for its sudden fortissimo chord in the second movement.

At WGUC, April 1st provides the perfect opportunity to celebrate the funny side of classical music.

As we look towards April Fools’ Day, Naomi Lewin gets us laughing with more musical jokes on Classics for Kids.

And there’s more – April Fools’ Day is also a day that we remember our dear friend Frank Johnson who enjoyed collecting music of all kinds, including some of the funniest interpretations of classical music from the likes of Monty Python, Bugs Bunny, PDQ Bach, Victor Borge, Spike Jones and more. 

Frank put together this April Fools’ Day Playlist, not as a practical joke but as a celebration of the joy that music brings to us every day. Get ready to laugh!

Happy April Fools' Day!

Monday, March 22, 2021

Daniil Trifonov: The Silver Age

“It’s one of my favorite places to visit in the United States. Very good food, as well.”  - Daniil Trifonov on Cincinnati and his new album, Silver Age.


“He has everything and more... tenderness and also the demonic element. I never heard anything like that,” marveled pianist Martha Argerich. Daniil Trifonov, who just turned 30 this month, has had a spectacular ascent of the classical music world, as a solo artist, champion of the concerto repertoire, chamber and vocal collaborator, and composer.

In 2019 he played two sold-out concerts at Music Hall and even the pandemic has not stopped demand for his remarkable talents. 

Daniil Trifonov’s busy 2021 season begins with concerts in Spain, France, Germany, and across Europe, and the release of his new album on Deutsche Grammaphon, Silver Age.

He was kind enough to call and talk about the new project:

Monday, March 15, 2021

Classical DYK

All of us at 90.9 WGUC try our best to provide you amazing classical music and we also really enjoy giving you interesting tidbits about the pieces, composers, and performers. (if you listen weekday mornings you already know that Brian O’Donnell ALWAYS has some super-cool information for us)

With that said, here are a few you probably didn’t know:

  • The London Symphony Orchestra was booked to travel on the Titanic's maiden voyage, but they changed boats at the last minute.

  • Franz Liszt received so many requests for locks of his hair that he bought a dog and sent fur clippings instead.

  • Havergal Brian's Symphony No. 1, the 'Gothic', requires over 800 musicians to perform, including 82 string players.

  • Domenico Scarlatti composed his 'cat fugue' after his cat, Pulcinella, walked across his keyboard.

  • The most expensive opera costume of all time was worn by Adelina Patti at Covent Garden in 1895. It was worth over $20 million.

  • Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin sang a Shostakovich song, 'My Homeland Hears', over the radio on his first space mission.

  • A single violin is made from over 70 individual pieces of wood.

    Rossini wrote the aria ‘Di tanti palpiti’ while waiting for some risotto in a Venice restaurant.

  • There are two skulls in Haydn’s tomb. His head was stolen by phrenologists and a replacement skull was put in his tomb. In 1954, the real skull was restored but the substitute was not removed.

  • The tension of the 230-odd strings in a grand piano exert a combined force of 22 tons on the cast iron frame.

For more interesting facts about the music you love, all you have to do is tune to 90.9 FM!


-Andy Ellis

Monday, March 8, 2021

A Conversation With Benjamin Grosvenor

"Playing For My Own Pleasure Rather Than Preparing For A Concert Was Quite Special!"


By Elaine Diehl:

One the 19th of February, Pianist Benjamin Grosvenor Tweeted: "My Liszt album with Decca Classics is out today! It was a bright moment for me last year to be able to set this down and I hope you enjoy!"

A week earlier, he and I talked about the new record, and surviving lockdown – click on the link to hear our conversation:

Monday, March 1, 2021

Remembering Paul Stanbery

This week, Brian O’Donnell pays tribute to the late Paul Stanbery, longtime music director of the Butler Philharmonic.

He’s joined by fellow conductors Carmon DeLeone and Michael Chertock for this loving memorial.

Michael Chertok and Carmon DeLeone


Monday, February 22, 2021

Classical Music's Athletic Composers

by Andy Ellis

“Calming”, “relaxing”, “music for your soul”.

While all of these are true when it comes to classical music, have you ever listened to a rockin’ piece while working out or going for a run?

Better yet, did you know that there have been composers who were just as athletic as they were musically talented?

Benjamin Britten loved cricket and croquet, but nothing beat racquet sports in his opinion. "When you were beaten by him at squash or tennis," said one competitor, "you literally felt that he'd been 'beating' you."

Percy Grainger used to go on 50, 60 mile hikes through the Australian Outback as a young man!

Charles Ives (a Football and Baseball captain) enjoyed sports at Yale and played on the varsity football team. Michael C. Murphy, his coach, once remarked that it was a "crying shame" that he spent so much time at music as otherwise he could have been a champion sprinter!

Igor Stravinsky had a morning routine that included 15 minutes of Hungarian gymnastics.

Felix Mendelssohn too was known for his athletic prowess too. According to the composer's godson Ignaz Moscheles, "Mendelssohn could throw my ball farther than anybody else; and he could run faster too."

And of course there was Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges… A champion fencer and amazing all-around athlete! According to the son of the Master at his school: "At 15 his progress was so rapid, that he was already beating the best swordsmen, and at 17 he developed the greatest speed imaginable."

I can only imagine what it would be like to hear the first draft of Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra then head to the tennis courts and try to return his serve! Or better yet, trying to parry Chevalier de Saint-Georges’ combined attack on the piste, then head to the Paris Opera to hear one of his creations!

Monday, February 15, 2021

Sisters Born of the Same Muse

by Elaine Diehl

The Knights

“Sisters Born of the Same Muse” – That’s how Gil Shaham describes the Beethoven and Brahms Violin Concertos that he recorded along with The Knights for a new album coming in March.

Here’s my preview:

Monday, February 8, 2021

Love and Romance in Music

Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius.” – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart


Musical genius across the ages has given lovers a soundtrack for romance, as well as examples of the inspiration that love can provide.

Composers whose works were inspired by love include Edward Elgar, who wrote Love Greetings as a musical response to his fiancé’s poem Love’s Grace, and Richard Wagner, who composed the Siegfried Idyll as a birthday present to his second wife, Cosima, after the birth of their son Siegfried.

Music brought Robert and Clara Schumann together, forging a unique union among complementary artists. In the first year of their marriage, Clara wrote three songs for Robert as a Christmas present. For his birthday, she composed music to a poem by Friedrich Rückert that expressed exactly how she felt about him. Robert also used music to express his deep love for Clara, composing more than 130 songs inspired by their courtship and life together.

With one of the greatest love stories of all time, Romeo and Juliet have inspired many composers including Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, Gounod and Rota.

Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique was the product of his unrequited enchantment with Irish actress Harriet Smithson. In his memoir, Berlioz described the piece as portraying the dreams of a young man who, after a failed love affair, overdoses on opium. Although the young man in the music does not unite with his love, Berlioz’s dream was eventually fulfilled several years later when he and Smithson did marry. Alas, the marriage was not a happy one and lasted less than a decade. Fortunately, the music inspired by Berlioz’s desire has endured for us today.

Even music that was not written with love in mind can inspire romance. Here are a few beloved examples:

  • Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21 in C Major, “Elvira Madigan,”
  • Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2
  • Debussy’s Arabesque No. 1
  • Mascagni’s Intermezzo, from Cavalleria Rusticana

What music would you add to this list? You can check out more beautiful music to set the mood for a romantic Valentine’s Day. Listen to Love Greetings at 8 o’clock that evening on 90.9 WGUC.

As Shakespeare famously wrote, “If music be the food of love, play on.

Monday, February 1, 2021

Common Time

Common time, also known as 4/4 time, is a meter with four quarter-note beats per measure. It’s often symbolized by the common-time symbol. Around here, we like to look at common time as four parts of our daily lives: Family, Sleep, Work, Recreation. Each one is important to a well-rounded existence and we think each can be enhanced by listening to classical music on WGUC.

Family: when you spend time together, perhaps at the dinner table, enjoy each other’s company and stories from the day with classical music providing the perfect soundtrack.

Sleep: these days are especially stressful, and it can be hard to wind our brains down to fall asleep. The music you hear on WGUC can allow for peaceful thoughts, opportunities to breathe deeply and allow the day’s struggles to melt away.

Work: whether you are working in an office, from home, or a neighborhood coffee shop, you have to focus even with all the world’s events swirling around you. Your earbuds and WGUC will allow your brain to block out the noise and zero in on the work you need to do.

Recreation: during days like these, where isolation is forced upon us, taking care of our physical well-being has never been more important. Whether you walk or run, use a stationary bike or do yoga, find the classical music that inspires or relaxes you so you get the most from your exercise.

WGUC has been around for over 60 years, providing our listeners the very best classical music ever written, but it’s as important as it’s ever been in 2021.

For all your common time, we are here for you.

90.9 WGUC | wguc.org | Free Mobile App | Ask your smart speaker to Play WGUC.

Monday, January 25, 2021

A Conversation With James Galway

by Brian O'Donnell

Brian O'Donnell with James Galway

The world-renowned flutist, James Galway was born in North Belfast, Ireland in 1939. The “man with the golden flute”(and very infectious laugh) , however, did not start out playing flute. The violin was his first instrument. Galway talks about that violin experience, searching for penny whistles, classical music in cartoons and movies as a child in Northern Ireland

In 1969, Galway began as principal flute in the Berlin Philharmonic after an audition process which didn’t sit well with him at all. Galway doesn’t skirt around the issue…no sugar-coating here.

In July of 1990, Roger Waters of Pink Floyd put a concert together to commemorate the fall of the Berlin Wall. James Galway was invited to play on that mega-concert there in Berlin at the Wall, one of the only non-rock performers. He also says Queen Elizabeth really knows how to throw a party!

Monday, January 18, 2021

The Science of Classical Music

We’ve all heard it: “Play classical music for your babies! It will make them smarter.” While true, classical music has even more proven health benefits!

Thanks to modern science, we are learning more and more about Bach and Beethoven can foster mental health and overall well-being.

One benefit in a pandemic-stricken world is how classical music helps you connect with others. (even through the radio or internet) The feelings you get when you listen to your favorite piece? Others feel it too. The emotive properties of a beautiful sonata, overture, or symphony can actually help us form relationships with others just by listening. Connecting to your emotions, through music, is a beautiful feeling.

Neurologist Dr. Michael Schneck found that classical music helps relieve anxiety. Another study found that it also increases blood flow by 26%, laughter by 16% and relaxation by 11%. Lowering cortisol levels, blood pressure and heart rate are all GREAT for your health and listening to your favorite piece can do it all!

There’s also research that suggests listening to music helps make repetitive tasks easier and is why it is sometimes recommended to listen to music at work or while completing chores at home. Having those chores done will help you sleep better at night and classical music can help with both.

The next time you’re stressed, feeling isolated, having trouble with motivation, or in need of a break – WGUC has just what the doctor ordered!

Andy Ellis

Friday, January 8, 2021

Meet Daniel Dorsey

by Elaine Diehl

Cellist Daniel Dorsey, from Cincinnati, Ohio is in his senior year at St. Xavier High School. He studies music with Dr. Sarah Kim and Alan Rafferty through the Cincinnati Young Artists Cello Studio.

Daniel has placed in numerous competitions and has performed as a soloist with the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra. Daniel will perform on the January 9 episode of From The Top (9 a.m. on 90.9 WGUC) and he is a Jack Kent Cook Scholarship Recipient.

Monday, January 4, 2021

Gregory Harrington: Glass Hour

by Elaine Diehl

Glass Hour
is the new album by Gregory Harrington that comprises the Violin Concerto No.2 “American Four Seasons” of Philip Glass along with the world premiere recording of Mr. Harrington’s arrangement and orchestration of “The Hours Suite” for violin and orchestra.

Recorded with Mark Shapiro and the Janacek Philharmonic, Glass Hour debuted at #3 in the Classical Billboard Charts.

I had the chance to chat with the Irish violinist about the new album and more.