Staruch hosts "Music with Minnesotans" on Tuesdays
at 5:30 p.m. On January 28, 2014 he interviewed me
with a playlist of my significant (classical)
selections. While I thought my knowledge of
classical music is primitive, he valued my emotional
My first selection was Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto #2. In teh fourth garde or so I would wander across the High Bridge to downtown Saint Paul to the main library where the librarians introduced me to classical romantics composers. I’d sit in a little room with a turntable console and listen. I took a cassette of it with me to West Africa the years (’68-71) I was in the Peace Corps.
In my musical history, Saint-Saens Saint-Saëns Symphony No. 3 would be next. I tried valiantly to learn how to play musical instruments through my life and failed miserably at them all: accordion in grade school (family could not afford a piano but I did learn to read music), clarinet and guitar in high school, piano/organ in college, and then recorder in West Africa. In college I heard the organ concerto and was hooked.
In the Peace Corps, somehow they thought I could teach music. I would play rounds on the recorder and the class of about 50+ students took it from there. My students were from a number of tribes but what they produced rivaled any chorale I have ever heard. The first “round” they sang literally floored me: do re mi/mi fa sol/do do ti la do sol/fa mi re do…. Another fond memory is having villagers gather in a circle and singing popular songs a capella they heard on the radio. I love to dance and got the moniker “man without bones”.
Thank you Steve, and Mike Pengra, your producer for the opportunity of this journey.
Dvorak's aria Song to the Moon/ with from Rusalka with Renée Fleming was inspired when I organized the 125th anniversary revue for Czech and Slovak Sokol Minnesota. By chance the Minnesota Opera was performing Rusalka, and soprano Karin Wolverton came and sang it in our historic CSPS Hall, and brought the house down.
The next most “WOW” musical experience at the CSPS Hall was when I organized a piano recital, Slavonic Selections, with the then nine-year-old prodigy William Yang, and Denis Evstuhin. As the program continued towards the end, Evstuhin launched into Franz Liszt and his furious rendition of his Rhapsodie Espagnole/Spanish Rhapsody. I was just blown away, and surprised the walls withstood the power.
Here is an obscure one for you: Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis He’s a Lithuanian composer and national musical icon. When I travel I always ask for a "popular" composer or signer, not necessarily classical. When asked how I came to travel so much, I flashed back to age 3 when I wandered from home a couple blocks--but still got lost. Travel for me is a retreat, as well as an exploration of meeting and being met. I could also say that I really enjoy music of many cultures, and seem to ignore lyrics—even in English. It is rather the spirit of the music that I enjoy.
My history in Saint Paul actually is my life-long history along its banks of the Mississippi River, and cause for my next selection by the Anonymous4: When my mother was dying of ALS and in her last crisis, I was with her. Though weak, she sat up on her own and looked to the left ceiling corner of her hospital room at “someone” (I think her mother). Then to the other corner and I think were there multiple ”spirits” there. She died that night, but I am sure it was a welcomed passing.
For the entry to her funeral, I chose the very non-Catholic “Shall we gather by the river”. Fast forward about ten years and I and my partner went to visit my mother’s mother’s grave in Amor up by Detroit Lakes that I hadn’t visited for 60 years probably. As we drove into the cemetery that Sunday morning, the Anonymous 4 rendition of “Shall we gather” came on Minnesota Public Radio. Wow. I sat there, then was able to walk directly to her grave despite having no memory of where it was. More Wow. So MPR played a role in my final selection.
There are of course other stories. Spiritually I still have a fond memory after Vatican II of the internationalization of the Catholic religion, hence the Kyrie of the Missa Luba of the Congo. So also Tuesday mornings I would work in the archives of the CSPS Hall, listening all the while to Czech and Slovak folk songs sung by their Senior Singers.
Will I think of more?