It’s an idea that’s still playing well to audiences after 25 years!
Chamber Music at the Barns and Center Stage from Wolf Trap were conceived at the same time. The idea that the recorded concerts in the Barns would then be presented on the radio seemed like a logical plan. I had the good fortune to be one of the creators of this plan back in 1996.
We were mindful of the “musical triangle” -- the compositions, the performers and the audience – something that concert halls keep in mind as they put together their programs: selecting music, engaging performers and bringing in listeners. We wanted to expand that with the radio program, which has grown from 13 to 26 weeks.
Another critical part of the plan was a Q&A on stage, talking to the musicians about what they do and how they make their music. Audience members come up to the stage during intermission and write down a question, we collect them and then the performers and I come on stage before the second half to answer the questions. It’s fun and lively and audiences love it.
To make it a bit more spontaneous, the musicians don’t see the questions before hand. They are as surprised as the audience. In fact, I’ve often heard people ask if “all musicians are so articulate”. Excerpts from the on-stage Q&A are used on the radio show.
The other critical part of the original plan was to have a reception after the concert...WITH FOOD! Musicians love to eat, and audiences eat it up, literally. It’s a great way for the musicians to mingle casually after the music and meet the members of the audience.
The evening begins with an introduction. I have the pleasure of hosting the concerts … welcoming the audience and giving them a brief sense of the evening’s program. It all works very well. In the early years of the chamber music series Joe McLellan a music critic at the time with the Washington Post wrote that this series was “the best game in town”.
All that is what you see and hear … in the Barns and on the radio. Behind the scenes a lot of things make it work well. The programing of each concert involves engaging performers (which can start as early as two years before each season) and then picking the music, making sure that each program is unique and repertoire isn’t repeated.
Each of the concerts is recorded for radio program. Our recording engineer Bruce Cain, who is also with WETA Classical makes sure it sounds good for the broadcast and streaming. Because the radio program is 1 hour, the music from each recital has to fit in that time. The producer is Vic Muenzer, with CD Syndications who puts it all together for broadcast each week. The commentary for each hour is basically a conversation. I co-host it with Lee Anne Myslewski, Executive Producer of the program and Vice President for Classical Programming and Opera at Wolf Trap.
We love the music and we love talking about it. Sharing that enthusiasm with our audience both in the concert hall and on the radio is the best part. We're looking forward to seeing you on the radio, and at the Barns at Wolf Trap.
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