Around the World with WCRB
Tour the world in music with us this Labor Day weekend!
Since COVID-19 has made travel inadvisable and, in some cases, impossible this year, we're spending Labor Day Weekend with music inspired by composers' travels, evoking great destinations around the world - starting at noon on Friday, running through Monday night.
Putting this weekend together has us thinking about our own favorite travel memories, too -- we'll share them here and on social media throughout the week, using the hashtag #WCRBTravelTales. That's also how you can join the fun! Share a memory, use that hashtag, and we'll share your post, too.
Read on for our favorite memories, and the music that sparks them:
Maurice Ravel: Boléro (hear it Monday between 5 and 6am)
In August 2018, I took an impromptu trip to London with my aunt. My sister went to school there, and she had a vacant flat before the lease was up in the fall – so why not! The highlight of the trip was a BBC Proms concert at Royal Albert Hall in London. The day of, I bought a standing room ticket for really cheap; I had no idea that the standing room is actually directly in front of the orchestra. So for a few bucks, I stood about ten feet in front of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra cello section; I felt like I was at a rock show at a club. Better yet was the fact that Ludovic Morlot was conducting – yet another last-second surprise to me. I had coincidentally wanted to see a concert of his since his work with a handful of Seattle musicians that I idolize. It was an all-French program with Debussy, Lili Boulanger, and Ravel’s Boléro headlining the show. Boléro is really a remarkable visual experience too – not just a musical one. It whisks me to that “rock” concert every time.
Felix Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 4, "Italian" (hear it Saturday between 11am and noon)
In May, 2010, I led a WCRB Learning Tour to northern Italy. This was the view from the hotel room on the first day. We're overlooking Lago Maggiore and it's everything you'd hope a view of Italy would be: stucco and red tile roofs, palm trees, blue skies, bluer mountains, bluest water, and perfect weather. Later, we took a boat ride out to the island in the lake for our welcome dinner and who was also there enjoying an intimate dinner? American comedian Steven Wright... born in Cambridge, Mass!
Aaron Copland: New England Countryside (hear it Saturday between 8 and 9am)
Last year I left the country for the first time in over 10 years to bike to Montreal with a group of about 45 people assembled by the Boston Cyclists Union, and riding through Vermont was some of the most stunning scenery I've ever seen. These days we can still bike and camp and hike and do all of the outdoor things, but what we can't do is do all of those things with our friends, and that's what I miss the most - getting closer with acquaintances by experiencing incredible things together.
This picture is from my favorite day of the trip, riding through stunning trails and ending up on top of the West River Dam in Vermont, with someone I'm now good friends with. We got a little lost together on the way there, but rejoined the group shortly after this.
Joseph Strauss II: Tales from the Vienna Wood (hear it Friday between 4 and 5pm)
I spent a study abroad semester in Vienna, Austria, and it remains my favorite European city. In typical fashion, there is a massive cathedral, Stefansdom, right in the center of the city, and I spent many hours exploring its hushed nave and intimate chapels, as well as enjoying live music as part of the weekly services. Years later, I had the opportunity to return to Vienna to perform Dvorak's Stabat Mater in Stefansdom with the Chorus of Westerly, an all-ages independent chorus from Rhode Island, during a memorable two-week tour through Hungary, Austria and the Czech Republic. Ensemble tours have always been (and one day will be again) a wonderful way for both amateur and professional musicians to experience far-off lands and culture, and this one was extra special for me. It was the perfect combination of performance and travel.
Max Bruch: Scottish Fantasy (hear it Friday as part of the "3 at 3")
I'm excited to hear Lalo’s Symphonie Espagnole, Rimsky Korsakov's Capriccio espagnole, Chabrier’s Espana, etc. I’ve never been to Spain and I so want to - luckily classical music can take me there. I'm also looking forward to the all-Scottish 3 at 3 on Friday, especially the Bruch - visiting Scotland with my mom is one of my favorite memories. From the stunning rugged scenery to the best pizza I’ve ever eaten, the Bruch always makes me think of that trip and smile.
George Gershwin: An American in Paris (hear it Monday between 9 and 10am)
Here’s a happy couple! Janelle and I enjoyed an idyllic honeymoon in Paris in 2014. We stayed on a péniche – a charming houseboat on the Seine – and reveled in being tourists in one of the most beautiful places on earth. This picture is a bit grainy, because it was taken at night, but it's a great memory.
On a hike with my brother in the Italian Alps, I mentioned to the guardian of a hut we stayed in that I was studying opera in college. His eyes opened wide and told me, "we love opera! That's all we listen to here!" I thought he was kidding until he showed me to the kitchen, where he and his staff were blasting Verdi's Don Carlo. I ended up being the night's entertainment, singing Mozart for the other hikers (and got extra panna cotta for my troubles).
Claude Debussy: Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun (hear it Saturday between 5 and 6pm)
Of all the places I’ve daydreamed about during the last few months of quarantine – both those I’ve visited and those I haven’t – Lucerne, Switzerland, is especially vivid right now. I was there at this time of year in 2012 for the Lucerne Festival, which is anchored in the stunning KKL concert hall. That modern masterpiece, the ancient city, and the Alpine lake and countryside around it created a delightful sensory overload. Then I heard the Berlin Philharmonic inside that hall. A program that coursed through Ligeti, Wagner, Sibelius, Debussy, and Ravel, led by Simon Rattle, was rich, spellbinding, and exhilarating, an experience matched the next night by a concert by the 12 Cellists of the Berlin Philharmonic. I’ll be thinking of those musicians with deep appreciation on Saturday evening, when I hear Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun on WCRB.
Halfway between the Ugandan capital, Kampala, and the district of Soroti in the north, you'll pass the town of Jinja, whose claim to fame is the "Source of the Nile:" the point at which the headwaters of the White Nile emerge from Lake Victoria and begin their northward journey towards Egypt. It's a surprisingly unassuming spot, demarcated only by a small sign reachable by boat.
Vincent D'Indy: Symphony on a French Mountain Air (hear it Saturday between 3 and 4am)
Two years ago, my younger sister and I took a trip to France by ourselves, visiting Paris first, then attempting to sleep on an overnight bus to Nice, where we stayed for the next few days. Our first day there, we arrived way too early in the morning to check in to our hotel, so we walked to the rocky beach and sat watching the waves for a few hours, and once we felt refreshed enough, we hiked up a (steep!) hill overlooking the harbor. We bought sandwiches and unusual, very flat croissants and ate them sitting on the wall, watching boats come and go. In the years since, we've tried endlessly to find other places that sell those croissants, or ones that are similar... no luck. They must have only existed at that one specific boulangerie. Someday we'll go back.