Arts and Culture News

News from the arts world.

When the Seattle Symphony set about modernizing its community and education wing at its home in Benaroya Hall, it decided to create a space that brings new technology and design together with creative and innovative programming, including a renewed commitment to new music and new artists.

Growing up in Chicago, Rachel Barton Pine took it for granted that there was a great body of classical music by black composers. She heard it on the radio. She played it in local orchestras as a student. The Center for Black Music Research is in Chicago. So, when the violinist recorded her first concerto album in 1997, she naturally included music by Afro-Caribbean and Afro-European composers.

Joan Marcus

A Tempo this week features an interview with neurologist and flutist Carl Ellenberger, whose new book Theme and Variations: Musical Notes by a Neurologist, explores the relationship between music and the mind, including some of the more recent findings about how music is linked to brain development and its healing qualities. Listen Saturday (12/29) at 7 pm.


Copyright 2018 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.


Actor Jackie Hoffman grew up hearing Yiddish, but not really speaking it.

"I spoke what my mother calls kitchen Yiddish," Hoffman says — words here and there that she picked up from conversations between her mother and grandmother.

The language had always been a part of her life, but when she landed the part of Yente the matchmaker in a Yiddish-language version of Fiddler on the Roof, she panicked. "It was intimidating," Hoffman admits.

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CHRISTOPHER JACKSON: (As George Washington, vocalizing).


Lin-Manuel Miranda's "Hamilton" helped make a lot of stars, including, of course, Lin-Manuel Miranda.

When Aaron Sorkin first sat down to write a stage adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird, it didn't go well.

"My first draft of To Kill a Mockingbird was terrible," he says. "Really the best thing that you could say about it was that it was harmless — which is not something you want to say about a play."

Photo by Deen van Meer

To the extent that there's a runaway Jazz Album of 2018 — factoring in critical reception, commercial success and cultural relevance — it comes to us from a saxophonist who died more than 50 years ago. I'm referring to John Coltrane, who probably wasn't thinking in terms of an album when he brought his quartet into the studio for a routine workout on March 6, 1963.

Kevin Leighton

For many across the world, it wouldn't be Christmas Eve without the annual broadcast of A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from the chapel at King's College Cambridge. First held in 1918, the festival of readings and seasonal music has evolved over the years, commissioning new carols that have expanded the choral repetoire and broadening its reach, first through radio and more recently via online streaming.

Jingle Sells, But Who's Buying?

Dec 18, 2018

Do you hear what I hear? Around this time of year, it could be sleigh bells or it could be the sound of a cash register.

Narrowing a list to just 10 is always a painful game. This year, amid a multitude of albums, I found favorite musicians (Víkingur Ólafsson), newcomers (the young Aizuri Quartet) and familiar players in compelling collaborations (Brooklyn Rider and Magos Herrera), all offering fascinating performances of music from the baroque to the freshly minted.

Actors Ammar Haj Ahmad and Milan Ghobsheh's journey from London to Brooklyn wasn't easy.

Ahmad and Ghobsheh herald from predominantly Muslim countries whose residents are barred from coming to the U.S. under President Trump's travel ban. Ahmad is from Syria, Ghobsheh from Iran. Both are members of The Jungle cast, a play that received near-universal critical acclaim when it debuted at the Young Vic theater in London.

Photo by Joan Marcus

Photo courtesy of John Hoffmeyer

As a student at Princeton University, John Hoffmeyer has been combining his love of literature with music, finding links between them and creating performance opportunities that have opened doors to classical music for new listeners. The founder of the Princeton Chamber Music Society, Hoffmeyer was recently named a 2019 Rhodes Scholar, and he is now looking forward to delving more deeply into these connections and providing more experiences that expand access for more people and communities to classical music.

Bringing Down The Curtain On Yellowface

Dec 12, 2018

There’s a particular scene in “The Nutcracker” called the Tea Dance.

In this recording, the dancers play Chinese characters, making jerky, exoticized movements and exaggerated, racialized costumes.

And in Chinese Tea scene in “The Nutcracker” performers are traditionally made up to be Asian, often in stereotypical or offensive ways.

The Ferryman starts in a graffiti-covered back alley in Derry, Northern Ireland. A parish priest is questioned by an IRA captain — the body of a man who disappeared 10 years ago has been found in a bog.

The scene then shifts to the dead man's family and their farm. It's harvest time, 1981, and despite the joy and warmth abundantly on display, the first scene looms in the background.

Copyright 2018 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.


This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli sitting in for Terry Gross.


For his multimedia tribute to jazz pioneer and war hero James Reese Europe, Jason Moran doesn't wear his usual performance attire. His wife, the musician Alicia Hall Moran, had some ideas for a more meaningful costume.

"She told me I needed to experience the same weight and pressure Europe and his soldier musicians did when they performed in uniform overseas," says Moran.

"That's what I love about pop music. I don't want people to think too hard. I just want them to feel good." – Celeste

Boy, there's something so comforting about those fairy tales in which an unknown talent is plucked from obscurity to live out a dream of being rich and famous. We got a big ol' tissue-grabber along those lines this year ... what was it, about a star being born? Nothing bad can happen during a birth, right?

A spin of the hand, and a flick of the arm. Bounce left, right, left, right.

Photo by Paul Kolnik

Blair Miller was tired of feeling like she was always the youngest person in the audience when she attends orchestral concerts - something she's done ever since she was three years old and went to Philadelphia Orchestra concerts with her mother. Now, Miller is CEO and lead advocate at ConductAction, which is developing strategies to attract younger audiences to classical music performances by drawing connections between social action and important causes to the music and composers featured on concert programs.

Copyright 2018 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.


There are hundreds, maybe even thousands of people in the world who would've thrilled at the opportunity to spend time in the close orbit of Ricky Jay, the illusionist, writer, performer, playing card-thrower, and scholar who died at his home in Los Angeles last weekend.

At the beginning of 2005, when I went to work for him, I was not one of those people.

Photo by Peter Cunningham

When On Site Opera explored the idea of staging Amahl and the Night Visitors, General and Artistic Director Eric Einhorn set about finding a way to bring it to an appropriate venue to tell the holiday story of charity and giving. His solution was to bring it to the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen in New York - and to partner with Breaking Ground, which provides housing and other support to the homeless, to create a chorus comprised of those who have experienced homelessness in their lives.

'Dance In America' Aims To Chronicle The Art In The U.S.

Nov 26, 2018

Lincoln Kirstein writes in one of his four pieces in Dance in America, "To write descriptions of dancing is even more aimless than to paint pictures of music."

Clearly that hasn't stopped him, or anyone else, from trying. Dancing means too much. We have to try to talk about it. But what a nearly impossible task, to collect the right essays, excerpts, and asides that will somehow become a definitive portrait of dance in America. It gets even tougher when your audience is equal parts academics and everyday fans.