WRCJ Listeners answer the question "What is your favorite memory of classical or jazz music?"
Dear WRCJ 90.9 Staff and Listeners:
I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to my high school choir director, Mr. Keith Strudevant, his brilliant and talented high school and community college choral students from 1954-1969, and the community of Highland Park, Michigan.
We grew up in the small Detroit suburb of Highland Park, just 15 miles from the Ambassador Bridge and the Canadian border. It may be hard to imagine now, given Highland Park’s recent decline and financial woes, but during the 1950s and 1960s, Highland Park was indeed a particularly special place to live. The city and its school system had everything. Heavily due to the taxes paid by Ford, Chrysler, and Excello Corporation, the schools had wonderful curricula, faculties, and facilities. While most communities around the United States were pursuing “The Dream”, Highland Park, Michigan, was living “The Dream”: white children, black children, and yellow children all singing together in perfect harmony. In terms of achievements, for most people, Highland Park represents outstanding basketball programs and players, most notably Bobby Joe Hill who was portrayed as the hero in the movie Glory Road. However, in spite of its legendary basketball program, I believe that arguably the most outstanding program at the high school was its choral program, lead by Mr. Keith Sturdevant (now 92 years old); and since I was not only a member of the concert choir but also the co-captain of the 1967 basketball team, my opinion is based on some experience.
Mr. Sturdevant states that his primary objective was “to achieve outstanding performances of great and difficult literature”. During his tenure, our repertoire included songs such as “How They So Softly Rest” (Healey Willan), “To Her I shall Be Faithful” (Arnold Schoenberg), “Psalm 98” (Hugo Distler), “Neue Liebeslieder” (Johannes Brahms), “Symphony of Psalms” (Stravinsky), and “Christmas Cantata” (Daniel Pinkham), just to name a few.
Many choir mates have informed me that each semester they had to audition for the right to remain in the choir and they had to qualify for each concert as well. Other choir mates, who have written to me, remember going alone into Mr. Sturdevant's office, being presented a song, which we were preparing and given the pitch, and expected to sing their part perfectly, unaccompanied. His organizational and artistic skills, professionalism, artistic passion, and indefatigable energy lifted us to a level of excellence rarely demonstrated by high school students.
Not only did we have a brilliant director leading us, but we also had a brilliant accompanist and composer in residence, Mr. Norman A Gifford (see http//:hphsmagicmoments.com/Gifford_JFK/Gifford_JFK.htm). He was quiet, unassuming, supportive, and brilliant! He supported us as we tackled some of the most difficult music in the choral repertoire. He also composed music just for our choirs, including a memorial to John F. Kennedy called “Let the word go forth: 6 excerpts from the inaugural address of John F. Kennedy”. (Can you imagine, a high school that had its own composer in residence writing brilliant music just for us!).
A number of years ago now, I recovered from a closet a couple of old reel-to-reel tapes of our 1966 and 1967 Spring Tour Concerts, purchased for me by my mother in my junior and senior years. I somehow acquired an old reel-to-reel player and listened to them. Halfway through the 1966 tape, I was reduced to tears. I could not believe what I was hearing. We, as mere high school kids, sang the rich and complex choral selections as if we owned them. I can remember that sometimes we thought we would break under the weight of the difficulty of the music, but as I could hear on those tapes, there was no backing down, just beautiful voices singing with precision and control. After I caught my breath, it became clear to me that somehow I had to save those tapes. With the help of a small recording company, I had the two tapes converted into digital format and copied onto a CD.
I was now determined to find out if Mr. Sturdevant was still alive and to share this uncovered treasure with him. After considerable effort over two to three years, I found his son in Canada, and he informed me that his father was alive and well at age 87. After I sent Mr. Strudevant the draft CD, he was so impressed that he said he was willing to back my project financially so that all of his “choir kids” from 1954-1969 could have a copy. For a number of years now I have been searching across the United States as well as Canada for concert choir members from 1954-1969.
Since that first discovery, I have discovered more reel-to-reel tapes of our performances. I was invited to visit Mr. Sturdevant, to celebrate the production of our first CD set. During that visit, while touring his first house (now a guesthouse), I discovered more reel-to-reel tapes neatly stacked high in a closet, perhaps placed there by his late beloved wife. Mr. Sturdevant was stunned because he says he didn't know they existed. He hadn’t heard any of our music since 1969. This discovery has resulted in the production of six CDs of songs from those concerts, which is now being sent as gifts to concert choir members 1954-1969.
Also as a tribute to Mr. Keith Sturdevant, Mr. Norman Gifford, members of the Highland Park High School concert choirs 1954-1969, and the city of Highland Park, Michigan, which nurtured us, I have also produced a choral web site so that my choir mates and their friends can enjoy the magic moments we all shared. The site address is http://hphsmagicmoments.com
Clifford Larkins, Ph.D., HPHS 1967
In the early spring of 1969, my high school choir, The Midland High School Concert Choir was taking a musical field trip in the Detroit area. We were at Northland to see the newly opened film "Oliver". Before the movie we went shopping at a good classical records store where I bought an album's worth of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos and Yehudi Menuhin and Ravi Shankar's masterful collaboration "East Meets West". My love of Bach and my appreciation of Indian classical music has its origin in these record purchases. Oh, I also bought an album with Mozart's clarinet concerto, K622 and a flute and harp sonata.
Daniel Duane Spyker
When we were little my mother had some classical "78" records. I used to like Ravel's Bolero, having to change the records one at a time to hear the all the instruments slowly being added. Also, my sister and I used to listen to "Carmen" on the 78s, playing and singing our young made-up foreign language, and dying along with Carmen.
1) When we were kids, my father would play a record of Prokoviev's Peter and the Wolf for me and my siblings. We loved it. 2) As a grade school student playing cornet in the orchestra, I discovered Percy Grainger's "Country Gardens" and requested the group play it. I remember the other kids thought I was something on the order of clueless.
Elizabeth Lundry Locke
We listened to records of familiar symphonies growing up, or radio stations but when I was in the 6th grade, I got lucky and was chosen with five other students to go down to Detroit and hear and see the symphony in person!!! What a marvelous experience, to not only hear but watch. I have loved the symphony ever since, listen every chance I get. I have served on our Pontiac Oakland Symphony Board twice (currently and in the early 1980's) Thanks so much for 90.9.
My sixth grade general music teacher played a recording of the Pines of Rome or the Fountains of Rome. The music had me. Then the Cliburn recording of the Tchaikovsky 5th Piano Concerto really got to my soul just after his triumph in Russia. I CRIED through my first hearing. I WAS REALLY SOLD ON CLASSICAL MUSIC. She later became my piano teacher as a youngster and then I returned to study with her as an adult with my daughter.
Saundra C. Peiss
My second or third piano teacher was the beautiful Margaret who lived across the street from us in Athens, GA. Her home was a beautiful, large, antebellum home and her "studio" was half of her bedroom which was once the living room at the front of the home. She was still living at home, so I think she must have still been in high school when she taught me. I was probably nine or ten. Margaret gave me a piano book with simple arrangements by the great classical composers and along with it, each time I played an arrangement by a new composer, she gave me a little card with the composer's picture and a short biography and facts about that composer. It was my first introduction to the classical composers and I've loved classical music ever since. (I love jazz, too, btw.) Absolutely love your station and keep my car radio tuned to it.
I can still remember lying on the Turkish rug in my grandparents' living room listening to a copy of Mario Lanza singing "The Bluebird of Happiness," 78, of course! I swear I wore it out. I was perhaps 5 or 6 then; I'm 68 now!
I remember as a child during WW2 and later going to the Saturday movies. The music used during the cartoons at that time did not mean anything. Later as an adult I would hear the classical music on a local radio station and wonder where did I hear that before. Then, as I grew older I found out the who, what, when and where about that music. Also, when I became a teenager, WJR after school, there was Karl Hass, who gave a good interpertation of the various classical music items for the day. Finally, there was on Saturday morning TV a special program. That being Leonard Burnstein giving an education to the children at that time. This overall gave me a basic education in the love of classical music.
My father was always supportive of my music. He always came to my concerts. He told me once, after hearing me play professionally that when he went to my first concert when I was in the 7th grade he was as proud of me as then. However, he added, "I never heard so much squeaking, squawking & squealling since I left the farm."
We had a house full of music when I grew up. All my brothers played instruments: my middle and youngest brothers played piano, as did I. My middle brother played ragtime and popular sheet music and my father would sing along. At a young age, I decided I wanted to play that way, too, so I just opened the sheet music and played. We had wonderful music lessons, full of classic piano music, but we had fun with the jazz standards!
One of my best memories: playing "J.D.'s (Jimmy Dorsey) Boogie Woogie" in 5th grade. My intro to jazz, and I love it to this day! Nancy Whitecar
My earliest memories of classical music were from my mother playing tapes of the 1812 Overture. I also took classical ballet classes from second grade until senior year. During those years my teacher often played the same pieces over and over for our exercises.
I have always had a passion for classical music. I am not a musician, but I love to listen to it. I often get wrapped up into the artistry of it and details that I will tune out other things around me. It is hard to pick a favorite but currently I've been listening to alot of Beethoven and Rachmaninoff.
I absoulutely love 90.9. I've become a member this year and am proud to be able to do that. I listen to it with my young children in the hopes that some day they will appreciate the classics. Heather Schueler (Chiropractor, Mom and Music lover)
Humorous- I think :-) I was in my dorm in college, doing some homework with Tchaikovsy's 6th on. In the 1st mov't where it gets real quiet, and only the bassoon is left, a friend came to the door & stood there while we talked a minute. I inched the volume up on the stereo in anticipation of the fortissimo re-entrance of the orchestra. Bang! Jump! He nearly jumped out of his skin. I achieved the desired effect and had a bit of a laugh at his expense. The recording: Philadelphia Orch, Ormandy conducting. Dave Wagner
I remember being introduced to classical music by my friend, Ellen, who took piano lessons and lived across the alley!! We went to the Symphony on Thursday nights and got seats in the nose-bleed section!! What a thrill! Then we sang with the Rackham Symphony Choir and did the Verdi Requiem with Leontine Price!! Be still my heart! Mary Lou, 90.9 FM fan
I remember the first record I bought. It was at Doubleday's store in the Penobscot building. I was in high school and my girlfriend and I went into a booth, donned headphones and played the record. It was Pictures at an Exhibition - it blew me away. I was so thrilled and it remains way up there on my chart! The other record that I bought that day was Ravel's Bolero - I use that music whenever I have something I have to do but am reluctant. I start slowly with Ravel and end up finishing with a flourish! It's great "scrubbing floor" music! Ellen W, Redford
My favorite memory as a child was Brunch with Bach at the DIA with my Mother. We would go to church on Sundays and then go to the DIA and listen some of the most beautiful music that I had ever heard. I am now sharing that experience with my own daughter. Elaine H, Wyandotte
Although we always had music in our home, my first memory of classical music was as a pre-teenager, when my parents would take me to the State Fairgrounds where the Detroit Symphony used to play open air free concerts. The conductor was Walter Poole. That really got me hooked and I became a serious lover (and player) of classical music ever since. Ron Horwitz
At thirteen, I bought my first "real record", that is an LP album rather than a 45. Tchaikovsky. The 1812 Overture on one side and Capriccio Italien on the other. Antal Dorati and the DSO with Deems Taylor talking about how the recording, including the sounds of carillons and cannons, was made. It was and is one of my favorites. The second record I bought was Henry Mancini's "The Music from Peter Gunn". So I started out with musical interests that are a perfect fit with today's WRCJ. Thank you all for the best radio I have found anywhere. It was a treat a week or two back on DSO Unmasked, to hear that same Tchaikovsky recording discussed. Mark Lough
After watching an episode of "Inspector Morse" I went out and bought a CD of Maria Callas singing excerpts from "Carmen." This was about the time that the MOT announced that they would be featuring "Carmen" for the fall season. I played the music often while my pre-school aged son and I were in the kitchen. I explained to him that this music was from the opera that Mama&Papa were soon going to see. His entusiasm for the famous aria that Escamillo sings was a joy to behold. He would wave his blankie around and sing his own words to the song! It is now several years since these kitchen performances, but that aria still inspires and captivates him. He is looking forward to the spring performance of "Carmen" at the Opera House. I am very grateful to "Inspector Morse" for his love of Maria Callas that inspired me to get this recording. I'm sure my son is grateful as well. Rita Gerstheimer-Seubert
One of my first classical LP's was a recording of some of Beethoven's Piano Sonatas. Whenever I hear them now, it brings back memories of that time and place. Noel Brown
My sixth grade music teacher played Grofe's Grand Canyon Suite for us and told us to draw a picture of what we heard. I was so excited by the connection of sound and image that I ran home to tell my parents. I still have the record they bought me. Anonymous
We are happy to have a good classical station in Detroit again. The talents and skill of Dave Wagner and other old friends from the past - it's great to have them back. Thank you for the Classical music. Good to have it once more. Carolyn Thibideau