KKFI | The Classical Challenge, guest host

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Started the new year with a guest host spot on KKFI 90.1 FM’s The Classical Challenge with Sam Wisman, who typically hosts Jazz Afternoon on Mondays. Sam selected music from 1919 and I got a jump start on the season with some music we’ll hear in Kansas City in 2019. While I can’t recreate the exquisite banter, here’s our playlist and where to find some live performances in the coming months.


  • Sergei Prokofiev’s The Love of Three Oranges–Suite performed by the Kansas City Symphony, conducted by Michael Stern. The opera was composed during 1919. KCSymphony performs a 1919-focused concert (though sadly no Prokofiev) Jan 25-27.
  • Set of three contemporary piano works:
    • Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Barcarolle in g minor, op 10 from “Rachmaninoff plays Rachmaninoff,” taken from a piano roll. He recorded this version for Edison in 1919.
    • Nora Douglas Holt  Negro Dance, op 25 from the album “Kaleidoscope: Music by African-American Women” and performed by Helen Walker-Hill on piano. Holt was a KCK native and the first African-American woman to earn a master’s degree in the United States, in 1918. This piece, from 1919, was one of her few surviving pieces (over 200) since the manuscripts were stolen while she lived abroad. I am excited to learn more about this amazing woman and her career.
    • George Gershwin’s Tee-oodle-um-bum-bo from the musical “La La, Lucille” complied on “By George!: Gershwin plays Gershwin,” written and recorded in 1919.
  • Heitor Villa-Lobos’ Symphony no.3 “A Guerra”, from a set of three symphonies commissioned by the Brazilian government following WWI, though one of the symphonies has been lost. We had a caller who said this programming choice was “courageous,” which I’m taking as a compliment. It sure was fun.


For the most part, I chose music we’ll hear in KC, or a work from a composer that we’ll hear from quite a few times, hopefully.

  • Joan Tower Petroushkates from eighth blackbird’s “Thirteen Ways.” KCSymphony is, I’m guessing, playing Tower’s Made in America on the January 17 Grammy-themed Classics Uncorked, along with Higdon’s Viola Concerto and other Grammy Award winners. I just love this piece, which I first heard a few years ago from Summerfest and I think is aptly winter-appropriate. And I think we’ve got Tower on another concert coming up, but I can’t remember where, so just go to all the concerts, alright, and get back to me.
  • Missy Mazzoli’s Set That On Fire, programmed on newEar’s February concert “The Beauty and Anguish of Love.” Burn, baby, burn.
  • Sarah Kirkland Snider’s song cycle Penelope, selections. Lyric Opera of Kansas City is doing an arrangement on its Explorations Series, for mezzo, string quartet, percussion and electronics the last weekend of March. Snider also has a piece on KCSymphony’s concert series that weekend, along with work by Augusta Read Thomas and Carl Orff, conducted by Ryan McAdams. 
  • Harry Partch’s Castor and Pollux performed by Gate 5 Ensemble. This February 13-22, a collection of Partch’s instruments, with nine trained performers, will be in KC with various events around town, in essentially a once in a lifetime opportunity. I can’t wait to hear these contraptions live. There will be a performance of C&P at UMKC with new choreography. 
  • Philip Glass’s score for Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room – Dance VKansas City Ballet performs this work on its May triple bill, featuring modern American choreography and a world premiere from KCMO native David Parsons.
  • Clara Schumann’s Trio in g minor, op. 17 – III: Andante, performed by the Castle Trio. I wanted to play more of the Schumann, since 2019 is the 200th anniversary of her birth, but we had so much music and so much fun chatting about it we ran out of time. Bach Aria Soloists has Schumann listed on their “Celebrating Women” concert in February, but not the specific piece, so this was a guess. I hope more local organizations look into the work of Clara and her contemporaries so their legacy is normalized and better understood. We’re coming up on Beethoven’s 250th in 2020, so if you’re thinking about celebrating him, when he’s on every season, let’s consider, IDK, others.

There you have it: a teensy preview of some great rep coming our way. I’m excited. Are you? 

At the microphone.

One thought on “KKFI | The Classical Challenge, guest host

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  1. As I expected, one of the most interesting shows The Classical Challenge has done. Set a new show record for Facebook buzz too. You two are welcome back any time.

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