The American Sound

Saturdays at 6 p.m. on Classical 101. Rebroadcast Tuesdays at 7pm on Classical 101.

The American Sound showcases a variety of the most beautiful, inspiring classical music with an American accent.

Each week we’ll explore masterworks by great American composers past and present like Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein and Samuel Barber, and contemporaries Eric Whitacre, Michael Daugherty and John Adams.

Plus, we’ll go back to our American roots with George Gershwin’s jazz-inspired music, performances by America’s bluegrass greats and more. Think Bernstein with the Boston Symphony or Bach on a banjo!

Ways to Connect

color photo of Antoine Clark conducting onstage at the MAC
Jennifer Hambrick / WOSU Public Media

Last spring, the coronavirus pandemic forced the McConnell Arts Center Chamber Orchestra’s 2019-20 season to a premature close. This Saturday the orchestra launches its 2020-21 concert season with two outdoor performances, as the McConnell Arts Center increases its offerings of art classes and opens a new gallery exhibition.

color photo of someone looking at computer screens with images of VIVO musicians performaning
publicity photo / Courtesy of VIVO Music Festival

Columbus’ annual VIVO Music Festival kicks off this week and, like just about everything else this year, it looks a little different.

In the midst of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the sixth season of the week-long festival launched Monday under the name VIVO Reimagined. For the past five seasons, VIVO’s annual festival has presented world-class chamber music concerts at venues around Columbus near the end of summer.

color hoto of brick building with street sign in front reading Desbrosses Street
publicity photo / Courtesy of Cantaloupe Music

The story of Desbrosses Street, in Lower Manhattan, is a story of a warehouse district turned into apartments, of people taking up residence in the once abandoned area and forming a neighborhood, of neighbors who live in homes and neighbors who live on the street.

As a 20-something, composer Michael Gordon moved into an abandoned factory on Desbrosses Street in 1981. He has now chronicled decades of his neighborhood’s growth and change, his life and times with friends and conversations with two of his homeless neighbors in Anonymous Man, recently released in a recording by the Philadelphia-based professional choir The Crossing, conducted by Donald Nally.

color photo of head shots fo hudnreds of singers in Virtual Choir 6
publicity photo / Courtesty of Eric Whitacre

“My God, I can really feel the fabric of society tearing.”

That thought haunted Eric Whitacre as he saw the effects of the coronavirus pandemic in its early days in the US and the UK.

color photo of abalone-inlaid Star of David on the back of a violin
publicity photo / Courtesy of Niv Ashkenazy

Among of the millions of voices silenced during World War II were those of countless musicians. While imprisoned in Nazi concentration camps, they lifted spirits by playing music on beautifully decorated violins.

Many of those instruments were also silenced during the Holocaust. But violinist Niv Ashkenazi has now given a priceless violin its voice back, playing the restored instrument in a new recording featuring works by Jewish composers.

color photo of Acappella screen split in five blocks, each with glassware being played like percussion instruments
Jennifer Hambrick/WOSU Public Media / Courtesy of the Johnstone Fund for New Music

When you watch Columbus Symphony violinist Alicia Hui’s upcoming virtual concert, she might take you on a walk through the woods or stroll with you along a sandy beach. Or she might serenade you before a breathtaking mountain vista – all with the help of a green screen and the internet.

Continuing closures of concert venues are inspiring Hui and other musicians to greater innovation in creating and presenting concerts online.

Composer Ching-chu Hu
Denison University

That moment when you’re facing something that might be wonderful or harrowing...

You inhale. You pause. You exhale.

That moment, suspended in time and tied so closely to our emotions that the breath pauses automatically, is what Ching-chu Hu, professor of music composition and chair of the Music Department at Denison University, calls “the hope moment.”

color photo of Miwa Matreyek performing in one of her animations
Miwa Matreyek / YouTube/Courtesy of Miwa Matreyek

Teamwork is the name of the game at Denison University’s TUTTI New Music Festival this year.

Musicians and athletes will explore together the key ingredients of working successfully in teams during TUTTI Festival 2020, March 3-7 on Denison’s Granville campus.

color photo of the members of Bearthoven sitting on a couch
Jaime Boddorff / Courtesy of Bearthoven

Judging by their instruments – piano, bass and drums – you might think they’re a standard jazz trio. But there’s nothing standard about the contemporary music trio Bearthoven.

Based in Brooklyn, Bearthoven has been making a name during the last seven years as an impassioned catalyst for the creation of new music. The trio returns to Columbus this month to give the world premiere of Mixed Tulips by Michael Gordon, composer and co-founder of the Brooklyn-based new music collective Bang on a Can and the Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.

Percussionist Colleen Bernstein performs in the WOSU studios.
Nick Houser / WOSU

Sometimes a snare drum is not just a snare drum.

Percussion soloists Cameron Leach and Colleen Bernstein took the drummer’s humble rat-a-tat-tats into the world of scat singing, hand drumming and other unexpected feats on a recent visit to the Classical 101 studio.

color photo of Derek Bermel holding a pencil and sitting with a musical score
publicity photo / courtesy of Derek Bermel

It was a fateful trip to the art museum.

That trip decades ago, when Derek Bermel was just a kid - long before he became an award-winning composer and clarinetist -  that has landed Bermel on the list of Grammy Award nominees.

color photo of Lindsey Goodman playing her flute
Nick Houser / WOSU Public Media

Columbus flutist Lindsey Goodman’s most recent solo recording ETEREO (Navona Records) is interesting in any number of ways. But Goodman says her favorite thing about the disc is that she recorded it in Weigel Hall Auditorium, right here in Columbus.

color photo of Caroline Shaw
Kait Moreno / carolineshaw.com

Six years ago, fifty bucks and an outside-the-box choir helped Caroline Shaw become the youngest person to win the Pulitzer Prize for music. Here's a look at some of what she's been doing more recently.

color photo of the Dessoff Choirs performing
publicity photo/The Dessoff Choirs / http://www.dessoff.org/gallery

She was an African-American woman trying to make it in a white man’s world – and she succeeded, performing with world-class orchestras and winning three highly coveted ASCAP Awards, among other accolades.

Recently, Margaret Bonds’ music received another honor with the release of the world-premiere recording of The Ballad of the Brown King (Avie Records).  Bonds considered it her magnum opus... a Christmas cantata set to a text by noted Harlem Renaissance poet, and Bonds’ longtime friend, Langston Hughes.  The work will be featured this Christmas season on The American Sound.

Malcolm J. Merriweather leads the New York City-based Dessoff Choirs and Orchestra in a performance featuring soprano Laquita Mitchell, mezzo-soprano Lucia Bradford and tenor Noah Stewart as soloists.

color night shot of headlights whizzing by the Arc de Triomphe, Paris
Sheila Sund/Wikimedia Commons /

It’s jarring to hear a honking car horn. But on the streets of Paris, honking horns – like good wine, café au lait and the Gallic shrug – are just a part of life.

So much so that when George Gershwin decided to compose an orchestral piece inspired by the City of Light, he gave the honking horns of the Parisian taxicabs practically top billing. And not long ago those taxi horns claimed the spotlight for a different reason.

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