Arts

Arts and culture

Kurt Masur, a former music director of the New York Philharmonic, died Saturday from complications from Parkinson's disease at a hospital in Greenwich, Conn. His death was announced by the New York Philharmonic.

Lyrics tend to be what we remember most about Christmas music, but a song doesn't need to have words to evoke the holidays. In the case of North Texas-based musician Derek Rogers, all he had to do was put Christmas in the title of one of his rich, suggestive drone pieces, and suddenly these thoughtful waves of sound conjure chilly atmospheres and faded family memories.

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"I consider the guitar as this sort of multi-faceted instrument," says Janet Feder, "that can make and do all of these other things."

Chime like a bell, or gong, buzz like a locust, or rattle and hum.

Memory and desire are common themes in Joe Gastiger's prose poems. In his latest collection, If You So Desire, he uses historically famous people to illustrate these themes as well as ordinary people in the news.

It's that time of year when we start hearing admonitions to think about the true meaning of the season. And composer and librettist Mark Adamo is down with that. Best known for his acclaimed operatic adaptations of Little Women and Lysistrata, his latest is Becoming Santa Claus, a family-friendly Christmas work produced by Dallas Opera.

Amid the ubiquitous din of annual chestnuts like "Jingle Bells" and "Let it Snow," you may be surprised to learn that people are actually writing new holiday songs. And as it turns out, some of them are pretty great.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

It may not look like a “winter wonderland” in northern Illinois right now, but it will SOUND like one this weekend in downtown Rockford. That’s because J.R. Sullivan’s 20th production of his “Hometown Holiday” variety show hits the stage at the Nordlof Center. 

One of the themes this time around is an unhappy Santa: he's tired of night-flying in his sleigh, he's sick of gluten-free cookies, and he's just not feeling the magic any more. Not so for Hometown Holiday founder J.R. Sullivan, who is still feeling the spirit more than two decades after he put together the first show. 

When you think of Cuban music, contemporary classical most likely isn't the first — or possibly even fifth — genre that springs to mind. But a group of American composers and musicians couldn't resist an opportunity to travel to the island to present their own music and seek out their Cuban colleagues' work — and frankly, neither could I. We traveled together last month to the Havana Festival of Contemporary Music, for the event's 28th edition.

Jean Sibelius, born 150 years ago on Dec. 8, 1865, was the first Finnish composer to reach an international audience, but his popularity began at home. In the late 1890s, Finland was a part of the Russian empire and its people were striving for independence.

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