Buddies - for a time, anyway.

Buddies – for a time, anyway.

. . . or click on the link here for Audio Player – Radio Moscow – 30 Anniversary, Celebration of Meet-Up on The Elbe – April 27, 1975 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection.

To commemorate the historic meeting of the Russian and Anglo-American Armies at The Elbe River, and the eventual defeat of Nazi Germany, Radio Moscow put together a series of broadcasts on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of VE Day in May of 1975, and included a special program regarding the link-up and effective splitting of Germany in half during the last days of the War in Europe.

Featuring interviews and eyewitness accounts from the Russian side of things, this series of broadcasts probably wasn’t aired in the U.S., even though it was distributed to Public Radio outlets all over the country. We were, after all in the middle of the Cold War. And even though there were celebrations going on, there was still time in this broadcast to talk about Nuclear Arms reduction and the proposals of Leonid Brezhnev with a subtle dig that the Russians wanted peace, how about the U.S.?

Regardless of the intentions, this is an interesting glimpse of the Russian version of World War 2 and the simple fact that Russia lost a few million as the result of that war.

Here is the Elbe River segment of Radio Moscow’s VE 30th Anniversary celebrations broadcast. From May of 1975.

Not V-E Day . . . just yet.

Not V-E Day . . . not yet.

. . . or click on the link here for Audio Player – NBC Radio – News Reports/Bulletins – April 27, 1945 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection.

Very big news this day, 70 years ago. The link up of Soviet, British and American forces at the Elbe River, effectively cutting Germany in two and almost certainly sealing the fate of the War in Europe and an Allied victory.

Breathless reports and eye-witness accounts and cautions this didn’t mean it was V-E day, even though a lot of celebration was going on. It meant the final push to Berlin and the final defeat of Germany was days, if not hours away.

And so the day was filled with bulletins and re-caps and breaking news, along with hurried connections from correspondents on the scene, all created a heightened sense of anticipation that one aspect of the war would be over soon.

Here is a one-hour extract of breaking news that day, as reported on NBC Radio from April 27, 1945.

Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond - mesmerizing,  astounding, hypnotic, other-worldly - every superlative applies, and some they haven't made yet.

Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond – mesmerizing, astounding, hypnotic, other-worldly – every superlative applies, and some they haven’t invented  yet.

. . . or click on the link here for Audio Player – My Brightest Diamond – Live at Soirée de Poche, Paris – February 7, 2015 – La Blogothèque.

I can’t think of a better way to end a week, or start a new one, than listening to a concert by My Brightest Diamond. A side project of the astonishingly gifted Shara Worden, MBD takes magic and music into whole new realms. The sheer power and versatility of her voice is enough to rivet attention. But coupled with her backup band and the soundscapes she creates makes for an overwhelming experience – in the best of all possible ways.

That she did all this in the context of a house concert; up close and personal with a living room full of strangers, who were just as astonished and blown away as the viewers and listeners thousands of miles away no doubt were, is ample proof My Brightest Diamond is no passing fancy and Shara Worden is one of the great gifts currently walking the earth. By the way, Soirée de Poche is a regular feature of La Blogothèque, the French collective and website who have taken live concerts straight into the future. A few weeks ago I ran a Father John Misty concert from just such a living room, and before that Jacco Gardner. Not only are the acts superlative, but La Blogothèque does a fantastic job.

Although I suspect this concert is a bit longer than the 37 minutes that was presented, it’s such an engaging and enjoyable concert that it insists on being repeated over and over.

There are times I have been pessimistic over the state of Music – times when the drone of Mainstream seems to blot out true genius and relegate everything to a cynical yawn.

And then I listen to a project like My Brightest Diamond and I know everything is fine – everything is wonderful – life is good, life is insane with possiblities.

Turn it up and close your eyes.

Jean Vallerand - vital force in the Musical life of Quebec from the 1930s to 1980.

Jean Vallerand – vital force in the Musical life of Quebec from the 1930s to 1980.

. . . or click on the link here for Audio Player – Jean Vallerand – String Quartet – Montreal String Quartet – 1955 – CBC Transcription Service.

More 20th Century music from Canada this week. Tonight it’s the World Premier performance of String Quartet No. 1 by Jean Vallerand, played by the then-newly reformed Montreal String Quartet, recorded by the CBC in 1955.

A name most likely unfamiliar outside of Canada, Jean Vallerand was a vital contributor to the musical and cultural life of Quebec. Not only as a composer, but violinist, critic, educator and writer, Vallerand had his hand in a bit of everything and was head of the Quebec Conservatory for many years.

Unlike Barbara Pentland from the other week, Vallerand’s music was conservative by comparison – being more contemplative and serene, bringing very much to mind the American school of composers influenced by Howard Hanson.

In short, he didn’t make waves, but that’s not to say the music of Jean Vallerand doesn’t have meat on its bones, and this String Quartet warrants more than one listening without feeling challenged.

Significant, aside from this being a World Premier, is that this was the first recording made by the newly reformed Montreal String Quartet, who went to on much international acclaim during their successful career.

Nicely preserved by the Canadian Broadcasting Transcription Service (and I imagine reissued here and there), the music of Jean Vallerand is another in a growing list of composers whose works have been neglected over the years – perhaps some enterprising String Quartet might want to give this a run-through sometime soon.

Either way, enjoy.

Gregor Piatigorsky - One of the greatest cellists of our time.

Gregor Piatigorsky – One of the greatest cellists of our time.

. . . or click on the link here for Audio Player – Sum & Substance – Gregor Piatigorsky – Feb. 24, 1963 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection.

Gregor Piatigorsky was once described as being one of the greatest string players of all time. One of the reasons had much to do with the amount of drama he infused into a piece of music. It conveyed a level of expression not many were able to duplicate. And because many of the compositions he played were by composers he had direct contact with either professionally or personally, it added greatly to the authenticity and authority of a piece.

Born in Russia in 1903, Piatigorsky began playing Cello at the age of 6. As a teenager, he fled to the West during the Soviet takeover and settled, first in Paris, and then in the U.S. in 1940.

In the late 1940s he became part of what was known in some circles as “The million Dollar Trio”, a group founded along with Arthur Rubinstein, and Jascha Heifetz, with William Primrose on occasion.

He was a much-admired teacher and held a legendary Master Class at USC in the 1960s.

This interview, done for the Sum & Substance series, features an informal chat between Piatigorsky and Herman Harvey, recorded on February 24, 1963.

Ralph Flanagan - Bid Band at the Twilight.

Ralph FlanaganBig Band at the Twilight.

. . . or click on the link here for Audio Player – Ralph Flanagan Band – CBS Radio – September 19, 1950 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection.

I haven’t posted any Big Band in a while. If you discount Count Basie, Stan Kenton and Duke Ellington, then I really haven’t posted any Big Band at all; not this genre of Big Band anyway.

The Mainstream/Pop side of Big Band. The one which was very popular in the 1930s and 1940s. The one which played primarily Dance music – the one which began the slow fade after World War 2 and came to an end with the birth of Rock n’ Roll. Although it was still around long after that, but mostly it was relegated to the “nostalgia” crowd, and the bands were comprised of “pickup musicians”, not regulars, as booking a large band of this kind was an expensive and no longer profitable proposition, and venues capable of sustaining a crowd needed to support a band like this were getting fewer and farther between.

But Jazz was busy evolving and it evolved away from a form best listened at to a form best listened to. And like Rock n’ Roll (as my previous post today indicated), there was resistance to that newly developing style of Jazz. To many from the glory days of Big-Band, this new hybrid of Jazz wasn’t really Jazz – as Louis Armstrong once referred to it – it was “Chinese Music”.

So Ralph Flanagan, with a sound strongly reminiscent of Glenn Miller (one of the key figures of the Big Band era), achieved a modest amount of popularity during his tenure, mostly by re-popularizing the Miller sound. Having formed his first band in 1949, this broadcast features the band in their early period.

Although he had a number of top-40 hits all through the early and mid-1950s, Ralph Flanagan has very much fallen off the radar, and his work has been relegated to the Sweet-Band section of Pop Music. But it must be remembered that bands like Flanagan’s were the backbone of Popular Music in its day, and provided a jumping-off point for musicians and listeners alike.

With that in mind – have a listen to this broadcast by Ralph Flanagan and His Band, as it was heard on September 19, 1950 over the CBS Radio Network.


The world was going straight to hell -no two ways about it.

The world was going straight to hell – no two ways about it.

. . . or click on the link here for Audio Player – Conversation – Rock n’ Roll – July 29,1956 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection


Generation gaps. Yes, there was a huge one in 1956. Pop Music was going through a big change and a lot of people didn’t like it.

It was called Rock n’ Roll and many were convinced it meant the end of the world as they knew it. The objects of this disdain and derision were Elvis Presley and Bill Haley and His Comets – two of the more visible practitioners of this new form of music and two of its biggest targets.

And it made for hours of discussion – newspaper and magazine articles; everyone from Disc Jockeys to Psychiatrists all chimed in with one opinion or another on just what this new phenomenon meant and where America was headed.

Several pundits passed it off as a fad; one which was not destined to last. Others didn’t mind it and thought it reflected the urges of youth to express themselves in ways no adult would understand – and that it was a rite of passage, as Popular Music had shown in generations before. Others just didn’t think it was music, that it was jarring and unpleasant and couldn’t really be listened to for more than a minute at most.

Opinions ran the gamut and the controversy raged for years.

One of those discussion programs tackling the issue was the popular Conversation series, which ran on NBC Radio. This episode, from July of 1956, featured the legendary Broadway composer Richard Rogers and New York Disc jockey Ted Brown. The moderator is Clifton Fadiman, who has a seething dislike for Presley. Rogers, a professional composer and musician, has no objection to it – it’s not his personal favorite, but he understands the appeal and takes something of a laissez faire approach to the subject. Ted Brown is no fan. Fadiman is unbending.

Between the three of them you get a sense of what the rest of the country was feeling about this new form of music and this new expression of Youthful America.

The natural tendency was to blame this new Music for all the social ills confronting the country and its Youth. Fadiman lays blame squarely on Presley for the upsurge in Juvenile Delinquency – that this music is tearing apart the fabric of society. Rogers didn’t see it that way – Brown just hoped everything would go back to the way it was before.

So if you thought any Popular music which represented any period of time was without its detractors or alarmists, you can rest easy in knowing it’s just never changed, and most likely never will.

To remind yourself what it was like almost 60 years ago, here is that broadcast of Conversation and the subject of Rock n’ Roll. I purposely left the lead-in on as there was a promo for an upcoming popular program at the time, featuring Guy Lombardo and Shep Fields and His Rippling Rhythm – popular music of the generation previous to the one coming of age in 1956.

So now you know.