Voice of the Arts

Insights and anecdotes from musicians, dancers, artists, actors and directors, as well as audience response.

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Dr. Cyril Wecht - Jan 28, 2022

It was elements of the CIA who were responsible for the death of President John F. Kennedy says Dr. Cyril Wecht. He has been certain of it since 1964 and says so again with new evidence in two new books - "The JFK Assassination Dissected: An Analysis by Forensic Pathologist Cyril Wecht with Dawna Kaufman" and "The Life and Deaths of Cyril Wecht: Memoirs of America's Most Controversial Forensic Pathologist," written with WQED Producer Jeff Sewald. Dr. Wecht is the retired Allegheny County Coroner and Medical Examiner who served as County Commissioner, holds degrees in law and medicine, taught at the University of Pittsburgh Medical School and has presided over 21,000 autopsies and written over twenty books.

In this conversation with Jim Cunningham Dr. Wecht discusses his violins and holding down the concertmaster's chair in the University of Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. He admired Jascha Heifetz, Zino Francescatti and the greats who appeared under Fritz Reiner and William Steinberg at the Syria Mosque. He marvels at Beethoven writing the Ninth Symphony while deaf and thinks it may have been lead poisoning that killed Ludwig. 

His criticism of the Warren Commission's findings regarding JFK and the single bullet theory that involved Lee Harvey Oswald as the assassin is pointed and backed up with first-hand knowledge including lunch meetings with Oswald's widow Marina. There must have been three shooters he says.

Dr. Wecht is still waiting for the release of documents promised by the Trump and Biden administrations. He knows he ruffled feathers and made enemies along the way, but he had to do it his way.   Dr. Wecht's wife, his children and the memories of his parents are what he holds most dear. Will there be a civil war in America? He thinks not, but he is deeply concerned about the health of the political scene in the country he served as a Navy man. At age 91, he is pleased to speak for those who can not tell tales.

James Lesniak - Pittsburgh Opera's "The Rose Elf" - Jan 20, 2022

Pittsburgh Opera presents David Hertzberg's "The Rose Elf" January 22 through the 30th at the Pittsburgh Opera Headquarters.  WQED-FM's Jim Cunningham spoke with the opera's conductor, James Lesniak, about the opera's music.  

Andrew Turner - Pittsburgh Opera's "The Rose Elf" - Jan 20, 2022

Pittsburgh Opera presents David Hertzberg's "The Rose Elf" January 22 through the 30th at the Pittsburgh Opera Headquarters.  WQED-FM's Jim Cunningham spoke with Andrew Turner, who sings the role of The Beloved.    

Kaley Karis Smith - Pittsburgh Opera's "The Rose Elf" - Jan 20, 2022

Pittsburgh Opera presents David Hertzberg's "The Rose Elf" January 22 through the 30th at the Pittsburgh Opera Headquarters.  WQED-FM's Jim Cunningham spoke with the opera's Stage Direcctor, Kaley Karis Smith, about the meaning of the opera and how she plans to present the opera to the audience.  

Madeline Ehlinger - Pittsburgh Opera's "The Rose Elf" - Jan 20, 2022

Pittsburgh Opera presents David Hertzberg's "The Rose Elf" January 22 through the 30th at the Pittsburgh Opera Headquarters.  WQED-FM's Jim Cunningham spoke with Madeline Ehlinger, who sings the role of The Elf. 

Orrin Evans - Jan 20, 2022

Pianist Orrin Evans headlines the 51st University of Pittsburgh Jazz Seminar celebrating Errol Garner's Centennial starting January 24th with all events aviable for free on Youtube. Orrin Evans will join Nicole Mitchell Ganatt, Director of the Jazz Studies program at Pitt and scholar Irene Monteverde, in a discussion of the jazz business as revealed in the Errol Garner archives at Pitt. Orrin's concert on January 29th includes Jeff Grubbs, bass and James Johnson III, drums. Orrin Evans talks with Jim Cunningham about his love of Garner and the Pitt seminar which he appeared in a few years ago. Orrin says that Pittsburgh is a second home since his wife is from South Park - they had a house in Morningside and he knows many jazz musicians from Pittsburgh. Orrin Evans played at Manchester Craftsman Guild several seasons ago. He's been nominated twice for a Grammy including this year and he's made nearly 30 recordings with his Captain Black Big Band and smaller ensembles. Orrin Evans talks about his mother, an opera singer and his dad, a man of the theater, playwright and professor and how they influenced him. Jazz people in the conversation include Billy Strayhorn, Kenny Barron, Marty Ashby and McCoy Tyner. Orrin explains how the pandemic has shaped his music making and explains his thought that he "prefers to do everything as if it were his last day on earth."  The New York Times recently wrote that Orrin Evans is "jazz most resourceful and invigorating contemporary pianist."

Johnny Gandelsman & Ebun Oguntola - Chamber Music Pittsburgh - Jan 19, 2022

Chamber Music Pittsburgh presents a virtual concert recorded in Pittsburgh available February 7th at noon through February 14th - "This is America" with violinist Johnny Gandelsman playing music by Rhiannon Giddens, Tyshawn Sorey, Akshaya Tucker, Christina Courtin, Olivia Davis and a world premiere commissioned for the concert by Ebun Oguntola. Ebun and Johnny join Jim Cunningham to talk about their new piece, "Reflections," and their musical interests. Johnny won a Grammy award for his work with the Silk Road Ensemble. He's played with the Knights and has recorded all the cello suites by Bach on the violin. Ebun is a junior in high school in Syracuse, New York where she has worked with Larry Loh the Music Director of Symphoria. She is a violinist, pianist, composer and conductor who has appeared on From the Top.

Robert Croan - Jan 19, 2022

Dr. Robert Croan served as professor of voice and Chair of the Department  at Duquesne University for four decades alongside his work as music critic for the Post Gazette for 35 years starting in 1964. Robert looks back on his long run in the city in this conversation with   Jim Cunningham now that Dr. Croan this fall moved from his Oakland home to his residence in Fort Lauderdale Florida. He still intends to write for the Post Gazette with a mystery novel book review on the way soon and he writes for South Florida publications and others. Born in New York City he is a graduate of Columbia University with a Masters degree there and a PhD. From Boston University.  He studied voice with the great Danish tenor Aksel Schiotz and worked with Claudia Pinza and Elizabeth Schwarzkopf. Dr. Croan remembers  his first years at the newspaper and his predecessor Donald Steinfirst the long time music critic. H erecalls  interviewing Vladimir Horowitz and William Steinberg and how much he enjoyed championing contemporary music..  He has reservations about the years of Andre Previn as Music Director in Pittsburgh but greatly admired Lorin Mazel and Mariss Jansons .  He knows he made some enemies with his opinions  but says he never intentionally wrote with the intention to cause alarm. He describes the rivalry between the Post Gazette and the Pittsburgh Press as one of the most unpleasant aspects of a job that he loved.    He enjoys the cruise experience and takes pride in his 45 plus years as a partner of Michael Feldman. Robert offers his thoughts on the state of music criticism with the perspective of his leadership in the Music Critics Association and the National Association of Teachers of Singers. 

Eric Crosby - Carnegie Museum of Art - Jan 14, 2022

The Henry J. Heinz II Director of Carnegie Museum of Art, Eric Crosby, talks with Jim Cunningham about the plans for exhibitions in the year 2022, including Gordon Parks in Pittsburgh,” 1944/1946, running April 30th through August 7th; "Working Thought,” running March 5 through June 26th which examines how 37 contemporary artists have engaged with the history of labor and conditions that structure inequality in contemporary American life; and the Carnegie International running September 24th 2022 through April 2, 2023.

James Blachly - Jan 12, 2022

Johnstown Symphony Music Director James Blachly joins Johnstown NAACP President Allan Cashaw and Jim Cunningham to discuss the 37th remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Sunday January 16th at 2pm in Christ Centered Community Church, 531 Somerset Street in Johnstown and available on Zoom through eventbrite. A Johnstown Symphony String Quartet will play music by African American composers in this tribute to Dr. King. The Urgency is Now shirt sales will benefit the effort. James Blachly has the details on the music to be played and Allan fills us in on the church and its community involvement and Dr. King's work as well as the spirit of the work of the NAACP in Johnstown and Allan's career working as a chemist for Johnson and Johnson.