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WQXR’s 85th Anniversary Concert

Originally Aired: Sunday, December 5, 2021



WQXR celebrates its 85th anniversary with a special concert honoring the station’s past, premiering commissions that reflect its present, and highlighting works that look towards the future of classical music. In this program, each artist will perform a composition from the classical repertoire alongside a new work, fostering the longer continuum of classical music

Pianist Simone Dinnerstein revisits pieces by Philip Glass and Morton Gould which were originally commissioned for the 50th anniversary of WNYC FM in 1994.

“In a New York Minute: Miniatures for Voice and Piano” reflects current programming endeavors at WQXR. As a member of WQXR’s Artist Propulsion Lab, mezzo-soprano Kara Dugan commissioned five female composers to set texts by NYC poets to music. The project resulted in a collection of five one-minute pieces that aim to promote female voices while endeavoring to represent the city’s experience of transitioning out of pandemic life.

To tie it all together, Musicians from The Knights present a work by recent Greene Space artist-in-resident Angélica Negrón followed by a version of Vaughan Williams’s beautiful The Lark Ascending for violin and harp, a piece that has offered comfort and hope to so many of WQXR’s listeners over the last 85 years, and continues to provide an oasis of calm today.

WQXR Morning Host Jeff Spurgeon and New Sounds Host John Schaefer lead the musical birthday festivities. The concert will also be broadcast live on WQXR and the video stream will be available for on-demand viewing after the event.

Supported by the Mount Sinai Health System

Spirio piano by Steinway & Sons


Simone Dinnerstein, piano

Erik Satie: Gnossienne No. 3

Philip Glass: Now So Long After That Time (Etude #6)

Morton Gould: Anniversary Rag

Kara Dugan, voice
Peter Dugan, piano

Clara Schumann: “Liebeszauber”

Amy Beach: “Ah, Love, but a Day!”

Florence Price: “The Heart of a Woman”

“In a New York Minute: Miniatures for Voice and Piano” (New York premiere)

Musicians from The Knights

Angélica Negrón: Lanzarse, new arrangement

Ralph Vaughan Williams: The Lark Ascending, arr for violin and       harp

Traditional arr. Colin Jacobsen: “Haneros Haluli (These Lights)”

Steven Beck, piano
Gabriel Cabezas, cello
Mario Gotoh, viola
Colin Jacobsen, violin
Alex Sopp, flute
David Stevens, percussion
Nuiko Wadden, harp


Credit: Photo provided by guest.

Simone Dinnerstein is an American pianist. She lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband, son and dog, less than a mile from the hospital in which she was born. Simone is committed to giving concerts in non-traditional venues and to audiences who don’t often hear classical music. For the last three decades, she has played concerts throughout the United States for the Piatigorsky Foundation, including giving the first piano recital in the Louisiana state prison system at the Avoyelles Correctional Center. She also created a program called Bachpacking during which she takes a digital keyboard to elementary school classrooms, helping young children get close to the music she loves.


Credit: Photo provided by guest.

Mezzo-soprano Kara Dugan‘s diverse career ranges from baroque oratorio to world premieres. Her work with living composers has included the world premiere of Michael Tilson Thomas’ Four Preludes on Playthings of the Wind, a production of John Musto’s Bastianello at Festival Napa Valley with the composer at the piano, and an appearance with the Albany Symphony performing Michael Daugherty’s This Land Sings, a multi-genre tribute to Woody Guthrie. Recently, she won first place in the Rochester International Vocal Competition and was selected to be a member of WQXR’s Artist Propulsion Lab.

As a passionate recitalist she performs often with her husband Peter Dugan, pianist and host of NPR’s From the Top. The husband and wife duo were recently featured on PBS Great Performances’ “Now Hear This” and have performed across the United States, including at the Joye in Aiken Festival, Charles Ives Concert Series, Moab Music Festival, and Portland Chamber Music Festival. The duo’s eclectic repertoire has brought them to a wide range of venues including Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater, where they joined genre-defying string group Time for Three. Ms. Dugan received her Bachelor and Master of Music Degrees from The Juilliard School. She is a proud recipient of the Novick Career Advancement Grant.

The Knights

Credit: Photo by Shervin Lainez

The Knights are a collective of adventurous musicians dedicated to transforming the orchestral experience and eliminating barriers between audiences and music. Driven by an open-minded spirit of camaraderie and exploration, they inspire listeners with vibrant programs that encompass their roots in the classical tradition and passion for artistic discovery. The orchestra has toured and recorded with renowned soloists including Yo-Yo Ma, Dawn Upshaw, Béla Fleck, and Gil Shaham, and has appeared across the world’s most prestigious stages, including those at Carnegie Hall, Tanglewood, Ravinia, The Kennedy Center, and the Vienna Musikverein. Read more.

A new song cycle commissioned by Kara Dugan as part of WQXR’s inaugural Artist Propulsion Lab cohort, featuring the music of composers Justine F. Chen, Emily Cooley, Juliana Hall, Carrie Magin, and Nailah Nombeko, and poetry by Yvonne Connolly, Christina Kelly, Ricki Rothchild, and Erika Tullberg.

The inspiration for this commission came about while perusing books at a local bookshop on the Upper West Side. I came across a book of short stories, and as I flipped through the book I thought about how these brief and meaningful glimpses into people’s lives could translate into music in a compelling and modern way. This spark of inspiration happened in April, National Poetry Month, and I decided to tap into the experience of the everyday New Yorker by selecting poetry submitted to The Gothamist. Many of these poems were being written during the pandemic, and offer insight into what the past year and a half has been like from a New Yorkers perspective.

I reached out to five women composers, all with ties to the New York City community, and asked them to select a poem from The Gothamist submissions that resonated with them. They then composed a one-minute piece that allows the listener to jump into a musical landscape for a brief but meaningful moment. This commission highlights female perspectives and voices, and spotlights our shared human experience in five, bite-sized songs that can be sung as a set on the concert stage and also shared individually on social media. They tell stories ranging from a woman embracing her grey hair, to the process of acceptance after a relationship has come to an end. We hope you enjoy the LIVE premiere of this commission at the Greene Space on December 5th, 2021.

— Kara Dugan



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