Elliott Forrest: Hi, I'm Elliott Forrest and you're listening to the Young Artists Showcase, which is generously underwritten by the Herald W. McGraw Jr. Family Foundation. Tonight, part two of our celebration of Bob Sherman, the founding host of the Showcase and longtime WQXR host. Last week you heard the first half of Bob Sherman's 90th birthday concert recorded in the Greene Space last June. Let's jump back in to the second half with some birthday wishes for Bob.
Orli Shaham: Hello, Bob. It's Orli Shaham. I'm so honored to be making this little birthday video for you. I'm sorry I can't be there in person to say that you've meant so much to me throughout my entire life. Really, you know, I started listening to you on the radio long before I knew who you were, and I was so inspired by the stories of the incredible guests that you had on.
You've done such an incredible service to music and really to our culture. And I'm honored to know you and I wish you a happy, happy birthday.
Yo-Yo Ma: Robert. What can I say? You've had a pretty fulfilling life and I'm one of the grateful people that was part of it, so I thank you. Happy birthday.
Martina Arroyo: Hi Bob. It's your Martina. I'm thrilled to be able to wish you a very, very happy 90th birthday. Congratulations on all you've achieved in your amazing career, and thank you for your support and work with the young musicians for furthering the arts with your incredible shows and being an absolute inspiration to the world for these years. Here's to many, many more.
Sharon Isbin: Dear, sweet, wonderful, generous, brilliant, and forever young, Bob. It's Sharon Isbin chiming in to wish you a happy birthday. Your extraordinary writing, radio, and television work has enriched the arts in infinite ways, bringing joy, inspiration to so many.
Carter Brey: That is the theme to Bob Sherman's, the Listening Room, and it means to me a great journey of discovery and joy in music. Thank you so much for being so kind and generous to me as a young, unknown musician at the beginning of my career, uh, as well as a better known and very much aged musician later in my career. It was always a pleasure to see you and to appear on your program. Thank you and happy birthday.
Elliott Forrest: Voices of Bob's many friends. Wishing him happy birthday on this special broadcast, including Orli Shaham, Yo-Yo Ma, Martina Arroyo, Sharon Isbin, and Carter Brey. To get us started is the pianist, Charlie Albright, who's been called among the most gifted pianists of his generation by the Washington Post. Albright had been a regular guest on Bob's show, and he joined us live in the green space.
Bob Sherman: Here you are, sit down. So, as we start the second half of the show, uh, you have claimed to write a piece for me, improvised is that...
Charlie Albright: I haven't done anything yet. That won't happen till you give me the notes.
Bob Sherman: Oh, you haven't? I thought you were working on this madly for the last three months.
Charlie Albright: I'll be working on it in a few seconds.
Bob Sherman: Oh well, alright then that becomes much more special. So what, what do you want me to do?
Charlie Albright: If you would give me three or four notes on the keyboard, F sharp, or D or B flat.
Bob Sherman: All right. If you want.
Charlie Albright: Let's listen. Yes, play any notes. Three or four.
Bob Sherman: Well, D. A flat. That doesn't sound too possible, but, uh, D, A flat, F sharp and E flat.
Charlie Albright: You really love me, don't you? Let's play a piece, uh, dedicated to you. Happy birthday.
MUSIC - Albright: Improv for Robert Sherman
Elliott Forrest: An improvisation by pianist, Charlie Albright performed live in the green space. We're listening to highlights from a 90th birthday celebration of WQXR's Bob Sherman.
Bob Sherman: Thank you, Charlie.
Charlie Albright: Thank you.
Bob Sherman: Great pleasure. Thank you. Now, Chee-Yun, where are you?
Chee-Yun: Hi! Wow, that was incredible. I'm just... what a company to be in. Thank you. Thank you for having a birthday concert, Bob.
Bob Sherman: Well, thank you.
Chee-Yun: Thank you. Should we talk about how I met you and so many years ago?
Bob Sherman: Well, what I really want you to talk about is how you came to be within my purview.
Chee-Yun: So, um, I had just come from Korea maybe a couple years before that, and um, I got a call from my teacher, Dorothy DeLay. She said they were looking for a young violinist, young because they came through, I guess her pre-college class, and who is willing to learn a piece. Um, you don't have much time. It might be a little difficult, but would you like to do it? Because then if you learn this piece, you get to be on WQXR with Robert Sherman. Um, and I was like, yes. I don't know, just. Yes.
And, um, so I learned the piece and I was just so starstruck because, um, I told this to Bob when I first met him. So I came to America to study violin with the Dorothy DeLay. And actually I, I'm fourth child, of four children, and my oldest sister, who is a pianist, was a pianist. She wanted to come and study with your mother, Nadia Reisenberg. And, um, when she auditioned, your mother told, um, my sister, well, when you come to college I will teach you. And unfortunately, she had passed away the year my sister was admitted to college or the year before, so, so I was like, well, that's how I heard about you first.
And then I see your name everywhere. Young artist program— Young Artists Showcase, and um, Listening Room and of course you wanna be on that. And I thought, well, if I could just meet Bob Sherman, Robert Sherman at the time. And I remember coming to the studio and I was so nervous because my English was okay in conversations. But speaking like I've never spoke on a radio station ever before, not even in Korea. And here I am, I, and, and I said to you, I said, I am so nervous, but it's a live show. What if I make a mistake? And you told me, do you, do you remember what you told me? You said: just talk to the microphone as you are talking to me and people happen to listen in. That's it. It's just us two. And I was like—
Bob Sherman: Very good.
Bob Sherman: Now the piece that she uh, learned quickly was one that another violinist had been engaged to play and at the last minute chickened out because it was too hard for him. He wasn't gonna spend the time needed. But the young violinist did, and so now let's do it.
Chee-Yun: And she's no longer a young violinist.
Bob Sherman: Well, yes. But now let's see how we do this.
Elliott Forrest: Bob Sherman with Violinist Chee-Yun. Now we're going to hear them perform Ferdinand the Bull, the favorite children's classic with text by Monroe Leaf set to music by Alan Ridout.
MUSIC – Ridout/Leaf: Ferdinand the Bull
Bob Sherman: Once upon a time in Spain, there lived a little bull and his name was Ferdinand.
All the other little bulls he lived with would run and jump and butt their heads together.
But not Ferdinand.
He liked to sit just quietly and smell of flowers.
He had a favorite spot in the pasture under a cork tree, and he would sit in its shade all day and smell the flowers.
Sometimes his mother, who was a cow, would worry about him.
"Why don't you run and play with the other little bulls and skip and butt your head?" She would say.
But Ferdinand would shake his head.
"I like it better here where I could sit just quietly and smell the flowers."
And because his mother was understanding, even though she was a cow, she let him sit there and be happy.
As the years went by, Ferdinand grew and grew until he was very big and strong. All the other bulls he had grown up with in the same pasture would fight each other all day. They would butt each other and stick each other with their horns because what they wanted most of all was to be picked to fight in the bull fights in Madrid.
But not Ferdinand.
He still liked to sit just quietly under the cork tree and smell the flowers.
One day, five men came in funny hats to pick the biggest, fastest, roughest bull to fight in the bull fights in Madrid.
All the other bulls ran around snorting and budding and leaping and jumping so the men would think they were very, very strong and fierce and pick them.
Ferdinand knew they wouldn't pick him, so he went out to sit under his favorite cork tree, but he did not look where he was sitting. And instead of sitting on the nice, cool grass in the shade, he sat... on a bumblebee! Well, if you were a bumblebee and a bull sat on you, what would you do? Ah, did that hurt!
Ferdinand jumped up with a snort. He ran around puffing and snorting and pawing the ground as if he were mad.
The five men saw him and they all shouted with joy.
Here was the largest and fiercest bull of all. Just the one for the bull fights in Madrid.
What a day it was. Flags were flying, bands were playing, and all the lovely ladies had flowers in their hair.
They had a parade into the bull ring. First came, the Banderilleros. Next, came the Picadores. Next came the Matador, the proudest of them all. Then, then came the bull, and you know who that was, don't you?
Ferdinand went to the middle of the bowl ring and everyone thought he was gonna fight fiercely and butt and snort and stick his horns around.
But not Ferdinand.
When he saw the flowers in all the lovely ladies' hair, he just sat down and smelled.
He wouldn't fight. No matter what they did.
He just sat and smelled. And the Banderilleros were angry, and the Picadores were angrier, and the Matador was so angry because he couldn't show off he cried.
So they had to take Ferdinand home again.
And he is sitting there still under his favorite cork tree, smelling the flowers, just quietly.
He is very happy.
Elliott Forrest: A performance of Ferdinand the Bull by violinist Chee-Yun and narrated by our guest of honor, Bob Sherman. The text for Ferdinand was by the children's book author Monroe Leaf, with music by Alan Ridout. You're listening to Highlights from Bob Sherman's 90th birthday concert on the Young Artist's Showcase. It's time for a quick break now. Then we'll be back with performances by Ani Kavafian, Ursula Oppens and the Emerson String Quartet.
Welcome back. I'm Elliott Forrest and we're listening to highlights from Bob Sherman's 90th birthday concert from the Green Space last June. We return to a conversation with fellow WQXR hosts, Nimet Habachy, John Schaefer, and yours truly.
Bob Sherman: Three of my fellow announcers here at WQXR.
Nimet Habachy, Elliott Forrest, and John Schaefer have volunteered to tell me all the things I've been doing wrong. So, uh, why don't you come on up guys? And, uh, girls.
What do you have to say about me?
John Schaefer: You mean publicly?
Bob Sherman: We haven't crossed paths—
John Schaefer: On the record?
Bob Sherman: —too often, so, uh.
John Schaefer: Yeah. You know, um, I guess my first experience of you was like most people here, over the radio. I was a teenager. I was getting interested in classical music. I grew up in what is euphemistically termed a working class family, you know, where classical music was just not a thing. Um, and listening to 'QXR back in those days, we're talking about like the late seventies, early eighties, was kind of, I, I felt kind of like an, an intruder on this kinda high class world that I didn't belong in. And, um, but I would listen because I liked the music and, you know, mostly I would listen like between classes and stuff.
And, and one day for some reason, I had some time in the afternoon free and I was listening. To the radio and there's this guy talking to other people. The way I might talk with my friends, except they're talking about Mozart and Schumann, and the thing I, I, I don't remember specifics, but you, Bob said something to the effect of, well, you know, this, this trio here was, was formed to play this piece by, maybe it was one of the Debussy the one of the late Debussy pieces. And so by golly, that's what they're gonna play for us now. And that by golly, just leapt out of the radio at me. It's like, wait a minute. That's how my family talks. This guy is talking like people I know. And it was just, it was just such a, a welcoming, you know, it really made me feel like, oh, so this is possible that, you know, people who speak like normal people and have regular conversations and use phrases like by golly, can be on a classical music station.
It was, I, I tell you that, I mean, that was really a, a, a pivotal moment for me.
Bob Sherman: So by golly, that did it for you.
John Schaefer: It absolutely did.
Bob Sherman: Elliott, you are kind of next in line with, uh, least connection with me because we were at the station at different times.
Elliott Forrest: That's right. But uh, when I came to WQXR under the New York Times, you were there. And, um, I, I think all of us start as John did, where you feel a little bit of an imposter thing. And, and let's face it, when I started some 40 years ago, most of the performers were older white men. And, um, so am I. And, um, and, and as a young person, I'm not, not sure how I fit in. And then I would hear your shows in which you would give exposure to these great young people.
And I started to hear the young people that you were, uh, uh, that you were presenting. And I realized that, uh, people come to classical music, uh, a little bit later on in life usually. And, uh, and I thought, thank goodness, uh, there are new old people every day. Uh, because people come to it. But you were, you were, you were presenting these young people and, and, and I think we're at a place right now where the talent level, and the teaching level is such a high level for these young people, and you've been such at the forefront along with Susan Wadsworth and so many other people really presenting these young people. Um, uh, a couple of years ago I was honored to share the stage with you for the Avery Fisher Career Grant Awards where you had hosted for 30 years.
Uh, Nancy, uh, Fisher is here with us today along with Veronique Firkusny who runs this program I co-hosted with you, and then I've taken that over for you. And I never really knew between Susan's program and your program, whether you find the next great people or because you've given them exposure, they become the next great people.
So I never really knew, but in one way or another, These young people have really come up and you've inspired me. I'm on the board now of the New York Youth Symphony though, so thank you very much for that.
Bob Sherman: Well, you're welcome indeed. And Nimet Habachy, I've known you longest of all right?
Nimet Habachy: Indeed, Bob. You've known me a long, long time and you are instrumental in, uh, frankly, setting me on a path that I have been so grateful and so happy about.
I, uh, came on the scene rather unexpectedly. Uh, I think 'QXR was rather interested in having a woman if they could manage it, and, uh, a language or two would not be a bad idea. And that was all very well. But I didn't know much about radio and they sprung me on you and you very kindly and very generously spent a lovely amount of time that I cherish introducing me to the world of radio and your generosity is what I would like to really think about together with all of you because it meant so much to me and I have had reason to be very grateful to you.
Bob Sherman: Well, again, I thank you, but you sprung a new venue for me. Because you were doing a midnight program.
Nimet Habachy: Yes. And I was doing a morning program, so it didn't mix, and yet it did. So. It it mixed very well. I mean, I'd grown up with 'QXR I grew up listening to you and, uh, to Karl Haas. I mean, you came sort of one and, and to George Jellinek.
Bob Sherman: Yes.
Nimet Habachy: Who I think everybody also may remember rather fondly. But I just wanted to say you were so generous to musicians, but you were also generous and to one aspiring announcer, so.
Bob Sherman: Oh, I'm certainly glad I did. I thank you all for your—
Elliott Forrest: But before you cut us, go, let us go. Can I just, uh, say one more quick thing here and that is, uh, we haven't spent a lot of time talking about, uh, your, your other life, which is, uh, with, with Woody's children.
John Schaefer: I was just gonna do this, mention the same thing because that, that was the other, that was the other shoe that dropped for me was like finding out this guy who hosted The Listening Room also had this weekend show of folk music. It was just like, what can he not do?
Elliott Forrest: Right. I think for me too, it was kind of like, you don't have to just be interested in one kind of music that really, as they say, good music is good music. Uh, I, I produced a concert this last week with Tom Chapin, uh, from the Chapin family, Harry Chapin's brother. He's been a guest on your show for many times, and I asked him to send a little note. Just a few sentences. Uh, “Happy birthday, Bob, from Tom Chapin. We're so blessed to have you leading us through the musical radio waves for so long, speaking for all the folk musicians who have appeared with you on your shows. Thank you for your interest, belief, and joy, in presenting what we do. Some of my favorite musical memories have been hosted by you appearing on your weekly Woody's Children Show. As part of the great celebration of that show that you host every five years up to 50 years and counting where we get to perform and hang out with our mentors, compatriots and fellow troubadours. What a lovely ride it's been. Bob Sherman, long, may you wave. Tom Chapin."
Bob Sherman: Wow. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you to all of you who have given me such joy and return. So thanks much.
Elliott Forrest: Thank you.
John Schaefer: Thank you, Bob.
Elliott Forrest: Happy birthday.
John Schaefer: Happy birthday.
Nimet Habachy: Happy birthday.
Bob Sherman: I told you before that Ursula Oppens and Ani Kavafian shared the very first Avery Fisher career grant. They have never performed together, but this listening room adventure is something new. And they have been playing the movement from Clara Schumann’s Three Romances.
MUSIC – Clara Schumann: Drei Romanzen, I. Andante Molto
Elliott Forrest: A movement from Clara Schumann's, three romances, the Andante Molto, performed by violinist Ani Kavafian with pianist Ursula Oppens recorded live in the Greene Space as part of Bob Sherman's 90th birthday celebration.
Bob Sherman: Um, I'll tell you what, let's bring back the Emerson String Quartet. Philip Setzer, Eugene Drucker, Lawrence Dutton, and Paul Watkins.
Lawrence Dutton: Well, first of all, it's just incredible to be here for you. This is amazing.
Bob Sherman: It's amazing for me, certainly.
Lawrence Dutton: Well, it's amazing because in the days we, we started playing the listening room. That was a way that we, uh, were shown to the world because there was really not a lot else and he had had the, this amazing thing that we could do. And we thank we, thank you for that cause that really helped us get our career going.
So we're, we're gonna do, we're gonna finish with, uh, three, uh, different works actually. Uh, George Walker, Walker, American Composer. Who passed recently from Montclair, New Jersey, wrote a beautiful string quartet and there's a movement, it was called the Lyric Quartet, right? This movement is called The Lyric, and it's a beautiful adagio. It's actually been done now with orchestra, string orchestra.
And then, uh, we're gonna do the Mozart K. 589, one of the Prussian quartets. The, uh, first movement of that. And then we're gonna finish with, uh, uh, Cypress. Uh, Cypresses, it's one movement— the seventh movement of Dvořák's Cypress is he, it was a set of songs and he transcribed 'em for string quartet.
About, what, about eighteen or it was eighteen songs and he transcribed twelve of them, and this is the seventh.
MUSIC – Walker: Lyric For Strings
MUSIC – Mozart: String Quartet No. 22 in B-Flat Major, K. 589 “Prussian,” I. Allegro
MUSIC – Dvořák: Cypresses, B.152, VII. Andante con moto
Elliott Forrest: Uh, Bob, we're not gonna let you wrap up your own show here, uh, without a few surprises. Okay. Uh, first of all, um, let's hear it for the Emerson String Quartet. How great. Amazing. Right?
Second of all, you heard Yo-Yo Ma say this, and Sharon Isbin, really this entire night was really put together by Steve Sherman, Bob's son. Steve, what an amazing job you've done.
What a good boy. What a good son you are. Uh, and so many great luminaries coming out to, uh, to pay tribute to you. Bob, I just want to give a shout out to one of my oldest friends in classical music, the discoverer of the least talented and youngest of the Bach children, PDQ Bach, Peter Schickele is here with us. Thank you so much for coming.
Don't look in your notes. None of this is in there, uh, and somebody else couldn't make it tonight too. And I'd just like to read this letter from someone who couldn't make it: "Dear Mr. Sherman, as Mayor of the City of New York, it gives me great pleasure to join your family, friends, and colleagues at WQXR in wishing you a happy 90th birthday. As an award-winning broadcaster and longtime presenter of excellent radio programs, Woody's Children, The Listening Room, Young Artists Showcase, you have enriched our diverse media sector and inspired generations of classical and folk music artists and enthusiasts in the five boroughs and beyond. On behalf of 8.8 million New Yorkers, please accept my best wishes for a festive and memorable celebration and many more years of good health and great happiness. Happy birthday. Sincerely, Eric Adams, mayor of the City of New York."
Bob Sherman: Thank you everyone. And I won't say anything more except it's not really the end, it's just farewell for now. I'm Bob Sherman. Thanks everybody.
Elliott Forrest: That concludes the second half of Bob Sherman's 90th birthday concert recorded in the Jerome L. Green Space last June. Next week, Bob hosts his final Young Artists Showcase broadcast and shares fond memories from his 45 year tenure.
Our WQXR program producers are Eileen Delahunty, Max Fine, and Laura Boyman. Special thanks to the Green Space team. And as always, the Harold W. McGraw Jr. Family Foundation for their generous support. I'm Elliott Forrest.
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