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Classical Notes

Category Archive: Film

Lights, camera, classical! Fred Child makes a cameo in award-winning short film

Posted at 9:11 AM on May 8, 2014 by Jay Gabler (2 Comments)
Filed under: Film

Last night I attended a private screening of The Invitation, a short drama by Minnesota filmmaker Brad Birkeland, at the Heights Theater. During the film, I was surprised to hear a familiar voice: that of Performance Today host Fred Child. During a Q&A after the screening, I raised my hand to confirm: "Was that Classical MPR I heard in the film?" Indeed, replied the filmmaker, it was.

The Invitation tells the story of Thomas (Elliott Graber), a young man who's been living alone for some time. When he returns to his vacationing parents' home to make some repairs, he runs into his childhood crush Beth (Heidi Fellner), with whom he rekindles a romance over — this being Minnesota — lutefisk.

The film involves a flashback to Thomas's childhood years, and Performance Today's Piano Puzzlers are heard in the background of both past and present scenes as connective tissue in the lives of Thomas and Beth, who are both pianists. Birkeland said he approached MPR with the idea to use the program in this way, and was pleased to receive permission to do so. The score also includes music by Mozart, Fauré, and Górecki; as well as an original song by Graber.

The Invitation premiered at this year's WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival, where it was honored with a Platinum Remi Award in the dramatic original shorts category. There are no immediate plans for another screening, but Birkeland says he plans to submit the film to additional film festivals, including some in Minnesota.


What would you ask a "Sherlock" music composer?

Posted at 2:34 PM on February 12, 2014 by Jay Gabler (2 Comments)
Filed under: Film


Our contributor Garrett Tiedemann has interviewed the composers of music for Breaking Bad, Gravity, and Hannibal; his next interview is with Michael Price, one of the principal composers for the BBC's Sherlock.

Garrett will have some questions of his own, but we'd also like to include some questions from our audience. What do you want to know about the music for this international hit show? Leave your questions for Michael Price here as comments, or e-mail them to jgabler@mpr.org.


hug a tree, save a guitar

Posted at 1:30 PM on October 30, 2013 by Alison Young
Filed under: Film

Musicwood production still© 2013 Helpman Productions.

"When you cut down a tree and make it into a thousand different guitars all that means is that tree is singing in a thousand different voices."

So begins the film Musicwood, a documentary that tells the story of one brilliant move by the often-reviled environmentalist organization Greenpeace to pit capitalist against capitalist in the fight to save the ancient spruce trees of the Tongass National Forest.

And what is my interest in this film?

Instruments. Specifically the acoustic guitar which is made of threatened and endangered woods. The lovely face of a guitar is made of spruce, a tree that grows is abundance in Alaska. But the indigenous corporation Sealaska control a huge swath of the forest and feel it's their right -- and some say their responsibility -- to harvest the forest.

musicwood3web.jpg© 2013 Helpman Productions.

But their clear-cutting methods are at such a fast pace, some say only stumps and dirt will remain of this pristine wilderness in 10 years.

Mostly the wood is sent to Asia, with just a small percentage going to build musical instruments. And this is the group targeted.

Three of the world's most renowned guitar makers -- Gibson, Taylor and Martin, all competitors in the world of business -- were convinced to come together in a coalition they named Musicwood to work as advocates for changing the process of clear cutting the forest, and hopefully to save the very product they need to survive.

"There are beautiful trees up there that you could kneel down and say a prayer underneath and probably shed a tear doing it. But these guitars are made out of that. There has to be a win-win," says one maker as he tramps through the forest full of wonder and amazement dressed head-to-toe in rain gear.

It's a film of stunning beauty -- both musically and visually -- and, for me, stunning sorrow since to this day, no agreements have been officially reached and only questions are left.

The film will be released in New York City and on iTunes/DVD on Friday, Nov. 1.

View the trailer: