Music with Minnesotans: Father Bob Koopmann

by Alison Young, Minnesota Public Radio
September 14, 2011
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St. Paul, Minn. — Father "Bob" Koopmann is a Benedictine Monk.

And he's also a musician, his sacred improvisations at the piano have become extremely popular.

But nowadays, he says he is more of a listener than a player. In fact he's starting to listen with a different ear - one more analytical to be sure - but also one that taps into an intuitive place as well.

This is really the place his love of music began, when he would listen to his parent's 78's over and over until they were scratched beyond repair!

Tune-in at noon on Wednesdays to hear "Music with Minnesotans."

He approaches his own playing from a heart-felt place and was only asked to analyze music in school. That first piece was Brahms Third Symphony and he was pleasantly surprised how much fun and interesting it was to see the music come alive on the page.

He compares the experience he has with music to "lectio divina" a kind of sacred practice where monks learn to read the holy words in a manner that allows the spirit to speak through them. Music is spiritual for Father Bob and it too can allow a performer - and an audience - to become one with it.

Years ago, he brought a group on a tour to Austria and in a beautiful castle heard a piece he'd never heard - Schumann's Piano Quartet in E flat. The unusual setting, the friends he was with and the lovely candle-lit summer night made a huge impression accompanied by such lovely music. It is forever on his playlist!

Father Bob loves opera - mostly specific arias - and likes to play them on his car stereo for the long drives back and forth to the Twin Cities. He needs to ensure his car is on cruise, so he won't jam down the gas when the music gets really good. And just like his parent's 78's, he backs up over and over to get to the most sublime spots. Birgit Nilsson singing Puccini has a note like that in it that is stellar.

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Father Bob's playlist:

Robert Schumann, Piano Quartet in E flat - The Schubert Ensemble of London

Johannes Brahms, Symphony No. 3 - Berlin/Karajan

Giacomo Puccini, Tosca: Vissi d'arte - Birgit Nilsson

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Next week, Artistic Director of Theatre Latte Da Peter Rothstein joins us. He's moonlighting as director in the opening production of "Cosi fan Tutte" with the Minnesota Opera, so it's no wonder there's lots of songs on his playlist.

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