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Yours Truly, Radio Show Host

December 17, 2008

Last Thursday, I spent an hour in the company of Sarah Cahill, (pictured left) avant garde pianist extraordinaire and doyenne of the Bay Area classical music radio scene.

I have long admired Sarah's musicianship and her wonderful weekly Sunday night classical music broadcast, Then and Now, on local NPR affiliate KALW 91.7 FM. I have also been curious about her established practice of commissioning living composers to write music for her to perform.

So I emailed Sarah to ask if I could meet her to find out more about what she does and how she does it.

We sat in a cafe in Berkeley near where Sarah lives, and talked about everything from Christmas music to the output of San Francisco's commercial radio station, KDFC to the relationship between music and memory.

Much to my surprise, about half an hour into our conversation, Sarah asked me if I'd fill in for her on Then and Now next Sunday evening, December 21, from 8 to 10pm. I happily accepted the challenge.

Between now and then, I have the fun and slightly daunting task of coming up with two hours of classical music programming, including a playlist (obviously), a script, interviews and other features. This is something entirely new for me. Even though I've served as KALW's regular theatre commentator for the past couple of years, I've never had to come up with more than a few minutes of material, and it's all pre-recorded and edited by a staff producer. I don't even have to go into the station -- the producer comes to my house to record my commentaries.

I'm thinking of devoting my broadcast this Sunday to holiday season music. Nothing too original about that, I'll admit. But in keeping with the non-mainstream concept of Sarah's show, I'm interested in playing stuff that's a little bit off the beaten track, both new, old and ancient. I don't think the "Hallelujah Chorus" from Handel's Messiah will be on my playlist, for instance. If you, dear readers, have any good ideas for me, please send them my way. And if you're interested in catching the broadcast on Sunday evening and in the Bay Area, tune in to 91.7 FM. The show will also be streamed live on KALW's website at


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