Local Music

Hear interviews with guests on music programs produced here at WMUK, as well as program news.

Jeremy Daniel

The Farmers Alley Theatre production of Million Dollar Quartet, which opens on December 2 at the Little Theatre, is based on the true-life story of four soon-to-be legends meeting as a group for the first time. The place was Sam Phillips' Sun Records in Memphis. The date was December 4, 1956. And the musicians were Johnny Cash, age 24; Elvis Presley, age 21, Carl Perkins, age 24, and Jerry Lee Lewis, age 21.  

Producer Sam Phillips was able to get the superstar Presley, newly-minted star Cash, Rockabilly’s frontman Perkins, and a then-unknown Lewis to lay down tracks deep into the night.  Million Dollar Quartet takes that premise and explores the personal stories and interactions between the four musicians, the producer, and Elvis' girlfriend. Scott Moreau, who has played the role of Johnny Cash in the national touring production over 800 times, is directing the Farmers Alley run. Kalamazoo native Nat Zegree, now living in New York, is playing Jerry Lee Lewis and music directing the show. They discuss their roles in a conversation with deputy director Rob Weiner and Cara Lieurance.

Michael Palmer

The Messiah Sing, a community sing-along of highlights from Handel's oratorio, has been an annual event in Kalamazoo for over 20 years. First Congregational Church music director Michael Palmer is leading the sing for the third time. Each year, he re-thinks which portions to sing, and how. For example, this year he's decided to turn over some of the most famous solo songs into unison section singing.

One of Michigan's most experienced early music performers, Eric Strand, will return as harpsichordist. He says  it was the Americans, and not the British, who came up with the sing-along tradition of performing the Messiah. Palmer, Strand, and new section leader for the altos, Tami Snyder-Knutson talk with Cara Lieurance about what makes singing Handel's Messiah such a rewarding experience.

Jazz Currents: Miles Davis Goes Modal With 'Kind Of Blue' (Pt 3)

Nov 18, 2016

(For parts one and two of this series, click here and here.) The third episode of Keith Hall's five-part series focusing on jazz pioneer Miles Davis takes us into Davis' work with his sextet, which included the powerhouse saxophone duo of Cannonball Adderley and John Coltrane.

We'll learn about the modal concept, the additional collaborations with arranger Gil Evans, and the making of one of the best-selling jazz albums of all time, Kind of Blue.


The new principal harpist of the New York Metropolitan Opera is the guest soloist in a concert by the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra on Saturday at Chenery Auditorium. Born in France, Emmanuel Ceysson gained attention internationally in his teens. He won the Young Concert Artist International Auditions at age 22, and a position in the Paris Opera the same year. In a preview of the concert, music director Raymond Harvey joins Cara Lieurance to talk about Ceysson and the piece he'll perform, Gliere's Concerto for Harp, Op 74. Harvey also discusses the other works on the program: Corigliano's Voyage for string orchestra and Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 3 "Scottish."


Tonight's Birds On A Wire concert shines a light on just how much modern, avant-garde music is being created around us. Western Michigan University professor of composition/theory David Colson says performing in a modern music ensemble helps students improve their musicianship in a variety of ways. Lisa Coons, professor of composition, describes her new work, Singing Wall, which is performed on a musical sculpture she designed and constructed with Steven Pierce. Cara Lieurance also talks to pianist Lori Sims about the earliest work on the program, "Regard de l’Esprit de joie," from Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant-Jésus (1944).