Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Remembering Robert J.

It may be that only those of you in New England and northern New York state will recognize this man. Robert J. Lurtsema had a classical music program on WGBH, the Boston public radio station, called Morning Pro Musica. He was the morning voice in our home for many, many years. We would set the alarm to wake up to the birds which always opened his program, I believe at 7 am. How things have changed. Now the public radio stations I listen to have talk, talk, talk all morning, and mostly all day as well. Politics, opinions, dire news coming into our homes. But not in those days. We didn't know how lucky we were, how truly blessed we were to have that lovely, calm, quiet voice in our radio lives. I learned more about classical music than I ever could have in college, along with all the correct pronunciations. Each day of the week, after the birds, he opened the show with a different piece. My favorite was Respighi's Ancient Dances and Airs, which I think was the Thursday music. In his obituary, Mark Feeney of the Boston Globe wrote:

He tended to program the early hours chronologically, with music of the medieval, Baroque, and Classical eras predominating ( "Nothing too jarring before 9 a.m.," he liked to say)

Now the jarring starts early, early and never stops.

Also from the obituary:

Hearing the news read in Mr. Lurtsema's magisterial tones - The New York Times once described his voice as having ''the texture of warm fudge'' - was a unique experience. Indeed, a listener once wrote him, ''If the end of the world were coming, I'd want to hear it from you. I can hear you saying, `Well, there has been an announcement that the world will end in 28 minutes. That gives us just enough time to hear Telemann's Sonata in F for Recorder, Oboe and Continuo.'

He was also a big influence in our lives in terms of Scottish music. He was the host for Burns' Night, a celebration of the great poet's birthday in January. One year, Tom and I drove down to Boston through the snow in our big red four-wheel drive truck to be there. We saw the wonderful Jean Redpath and the Vermont Scottish weaver and singer, Norman Kennedy.

He would have been 76 today. I am thankful he was a part of my listening life, and oh, how I miss him.


  1. Thank you so much for this remembrance. I'm a New Englander transplanted to the Seattle area. For years on my trips back to visit my family my day started with Robert J, whether we were at my parents' home in Connecticut, or in the Maine woods at our summer cottage. I was so sad when they phased him out. I could have listened to him every day for the rest of my life. And I agree - NPR has become, well, less than it used to be. Thanks again.

  2. Beth, I am so very pleased that you wrote. I loved reading about your Robert J. memories. I went to your blog, Otherwise, but it looks like you aren't doing it anymore. Is that right? Do you have another one? I wondered how you found me, but I saw you liked Respighi, and so thought maybe that was the way you happened over here??

  3. Yes! I remember Morning Pro Musica!!!

    And yes, how lucky we were then. Now NPR is a radio voice of the Liberal Left. :-(

    I don't suppose I should have put that in your comments. It surely tells you my feelings. But your blog is not for my feelings. It is for yours.

    But anyway, I am very sorry to hear of this man's passing. And sorry that he had to die, so young. Because when one passes 70, any death in that decade, is way too young! :-)


  4. Hi Nan - It's not that I'm not doing the blog any more exactly - it's that time runs away from me completely and there are Things going on in my life that take a great deal of energy. I'm going to get back to it, I really am! Thanks for checking!

    A have a list of blogs I check every day, yours being one of them. I set out initially to check out pagan blogs, then looked up what blogs THOSE people read, etc. That's how I found yours, which I love, by the way! So again, thank you, Nan, for being a part of my morning - Robert J style. :)

  5. Thank you for the memories of Robert J. So well said :) I grew up listening to him . “Nothing too jarring before 9am”. I so agree and seldom have the same feeling listening to WCRB 99.5 which usually begins straight away with some jarring symphony . I was sad to see classical music leave WGBH . Brian O’Donovan’s Celtic Sojourn is a lovely option thank goodness . -Dorcas

    1. Oh, I'd forgotten the "jarring". Aren't you just so great to take the time to comment on such an old post. It is lovely that someone remembers him. He taught me so much about music. I loved that every day was a different opening song. Respighi was Thursday?? Waking up to birdsong. Nothing less than heaven. And then NPR went to news, news, news, news. Broke and still breaks my heart. I don't listen anymore. I will check into Celtic Sojourn. Thank you. And thank you so much for writing.


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