NPR Music

How do traditional arts organizations respond to turbulent times?

Chances are you miss your favorite bar: The chatter, the live music, or the pour of the drink made just so. You're not alone.

With bars shuttered all over the world, that sense of community has now been absent for over a year. But one bar in Mexico decided to do so something about it, by recreating some of those sounds at your favorite bar for those confined at home. And that idea? Well, it took off around the world.

Picture this: It's sometime in the early 1990s, in rural Oklahoma. There's a little Baptist church – it's Sunday, and inside of the church everyone is wearing their nicest clothes. They listen to the sermon, until the pastor calls a kid — a little girl — up to the front, to lead everyone in a song: "Amazing Grace."

These are the memories that country music superstar Carrie Underwood pulls from for her new album, My Savior. It's her first release comprised solely of Christian songs, based on the hymnals she'd sing along to in her youth.

For Tiny Desk Playlists, we ask musicians, creators and folks we admire to choose the Tiny Desk concerts they've come to love. For this edition, comedian and actress Aparna Nancherla picks her five favorites.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

A young, mild-mannered soprano from Norway with a huge voice has been turning heads in the opera world.

Lise Davidsen is an emerging star whose voice has been called one-in-a-million. It can soar like a rocket over enormous orchestras. And yet on her new album, in the Verdi aria, "Pace, pace mio Dio!" it can dial down to a single gleaming strand of polished silver.

Armand Hammer's music takes patient ears to decipher. There's a dexterity to it; social commentary is swaddled in layers of thick poetry and equally dense production. Yet the approach cuts both ways: If you get the music, you love it, but it can be tough to comprehend for those who don't already have a palate for the rappers' pondering flows.

What does a line from a James Joyce novel sound like on the piano? Or a scribble from the visual artist Cy Twombly? Can you translate the organic architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright into music? For pianist and composer Myra Melford, there is inspiration in all of the above, "a kind of dialogue for me – a thing to bounce my ideas off of."

To twist a line from the late, great John Prine, there's a hole in our hearts where the music goes.

Mountain Stage and host Larry Groce have presented live performances for radio for almost 40 years, and each trip around the sun extracts a price: the passing of more iconic performers who planted and cultivated the roots music we all love.

It's almost time to raise the curtains again in New York City, says mayor Bill de Blasio. In a press conference Thursday morning, de Blasio said that he expects Broadway and off-Broadway shows to reopen by September, and that he plans to facilitate that target date. "Broadway needs to come back, and we will move heaven and earth to bring Broadway back," he said. New York City's theaters have been shut down for more than a year, since Mar. 12, 2020.

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