Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Story of the Siena Pianoforte!

This amazing looking piano has an equally amazing history. Built in 1800, The Siena Pianoforte was a wedding gift for a Siena farmer, Antonio Ferri, and his bride Rebecca Marchisio. The newlyweds stayed in Siena, raising wine-grapes, children and grand-children. The piano, on the other hand, traveled a great deal!

In 1867 the piano was sent to Paris for the Exposition. In 1868 it became the wedding gift from the city of Siena to the Crown Prince Umberto and was kept in Rome with other art treasures of the Royal Family. In the late 1880's, now King of Italy, Umberto visited Jerusalem and heard a talented pianist, an emigrant from Ukraine, named Mathis Yanovsky. He told him the story of The Siena Pianoforte and invited him to play it whenever he could come to Rome. Yanovsky died before he realized his dream. Years later, his grandson, Carmi, fulfulling a promise made to his grandfather, tried in vain to acquire permission to see the fabled pianoforte.

Years later, during WWII, Carmi was with a unit in the deserts of North Africa sifting through the sands and collecting what Rommel's retreating forces left behind. He was called upon to examine a large, plaster covered object buried in the sand. Carmi convinced his superiors that this was not a Nazi land mine and took the barely recognizable piano. Consigned to the extremity of an ordnance camp deep in Egypt, Carmi convinced the officer in charge to turn the piano over to the Brisih Special Service section. It was repaired in short order and Carmi went back to his unit.

The piano, however, continued its travels and went with military entertainers as far as Palestine where it was eventually sold to a Tel-Aviv junk dealer. It passed from owner to owner and was used as a hive for a bee-keeper, an incubator and even a meat refrigeration unit for a butcher! It was eventually left to rot in a Tel-Aviv city dump.

Carmi, retired from the service, came home to Tel-Aviv. He planned on opening his old piano workshop. One day his children told him that they had found his first job. When he investigated their find he discovered his old friend from the sands of Northern Africa, turned-over and baking in the sun. He thought that the instrument was beyond repair. He thought it over for the night, returned to the dump the next day and discovered the piano was gone.

Fortunately, it turned up in his shop days later, delivered there by a music lover who found it and handed it over to Carmi with orders to fix it. He changed his mind and in a fit of temper pounded his fist on the piano, cracking the plaster covering and revealing a little wooden cherub. Carmi paid the man off quickly and then just as quickly began uncovering the plaster. What he discovered was an elaborately carved case with friezes of plump, drunken cherubs hauling their drunken queen across the face of the piano. Carmi dug out an old picture of the Italian King's piano and discovered it was the very one in his shop.

Carmi eventually finished restoring the piano and the recording that I played this morning was made on it. What a story!

Robin Rilette
Photo and facts from Boston Skyline cd “The Siena Pianoforte.”

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

KWSU Check this OUT!

These photos were taken at our KWSU 1250 AM transmitter site. See the antiquity? KWSU has a great history. Here is what Wikipedia says:

"KWSU has a long history in broadcasting, dating to 1908 when it was known as Washington State College. NWPR's flagship station, KWSU-AM 1250 in Pullman, is one of the oldest radio stations in the world. It signed on December 10, 1922 as KFAE and became KWSC (for Washington State College) in 1925. For many years, it served a large portion of the Pacific Northwest. It became KWSU sometime in the 1960s, after Washington State attained university status. Edward R. Murrow began his career at the station, as did Keith Jackson and Barry Serafin."

So...KWSU has been around for a while, and as you can tell by the pictures below - it looks old too! But we prefer to call this Retro Broadcasting equipment Originals! Like this generator below! WOW!

And these cabinet circuitry and components! (I totally know what these things do you know...They make radio happen!)

The man in this picture is our Station Manager, Roger Johnson. He is taking a tour of this site - yes, it is in a cow field. One time, a cow actually kicked the transmitter and we were off the air. So many jokes from engineering that day! We now have a fence around the tower to prevent bovines from broadcasting their hooves.

This Blue cabinet is "new" from the ... 70's? I'll check on that. We are in the process of updating many things at this site - which will make you very happy in Moscow and Pullman. I know how frustrating it is to lose the signal during rainstorms.

Behind this the Broadcast Transmitter....

HA HA HA! It's the bathroom! The toilet doesn't flush during thunderstorms or Mercury Retro Grade. Our engineers should appreciate this joke!

Friday, September 15, 2006

James Fallows Was Here!

Author James Fallows was in Northwest Public Radio studios this morning! (above left with our Station Manager, Roger Johnson) It was a very exciting day for us! Here are some photos! And here is the link to the Diane Rhem show and his interview. James Fallows on NPR

Mr. Fallows had about 3 cups of coffee. He is on his way to China, where he will be based for the Atlantic Monthly. Listen to the show and especially the end where Fallows talks about pre-emptive journalism.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

A Dog After My Own Heart

Here is an article in the Lewiston Tribune that made us at Northwest Public Radio happy.

Kathy Hedberg:

In the end, Bandit's final thoughts were of Northwest Public Radio.
My 13-year-old German shorthair dog, who made an indelible impression on the lives of everyone around him by sitting in our midst and passing gas, didn't survive the summer.

He had so many tumors over his body that he looked like a gourd. His legs were getting arthritic. He was tired and fussy, and it was just time to go.
Bandit was a public radio fan. He'd been one ever since he was a pup and I'd leave him alone with the radio on to soothe his anxiety.

Bandit, as you may recall if you've read this column in the past, had a lot of issues. If he had been human he could have made a mental health counselor rich.
I always attributed that to his early life when he belonged to a guy who held up a convenience store here in Grangeville with a shotgun.

The guy went to jail and Bandit came to live with me.

I figured the classic music on public radio would be a good influence on him. He grew to love classical music. He barked along with Mozart, wagged his stub of a tail at Vivaldi and ran around the house with glee every time he heard Beethoven's Fifth Symphony.

He also came under the influence of the public radio announcers who plead incessantly a couple of times a year for listeners to pledge their financial support.

If a dog listens to that enough times he's going to want to do something about it.

Bandit had long claws, with which he could push the buttons on the telephone. Apparently when I was gone he'd call up during pledge week and make a pledge.

I didn't find out about it until the bill came in the mail. And then what could I do?

"Sorry, I can't pay. My dog made this pledge."

People would have thought I was just trying to weasel out of it.

On the final day of his life I loaded him into the car and we took a drive up to the ski hill south of town. Bandit liked to ride in the car. We listened to Northwest Public Radio on the way.

Suddenly the announcer came on the air and said that the station was ending the year with a financial deficit. She asked listeners to please call in with their support.

I looked in the rearview mirror and I could tell Bandit was listening and trying to figure out how he could get to a phone.

I turned the car around and headed straight to the vet.

The end came gently and peacefully.

And now Bandit is in heaven where, I assume, they pipe in music from public radio.

What's more, he'll be with all his friends, and even get to meet the great classical composers in person. I am sure Bandit is sitting at the feet of Mozart right now, listening while he's playing the piano and contentedly passing gas.

Thank you Kathy for this wonderful story of Bandit. I am sure there are many other public radio dogs and cats out there. Do you have one? Tell me in the comments! And remember to support your local humane society and adopt a homeless pet!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Josh Ritter Visits Northwest Public Radio

Northwest Public Radio is based in a small town with a big University. I went to college at Washington State University, stepped away from network TV news and got lucky by landing a job in public radio. I've been in Pullman a while. You know that song "It's a Small World?" It is true; VERY true in a small town with a large University. Take for example, Josh Ritter. He's famous you know. I have two of his CDs and recorded him on Conan O'Brien last month. Where was I? Yes. Small world. Josh Ritter is the son of Sue Ritter, who is the mentor of Shayne, who is the husband of Sueann Ramella! Did it get small in here?
I know Josh Ritter! I ate carrots with him at his parent's neuroscience Christmas party!

Josh came by the studios a few months ago and did an interview for the Saturday Show with Mary Hawkins. He was so polite, fun and sported a handsome new haircut. When I first met him, back in our carrot days, he had a full head of curly locks. Both looks suit him well. He played some amazing songs and then we talked fish. He was off to a dinner party with friends. He said he was going to make fish baked in rock salt. Hope it was delicious Josh and we hope to see you again!

Josh Ritter Official Site
Josh Ritter MySpace

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Welcome Rita Brown!

Northwest Public Radio is very happy to have Rita Brown as our new Development Director! What a team player! What beautiful eyes she has and great style! Large, rounded glasses are very in this season!
Part of the gang hung out in the hall laughing at those crazy glasses. Everyone tried them on! I have photos of Gillian Coldsnow in these glasses but since her office is next to mine, I will not post that photo. (yet)

Top Row: Tom Hungate, Laura Hartner, Rita Brown, Sueann Ramella
Bottom Row: Robin Rilette and Gillian Coldsnow