Joanne Moryl

The late Joanne Moryl joined WMNR, following a long career on the music faculty of Western Connecticut State University, where she taught music history and piano, and appeared in many solo and chamber music recitals.

Joanne was the pianist for the New England Contemporary Ensemble, which toured all over the East Coast and in South America. She had extensive performance experience with traditional literature as a recitalist, chamber music player and soloist with various orchestras. Later she specialized in introducing the works of contemporary composers, and could often be seen playing as much inside the piano as on the keyboard.

Joanne was co-founder of the Charles Ives Center for American Music, which had its inception at the Canterbury School in New Milford, and which was responsible for launching the careers of many young American composers. She brought to her programs a lifetime of involvement with and passion for great music. What she said she loved about broadcasting was the opportunity to share that with others.

To read her article about vacationing with Delphine Marcus click here

Can We Ever Get Enough Rachmaninoff? By Joanne Moryl

Have you ever noticed how many of the films of the 40s and 50s featured the “Second Concerto” by Rachmaninoff? Three of my favorites are included here and although each one has its own story, three of them do involve concert pianists in different settings, with the Rachmaninoff concerto woven all through the plots in various ways.

The most well-known of these is “Brief Encounter” (1945, Celia Johnson, Trevor Howard), the only one where the concerto is used as background rather than part of the action. It is also the most beautifully made because of its realistic treatment of the story of ordinary people living ordinary lives and caught up in a forbidden fantasy. The ongoing first-person narrative by the leading female character also lends a chilling element of reality. What the Rachmaninoff concerto does is heighten the intensity of the situation without any crashing drama or bombast. To see this film is to experience fully the range of emotions portrayed and this music is the perfect conveyance!

Another film, “ I’ve Always Loved You” (1946, Catherine MacLeod, Phillip Dorn), is a somewhat less profound but very entertaining story of a brilliant pianist/conductor named Goronoff, who becomes jealous of his young pupil when her concert debut (Rachmaninoff 2nd, of course) reveals a greater talent than his and he sends her away despite his love for her. One of my favorite scenes is when she auditions for him, insisting she will play the “Appassionata,” and he says, “I dare you!” Of course, she pulls it off perfectly. In this film many of the greatest piano works are threaded into the fabric of the plot, but the Rachmaninoff is the centerpiece; it is drilled, practiced, rehearsed, and performed by both teacher and pupil—and toward the end, attempted by the pupil’s young daughter, who “... feels the music that’s hidden in the notes.” The concerto is heard in different settings and as background, much to the delight of those of us, like me, who cannot ever get enough of it! The soundtrack was performed by Arthur Rubinstein and there is a cameo appearance by a very young Andre Previn as an auditionee for Goronoff. Amazingly, MacLeod has all the pianistic moves down perfectly—either she was a trained pianist or a brilliant study!

Lastly, “Rhapsody” (1954, Elizabeth Taylor, Vittorio Gassman, John Ericson) is an entertaining and visually beautiful film with mediocre acting, luscious European settings and enough musical scenes to satisfy even me! It presents a highly glamorized picture of what it’s like to be a student in a European conservatory and touches on reality only in certain places where the discipline and grind of concert preparation become part of the action. Aside from the fabulous violin and piano performances, the plot is a corny melodrama about a neurotic, possessive rich girl who pursues a career-driven violinist (Gassman) and is rejected. She eventually mends her ways and ends up with the right man (Ericson), after she sees him through, literally note by note, from full-time drunk to rehabilitated, brilliant pianist, culminating in a performance of the Rachmaninoff 2nd. One of my favorite scenes is where, while he’s practicing the Scriabin d-sharp minor étude, she begins to believe she’s losing her mind—and believe me, listening to that etude over and over could do it! Although it hasn’t a lot of substance, this film provides a rich feast of music and scenery, especially in the final scene where the concerto of all concertos is played once again.

If you’re looking for a change from the usual “action” film, and would like to escape the violence and “realism” of contemporary films, look up some of these gems; I suspect you’ll enjoy them as much as I have!

Moryl Strength    By Will Duchon

Unless I have the station playing in my car, it would be difficult to predict what music will be playing when I arrive at WMNR’s studio each Friday afternoon around 4:30. Joanne Moryl’s eclectic program is in its final half hour and as I start to organize my CDs and mini-disks I could as likely be hearing a Brahms string quartet or a piano concerto by Tcherepnin. Joanne’s genial radio presence and her calming voice often conceal a mischievous fondness for offering her listeners music that is well off the beaten path.

My first task at hand is pulling CDs off the library shelves. The CD library is adjacent to master control, and while pulling CDs, I can see Joanne through the window, starting to pack up the stacks of her own CDs into her various handbags. There is a nomadic element to the life of a broadcaster; we wander around with well-worn bags filled with well-worn CDs. Some of the carrying cases are of elegant leather, some are hand-woven from foreign lands, some are just plastic bags from ShopRite.

The WMNR music library holds over 10,000 CDs contained in a small room which is not easily navigated. Joanne enters the library with a stack of CDs needing to return to their homes on the shelves, and I’m reminded what it is like to play four-hand piano duets. In order to play four-hand piano duets, one had better be considerate of one’s partner, because space is tight and there’s a lot of bumping into each other going on. That’s the case in the WMNR library when two people are working the shelves. At best it is just a matter of being patient. At worst, it’s like a game of Twister.

Joanne’s extensive background as a pianist and educator is evident in her programs, and along with the standards of the repertoire she continues to educate listeners with works that are usually ignored or considered too “rough” for the afternoon shift. One afternoon Joanne was broadcasting some very agitated and intense music for strings by a contemporary American composer. We listened intently while going about our business in the CD library, and I joked about the music being sure to wake up anyone who had drifted off into an afternoon nap. Joanne laughed and said “You just can’t play the same old stuff over and over. There’s a lot of music out there that deserves to be heard.” She is right. In fact, a broadcaster could easily get by with nothing but heavy doses of Mozart, Schubert piano works, waltzes by Johann Strauss Jr., marches by Sousa, and endless potpourri from the countless generic “Classical Music’s Greatest Hits” compilations found in flea markets, second-hand shops and big box stores. WMNR’s listeners deserve better, and Joanne’s program goes the extra mile each time.

It’s a few minutes before 5:00 and before Bill McGlaughlin’s “Exploring Music” hits the airwaves Joanne signs off with….Judy Collins. It’s a unique kind of experience to hear a radio program of standards from the repertoire along with 20th century works by Bartok, Stravinsky and lesser-known composers of the 1900s, to delve into music by contemporary composers, and then close with folk songs, but it works because the crucial element of sincerity is present. When broadcasters change shifts at WMNR, there is a mysterious lingering of “energy” from one program to the next. Joanne’s energy sets the stage beautifully for Bill, as it turns out. Bill begins to introduce his program excitedly.  Thanks to Joanne, the listening audience is already warmed-up and receptive.


Joanne’s Afternoon Classics Programs, April 2014

Joanne Moryl of Wednesday and Friday Afternoon Classics tells us that she jots down ideas for her programs the night before, but makes her actual choices the day of her program.   
She explains that the weather, world events, seasonal moods and holidays all impact her choice of music and that Wednesday has a “different feel’ from Friday.   Within her program she likes to vary the selections; she’d hesitate to play a “deep, modern Tchaikovsky piece” right next to something similar.   Joanne likes contrast and variety so as to avoid “listener fatigue” or “emotional overload.”   She has favorites – Rachmaninoff’s Second Concerto is one – but she tries not to overplay them.

Joanne uses both her personal music library and the WMNR CD library as a source.   When she has longer pieces on the air she likes to take a moment to peruse the station’s library.  If she comes across an interesting, unfamiliar piece she listens to it, but prefers to mull it over for a bit rather than putting it immediately on the air.  When she broadcasts, Joanne also likes to take into account what her colleagues air before and after her program so she can provide counterpoint and change.  She tells us her mission is “to expose the listeners to as much music as I can.”  

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