Howard's Day Off

Saturdays 5-7 AM, Repeats Sunday 5-7pm on HPR-2


Howard Dicus can't play a musical instrument, and can't read music with any facility. But he spent much of his childhood playing his dad's 78 rpm jazz records, and singing with his brother and sisters, who could hear any song once or twice and sing it back in multi-part harmony. Though the family home was filled with music, exposure to classical music was limited to the usual (for babyboomers) soundtracks of movies and cartoons, and the very few classics his father acquired on record, including "The Nutcracker," "Gaite Parisienne," and "Peter and the Wolf."

As a teenager, checking out jazz records from the library, Howard discovered the Swingle Singers and the Jacques Loussier Trio swinging Bach, and it was a short step from there to the real thing. Around 1979, the development of the CD led to LPs on sale for $1.99, and a headlong self-guided tour of classical music ensued, completely out of order compared to what would be taught in a conservatory. Imagine someone who was familiar with Schoenberg's Chamber Symphony but not Haydn's "Miracle" Symphony! To fill in the gaps, Howard began reading scores of books on classical music. While still living in Washington D.C. he was a season subscriber to the National Symphony, and a violinist friend got him into rehearsals for the Richmond Symphony. Roped into serving on the board of the Washington Savoyard, he got a crash course on Gilbert & Sullivan, which continued into years as president of the little opera company. In the 1990s Howard also wrote articles about classical CDs for United Press International, and began filling in the gaps in his musical education.

At the end of 2000 Howard relocated permanently to Hawaiʻi and worked for Pacific Business News, where his assignments included writing and performing business reports that were given to Hawaiʻi Public Radio. A week of filling in for Gene Schiller on the latter's vacation whetted Howard's appetite for doing a classical music show on the radio, and when two hours came open on Saturday morning in 2006, Howard's offered to do a program. Howard's Day Off was born.

From the start the program was a sampler, featuring individual movements from longer works, exposing people with an interest in exploring classical music to as much of it as possible. Howard stretched the boundaries of such programming by sometimes dropping in non-classical music when it fit a show's theme. There was an entire show consisting of different versions of John Coltrane's "Giant Steps" (that one drew a complaint) and a whole show on action sequences in movie music, and a whole show on "backtime instrumentals," records that radio stations used to use to fill time and join a network radio newscast.

Howard's Day Off has aired weekly since October 2006, with Howard coming in to do the show live unless he's going to be off-island, and recording a show when that happens. In 2007 Howard left Pacific Business News to work for "Sunrise," the morning news show on HawaiiNewsNow, and he writes a blog for the TV operation. Every Friday, the blog is an essay based on the content of that week's Day Off show. The 500th Howard's Day Off will air in 2016. You are invited to join the Howard's Day Off Listener Appreciation Society on Facebook.

Ways to Connect

On the evidence of attempts by many composers, it is not easy to meld classical music and jazz. Syncopation was rare in classical music before the Roaring Twenties. (The first example that comes to mind is the second theme of the finale of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 2, “Little Russian.”)

While the Boston Six looked to Europe for training and inspiration, American popular music embraced the music of African Americans, and the racial divide, the severity of which is difficult to imagine today, could not prevent the music of black composers from influencing other composers.

The next group of American composers were born several years later than most of the Boston Six, most lived much later, and in style they were more diverse.

Early classical concerts in America were narrow in their focus. Almost every concert featured a Beethoven symphony. To be adventurous a conductor would program Liszt or even Bizet.

This nine-part history of American classical music will run through January and February on the HPR-2 program “Howard’s Day Off.” The essays covering the same material, which do not always accord precisely with the programs, are posted here in full.

We think of rock as recent, jazz as older, classical music as much older. But the actual chronology may adjust your perception of this.

Howard's Day Off - February 25 2017

Feb 25, 2017


:01—Carson Cooman (1982- ): “Keep On Shining!” for violin and organ, Op. 573, 2004, Rachel Gough, violin; Rupert Gough, organ [Naxos 559329].

:06—David Byrne (1952- ): “High Life,” Balanescu Quartet [Argo 436 565]. Born in Scotland but raised in Baltimore from the third grade. Co-founded the band “Talking Heads” in 1975.

Howard's Day Off - February 18 2017

Feb 18, 2017


:01—Bach: “The Art of the Fugue,” The Swingle Singers, from “Bach’s Greatest Hits,” 1963 [Philips 824 703]. Ward Swingle formed the Swingle Singers in Paris in 1962 but previously sang with a similar group formed in 1959. In 1973 they disbanded and Swingle moved to London, where he formed a new version of the group. Swingle died in 2015 at the age of 87.

Howard's Day Off - February 11 2017

Feb 11, 2017


:01—Franz Liszt (1811-1886): “Mazeppa,” beginning, 1854, Zubin Mehta, Berlin Philharmonic [SK 66834]. A horse, galloping furiously, with a naked man strapped to his back. 

:03—Burrill Phillips (1907-1988): “Midnight Ride of Paul Revere,” from “Selections from McGuffey’s Reader,” 1933, Howard Hanson, Eastman-Rochester Orchestra [Mercury 434 319].  “The students said it was corny,” the composer wrote in his diary. “And it was. But I didn’t care, because it was a huge success.”

Howard's Day Off - February 4 2017

Feb 4, 2017


:01—Samuel Barber (1910-1981): “Canzone,” Op. 38, Paula Robison and Tim Hester, flute and piano [MusicMasters 60195].

:06—Elliott Carter (1908-2012): “Elegy,” Gerard Schwarz, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra [Nonesuch 79002].


:11—Arthur Foote (1853-1937): Suite in E, Op. 63, fugue finale, 1907, Gerard Schwarz, Seattle Symphony [Naxos 559365]. The first American composer of note who never had training in Europe.

Howard's Day Off - January 28 2017

Jan 28, 2017


:01—Darius Milhaud (1892-1974): “Caramel Mou,” 1920, Ian Hobson, piano [Arabesque 6569].

:04—George Gershwin: Prelude No. 1, 1925, Michael Tilson Thomas, piano [Columbia 39699]. Gershwin wrote six preludes in the early Roaring Twenties and allowed three to be published.

:06—Aaron Copland (1900-1990): “Dance Symphony,” 1925, excerpt, Marin Alsop, Bournemouth Symphony [Naxos 559359]. Copland was writing syncopated music in the Roaring Twenties while still a student in Paris.

Howard's Day Off - January 21 2017

Jan 21, 2017


:01—Franz Schubert (1797-1828): String Trio No. 2 in B flat, minuet, Grumiaux Trio [Philips 438 700].

:06—Franz Schubert (1797-1828): “Unfinished Symphony,” second move., Neville Marriner, Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields [Philips 412 472].

:18—Franz Schubert (1797-1828): Quartet Movement in C minor, Emerson String Quartet [DG 477 045].


:30—Franz Schubert (1797-1828): Symphony No. 9 in C major, “The Great,” finale,  Bruno Weil, The Classical Band [SK 48132]. In its day, deemed too hard to play.

Howard's Day Off - January 14 2017

Jan 14, 2017


:01—Joseph Haydn (1732-1809): Symphony No. 88, minuet, Bruno Weil, Tafelmusik [SK 66253].

:05—Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791): Symphony No. 35, “Haffner,” minuet, 1782, Karl Bohm, Berlin Philharmonic [DG 447 416]. Symphonies weren’t to be danced to, and so-called minuet movements were often played too fast for a real minuet.

:10—Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827): Symphony No. 1, 1800, minuet, Gerard Schwarz, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra [Delos 3013]. A scherzo in all but name.

Howard's Day Off - January 7 2017

Jan 7, 2017


:01—John Adams (1947- ): “Tromba Iotana,” 1986, Edo de Waart, San Francisco Symphony [Elektra Nonesuch 79144]. The title means “Distant Trumpet” but actually there are two, in the far corners of the rear stage, playing their notes in stereo, as it were.

:06—Don Gillis (1912-1978): Symphony No. 1, “An American Symphony,” second move., Ian Hobson, Sinfonia Varsovia [Albany 888]. Gillis was Toscanini’s producer during the NBC Symphony years.

Howard's Day Off - December 31 2016 (Music of England)

Dec 31, 2016


:01—Edward Elgar (1857-1934): Pomp & Circumstance March No. 1 in D major, Andre Previn, Royal Philharmonic [Philips 454 250].

:08—Gustav Holst: Suite No. 1 in E flat for Band, Op. 28, finale, Frederick Fennell, Eastman Wind Ensemble [Mercury 289 462 960].

:11—William Byrd, arr. Gordon Jacob (1895-1984): “The Bells,” Frederick Fennell, Eastman Wind Ensemble [Mercury 432 009].

:16—Arthur Sullivan: “The Yeomen of the Guard,” overture, Neville Marriner, Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields [Philips


:01—Melchior Franck (1579-1639): “Intrada,” Mannheim Steamroller [AG 298].

:03--“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” Mannheim Steamroller [AD 1988]. The modern translation is 150 years old but the song is much older and the original text was from Christmas Vespers.

:08—“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” Christina Souza, from “A Christmas Wish,” 1993, [2012]. Roslyn Catracchia did this CD.

:13—“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” Eugene Ormandy, Philadelphia Orchestra [MK 6369].


:04—Peter Boyer (1970- ): “Aphrodite,” from “Three Olympians,” 2000, Peter Boyer, London Philharmonic [Naxos 559769]. Born in Providence, R.I. Studied with John Corigliano, Elmer Bernstein.

:10—Samuel Barber (1910-1981): “Medea and Jason,” from ballet “Medea,” 1946,  Howard Hanson, Eastman-Rochester Orchestra [Mercury 432 016].

:15—Lou Harrison (1917-2003): “The Triumph of Ariadne and Dionysos,” 1987, Cabrillo Music Festival musicians including Leta Wilson, flute [MusicMasters 60241].

Howard's Day Off - December 10 2016 (Century-Old Music)

Dec 10, 2016


:04—Kurt Atterberg (1887-1974): “Sun Smoke,” from Symphony No. 3 in D major, “West Coast Pictures,” 1916, Ari Rsilainen, Hanover Radio Philharmonic [CPO 999 640].

:13—Arnold Bax (1883-1953): “The Garden of Fand,” 1916, David Lloyd-Jones, Scottish National Orchestra [Naxos 557599].



:01—Alan Hovhaness (1911-2000): “Sunset,” from Symphony No. 7, Op. 178, “Nanga Parvat,” 1959, Keith Brion, Trinity College of Music Wind Orchestra [Naxos 559385]. Inspired by the Himalayan mountains of Kashmir.

:06--Vincent D’Indy (1851-1931): “A Summer Day On the Mountain,” finale, 1905, Pierre Dervaux, Pays de Loire Philharmonic [EMI 64364].

Howard's Day Off - November 26 2016

Nov 26, 2016


:04—Edward Elgar (1857-1934): “The Spanish Lady,” burlesco, William Boughton [Nimbus 5008]. Elgar never went to Spain.

:06—Pytr Tchaikovsky (1840-1893): “Souvenir de Florence” in D minor, Op. 70, for strings, finale, Philippe Entremont, Vienna Chamber Orchestra [Naxos 8.550404].

Howard's Day Off - November 19 2016

Nov 19, 2016


:04—Erich Korngold (1897-1957): String Quartet No. 2 in E flat major, Op. 26, 1933, first move., Doric String Quartet [Chandos 10611]. Written before he did any film scores. The finest chamber movement by any Hollywood composer. This is the guy who did the score for “The Adventures of Robin Hood.”

:10—John Knowles Paine (1839-1906): Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 23, 1875, scherzo,  JoAnn Falletta, Ulster Orchestra [Naxos 559747]. The father of the American symphonic tradition, yet no one plays his stuff any more.

Howard's Day Off - November 12 2016

Nov 12, 2016


:04—Serge Prokofiev (1891-1953): “Romeo & Juliet,” introduction, 1940, Charles Dutoit, Montreal Symphony [London 430 279].

:07—Serge Prokofiev (1891-1953): March from “The Love for Three Oranges,” 1919, Boris Berman, piano [Chandos 8851]. Drawn from his four-act satirical opera, premiered in Chicago in 1921.

:09—Serge Prokofiev (1891-1953): March from “The Love for three Oranges,” 1919, Neeme Jarvi, Scottish National Orchestra [Chandos 8729].

Howard's Day Off - November 5 2016

Nov 5, 2016


:04—Ferde Grofe (1892-1972): “Forty-Niners’ Emigrant Train,” from “Death Valley Suite,” 1949, William Stromberg, Bournemouth Symphony [Naxos 559017].

:09—Modest Moussorgsky (1839-1881): “The Oxen,” from “Pictures at an Exhibition,” 1874, Alfred Brendel, piano [Vox 7203].

:12—Modest Moussorgsky (1839-1881): “The Oxen,” from “Pictures at an Exhibition,” 1874, Neeme Jarvi, Chicago Symphony [Chandos 8849].

Howard's Day Off - October 29 2016

Oct 29, 2016


:04—Kara Karayev (1918-1982): “General Dance,” from “In the Path of Thunder,” ballet, 1958, Dmitry Yablonsky, Royal Philharmonic [Naxos 573122].

:10—Tikhon Khrennikov (1913-2007): Violin Concerto No. 1 in C major, Op. 14, 1959, finale, Vadim Repin, violin, w/Vladimir Fedoseyev, Moscow Radio Symphony [Brilliant 9448].

:16—Boris Papandopoulo (1906-1991): Piano Concerto No. 2, first move., 1947, Oliver Triendl, piano w/Sreten Krstic, Zagreb Soloists [CPO 777 829]. Father a Russian aristocraft of Greek descent, mother Croatian.

Howard's Day Off - October 22 2016

Oct 22, 2016


:04—Alexander Glazunov: Symphony No. 7 in E minor, Op. 77, “Pastoral,” 1903, scherzo, Alexander Anissimov, Moscow Symphony [Naxos 553769].

:10—Mikhail Glinka (1804-1857): “March of Chernomor,” 1842, Vassily Sinaisky, BBC Philharmonic [Chandos 9861].

:15—Vassily Kalinnikov (1866-1901): Symphony No. 1 in G minor, first move., 1895, Neeme Jarvi, Scottish National Orchestra [Chandos 8611].


Howard's Day Off - October 15 2016

Oct 15, 2016


:04—Joaquin Turina (1882-1949): Piano Trio No. 2 in B minor, Op. 76, 1933, middle move., Arbos Trio [Naxos 555870].

:07—Alexander Borodin (1833-1887): Symphony No. 2 in B minor, scherzo, 1876,  Valery Gergiev, Rotterdam Philharmonic [Philips 422 996].

:13—Dan Locklair (1949- ): Harp Concerto, first move., “Dialogues,” 2004, Jacquelyn Bartlett w/Kirk Trevor, Slovak Radio Symphony [Naxos 559337]. Composer in residence at Wake Forest.

Howard's Day Off - October 8 2016

Oct 8, 2016


:04—Louis Spohr (1784-1859): String Quintet in A minor, Op. 91, slow move., 1833, Academy of St. Martin in the Fields Chamber Ensemble [Chandos 9424].

:10—Carl Czerny (1791-1857): “Grand Nocturne Brilliant,” Op. 95, 1826, Rosemary Tuck w/Richard Bonynge, English Chamber Orchestra [Naxos 573417]. Student of Beethoven, teacher of Liszt, prolific producer of light piano pieces in the early 1800s.


:30—Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826): Overture to “Euryanthe,” 1823, Herbert von Karajan, Berlin Philharmonic [DG 419 070].

Howard's Day Off - October 1 2016

Oct 1, 2016


:04—John Field (1782-1837): Piano Concerto No. 2 in A flat major, middle move., 1816, John O’Conor w/Charles Mackerras, Scottish Chamber Orchestra [Telarc 80370]. Debuted in Dublin at nine. Apprenticed to Clementi in London. Settled in St. Petersburg but toured in London and Paris, where Chopin heard him.

Howard's Day Off - September 24 2016

Sep 24, 2016


:04—Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791): String Quartet No. 19 in C, K. 465, “Dissonant,” minuet move., 1785, Emerson Sring Quartet [DG 5523]. The first hot air balloon crossing of the English Channel was in 1785.

:09—Antonio Salieri (1750-1825): Overture to “La Grotta Di Trifonio,” 1785, Michael Dittrich, Slovak Radio Symphony of Bratislava [Naxos 554838]. The dollar was chosen as the official money of the United States in 1785.

Howard's Day Off - September 17 2016

Sep 17, 2016


:04—Percy Grainger (1882-1961): “Irish Tune from County Derry,” 1907, Geoffrey Simon, Melbourne Symphony [Koch 7003]. Grainger, an Australian, liked folk music wherever it came from, but his arrangement of what we usually call “Danny Boy” is quite fine.

:10—Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900): Symphony in E major, “Irish,” finale, 1866, Owain Arwel Hughes, BBC Concert Orchestra [CPO 999 171]. Sullivan, whose mother was Italian, grew up in England, not Ireland, but said a trip to Ireland inspired this work.

Howard's Day Off - September 10 2016

Sep 10, 2016


:04—Ignace Pleyel (1757-1831): Symphony in C major, finale, 1778, Uwe Grodd, Capella Istropolitana [ Naxos 554696]. Written when Pleyel was 21 and had just completed five years of study with Haydn. Later he became a music publisher.

:11—Virgil Thomson (1896-1989): Symphony No. 2 in C major, 1941, first move., “allegro militaire,” James Sedares, New Zealand Symphony [Naxos 559022].

:15—Zoltan Kodaly (1882-1967): “Viennese Musical Clock,” from “Hary Janos,” 1926, Neeme Jarvi, Chicago Symphony [Chandos 8877].