Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Voices of Freedom concert will honor familiar voice

June 29th, 2017Posted by admin

Choral Artists of Sarasota will honor June Lebell at its annual Fourth of July concert.

Originally published in The Observer
Date: June 28, 2017
by: Niki Kottmann | Black Tie Reporter

There will be one fewer audience member at Choral Artists of Sarasota’s annual Fourth of July concert this year.

June LeBell, former singer, board member and executive director of the organization, died April 30 of ovarian cancer.

It was LeBell who came up with the idea for the first Independence Day concert in 2007, so the group decided to dedicate this performance, Voices of Freedom, to her.

“June was kind of insistent that we maintain this tradition of the Fourth of July, and I agreed with her,” Artistic Director Joseph Holt says. “It seemed only right to dedicate this performance in her honor and in her memory because she meant so much to this organization.”

When he talks about LeBell, a wide, unwavering smile crosses Holt’s face. His eyes are distant, caught up in memories, as he speaks of her sense of humor and how she was always eager to help people — especially other singers.

He changes direction mid-sentence when a memory from a Fourth of July performance a few years ago comes back to him. He recalls a concert in which LeBell and her husband, Edward Alley, did a narration — set to music, with the chorus singing softly in the background — of quotes from several American presidents.

“It was a wonderful experience to be up there on stage with the two of them,” Holt remembers. “One on either side of me, as the chorus is singing and they’re giving these great orations. Obviously June was a natural. She could talk anywhere anytime.”

This year, Alley will take the stage again to do a narration for the Voices of Freedom concert. Holt says it will be about 9/11 and instead of being a reflection on a “horrific moment” in American history, it’s about the heroes who emerged in the aftermath.

By taking the stage in his wife’s honor, Alley will give back to the organization LeBell adored.

“It always meant a great deal to her,” he says. “She was doing Music Mondays and writing for the Observer among other things, but she was still a singer at heart.”

Alley says that, along with bringing Holt on board as artistic director, LeBell’s legacy within the organization was making the group of professional singers a professional organization. She gave it the visibility it has now, he says.

This year’s concert will feature the group’s traditional salute to the armed forces along with a tribute to the heroes of World War I and World War II and a new musical setting of the Gettysburg Address. Holt is also excited about the traditional Bach chorale that will be performed with words by Pete Seeger, along with a pairing of “My Country Tis of Thee” with “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” arranged by Moses Hogan.

Holt says his goal is to remind locals why we unite on the Fourth of July.

“I felt like this year, considering the seeming divisiveness that we have in our country, we needed to have more of an underscore of who we are, where we come from and why we all do this together,” Holt says. “It makes no difference whether you’re white, black, red, green — we all do this because we believe in this.”

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June LeBell shares highlights of her career at charity luncheon

April 11th, 2016Posted by admin

group

Front row, from left: Shirley Taradash, June LeBell, Edward Alley LeBell. Back row, from left: Amy NaDell, Jody Jorgensen, Kathie Majerchin, Monika Templeman, Laurel Lynch, Janet Stickel and Jan Hasler.
COURTESY PHOTO

From the Herald-Tribune:

The Lakewood Ranch Women’s Club held a “From Opera Stage to Microphone” fundraiser March 2 in the Fete Ballroom at the Polo Grill.

The luncheon, which attracted about 100 people, raised money for the club’s adopted charities — SOLVE Maternity Homes, Hope Family Services and SMART Riding Therapies. The featured speaker was June LeBell, an award-winning broadcaster, music critic, singer, author and chef.

LeBell, who hosts “June LeBell’s Musical Conversations” on WSMR-FM, shared highlights of her career and was recently honored by the Broadcasters Club of Florida with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

LeBell attended the High School of Music and Art and Mannes College of Music in New York City and the Hartt College of Music in Hartford, Connecticut. She also was a student of acclaimed soprano Adele Addison.

After a singing career, LeBell entered broadcasting in 1973 at WQXR in New York City, where she produced, wrote and hosted for 30 years. She interviewed hundreds of musical celebrities to include in her cookbook, “Kitchen Classics from the Philharmonic.”

The ladies were particularly fascinated with the wonderful personal stories that Lebell shared about the creation of her classical music-themed cookbook. With 50 great illustrations by Al Hirschfeld, and 150 terrific recipes from people affiliated with the NY Philharmonic in its first 150 years — from Toscanini to Pavarotti– and short, pithy text about how these great performers ate before, during and after a concert, their favorite restaurants and, just for fun, music to listen to (complete with record or CD number) while preparing or eating the delectable dish.

She also warned that some of these are really bad puns — a chopped chicken liver recipe is set to music by Frederic CHOPPIN. The recipes were given to LeBell by classical music celebrities on her daily cooking show on WQXR in New York City. They were each tested and tasted for quality, ease of preparation and proper measurements and she assured us there are absolutely no “poisonous” recipes in this excellent cookbook.

LeBell and her husband Edward Alley live in Sarasota. She said they enjoy living in Sarasota because it is a cultural treasure that rivals New York City, with the added benefit of year round sunshine and great beaches.

— Submitted by Monika Templeman

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A radio pioneer loves life in Sarasota

May 11th, 2015Posted by admin

From the Bradenton-Herald:

June LeBell ruled the NYC airwaves for 30 years before coming to WSMR

She became a groundbreaking and influential broadcaster, holding court in New York City for 30 years.

But for months, June LeBell didn’t even realize she’d been offered a shot at radio stardom.

She was a singer who shared concert stages with some of the best musicians in the business. She was living in her native Manhattan and working at Lincoln Center. Everyone in the New York City music scene knew her.

Read the full story

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Amazing Women of the Suncoast: June LeBell

August 25th, 2014Posted by admin

june-lebell-abc7
From ABC7 WWSB mysuncoast.com:

The arts scene on the Suncoast attracts many people who’ve been very successful in their careers to move here when they retire — like this week’s Amazing Woman of the Suncoast: classical musician, lecturer, and broadcaster June LeBell.

Read the article by Linda Carson

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June LeBell goes on the air

February 13th, 2014Posted by admin

Originally published in The Observer
Date: February 12, 2014
by: Mallory Gnaegy | A&E Editor

One man wrote a critical letter to June LeBell after hearing her interview with choreographer and former artistic director of New York City Ballet George Balanchine. The man said she sounded slightly intimidated and star struck. LeBell wrote him back, saying, “When the day comes that I’m not intimidated and star struck by George Balanchine, then I shouldn’t be on the air.” He apologized after that.

In the 30 years LeBell interviewed famous musicians and arts leaders on New York City’s WQXR, only two made her star struck: Balanchine and Walter Cronkite. Though it has been more than 10 years since LeBell, the first female announcer on a commercial classic radio station, has been on the air, she announced at the beginning of February that she’s making a comeback as host of a new Sunday afternoon program on WSMR beginning in October.

LeBell, who is the Observer’s music reviewer and food columnist, says the new show will be like one of her former New York programs, “Salute to the Arts.” She’ll book, host and produce the program and invite performers and musicians from around the world to speak about their talent. She’ll start the series with Marilyn Horne — her longtime friend, former co-host and world famous mezzo-soprano opera singer.

The two have known each other for more than 30 years. The relationship led them to collaborate on a radio program produced by the Marilyn Horne Foundation. The program, “On Wings of Song,” featured a broadcast of live recitals for an audience.

It may be fitting that Horne is the first guest on LeBell’s new program, but she’s got a lot more great guests in store as well.

“Since I contacted my whole list of email friends and I went on Facebook, I’ve gotten calls from a whole bunch of people who want to be on the program, which is fine by me,” she says.

Although LeBell has a pretty face more suited to broadcast television than radio, she has the perfect radio voice. In fact, voice is where it all started. LeBell first studied voice at The High School of Music and Art (the school “Fame” was based on) and later studied voice at Mannes College of Music and at Hartt College in Connecticut, from where she graduated.

For two years she sold shoes for Pappagallo shoes. The owner, who was a huge supporter and lover of classical music, only hired young, pretty, classically trained singers. He built a stage in the store and had a practice room downstairs that the girls had to reserve. The first year, each singer gave a recital in the store, but when The New York Times wouldn’t review the performances because they weren’t in a major concert hall, the owner booked Carnegie Recital Hall. It was exciting, she says.

“I wanted to be a classical singer, and I started realizing I had a good voice and I was a very good musician, but I didn’t have the size voice for a major opera house and I wasn’t going to have a major career,” she says.

LeBell was working at Lincoln Center, first giving tours and later managing visitors’ services, when someone approached her about the WQXR job. The hiring agent told her the station was looking for a minority announcer. Not knowing that they were approaching her to guage her own interest (she didn’t realize minority meant woman), she recommended her black friend, who had an almost identical resume, audition for the job. Her friend trained at the station, but ultimately was more interested in performing than hosting a radio program. LeBell then asked the hiring agent if she could host the program — he replied that was what he wanted in the first place.

“I realized I could use everything I had ever learned as a singer on the air,” she says.

She could talk for long periods of time without getting a sore throat; she could pronounce the terminology; she could have her friends on the show; and she could use her musical knowledge.

For the first seven years, she worked as a relief announcer, filling in when people couldn’t host. In 1980, the station gave her her first full-time shift. It was the kind of job where she worked 14-hour days, seven days a week. But she loved it — every day was different.

LeBell hosted a variety of programming. “Today in New York” was a three-minute program discussing events happening in New York. There was the hour-long program “Salute to the Arts.” “Kitchen Classics” took place 30 minutes a day, five times a week and featured recipes from famous musicians who love to cook and eat. She hosted live chamber music concerts and other live broadcast series. She booked guests, programmed the music, hosted and produced the programs without any help aside from the on-air engineers.

LeBell, who says she wasn’t outgoing when she was young, says it was a great job for a shy person because she could ask all the questions she wouldn’t normally feel comfortable asking if it weren’t her job.

“You could ask questions you could never ask at a cocktail party,” LeBell says.

But it was her love for music and passion for people that ultimately pushed her to venture out of her comfort zone.

“Spiritually, God put us on this Earth to do something, and it wasn’t to be shy,” she says.

FAMOUS NAMES 

June LeBell interviewed five to 10 people a week, 50 weeks a year for 29 years. The following list is a sampling of the famous people she hosted on her show:

Chef Julia Child
Composer Aaron Copland
Conductor Zubin Mehta
Met Opera baritone Sherrill Milnes
New York City Ballet star Jacques d’Amboise
New York Philharmonic concertmaster Glenn Dicterow
Daughter of Leonard Bernstein Jamie Bernstein
Cabaret pianist/arranger Alex Rybeck
Jazz pianist Dick Hyman
Violinist Itzhak Perlman
Met Opera Music Director James Levine

FOR THE RECORD

June LeBell says she will continue her Musical Conversations series with Sarasota Institute of Lifelong Learning. In some cases, she’ll even use portions of her SILL programs on the WSMR 89.1FM program.

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