Ned Wharton

Ned Wharton is a senior producer and music director for Weekend Edition.

At Weekend Edition, Wharton helps to supervise music continuity for the show, keeps tabs on what's new and noteworthy in the music world and produces many of the artist features heard on the program. The highlight of Wharton's role at NPR is the chance to meet—in person or over a satellite link—some of his musical idols, including Brian Eno, Joni Mitchell, Richard Thompson, Laurie Anderson, and Peter Gabriel and the opportunity to spark the careers of lesser-known musicians, like surf-noir band Big Lazy or the terrific Maine singer/songwriter Carol Noonan.

Wharton's work for Weekend Edition includes production of sound-rich news features. As a field producer, he traveled with former Weekend Edition Sunday host Liane Hansen to Egypt for a series of pieces on climate change. They also reported from Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and covered the economy and culture of Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

For Weekend Edition Saturday, Wharton took to the sky with host Scott Simon and combat veterans in vintage jets for a feature on the Wounded Warrior program. Wharton produced several of Simon's signature music chats with Baltimore Symphony Music Director Marin Alsop.

Wharton joined NPR in 1989 to work as an arts editor/producer for the daily classical music program Performance Today.

Before coming to NPR, Wharton worked at NPR Member Station WNYC in New York, where he hosted the music program Mixdown and chamber music concert broadcasts from the Frick Collection, produced music features, and filled in on various and sundry classical shifts. Earlier in his career, Wharton spent a year in Paris hosting and producing "New Directions in Europe," a 13-part series highlighting new music activity in France, Germany, and Italy.

Outside of radio, Wharton has worked as a record producer. His credits include the album gListen by the New York-band Songs from a Random House (Bar/None Records) and I Heard It on NPR: Singers, Songs & Sessions, a collection of live performances recorded in NPR's Studio 4A. He served as a panelist at the South by Southwest music festival and at the NON-COMMvention, a radio and music industry gathering.

Wharton remains loyal to his North Dakota roots, serving on the Board of Trustees at the International Music Camp at the Peace Garden on the Canadian border.

Wharton's radio career began at his college station, KFJM in Grand Forks, North Dakota. He graduated with a degree in speech and an emphasis in radio and minors in music and French.

The band Woods has always incorporated diffuse influences, taking inspiration from lo-fi rock, Ethiopian jazz and psychedelic folk sounds. Guitarist and vocalist Jeremy Earl, who recently became a father, says his group's latest album, Strange To Explain was influenced by something else — a lack of sleep.

"Those first few months or first year of having a newborn kind of put me in a dreamlike state," he says. "And that was my escape: to start writing."

In this time of social distancing, hunkering down and chatting remotely, we might learn some new things about each other. For example, you might know Marin Alsop as the longtime music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, one of the leading figures in classical music around the world and a frequent guest on Weekend Edition. But you might not know that back in the 1980s, she also led a swing band.

Harry Nilsson's concept album The Point turns fifty this year; to celebrate, the 1971 animated film adapted from the music will be released digitally and on BluRay for the first time. Nilsson, a beloved if occasionally overlooked writer of late 1960s pop hits, died in 1994, but his strange and endearing fairy tale album still resonates with those that remember it.

James Taylor has been a household name for a long time now. Taylor was just 20-years-old when he released his self-titled debut in 1968; in the half century since then, he has sold over 100 million albums and cemented his status as one of the most successful American singer-songwriters.

Afrobeat will probably always be associated with one man, one time and one country — Fela Kuti, in late 1960s Nigeria. But for the past 20 years, Antibalas has been establishing Brooklyn, N.Y., as a new center of the Afrobeat universe. The band's seventh studio album was just released and it has a name that calls back to its martial arts origins: Fu Chronicles.

Drive-By Truckers' latest album, The Unraveling, is out this week, and it is the group's most political work to date, confronting some of America's most charged issues: church shootings, opioids, overdoses, racial violence and extremism.

Every Christmas Eve at exactly 3 p.m., the Chapel of King's College in Cambridge, England plays A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols. The tradition began in 1918, and for decades it's been broadcast on the BBC and around the world. A commemorative recording of last year's Centenary Service has just been released; it was the last one conducted by Sir Stephen Cleobury, the choir's music director for 37 years, who died just last month on Nov. 22.

For Alzheimer's Awareness Month, accomplished flutist Eugenia Zukerman has released a new book called Like Falling Through a Cloud: A Lyrical Memoir. It chronicles her internal and emotional journey since a diagnosis of "cognitive difficulties" three years ago.

Just this past September, Zukerman was playing Claude Debussy's "Syrinx" — a piece she figures she's played more than 20,000 times since the age of 10 — when she drew a sudden blank. So although she can't always find the notes these days, Zukerman is persistent in finding the words.

Massive anti-government protests in Chile over the past few weeks have united demonstrators in song. Last week, up to a million people protesting in Santiago were joined by a cavalry of guitarists. They played a song called "El Derecho de Vivir en Paz," which once stood as an anthem for resistance against the brutal regime of Augusto Pinochet that began in 1973.

"It was really important to me to write about what happened," Mikaela Straus, the musician known as King Princess, says, referencing being thrust into a career that she wasn't as prepared for as she'd imagined.

Quinn Christopherson won 2019's Tiny Desk Contest, but many of the other 6,000-plus entries impressed and moved the contest's judges. This summer, Weekend Edition continues to spotlight some of the stand-out contestants.

Quinn Christopherson is the winner of the 2019 Tiny Desk Contest, but there were many other outstanding performances among this year's 6,000-plus entries. Weekend Edition will highlight just some of those over the coming months.

You might say Making Movies is a band of brothers. The Kansas City-based group is made up of two Panamanian-Americans — guitarist Enrique Chi and his brother, bassist Diego Chi — and two Mexican-Americans; drummer Andres Chaurand and his brother Juan-Carlos, who plays percussion and keyboards.

Olivier Latry, one of the chief organists at Notre Dame Cathedral, was the last artist to record on the famous instrument before the catastrophic fire on April 15 that damaged the church and caused its spire to collapse. This pipe organ is the largest in France and dates back centuries. Though it was spared from the flames, it will still require extensive renovation.

In 1986, Bruce Hornsby became famous for his single "The Way It Is." But since then, he has embraced the constant evolution of his musical style throughout his career, experimenting with jazz, classical and even country. Never the same kind of musician, Hornsby has jammed on the accordion with the Grateful Dead and composed movie soundtracks for Spike Lee.

For the past three decades, Dervish has been at the forefront of reinventing traditional Irish folk songs. The Sligo-based band is "breathing new life" into the beloved music of its homeland with The Great Irish Songbook, an album pulling from an eclectic range of genres and the voices of over a dozen featured artists.

Christine Goerke is focused on endurance. The dramatic soprano is tackling one of the most challenging roles in opera: singing Brünnhilde, the Valkyrie maiden warrior, in Richard Wagner's epic, Der Ring des Nibelungen, at New York's Metropolitan Opera. Otherwise known as the Ring cycle, the 16-hour saga spans four operas and tells the story of gods, monsters, humans and an insatiable urge to own an all-powerful golden ring.

The musical leg of SXSW 2019 has taken over Austin, Texas, once again and Alt.Latino's Felix Contreras has been standing amidst the food stands, venues and musical equipment cases to check out all the best Latin talent making noise.

"South by Southwest is becoming more important for Latin music every year," Contreras says. "More and more bands from Latin America, Spain and the U.S are coming here. I've been coming for 10 years and I used to be able to see most of the bands I needed. Now, its impossible."

Pianist Jeremy Denk's latest album is a musical odyssey. Starting with the austere tones of medieval composer Guillaume de Machaut, Denk travels in time across the keyboard all the way to the 20th Century landing on the atonality of Karlheinz Stockhausen and the minimalism of Philip Glass.

Back in 1967, Bobbie Gentry sang a haunting ode to young love and sad endings in the deep South called "Ode to Billie Joe." That song, about a mysterious occurrence on the Tallahatchie Bridge, was the No. 1 song in America for several weeks. A year later, Gentry released a country-rock opera, The Delta Sweete. It hardly sold at all — but has since become a favorite of collectors and musicians.

Rosanne Cash has been performing since she was 18. She had her first No. 1 country hit in her mid-20s, and in the decades since, has created a rich Americana catalog that explores love, loss, family, and place.

Her latest album, She Remembers Everything, is a collection of personal songs all written or co-written by Cash. She spoke about it with NPR's Debbie Elliott; hear the radio version at the audio link, and read on for an edited transcript.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

The daylight is dwindling away. The solstice arrives on Friday. So let's listen to some warming songs from Eastern Europe that celebrate the season upon us.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MOMCI KOLEDARCI")

KITKA WOMEN'S VOCAL ENSEMBLE: (Singing in Bulgarian).

Since the late 1960s, NPR's Ned Wharton's brother Geoffry Wharton has worked as a professional violinist in Europe. Wharton often played jazzy pieces by a rather obscure composer named Audrey Call as encores. Maybe to Europeans it was the exotic sound of jazz being played at classical concerts that won their hearts, but Call's "Witch of Harlem" became a hit within Wharton's performances.

Over two decades ago in 1997, when violinist Hilary Hahn was 17, she made a celebrated recording debut, Hilary Hahn Plays Bach. That year, Hahn told NPR about her enthusiasm for Bach's music.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Every piece of music produced is a roll of dice for success, but sometimes, the stars just align. The music of George and Ira Gershwin, two of the greatest American songwriters of all time, have been given new life once again by two of the greatest jazz artists of all time, Diana Krall and Tony Bennett.

It all started with a tweet from Phil Collins.

In a now-viral post from earlier this month, the musician suggested people cue up his song "In the Air Tonight" so the iconic drum fill rings out at midnight on New Year's Eve.

In true 2017 fashion, the tweet lead to a meme, and the Twitterverse lit up with other ideas for climactic musical moments to ring in the new year.

They might not recognize it on sight, but fans of Raul Malo and his group The Mavericks will know it when they hear it: the beautiful, unmistakable tone of Malo's shiny white Gibson L-5 Studio, complete with gold Bigsby tremolo and a black-and-white speckled pick guard.

courtesy of the artist

It's hard to imagine an artist more steeped in the culture of New Orleans than Troy Andrews, better known as Trombone Shorty. Andrews grew up in the Tremé, a neighborhood that's become practically synonymous with brass-band music. At age 4, he marched in the street with his brother's band; by 13, he was playing in the New Birth Brass Band. He's also donated instruments and founded the Trombone Shorty Foundation to help pass along New Orleans' musical culture to a new generation.

It's hard to imagine an artist more steeped in the culture of New Orleans than Troy Andrews, better known as Trombone Shorty. Andrews grew up in the Tremé, a neighborhood that's become practically synonymous with brass-band music. At age 4, he marched in the street with his brother's band; by 13, he was playing in the New Birth Brass Band. He's also donated instruments and founded the Trombone Shorty Foundation to help pass along New Orleans' musical culture to a new generation.