Star-Bulletin Features

Wednesday, April 7, 1999

ICM Artists
Peter Schickele's radio show has turned
him into a road warrior armed with CDs.

HPR’s master ‘mixer’
Schickele performs

By Tim Ryan


The voice oozes friendliness and warmth. And familiarity.

It should, at least to Hawaii Public Radio listeners. It belongs to composer, musician, author and satirist Peter Schickele, host of Public Radio International's "Schickele Mix" heard on KHPR Saturdays at 11 a.m., and repeated on KIPO at 4 p.m. the same day.

Schickele is also known to Oahu audiences through his P.D.Q. Bach performances with the Honolulu Symphony that once included his arrival via a rope from the Blaisdell Concert Hall balcony.

Schickele is back, performing at the Manoa Valley Theatre in benefit concerts for HPR Friday and Saturday, and he'll perform in Hilo on Sunday.

In the two-hour show with collaborator and singer David Dusing, Schickele, while paying homage to inspirations like Franz Schubert and the Everly Brothers, sings about his children and wife, and in "Hunger," about how hard it is to lose weight anywhere but especially touring "when really all there is to do is eat," he said. Schickele also spends a lot of time talking to the audience.

"Ever since my teen-age years I've been torn between the love of classical and non-classical music," Schickele said by telephone from the New York City home he shares with his wife, poet Susan Sindall. "In the '50s I was a tremendous fan of the Everly Brothers and in the '60s the Beatles, Loving Spoonful and Paul Simon. So the kind of thing you'll be hearing are songs I've written that are personal and sometimes funny.

"The great thing about what I do is that I love all the things I do," said Schickele, 63. "I made myself a promise a long time ago not to do things I don't enjoy and not to keep doing them when I stop being interested."

He spends at least the first five months each year on tour, either performing solo concerts, giving lectures, or sharing the stage with other musicians. Summer and fall are left for his first love: composing, which he does at his home in Woodstock, N.Y.

"I took a sabbatical last year from touring just to compose," he said. "I pretended to be a composer who can make his living composing. I'm afraid that the only trouble with sabbaticals is ... you don't want to go back to real life when it's over."

He has composed more than 100 symphonies for orchestras, choral groups, chamber ensembles, voice, movies and television. He's also done musical arrangements for singers like Joan Baez and Buffy Sainte-Marie.

Schickele won four consecutive Grammy Awards for Best Comedy Album from 1990 through 1993.

Although Schickele's mother jokes that her son began his entertainment career at the age of 18 months, Schickele, who taught at the Juilliard School of Music from 1961-65, was no child prodigy. He did not developed a love of music until age 13.

"As late as 10 or 11 I wanted to be in the theater and my brother and I had built one in our basement where we would perform," Schickele said. "When I first got turned on to (bandleader) Spike Jones, it was the theatrical aspect -- not the music -- that caught my interest. And as you know, P.D.Q. Bach and Schickele Mix is also very theatrical."

The "Schickele Mix" show is 7 years old. "I love the idea of illustrating a point with different types of music," he said. "I used to put three different types of LPs on a turntable and I would always notice a lot of similarities. That's really the genesis."

Schickele writes the show at home, then flies to St. Paul several times a year "loaded down with CDs like some modern-day Willy Loman" for taping. Even after 160 shows, Schickele says he feels like he's "just scratched the surface."

"When I run out of ideas I'll quit," he said.

On stage

Bullet "An Evening of Song with Peter Schickele": With David Dusing in a benefit for Hawaii Public Radio
Bullet The date: 7:30 p.m. tomorrow and Friday
Bullet The place: Manoa Valley Theatre
Bullet Admission: $45 for HPR and MVT subscribers, $50 general
Bullet Call: 955-8821 or 988-6131
Bullet Also: At the Palace Theatre, Hilo; 4 p.m. Sunday to benefit the theater. Tickets are $20. Make reservations at the first number above, or call (808) 934-7777 on the Big Island.

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