The beautiful Dawn Chorus intro to WGBH’s “Morning Pro Musica” classical music radio show

I grew up in New England in the 80′s, and my first exposure to classical music was listening to WGBH on the radio.  My favorite classical music show was Robert J. Lurtsema’s Morning Pro Musica.

Listening to Morning Pro Musica as a kid was what first kindled my deep love of classical music, and my clock radio was always set to go off at the exact start of the show.  It began with the sounds of birds for about 5 minutes, then a slow crossfade into a specific piece of classical music.  I remember there was different music for each day of the week, but the piece I loved the most was Handel’s “Arrival of the Queen of Sheba.”

For years, I happily woke to the sounds of birds and Handel.  And last night as I was fiddling with my alarm app on my tablet, I suddenly remembered those sounds and longed to wake up to them again.

I searched online but couldn’t find any digital copy of the show’s intro.  Happily, I found a recording of the exact bird sounds that Robert J. used for his show (from the LP “Dawn Chorus: The Birds of Morning Pro Musica”).  From there it was easy enough to take one of those tracks and crossfade it into Handel.

Enjoy!

Download: morning pro musica intro birds and music (mp3)

Robert J. Lurtsema passed away years ago, but I will never forget how he inspired me each morning and opened my eyes to a new world of music.  Thank you, Robert J.

-John “Pathfinder” Lester

About John Lester (Pathfinder)

John Lester is an expert in the educational use of virtual worlds and 3d simulations. His background is in neuroscience research and medical education, and he previously worked at Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital and Linden Lab. John is currently the Chief Learning Officer at ReactionGrid Inc., helping clients develop new systems for immersive learning using web and mobile-based virtual world platforms.
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22 Responses to The beautiful Dawn Chorus intro to WGBH’s “Morning Pro Musica” classical music radio show

  1. Shava Nerad says:

    During part of the time that Robt J was in reign at GBH, I was assistant to the general manager at WFCR in Amherst. We would (mostly fondly, I hope!) refer to him as Mr Toad (from Wind in the Willows). He had a face and stature made for radio — a very short man, with a scrunched up face.

    One might suspect that many people attracted to the “virtual” world of radio (certainly ham radio and CB proved this out!) would have been in virtual worlds today — the introverts, the shy, the gimped, the odd — with beautiful souls that need a place to shine.

  2. Steve says:

    John – thank you so much for the MPM mix! Robert J is sadly missed, especially around the holidays – I wish his programs were available for streaming…

  3. Mark says:

    Thank you for this! I DO recall his morning program with only the fondest of memories – listening to the radio in the car, while driving through the glorious New England countryside in early morning, for instance. The program was the perfect companion.

  4. Bob Schledwitz says:

    Thanks for the memory. Dedicated to my late friend from Martha’s Vinyard Fred A. Bennett who listened to this with me in the mornings.

  5. I remember Bob as it were yesterday. I was honored to be his colleague and friend and to awaken to his wonderful show each morning. Memories

  6. Lynn says:

    Another thank you from another person who listened to Robert J on my transistor radio every morning waking up as a teenager. Since my public radio station has become all-news-all-the-time, I’ve so missed this transistion from sleep to the workaday world. You’ve really made a difference in my life!

  7. Irv says:

    I doubt that you could find any NPR station willing to devote the time to full length shows…wasn’t it 5 hours of music and news “edited” by your morning pro musica host…..but maybe a tribute show here or there, perhaps on his birthday. Last year, Suzanne Nance on Maine Public Radio used the dawn chorus and “Entrance” as a theme on his birthday, but that was it. She does a 3 hour show each weekday morning in a much different style of Robert J but it does give us a slice of time away from the NPR all talk format. On the weekends one announcer used the birds at 6AM as an intro to his classical show on MPBN, but now that show has disappeared into the talk format. I’ve searched the WGBH archives but can’t find any reference to tapes of old shows. Are there any? I’d love to hear some of his old shows, especially some of the summer shows from Tanglewood. Thanks for the MP3, John!

  8. Michael says:

    Wonderful… my story is the same as yours. And thanks for the mp3!

    And every once in a while I try to figure out what all 7 of his opening pieces were… I actually don’t remember this one very well… I think the most memorable for me is the one with the slow piano march gradually fading in. I can hear it in my head, of course. Have you ever come across a list of the pieces? There are a few mentions on the Wikipedia page for Robert J., but nothing comprehensive, sadly. But what a powerful memory.

  9. Rich says:

    Hearing this makes me realize how much I miss MPM and Robert J. I do hope they (WGBH/NPR) make his old shows available somehow. Thanks so much for the MP3!

  10. adventa77 says:

    Wow, great to stumble on this! I’d wondered about Robert J. and recordings several yrs back, but wasn’t able to find what you found. Thanks so much! People reading this might be very interested in the works of Elliott Lang and Wil Hershberger and their web site, Miracle of Nature (formerly Music of Nature — many recordings available): http://miracleofnature.org. Even though this doesn’t include classical music, the birds and other recordings they have would most likely have pleased RJL very much!

  11. adventa77 says:

    Wow, how great to stumble on this post! I also tried to find recordings of Robert J. yrs. ago, but was unable to locate what you discovered. Thank you! People reading this post probably will be interested in the works of Lang Elliott and Wil Hershberger (and others) and their web site Miracle of Nature (formerly Music of Nature), http://miracleofnature.org. Though it doesn’t incorporate classical music, their gorgeous and splendid recordings of birds and other creatures would probably have pleased RJL greatly.

  12. Liz says:

    Recently Robert J has been on my mind. How happy I am to have found this page! Thank you, John. What a legacy Robert J left in the hearts of so many! I found him while a persistent and painful back problem confined me to a hospital bed for 5 weeks. From that moment 7am became the bright spot in my day, something to look forward to upon waking.

  13. Lisa says:

    So happy to find this – I woke up to Robert J all through college and for years afterward and for some reason have been missing that lovely intro recently. Thank you for posting it!

  14. Pingback: Cornell digitizes bird song inventory | From My Neck of the Woods

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