A 70th Anniversary Celebration Playlist

Inspired by WFMT and WTTW’s virtual gala, Your Front Row Seat: An Anniversary Celebration of Music and the Arts, we’ve compiled these musical highlights from WFMT’s 70 year history.

Read about and listen to individual selections below, or listen to the full playlist.

The King's Singers

Birthday greetings to WFMT, performed and arranged by The King’s Singers

Members of the British choral group The King's Singers improvised this birthday wish for WFMT’s 50th anniversary during an Impromptu broadcast in 2001.

William Russo

Fanfare for May, performed by Fred Spector, Leonore Glazer, Steve Selinsky, Jim Mattern, and William Russo

In 1981, WFMT commissioned a number of brief fanfares to herald the station’s 30th anniversary. One of those was Fanfare for May by Chicago-based composer William Russo.

Christopher Kenney

"I Love Life", performed by Christopher Kenny and Craig Terry

One of the happiest songs ever written is Mana-Zucca’s "I Love Life". She wrote it, with lyrics by her husband, after the birth of their daughter in 1923. In this recording from 2019, baritone Christopher Kenney, an alumnus of Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Ryan Opera Center, sings it with great charm.


Concerto Koln Ensemble

Summer III. Presto (Tempo impetuoso d’estate) from Concerto in G minor, op. 8 No. 2, RV 315, performed by Concerto Köln Ensemble

Here is some lively Vivaldi from Concerto Köln, the period chamber orchestra from Germany. The esteemed ensemble and its distinctive concertmaster Shunske Sato appeared on Impromptu in February 2020.

Michael Miles

Prelude from Suite for the Americas, performed and composed by Michael Miles

Michael Miles is a Chicagoan, composer, educator, story crafter, and banjo virtuoso. In 2003, he shared this composition with WFMT.

Lincoln Trio

Après un rêve from Trois mélodies, op. 7, performed by Lincoln Trio

If WFMT had a house band it might well be the excellent Lincoln Trio. The group presented this chamber rendition of Fauré’s song Après un rêve in 2019.


Susan Graham

“Voi che sapete”, performed by Susan Graham and Craig Terry

Mezzo-soprano Susan Graham was a magnificent master of ceremonies for WFMT’s 60th Anniversary Gala concert in 2011. With Craig Terry at the piano, she enchanted us with “Voi che sapete”, Cherubino’s aria from Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro.


The King's Singers

The Gardens of Buitenzorg from Java Suite, performed by Marc-André Hamelin

Over the years, pianist Marc-André Hamelin has been a frequent and much-enjoyed guest on Impromptu. In 2014 he brought us this atmospheric gem by Godowsky.

Stéphane Wrembel

"Bistro Fada", performed by Stéphane Wrembel and Stephen Kelly

Born in Paris, the home of Impressionism and Django Reinhardt, guitarist Stéphane Wrembel has been called one of the most original guitar voices in contemporary music. Composed by Wrembel, "Bistro Fada" is a Django-influenced swinging waltz that evokes the spirit of nighttime in the City of Lights.


The King's Singers

"I Know a Rose Tree Springing", performed by KAIA String Quartet and Fareed Haque

WFMT’s first ensemble-in-residence was the KAIA String Quartet. Their collaboration with modern guitar master Fareed Haque produced a synergetic blend of classical, jazz, and Latin music. This is evident in Haque’s arrangment of Michael Praetorius’ setting of "I Know a Rose Tree Springing".


Oliver Talukder

Oboe Concerto in C minor (II. & III.), performed by Oliver Talukder and Lyudmila Lakisova

Chicago Musical Pathways Initiative launched in 2019, and first partnered with Introductions later that year. CMPI Fellow Oliver Talukder was then Principal Oboe of the CYSO Symphony Orchestra, and began his studies at the Curtis Institute in 2020.

J'Nai Bridges

"Oh, Glory", performed by J’Nai Bridges and Paul Tuntland Sánchez

During a Facebook Live in 2018, mezzo J'Nai Bridges world-premiered "Oh, Glory", a reimagining of a traditional spiritual/hymn from the perspective of a slave. Composer Shawn Okpebholo from the Chicago area wrote the piece especially for Bridges.


The Kruger Brothers

Redcoat Rondo No. 1 from Roan Mountain Suite, performed by The Kruger Brothers and Kontras Quartet

In 2018, The Kruger Brothers and the Kontras Quartet performed an original commisioned work by Jens Kruger honoring the legacy of Tennessee’s Roan Mountain. The musical collaboration between the two ensembles conjures a distinctive flavor of classical Americana.

Lynn Harrell

Allegro vivo from Cello Sonata in E Major, performed by Lynn Harrell and Victor Santiago Asunción

The distinguished American cellist Lynn Harrell, and his collaborative concert partner, Victor Santiago Asunción, delighted our audience during WFMT’s 60th Anniversary Gala concert.

Sue Demel

Love Letter on a Fish, performed by Sue Demel

In 2020, we said goodbye to Michael Smith, one of the greatest of American musical storytellers. In December 2009, the composer, lyricist, and masterful songwriter visited WFMT with actors and musicians from his stage production of The Snow Queen. That’s when the irrepressible vocalist Sue Demel delivered the pun-infused Love Letter On A Fish.


Rachel Barton pine

Happy Birthday Variations, performed by Rachel Barton Pine

Long a member of the WFMT family, Chicagoan Rachel Barton Pine is a violinist of extraordinary ability who performs with orchestras and chamber ensembles worldwide. She has played this mind-blowing Happy Birthday Variations for us a number of times. This version comes from 2018, when she honored harmonica legend and composer Corky Siegel on his 75th.


Ray Nordstrand and Marty Robinson

WFMT Announcer's Test, read by Ray Nordstrand and Marty Robinson

The WFMT Announcer’s Test is an invention almost as old as WFMT itself. This is the infamous tongue-twister though which prospective announcers have to "thread their vocal way" when auditioning. Mike Nichols wrote it in the 1950s when he was studying at the University of Chicago and working part-time at the station, long before he became an accomplished and award-winning director.

Pablo Sáinz-Villegas

Asturias (Leyenda) from Chants d’Espagne, performed by Pablo Sáinz Villegas

The soul of the Spanish guitar runs in the blood of Pablo Sáinz Villegas. This charismatic guitarist made his Chicago debut on Live from WFMT in October 2015, and has returned often. He performed Asturias in 2019, describing it as “the quintessential piece for Spanish guitar, even though Albéniz wrote it for the piano.” For 70 years, this composition has been a kind of theme music on WFMT.