Robert J. Lurtsema

The legendary host of Morning Pro Musica

Robert J. Lurtsema (November 14, 1931–June 12, 2000) was a public radio broadcaster.

Lurtsema hosted the classical music show Morning pro musica on WGBH in Boston, Massachusetts, from 1971 until his death from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. He was known among public radio listeners throughout New England for his sonorous voice and his phrasing, which frequently included long pauses.

The long pauses, anathema to mainstream radio, were either tolerated or loved by his loyal listeners. “I’m not afraid of dead air,” he was quoted as saying. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a quiet spot once in a while. When I pause I’m visualizing my audience, the person I’m speaking to. I always imagine I’m speaking to someone in particular.”


  1. Leslie Warshaw on June 26, 2020 at 3:20 pm

    Thank you John Beck for your sensitive comments about Robert J.

    I have a collection of lovely frogs—ceramic, glass, sketches on paper—that he gave me as personalized tokens of thanks for being there during twenty-five years.

    Maybe my favorite memory is outside of ‘GBH. Robert had a love-hate relationship with my three kids, who might inconveniently get sick or be in a play or a game on “his” time, but he never failed to turn up for their birthdays, lured by the prospect of ice cream and cake.

    At my daughter’s eleventh or so, he had been held up, and arrived after the dozen girls had camped in the basement in their sleeping bags. Robert had his ice cream and cake of course, and then parked on the top of the basement stairs and stayed there for well over an hour, telling story after story in innumerable voices, from falsetto to-deeper-than-usual bass. We we all enthralled. He was a good guy.

    • J Otsego on March 28, 2022 at 7:03 pm

      I first learned about Mr. Lurtsema in the 1960s… I believe he was Sing Out! magazine’s “answer man”: Bob Lurtsema.

      About a month ago (Feb 2022) I was going through some old tape cassettes, and found one labelled “How The Rhinoceros Got His Skin” by Jack Nicholson… I played it; the musical accompaniment was by Bobby McFerrin. When it ended, there was an outro by Robt J! He then intro’d the next piece: Saint Saens’ “Carnival of the Animals”, narrated by Jonathan Winters! One never knew what to expect on his playlists.

      I have no reason that I now remember as to why I have that soundcheck. Did I record it off air? I have no idea of the date, but Windham Hill released the album in 1987, so it probably was when he was cut back to weekends…

  2. John Beck on June 21, 2020 at 12:19 am

    My college roommate Alex Swistel began sharing the nine night and weekend switchboard-security-PR shifts with me early in 1968, and at that time at 125 Western I was the first to sometimes turn down Channel 2 audio and play the FM instead. Robert J came in 1971, and after I graduated in 1971 with a nice thank-you note from David Ives, I failed to disappear, and radio manager Bob Carey asked me to be a weekend announcer. “It will probably be mornings soon, the weekday man is doing weekends too for now, but that won’t last,” Bob said. Robert J gave me my one announcing lesson — “Read the news as if you had seen it yourself,” he said, and the UPI I had pulled was about something at Attica prison, so the date was September 9 or 10.

    Robert J of course never gave up weekends, and when Bob Carey left in 1975 I became radio manager with RJL’s support, and our urgent task – to pay our own way at a time when TV was booming and the money was wanted there – was made possible very quickly and in large part by the outpouring from Robert J’s morning drive audience.

    “Lurtz” I never heard; Bob did tell me that he didn’t use “Bob” because it became, as reported above, “Baah Blurtsema.” He was an exquisitely sensitive man, and I think had been wounded in childhood when he loved classical music and most or all of his family called it “Bobby’s funeral music.” In the mid-70s for the WFCR program guide he wrote a wonderful piece called something like “The Two Sides of Robert J,” printed with a portentous blurb on the left side, and on the right “the truth” beginning, “Robert J Lurtsema is a short squat and puffy toad.” It was an endearing piece to me, revealing a clear-eyed observer who could make sharp fun of himself, but I think he decided he should make himself part of the program — a Gesamtkunstwerk, a total work of art.

    I got to try to get at least the hourly news from the new Morning Edition into Morning Pro Musica; it wasn’t that Robert J didn’t do it, he just telegraphed his discomfort very eloquently. The Boston Globe joined in (it didn’t want the competition anyway) and after 1600 letters and a few chats with David Ives, the radio manager ate crow — and we received a huge fundraising thank you.

    MPM was carried from off the air on the Eastern Public Radio Network stations that could receive it, in the 70s notably WFCR Amherst and WAMC Albany. In 1979, after I began helping the heroic women of WNYC turn that station from a municipal relic into the public radio flagship the system needed, program director Mary Daly bought lines to bring MPM to NYC. It was a real boost to the station at that stage, but when I went to WNYC the next year, a Boston morning show and a Boston director were too much, and the bird song retreated back up into New England, replaced by a well-known Pacifica curmudgeon named Steve Post surprising his fans with classical music.

    I still encounter people in Michigan, California, wherever, who, hearing the words WGBH Radio, ask me if I knew Robert J, and they shyly share how in their student or early adult years it formed their days. I don’t tell them that as manager I didn’t really give Robert his due, apart from physically moving the record library around and adding several thousand records to it; but I’m glad to see Leslie Warshaw’s contributions above because she gave RJL the support he needed to create a gentle and beautiful world.

  3. David H. Lyman on June 5, 2020 at 4:33 pm

    Robert J Remembered

    The winter of 1963

    I was managing The Unicorn Coffee House, a popular folk music venue in Boston’s Back Bay. It was on Boylston Street, across from the Prudential Center, down stairs, under a furniture store, now an Apple Store.

    The Unicorn booked in acts Ian and Sylvia, The Clancy Brothers, Tom Rush, The Jim Kwiskin Jug Band. I was 23 year old BU journalist dropout, now deep into the folk music scene. I produced and hosted a folk music show on WBCN (Boston Concert Network) and got to introduced the acts from the Unicorn’s stage.

    Among the Unicorn regulars was Robert J Lurtsema, known simply as Robert J. He was a spark-plug of a man who made up for his shortness by an over inflated ego, but he was gregarious, with an Encyclopedic mind and a great voice. He sold Encyclopedia Britannicas door to door for a living.

    After his rounds of Boston suburbs convincing parents that their kids would never make into an Ivy League university without a set of Encyclopedias in their book case, he’d drop into The Unicorn Coffee House, just in time for the last act and to hold court.

    He always make an entrance, brushing aside the chap collecting the cover charge, assuming the role as one of the insiders—which he was. Robert J dressed all in white: white shoes, white suit, white vest, white tie, and a while fedora. He even drove a white, early 50s, Cadillac convertible, with fins. You couldn’t miss him.

    That spring, I came up two ideas. One, a late night interview and talk radio show and solid the idea to WCRB. It would be hoisted at The Unicorn. The show was based on The Casper Citron Show from the Algonquin Hotel in Manhattan, carried live on WQXR. Citron interviewed show people, artists, producers, musicians.

    The other idea: to spend the summer on Martha’s Vineyard building and running another folk music venue, The Moon Cusser Coffee House. I couldn’t do both, so I picked the one that would be the most fun. The radio show? I had just got it started, worked out the technical when it was time to head to the Vineyard.

    I asked Robert J if he’d be interested in taking over my show for the summer. He was almost euphoric. He produced and hosted the show all that summer. When I returned to Boston that fall, he wouldn’t give up the mic. From then on Robert J became a familiar voice on Boston and New England radio.

    What I found interesting about Robert J was his curiosity about music, all kinds of music: folk, classical, jazz, contemporary. He allow New Englanders to awaken, slowly, to the sound birds. I implored him to dispense with his first news cast of the day, which followed immediately after the bird sounds. It was like a jolt of hot black coffee.

    Robert J was a character, and one I still miss.

    David H. Lyman
    Camden, Maine

    • John Kronenberger on June 12, 2020 at 8:02 pm

      Well, yes, but:

      I remember hearing “Bob Lurtsema” (as he was then) on Folksingers ‘Round Harvard Square on WCRB in the mid-60s, before I left for New York. When I returned to Boston in the early 70s, he had taken over MPM and was doing a show that I greatly admired, but he was now “Robert J.” After I came to work at the station in 1972, I got to know him and found my admiration for him as a person curdled fairly quickly.

      But before I eventually made myself scarce I did ask him why he insisted on being called Robert J. on the air at all times. And he said that, as Bob, he got fan mail addressed to “Bob Blurtsema,” which he found distasteful. Anyway, that was his story….

    • Doug Briscoe on June 28, 2020 at 4:45 pm

      If I remember rightly, both Bill Cavness and Nat Johnson preceded RJL as the host of MPM, a title, by the way, that he disliked.

  4. Mike Esty on June 5, 2020 at 3:06 pm

    When I first started working at WHBH it was my first year at College. I worked from 3pm to 11pm at the switchboard. ( Security ) Believe me when I tell you it was a 1920 switchboard. Connect one cable then another to put through the call. Awesome experience. Robert J. Would always come in and say hello. Take a moment for some pleasant conversation. Big smile. We could listen to his show in the lobby. He had that distinctive voice. Sometimes he would have a guest and ask us to treat them pleasantly while they waited for him to come out and get them. We always had something to offer them from the conference room next door. He always said thank you to us little folk. Robert J is a fine part of WGBH Radio History and what he helped to create with Radio and an audience that adored him.

  5. Susheel Bibbs on June 5, 2020 at 2:12 pm

    I loved Bob and working with him when I was Music Program Director at GBH Radio before moving on to TV. I awoke to that wonderful, soothing, gravelly voice each morning, and we could count on the periods of music displayed per hour and his wonderful selections. I miss being able to wake up like that. He lives in in my memory

  6. Scott MacKay on February 15, 2018 at 2:37 pm

    WGBH Folks:

    I was recently going through a collection of my old cassette tapes to transfer some of them to MP3 and came across a tape I did in September 1980 of each one of Robert J.’s morning birds and music introductions to his Morning Pro Musica show (Monday through Friday and the Weekend).

    My wife and I were in grad school at the time and knew we’d be leaving Boston when we finished, so she thought it would be nice to have the tape to remember Robert J, with whom we started each day on WGBH.

    I’ve converted the tape to separate MP3 tracks and then to video and posted each day as a separate video on YouTube with the names of the pieces, which I had not recalled until finding this blog.

    You can find them by searching “Robert J. Lurtsema” on YouTube.



    • C Wagner on June 4, 2020 at 5:41 am

      Does Anyone have full shows?

  7. Michael P. Krupa on September 28, 2016 at 12:47 pm

    May I add another note to recognize another way Robert J. Lurtsema, his associate producer and colleague Leslie Warshaw, and Morning Pro Musica continue to ding the universe?

    We are about to open a new hospital here in Massachusetts that will open each day with birdsong morphing into music and close each day with music morphing into night sounds, carried over every speaker in the facility.

    This tradition will mark a few moments of shared peace each day for our patients, our visitors and and every member of our staff.

    This tradition comes directly from my memory of Wednesday mornings at 7:00 AM-birdsong, Respighi, a few seconds of silence, and then that sonorous voice.

  8. Missing the Birds, the pauses and the news on August 15, 2016 at 5:56 am

    The snip from Wikipedia seems rather small for such a large presence.

    Here are a couple of links with a bit more depth.

    I’ve heard of off-air recordings of MPM; it would be nice if some were put on-line.

    I’ll add one story. In the mid 70’s I was developing a system for the FAA that would allow pilots to obtain weather information for their flights by telephone. The then state-of-the-art allowed the computer to deliver its responses by stringing together digitized snippets of words and phrases. Things like “6” “0” “hundred” “feet”, “Thunderstorm” … Quite a lot of random-seeming words that had to fit on the small disks of the day. We hid in a closet to produce these during development, but needed a professional voice for the product.

    There were several fans of MPM in the office, and one had the idea of having Robert J. record the necessary vocabulary.

    He agreed, and produced a tape for us. We had a special use for his oft-noted pauses; our software used them to delimit the words. We (including one private pilot) were very pleased with the result.

    When the system was presented to the FAA for production, it was accepted on the condition that the vocabulary be re-recorded by a commercial announcer. The FAA felt that Robert J. was “too soothing for this application”. Apparently “Thunderstorm”, “Tornado” and “ceiling” needed to be delivered with the punch of an aspirin commercial.

    We were disappointed in the FAA’s low opinion of pilots that led to the rejection of the voice that we wanted.

    • J Otsego on March 28, 2022 at 7:12 pm

      Thanks for the links!
      BTW-the second one is to wamc dot net–a lapsed critical observer of WAMC Albany (where I believe RJL finished his weekend programs)–which is WAMC dot org.

  9. Richard Kassel on July 16, 2016 at 8:36 am

    While studying at Oberlin College, friends and I were faithful listeners to RJL’s “Saturday Night,” a diverse and delightful potpourri (always including an episode of the BBC “Goon Show”). The theme song was an uplifting way to end this unusual program. Does anyone know which version of “Everybody Loves Saturday Night” was used for the show? Much obliged for an answer to this 40-year-old question of mine!

    • George Allen on June 9, 2019 at 12:11 pm

      That was RLK [Dick Kaye] on WCRB on Sat. night after the BSO broadcast.

  10. Leslie Warshaw on July 11, 2016 at 12:43 pm

    GABRIELI: Canzon septimi toni #2
    [Cleveland & Philadelphia Orch. Brass] Sony 62353

    TELEMANN: Suite in a for flute & stgs: 3rd mvmt, Air à l’Italien
    [Maxence Larrieu, fl; Pailliard CO/Jean-François Pailliard]
    LP MHS 822 (original)

    [used in later “Themes” programs: Julius Baker, fl; I Solisti di Zagreb/
    Antonio Janigro} Vanguard 5011

    RESPIGHI: Ancient Airs & Dances Suite #2: Bergamasca
    [Philharmonia Hungarica/Antal Dorati] Mercury 416 496

    BESARD: Allegro Marcato
    [Vienna Mandolin & Guitar Ens./Vinzenz Hladky] LP Turnabout 34239

    BACH: Concerto in c for 2 pfs, BWV 1060: 2nd mvt
    [Robert & Gaby Casadesus, pfs; Zurich CO/Edmond de Stoutz] Sony 67179

    (Weekday closing theme)
    MOZART: Sinfonia concertante in Eb for winds, K.297B: finale
    [Joseph Bopp, fl; Hans Kull, ob; André Fournier, hn; Henri Bouhcet, bsn;
    Chamber Orch. of the Saar/Karl Ristenpart] LP Nonesuch 71068

    (Weekend theme)
    HANDEL: Solomon: Entry of the Queen of Sheba
    [E. Power Biggs, organ; Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/ Sir Charles Groves] LP Columbia 30058 [original]

    [other versions later used:
    [English CO / Richard Bonynge LP London 2247
    Tafelmusik/Jeanne Lamon Reference 2101]

    Dawn Chorus: The Birds of Morning Pro Musica Sine Qua Non LP 79106

    (On any given day RJL would mix several sources, depending on weather, season, etc., but most are represented on this LP. Don’t know if it is still in print.)

  11. Leslie Warshaw on July 10, 2016 at 12:43 pm

    Pretty sure it was 297b (I was Robert J’s Producer for over twenty years),but it’s been a while….

    • Pam Carelli on July 11, 2016 at 11:48 am

      Leslie, Is there any chance of any of Robert J’s morning intro’s being recreated, or a re-release of the Dawn Chorus at very least? I find myself (and so many others) longing to hear them again. I tried reaching out to the station but they were not helpful. I wish someone would try to do the other days as John Lester has done.

      • Leslie Warshaw on July 11, 2016 at 12:41 pm

        Here you go:

        0705 (Monday) GABRIELI: Canzon septimi toni #2 Sony 62353
        [Cleveland & Philadelphia Orch. Brass]
        0709 (Tuesday) TELEMANN: Suite in a for flute & stgs Vanguard 5011
        [Julius Baker, fl; I Solisti di Zagreb/Antonio Janigro} (Not the version used on MPM)
        0734 (Wednesday) RESPIGHI: Ancient Airs & Dances Suite #2: Bergamasca Mercury 416 496
        [Philharmonia Hungarica/Antal Dorati]
        0741 (Thursday) BESARD: Allegro Marcato LP Turnabout 34239
        [Vienna Mandolin & Guitar Ens./Vinzenz Hladky]
        0747 (Friday) BACH: Concerto in c for 2 pfs, BWV 1060 Sony 67179
        [Robert & Gaby Casadesus, pfs; Zurich CO/Edmond de Stoutz]
        0808 (Weekend theme) HANDEL: Solomon: Entry of the Queen of Sheba LP Columbia 30058
        [E. Power Biggs, organ; Royal PO / Charles Groves]
        0814 (Weekday closing theme) MOZART: Sinfonia concertante in Eb for LP Nonesuch 71068
        for winds, K.297B [Joseph Bopp, fl; Hans Kull, ob; André Fournier, hn;

  12. Prakash Hebalkar on July 3, 2016 at 3:52 am

    Another WGBH alum and MIT alum now living in Mumbai for whom every day began with WGBH’s signature tune since the late 1960s and heralded a pleasant beginning to the day!

  13. Mary on April 24, 2016 at 8:48 am

    Robert J’s series ‘Learning About Raga’ was many hours of taped interviews with the top musicians and teachers in India. I keep hoping that WGBH will re-broadcast these. Or if anyone else has these tapes, i they would be made available.

  14. Doug K. on April 15, 2016 at 11:31 pm

    Like so many others, I grew up in New England waking up to Robert J.’s birds. I was happy to discover that WXXI in Rochester, NY begins their broadcast day as they leave the “Classical Music Through the Night” and begin their own programming with bird song. Alas, they segue from that into NPR News, but it still brings back memories.

  15. Lucille Watt on July 3, 2015 at 7:26 pm

    When I think of Robert J I remember Reading aloud which helped me keep some semblence of sanity while raising three children on a farm in NH

    • Doug Briscoe on June 28, 2020 at 4:51 pm

      The “Reading Aloud” man was Bill Cavness (perhaps RJL made some contributions from time to time, but I doubt it).

  16. Liz on November 17, 2014 at 1:36 am

    Wayne, I share your dismay over several losses on Boston radio and know the limitations you mention about WHRB. However, there are others in radio who are also aware of the needs resulting from the gaps you mention. Most are within signal range – via internet. Exploration may reward you.

  17. Wayne B. on November 16, 2014 at 9:20 pm

    Music education on the radio with carefully selected performances and recordings. I feel that music education on the radio began and ended with Robert J. I think there was a continuation of M.P.M. on the weekends for a while that was very well done.

    The Boston areas broadcast of the academic music genre (I hate calling it “classical” for obvious reasons) died when the profits of “news and noise” trumped music. One couold say WHRB has filled that gap but a) Its signal does not reach me and b) It lacks the involvement of world renown contributors and c) does not have the quality and power of the intentionally under modulated signal of WGBH in the Robert J. era.

    The Boston area broadcast of all genre of music has lost the differentiators that made Boston radio unique.

    • Doug Briscoe on June 28, 2020 at 4:52 pm

      Thank you, sir.

  18. David W on September 23, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    Still have my Start Yor Day With Robert J. Tee shirt.

    • Liz on November 17, 2014 at 1:38 am

      That made me smile. Thanks for the reminder of an excellent T-shirt!

  19. Vinko Milić on September 23, 2014 at 2:54 pm

    I remember this show on ‘GBH. It’s awesome! The legacy of Lurtz is present ’til today.

  20. Elizabeth Skiles on August 23, 2014 at 9:13 am

    As I read of the death of Jean Redpath, I remember Robert J. How he adored and appreciated her. Of course, they were both remarkable, one-of-a-kind beings. We are lucky that they passed our way.

  21. Leslie Warshaw on July 21, 2014 at 3:19 pm

    Robert J. must be spinning in his grave if he knows that anyone referred to him as “Lurtz.” He would tolerate nothing but “Robert J.” or at least “Robert” (and “Bob” from a VERY few VERY close old friends). I know because I worked with him from 1978 till he died.

  22. David W on May 6, 2014 at 9:16 am

    After all these years I still miss him.

    • Michael Leuthold on June 26, 2014 at 6:55 pm

      Dear David W-

      you are not the only one who still misses this kind soul. I will likely remember his beloved voice just as I will likely never forget the -to me- equally beloved Charles Kuralt.

      May you, Sir, be in at least relatively good health & spirits, wherever you are.
      I am an almost 74-year old geezer in Spokane,WA, the state’s ‘Hinterland’.

      Michael L.

  23. Wade on January 9, 2014 at 9:06 am

    I listened to Robert J for years and years, using my clock radio and him to wake up every morning, until, that is, until ‘GBH had the besotted notion to begin the day with a spoken news show, which meant my radio did not turn on to the lovely silence of the carrier signal, but the raucous cacophony of a news reader. Ouch. At that moment, I quit listening and also quit giving money to the station.

    I met Robert J one night at an event on the Charles- he was standing on the Boston side near the business school and I was just taking a walk around the area. I recognized him and started a brief conversation. He was amazingly gracious, but I can’t remember what we talked about, although I’m sure it was about music. I was very sad to hear of his leaving the radio, and even sadder to learn of his death not that long afterwards.

  24. Paul Brown on December 15, 2013 at 8:26 pm

    Back in the early 1980s, I was a volunteer “air control engineer/board operator/dj” for Vermont Public Radio, WVPR. Listeners often called and asked us about Lurtz’s theme music. Digging through some of my old files and notes, I found these:

    Lurtz’s Monday through Friday opening themes:

    Monday: Gabrieli – Canzon Septimi Toni #2 – the brass of the Cleveland and Philadelphia Orchestras; Columbia MS 7209

    Tuesday: Telemann – Air a L’Italienne, from the Suite in A for flute and strings – Ensemble of Cologne; Nonesuch H 71078

    Wednesday: Respighi, Bergamasque from “Ancient Airs and Dances for the Lute” – Hungarian Philharmonica, Antal Dorati conducting; Mercury SRI 75009

    Thursday: Jean Baptiste Besard, Allegro Marcato – Vienna Mandolin and Guitar Ensemble; Turnabout TV 34239

    Friday: Bach, Concerto #1 in C for 2 pianos, BWV 1060 – Robert and Gaby Casadessus; Odyssey 32 16 0382

    Closing Theme, Monday through Friday:
    Mozart, Andantino con Variazioni from Sinfonia Concertante for flute, oboe, horn, bassoon and orchestra in E flat, K297b; Chamber Orchestra of the Saar; Nonesuch H 71068

    Saturday and Sunday, Opening and Closing Theme:
    Handel, Arrival of the Queen of Sheba from “Solomon”

    • Phil Schwarz on January 26, 2014 at 12:51 pm

      Wow, thanks! That one had me stumped.

      So to complete the set of Youtube links I posted up-thread (2/17/2013 — almost a year ago!), here’s a Youtube-available performance of the Telemann a minor flute suite, by the Cologne Soloists Ensemble. The Air a l’Italienne starts at 8:27:

      I couldn’t find a performance of the Jean-Baptiste Besard Allegro Marcato on Youtube, so the Ozawa+BSO performance of the corresponding Respighi Ancient Airs and Dances movement I linked to up-thread will have to do :-).

    • Liz on June 8, 2014 at 12:49 am

      Thank you both! I kept thinking of Robert J over that past few weeks, and I feel fortunate to have found this site through referral by John “Pathfinder” Lester’s WordPress blog. Now, as for so many, one of the small holes in my heart can be patched a bit.

    • Sam on July 10, 2016 at 4:19 am

      I have a recollection of Telemann: Fantasia In A Minor, TWV 40/11 – 1 being used and then it went into a second piece. Is this possible?

      • Sam on July 10, 2016 at 4:35 am

        I notice that you have Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante K.364 listed as the weekday closing music. I’m pretty certain that is not correct. It was Mozart’s other Sinfonia Concertante, K.297b. (which some consider not to be by Mozart). I don’t think Heifetz ever recorded that one!

  25. Thayne on October 29, 2013 at 9:56 pm

    I was at Phillips Exeter in the early 80’s, and Robert J’s voice and perfect New England autumns are forever linked.

    Re Wednesday’s opening: If memory serves, it wasn’t a full orchestra; rather it was all strings. I searched for years and found it: the album is an old Vox/Turnabout LP “Music for Mandolin and Guitar Ensemble: Works By Galilei, Molinaro, Caroso, Gianoncelli and Besard” by the Vienna Mandolin and Guitar Ensemble. The track is Allegretto Moderato by Besard and, yes, …………………….…. (Lutzeman pause)… it’s on iTunes!

    The entire album is really the source for Respighi’s Ancient Airs and Dances, and Thursday’s piece, “Danza Rustica”,” is represented by Gianoncelli’s Allegro.

    As for Tuesday’s, I seem to remember reading somewhere it was by Telemann. Will keep looking, TDM

  26. Tracy on March 15, 2013 at 3:36 pm

    Here you’ll find the original Dawn Chorus clip used each day by Robert J. followed by The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba.

    I found it while also searching for a list of the intro pieces he used each day. I recently moved to a new home (in CA) and rehung my two MPM posters that I’ve saved and moved across the country, despite their being faded. This morning I woke up to the posters for the first time and shortly thereafter, Handel’s music played on the radio! The flood of memories sent me straight to Google!

    I’m hoping that when I unpack my garage boxes, I’ll still have my LP of Dawn Chorus :-)

  27. Phil Schwarz on February 17, 2013 at 2:06 am

    I think I remember all of the themes *except* Tuesday’s opening theme…

    These aren’t the exact performances he used, but they’re what a little searching on YouTube came up with:

    Monday opening theme: Gabrieli, Canzon Septimi Toni a 8 No.2 (beautiful rendition by the Chicago Symphony brass — Dale Clevenger et al. — at

    Tuesday opening theme: ==> Anyone know??? <==

    Wednesday opening theme: Respighi, Bergamasca from the 2nd Ancient Airs and Dances suite (rendition by Marriner & St-Martin-in-the-Fields at

    Thursday opening theme: Danza Rustica from the same suite (Ozawa+BSO at, starting at 4:19)

    Friday opening theme: slow movement of Bach concerto BWV1060 arranged for two pianos (Christoph Eschenbach + Justus Frantz + Hamburg Philharmonic at

    Weekday closing theme: 3rd movement of Mozart sinfonia concertante K364 (Heifetz + Primrose + RCA Victor symphony at

    Weekend opening and closing theme: Arrival of the Queen of Sheba from Handel's "Solomon" (Marriner and St-Martin-in-the-Fields at

    My favorite reminiscence about the latter: early on in the life of Brian O'Donovan's "A Celtic Sojourn", he followed Robert J. immediately at 12 noon on Saturdays. Soon after its release, Brian opened one broadcast of "Sojourn" — immediately after Robert J. had signed off with Handel's "Sheba" — with DeDannan's "Arrival of the Queen of Sheba (in Galway Bay)", a transcription of "Sheba" for Irish instruments: :-)

    So… anybody remember what Robert J. opened with on Tuesdays?

    • Doug on February 26, 2013 at 2:31 pm

      Tuesday’s theme was a flute concerto. I’m pretty sure it was from J.S. Bach. If I am not mistaken, he would start with a lively solo movement from the middle of the piece. Assuming the time signature was 4/4, and key of A (3 sharps), the opening phrase started with an upbeat with an eighth note (high A?), then two quads of sixteenth notes, alternating between F? and A? going down to an eighth note (E?) followed by a C?-D? pair of sixteenth notes and finally an eighth note on E?.

      I have looked in vain on YouTube for this pleasant piece with its bird-like “opening”. Maybe a baroque flutist can help track this one down. Are all the flute concertos together in the BWV?

      • Phil Schwarz on February 28, 2013 at 12:09 pm

        I think the movement was actually in a minor key.

        The orchestral response after a passage featuring the soloist was in a minor key, and went something like this (using A minor here, but that may not be the movement’s actual key):

        E-A-C-CBAG#A–CBAGG-F(tr)E — is that enough of a snippet to identify the piece?

        • Phil Schwarz on February 28, 2013 at 12:12 pm

          Note that the piece may well be in the BWV as arranged for a different solo
          instrument (eg, violin or keyboard), and then arranged for flute solo (by JS Bach
          or others).

        • Doug on January 2, 2015 at 1:30 pm

        • Doug on January 2, 2015 at 1:34 pm

          Ooops. Wrong day. Sorry…

  28. jay howard on March 12, 2012 at 12:50 am

    I wish someone could tell me what the music was for each day…after the birds, each day had a signature piece…on monday it was “Queen of Sheba” but that is the only one I know. I wish I could find the others…

  29. Bridget Young on November 5, 2011 at 10:30 pm

    As I search the web, I keep finding more and more people that are on the hunt for this segment. WGBH would make a lot of people VERY happy. :-)

  30. Bridget Young on November 5, 2011 at 10:28 pm

    Please keep looking, Jay! There are so many of us out here that grew up with Robert J. and his cathartic voice. I’d love to start my day with the sounds of chirping birds, fading into Handel’s The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba and then if I could just hear an intro from Robert J….I would be in 7th heaven. Please keep looking.

  31. Lars Peterson on August 3, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    Dear WGBH Friends-

    Heard a snippet of a piece on my car radio that was one of the intro pieces Mr. Lurtsema used. My heart jumped with happiness and my memory overlaid his bird chirpings. Then my eyes welled up at the memories of those by-gone days and fact that he has left us.

    Is there a recording available of his intro segments with the birds chirping? I think I need it.

    Best regards,
    Lars Peterson
    Washington, DC

    • Jay Collier on August 3, 2011 at 2:18 pm

      Thanks for asking, Lars. I would like to hear a clip of that morning tradition, too.

      I’ll forward your inquiry to several folks who might be able to provide an answer.

      • Nat Barber on September 1, 2011 at 8:38 am

        I, too, would love to find a recording of the introduction/opening of a typical MPM show from back in the day. Can there be a better way to start the day, or to wake up, than to hear morning birdsong for a minute or two, and then hear the chamber music join in? I don’t think so. I haven’t found it on youtube, or out there on the web. If you do, please let me know; I want to set it as the sound for the alarm clock an app on my Droid. Thanks, Jay.

        • Jay Collier on September 1, 2011 at 8:59 am

          I haven’t yet had success, but I’m still looking!

        • Herb on November 7, 2011 at 9:12 pm

          try Handel’s arrival of the queen of Sheba

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.