Music

Back in the days before the coronavirus pandemic, lots of people found community and comfort in singing together, whether at school, as a form of worship, in amateur groups or performing as professionals. Last year, Chorus America reported that some 54 million Americans — that is, more than 15% of the entire country's population — participated in some kind of organized group singing. And that study revealed that nearly three-quarters of those polled felt less lonely.

Tom Dunning

The Oklahoma Music Minute has been featuring recordings of Oklahoma musicians since the pandemic shut down live music.

When cases of the coronavirus spiked in March, doctors and nurses across the country found themselves overwhelmed with work. The shutdown also took away an important creative outlet for a special breed of medical professional: classical musicians. That's why John Masko, a symphony conductor in Boston, founded the National Virtual Medical Orchestra, giving those in the medical field a chance to perform and connect with each other.

"I kept hearing from musician after musician from our ensemble [about] how much they wish they were playing," Masko says.

Kathleen Edwards had devoted fans and a successful career, with hits on the Billboard Top 40 charts and songwriting awards. But after her last album in 2012, she walked away from the music business. In fact, she opened a cafe in the suburbs of Ottawa, Canada, called Quitters Coffee.

There are two kinds of reactions to Beyoncé's new Black Is King video: lavish praise – and deep criticism. The praise comes from her many fans and from many reviewers. The criticism often comes from Africans.

We are both from Africa. Esther Ngumbi was born and grew up in Kenya. Ifeanyi Nsofor was born and grew up in Nigeria. We can understand the critiques – and have some of our own. But in the end, we think the positives outweigh the problems.

Hip-hop has been an integral component in Tiny Desk's success for quite a while now. Rappers from across the globe have played the Desk and helped to enrich our ever-evolving legacy. With hip-hop in particular, geography plays such a large part in 'how' artists express themselves, and none quite so much as Southern emcees. To celebrate the launch of NPR Music's Southern Rap canon this week, we're picking five performances from Southern hip-hop artists.

Phil Elverum has built and battled entire universes. From 1996-2003, his band, The Microphones, was mostly just him alone in a studio, as friends from Olympia sang and banged on instruments as needed. With a bull-headed bravado that comes from a dreamer's naïveté, chests swelled to the size of the moon, the dead flew off as vultures and the dawn promised something new every morning.

Helen Jones Woods, who played trombone with the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, a history-making all-female big band that toured widely during World War II, died of COVID-19 on July 25 in Sarasota, Fla. She was 96.

Her daughter Cathy Hughes, founder and chairperson of the broadcast media company Urban One, confirmed the details of her death to NPR.

STACEY VANEK SMITH, HOST:

It is early days, but so far, so good for the NHL in the pandemic. Hockey players returned to the ice on Saturday. Twenty-four teams are hunkering down in two separate bubbles - one in Edmonton and the other in Toronto. And after more than 7,000 COVID tests given, the league says there have been no positive cases. Earlier, I talked to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman about the state of play, and he first took us back to the start of hockey's shutdown.

Things are very different in 2020, and maybe David Longstreth had a hunch when he started work on the new project from the Dirty Projectors, a band with a lineup that has consistently rotated around him over the last 20 years. They jettisoned the traditional album format for a series of five EPs.

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