As the old saw goes, "Necessity is the mother of invention." Accordingly, necessity gave birth to Giving Thanks. "It was just me having to work on Thanksgiving morning," chuckles Classical MPR's John Birge.
Birge was a host on Cincinnati public radio station WGUC when he first created what would become Giving Thanks, playing music and finding stories to fit the day. When Birge joined Classical MPR in 1997, he realized a bigger audience might enjoy the program. It is now a national holiday special; last year, Giving Thanks aired on 301 stations nationwide on Thanksgiving Day.
Giving Thanks includes interviews with guests, and Birge's mind boggles at the number of poets laureate, Pulitzer Prize-winners and other luminaries who have participated in the show. This year's Giving Thanks guests are writer and Wait, Wait ... Don't Tell Me! regular Roy Blount, Jr., and writer and film director Nora Ephron.
This feature is part of Classical Minnesota Public Radio's Holiday Programming.
Music naturally plays a big part, and Birge finds pieces that are about thankfulness or about autumn or the harvest. "And some of them are just pieces that feel like the holiday feels, even though there's no specific or literal connection to it," he says. "They just seem to be the right soundtrack."
What listeners won't find on Giving Thanks are Turkey Day cliches. "This is not a pilgrims and pumpkin pies kind of show," Birge insists. "It's much more contemporary. It's about fall, food and gratitude."
And because nowadays the show is pre-recorded, Birge can be grateful he no longer needs to work on Thanksgiving morning.
Listen to Giving Thanks with John Birge on Classical MPR on Thanksgiving Day. The two-hour program will air at 9 a.m. and again at 8 p.m. Find out more at ClassicalMPR.org.