Editor's note: After more than 25 years of being behind the mic on Friday nights, Brian Newhouse stepped down as host of Classical MPR's live broadcasts with the Minnesota Orchestra. Before his final broadcast on June 14, he reflected on moments from his experiences throughout the years. As a special bonus, we've added his audio recollections on a variety of topics after each paragraph of his essay.
I remember that night so well because I'd never kicked in a door before. I was a few months out of college and living alone in a rented farmhouse. The cornfields that stretched for miles around the house were buried in snow.
LISTEN Brian on his first live broadcast with the Minnesota Orchestra
A northwest wind had drifted the roads shut and badgered the house all day. Just after dinner, the bathtub pipes burst. It sounded like two small firecrackers. Twin rooster tails of water sprouted from the pipes and sprayed the walls.
LISTEN Brian on when things don't go as planned
A frantic call to the landlord in town. He told me where in the basement I'd find the main to shut off. He didn't mention the lock on the basement door. So I kicked it in. That sounds way more Rambo than it actually was, but the door was as rickety as the farmhouse walls, and it popped right open.
LISTEN Brian on the orchestra's soloists over the years
As I mopped up the water, I couldn't get over the cry of the wind and how the house shuddered. What if the power went out and the roads were still closed?
LISTEN Brian on one of the worst tragedies America has witnessed
I turned on the radio, and a few minutes later there was this reassuring voice: "Good evening from Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis, and welcome to a live broadcast by the Minnesota Orchestra." Something about that moment struck me, and I just sat there on the floor with the cold wet rag in my hands: Someone was talking to me from hundreds of miles away, talking to thousands of us in the same moment, gathering us wherever we were, making, for at least a little while, a kind of community in the winter dark.
LISTEN Brian on the time he felt the most pride in the orchestra
When the orchestra played Brahms' Second, oh man, it was like pouring 40 minutes of June sun into that January night.
LISTEN Brian on a moment that gave him goosebumps
Fast forward a few years, and I sat down at that very Orchestra Hall mic, stupefied at my good fortune. My first live broadcast was of a Sommerfest concert in 1983. An hour earlier, though, a gully-washer of a thunderstorm had blown a roof vent off Orchestra Hall. Rainwater gushed in, and the smell of wet carpet filled our broadcast booth and the whole hall.
LISTEN Brian on one piece that the orchestra has never programmed
For years after that, I'd walk in the stage door and take a little breath in; a hint of that smell still hung there. I liked it. It reminded me of a warm, muggy night when I'd found a new kind of home with 90 amazing onstage artists.
LISTEN Brian on having Friday nights free
I've stepped away from the mic a few times since then, and these hosts and engineers have kept the live broadcasts thriving: Silvester Vicic, Preston Smith, Nick Kereakos, Mark Sheldon and Eric Friesen. For the past decade-plus, engineer Michael Osborne has been the invisible genius behind the on-air sound you hear of the orchestra.
LISTEN Brian on standout moments with the orchestra
After more than 25 years hosting the orchestra's broadcasts, I still feel inordinately blessed. Memorable moments? There are dozens, but here are three: Elgar's Nimrod Variation, when we were desperate for music in the unnervingly quiet and frightening empty-sky days immediately after 9/11.
LISTEN Brian on conductors' personalities
That heartbreaking moment when Osmo Vänskä turned to the audience and asked for no applause at the end of his farewell concert during the lockout. And when the orchestra played the Cuban national anthem, and the translator standing next to me in our Havana broadcast booth burst into tears.
LISTEN Brian on one conductor who returned several times
After 25-plus years of trying to make a little community for a few hours on a Friday night, I've decided that now's the time.
LISTEN Brian on a conductor who changed over the years
The other hat I wear is as the managing director of Classical MPR, and I would like one of my colleagues to have the same fantastic Orchestra Hall opportunity that I've had. So this summer, I'll announce my successor. I guarantee you'll be in good hands.
LISTEN Brian on Osmo Vänskä and the orchestra as family