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Judge sets record for radio quiz show

It wasn’t even the “lightning round” of a popular radio quiz show. But a Juilliard-trained judge from Richmond just became the “fastest contestant in six years” of play on NPR’s “PT Piano Puzzler” with Bruce Adolphe.

Every Wednesday, composer Adolphe re-writes a popular melody in the style of a classical composer and challenges a listener to identify both. Today’s segment aired shortly after 9 a.m.

Judge Barbara Gaden, of Richmond General District Court, lost no time in identifying Igor Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” as the style of Adolphe’s performance this morning. She quickly followed up by naming the correct tune as “Caravan,” an exotic melody popularized by Duke Ellington.

“Thank goodness for pops concerts,” Gaden told Adolphe. Their performance, pre-recorded in June, was a reunion for the two musicians. Cellist Gaden and Adolphe were at Juilliard together during the 1970s. Gaden used to hang out at Adolphe’s apartment and listen to his pet parrot Polly, whose talents as a coloratura soprano developed as Adolphe coached classical singers.

Gaden said she had lost contact with Adolphe after she moved from New York City, but she hopes their renewed acquaintance will lead to an appearance by Adolphe with either the VCU Rennolds Chamber series or the Richmond Symphony Orchestra, where Gaden is a part-time cellist.

The judge prepared for her Puzzler debut by downloading podcasts of the program on her new Ipad. She told Adolphe, “I can get in six or seven of those in a session on my treadmill downstairs” while getting in shape.

Gaden’s husband, criminal lawyer John B. Mann, submitted her name as a contestant for the Puzzler. She said Adolphe travels to Minnesota several times a year to record a batch of the segments which air on the Performance Today program with host Fred Child.
By Deborah Elkins

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