Meet new Classical MPR overnight host, Andrea Blain

Meet new overnight host Andrea Blain


December 03, 2014
Andrea Blain
Classical MPR host Andrea Blain
MPR photo/Nate Ryan

Are you someone who works the late shift? Maybe you're student who pulls all-nighters prepping for a big exam. Or maybe you're listening to Classical MPR online from five time zones away. Or you're like me, you're finding calm and focus when you wake up in the wee hours — it's pitch dark outside and cold — and you're preparing for work.

Then in the past few weeks, you've heard a new voice on Music Through the Night — the lovely, lilting soprano of my new colleague, Andrea Blain.

Andrea is a Minnesotan originally, but she's lived the last 33 years in Northern Ireland. Music was what took her there; she played folk and classical music, and went to Northern Ireland to participate in its music scene; she liked it, and she stayed.

For 16 years, Andrea worked at BBC Radio Ulster in Belfast. She began as a librarian and researcher, then worked in production and eventually presentation (where listeners knew her as Andrea Rea). Her first foray into radio, however, was in a sketch-comedy segment on the student-radio station at Augsburg College in Minneapolis.

Listen to our full conversation above; below, Andrea answers a few additional questions about herself.

What is one of your favorite classical pieces?

I think, like most classical musicians, my favorite music is often the one I'm working on (or listening to) at any given moment. That said, I think I would find it hard to live without the music of JS Bach, and the St. Matthew Passion is the piece that represents his music to me. There's a whole world of emotion in the St. Matthew Passion, and Bach's music is so wonderfully colorful, intricate and balanced — like a painting in sound.

What instruments do you play?

I play violin, viola, piano and organ.

What is one of your favorite music-performance moments?

If I think about a performance I've attended, it would have to be the end of the Leeds-based opera company Opera North's production of Peter Grimes — the designer and costumer used the sound of oilskin coats on the chorus members as a wonderful, eerie effect emerging out of the closing music.

In terms of my own performances, playing for a full house at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, London, on St. Patrick's Night some years back, with the Avalon Quintet, has to be a highlight.

In your time in radio, what was one of your favorite interviews ever and why?

I interviewed the composer John Rutter and found him to be a fascinating and very positive musician and a great communicator.

Do you have a favorite sports team? If so, may we ask which one?

One of the wonderful things about being back in Minneapolis (after almost 33 years in Ireland) is being able to spend time with my family — and sometimes that means watching NFL football. So … Go Vikings! And I love the Lynx too!

What is one of your favorite places to get a bite to eat in the Twin Cities?

I haven't been back long enough to really get to know any places — but I love vegetarian food, and hope to find a few great places soon. If listeners have any suggestions for me, I'd be happy to have them!

What is one of your favorite travel destinations?

Without a doubt, Amsterdam is my favorite city. The presence of lots of water with the canals and wonderful architecture, coupled with excellent museums and one of the world's best orchestras, makes it a winner for me.

Tell us a little bit about your dog, Buddy.

Buddy is a bit of a hybrid: he's a lurcher (sight-hound) crossed with a Staffordshire bull terrier. He has a golden-brown wrinkled head and wonderful big eyes. He's coming from Ireland to Minnesota at Christmas time, and the winter here may challenge even his love of the great outdoors!

Listen to Andrea Blain on Music Through the Night, midnight to 5 a.m., on Classical MPR.