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KDFC “Opera in the Ball Park” decision looms

As regular Radio Survivor readers may recall, I’ve been lamenting the lack of vocal music on classical radio stations like KDFC-FM in San Francisco, and not a few classical radio stations in general. Well, it appears that KDFC has heard my plea, or more likely someone else’s (I’ll bet I’m not the only person whose has complained about this).

But the old saying “be careful for what you ask for” is clearly in play here. The station has launched a contest for the best rendition of [sigh] the Star Spangled Banner. No less than 70 contestants have submitted videos of themselves singing our famously unsingable National Anthem, most of whose stanzas are unknown to the vast majority of Americans.

The winner of this “Star Spangled Sing Off” will perform the piece at an event dubbed “Opera at the Ballpark”—a free simulcast of Verdi’s Rigoletto, sponsored by Webcor Builders.

Four year old Marie Catherine Campbell, a contestant in the KDFC Star Spangled Banner sing-off contest, in the middle of her rendition.

“We need your help in picking who gets to sing live on the field before tens of thousands of fans that day,” the contest announcement  says. It’s followed by YouTube style submissions by the competitors. “Listen to as many auditions as you’d like – just click on each singer to start the video”  . . . then select a favorite via the checklist on the bottom of the page.

Actually, I’m enjoying the videos, which should get top marks for enthusiasm, if not talent. I’ll spare you the adult performances, except for this one, cheerfully belted out by a contestant who, for whatever reason, chooses not to face the camera while frying something in his kitchen. But the renditions by children and tweens are quite adorable. Four year old Marie Catherine Campbell, for example, says she really wants to sing “the Fairy Song,” but her mother(?) gets her to croon what the she calls the “Fourth of July Song,” first.

Meanwhile, Adrienne Chan bravely takes on the high notes in the phrase “land of the brave,” while her younger brother Avery [I’m guessing the relationship here] offers a bonus performance. Ms. Anna rips into the line “rocket’s red glare” with particular gusto.  Kathy De La Cruz brings some interesting modulations in, Skyllar Evans offers the Miley Cyrus edition at a public event, and Ethan Yan and Jason Brady give us the Vienna Boys Choir interpretation.

Anyway, you’ve got until Sunday August 26 at one minute before midnight to cast your vote, which will “influence the judges who will make the final decision.” The Deciders: the San Francisco Opera’s General Director David Gockley, the company’s Music Director Nicola Luisotti, and KDFC President Bill Lueth.

Speaking personally, I hope one of the kids get picked (if Marie wins, I’d like to hear the Fairy Song, too). What I’d really appreciate, however, is hearing some consistent vocal music on KDFC during the daylight work week hours, which has yet to happen, along with anything particularly adventurous in the classical field.

There is another radio station in the San Francisco Bay Area that offers some interesting classical shows. That would be KUSF-in-Exile, whose staff was rudely shoved out the door several years ago to make way for KDFC (a move that KUSF programmers are not taking lying down). KUSF programs to watch out for include Fermata, the Classical Cowboy, and Mein 20th Century, which focuses on the avant garde tradition. KALW has some great shows too, among them Sarah Cahill’s Then and Now and Richard Friedman’s Music From Other Minds.

Gosh, wouldn’t it be grand to have a really cool alt-classical, community radio station in the San Francisco Bay Area, putting all this disparate talent and focus in one place? Perchance to dream . . .

Update: I’m listening to KDFC and they’re actually playing the Gypsy Chorus from La Traviata! Hope springs eternal!

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5 Responses to KDFC “Opera in the Ball Park” decision looms

  1. James Banzer August 24, 2012 at 7:12 pm #


    This is a great idea that brings radio to a whole new level. It leaves the “be the fifth caller” contests in the dust. The KDFC-FM is blazing the trail for those who like good radio.


  2. Matthew Lasar August 24, 2012 at 7:36 pm #

    James: I agree with you up to a point. The question is whether the voices of the contestants will actually be heard on KDFC’s airwaves. If not, what makes it “good radio”?

  3. brian August 25, 2012 at 10:12 pm #

    As I have stated once before I do not like vocal music and I hope they do not listen to you or others who want vocal music on classical stations. I listen to a few classical stations and already turn the radio off a few times a day when a vocal piece comes on.

  4. Matthew Lasar August 26, 2012 at 4:12 am #

    Yes. Duly noted. Thank you. Just out of curiosity, do you turn off the radio when vocal music is played in other genres, such as pop or rock or country or jazz etc?

  5. marie Morgan September 17, 2012 at 4:31 pm #

    The performance was awesome. Anyplace to listen to it?

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