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Hybrid Highbrow: news about classical radio around the world

radio boy!Welcome to Hybrid Highbrow, Radio Survivor’s classical radio page. Here you will find news and opinion on classical radio and classical recording sharing around the world. My own perspective is that “classical music” should be understood in the broadest sense, happily coexisting with other genres such as jazz, Broadway, and non-western genres such as Chinese opera, Gamelan, and Egyptian Oud. I also think that the concept of “radio” should be extended not just to AM/FM, but to podcasting, Pandora, Spotify, and other venues capable of reaching mass audiences.

For me, the phrase “Hybrid Highbrow” encapsulates these ideas.  Latest stories below. Follow our Twitter page. More soon. Enjoy!


Classic FM radio and the truncating of classical music

Kevin VolansComposer Kevin Volans gave a talk at Ireland's Contemporary Music Center the other month. During the speech Volans ID'd the United Kingdom's Classic FM radio service as a key moment in Good Culture's never ending declension narrative. First came The Three Tenors (gah), and if that wasn't enough:

"Then came Classic FM in 1992, set up by an entrepreneurial group to provide a stream of popular classics. Its success was rapidly followed by many others, like South Africa's Classic FM, which now has slots devoted to wine and lifestyle thus endorsing 'classical' music as an adjunct to an upmarket lifestyle, like a sauna, a massage and pedicure, maybe. And because of their computerised playlist, all the short movements of symphonies for example, are given preference - so you may hear endless repeats of the Scherzo of Beethoven's Eroica, but never the great first or last movements! What a nightmare."


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King-FM fantasy classical concerts: worth a download

King-FM"Welcome welcome welcome . . . this is the classical King-FM fantasy concert," the podcast entry begins. "The concert that never happened, but we wish it did, so we made it so." Fictional or not, I am enjoying this Seattle public classical radio station's "fantasy concerts." Produced by King-FM 98.1 FM, they billboard Seattle area musicians exclusively. Here's the rundown for the latest episode, which focuses on the composer Maurice Ravel:

Ravel: Jeux d’eau Giesa Dutra, piano Fauré: Violin Sonata No.1 in A, Op.13: I. Allegro molto Bronwyn James, violin; Angela Draghicescu, piano Gershwin: Three Piano Preludes: Prelude No.2 Peter Mack, piano Ravel: Violin Sonata No.2 in G, M.77: II. Blues. Moderato Maria Larionoff, violin; Robin McCabe, piano Ravel: Miroirs: II. Oiseaux Tristes Millicent McFall, piano
The podcast presenter (Bryan Lowe) provides some really nice background on Ravel's life and perspective, then gets into the music. You can get the series via King FM smartphone application. I downloaded it onto my Android phone and it works quite well.

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WQXR unveils "classical moonlighter" semi-finalists (and they're really good)

Classical Moonlighters CompetitionMy favorite classical radio station has released thirty Vimeos of the semi-finalists for its "classical moonlighters" competition. I wrote about this when WQXR in New York City first announced the contest last year. These folks have posted vids of themselves playing various masterpieces and they've made it to first cut. The final finalists in this event will perform before judges and a live audience at The Greene Space. The top prize is private coaching with a major artist, then a performance at the Lincoln Center Rubenstein Atrium. Holy smokes; these people elevate the concept of "amateur" to the nth degree. Here are some of the videos. First, Yiran Wang playing the fourth movement of Chopin's B minor piano sonata:

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Minnesota and New York radio get creative with classical music polls

Minnesota Public Radio has asked its listeners to pick their top five classical choral pieces. I love this for two reasons. First, it's a refreshing alternative to those dreary top 100 classical piece lists in which every year the polled pick almost exactly the same compositions they chose in previous years. Second, it encourages classical compositions that emphasize the human voice, an instrument woefully neglected on the playlists of many classical radio stations.

An excerpt from the choral music poll.

An excerpt from the MPR/VocalEssence choral music poll.

MPR has partnered with VocalEssence, a Twin Cities musical outfit, to run the contest. Participants get a pretty long list of choral pieces from which to pick. I sympathize with the probable reasons for the pre-selected checklist. Unlike the symphonic repertory, there aren't too many choral warhorses. So without any guidance, MPR/VocalEssence could wind up with a wide range of picks and no clear winners. The downside, of course, is that lots of choral stuff I like isn't on the list. The checklist is all pretty much requiems, oratorios, and cantatas and such, but nothing from symphonies or operas. The good news is that means that the contest won't wind up inevitably giving the choral movement of Beethoven's 9th a prize (it consistently wins top billing at WQXR's top 100 composer contest). The less good news is that some of my favorite choral pieces aren't on the roster. This includes the choral love of my life, the funeral scene from Porgy and Bess.

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West / east coast classical radio stations sponsor amateur contests

I am digging several just beginning and just concluding local ensemble / amateur contests being run by classical public signals WQXR-FM in New York City and KDFC-FM in San Francisco. KDFC-FM has just finished its Local Vocals High School Choir sing-off, and the prize goes to the Monte Vista High School Chamber Singers from Danville in Contra Costa County. I have to say, they deserve the award. Pretty beautiful singing:

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Classical radio list: James Irsay and Sarah Cahill

I've added some more programmers to my community based classical radio show list: James Irsay and Sarah Cahill, both classical pianists. Irsay has a show on Pacifica station WBAI in New York City. He's been around the station off and on in one capacity or another for quite a while. Back in the 1970s he hosted a program called Irsay in the Afternoon. A somewhat typical installment of the show focused on the performances of Raymond Lewenthal (see WBAI folio circa 1976), who rocked NYC with his wonderful renditions of Liszt in the mid-1960s. Here's a YouTube of an Irsay interview with the young Joseph Villa, performing live in 'BAI's studios in 1972.

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Community based classical radio: a list

Cat in violin case.

[motherboard.vice.com]

After threatening to do this for some time, I have created the beginnings of a list of locally based / community oriented classical radio shows around the world. Big surprise: most of the list at this point covers classical radio programs in the United States, plus a station in Manitoba. But as time goes on I'll expand the list's global range. I am relying on you Radio Survivor readers to tell me about locally based classical radio programs that I can add to the list. I want it to get bigger and bigger, add a twitter list, and encourage discussion about how to build audience for community based classical radio. If you've got a locally oriented classical program on some station, or a podcast, or an online show of some sort (or are a fan of one), please write it up our classical radio forum discussion pages. Even if your show only plays classical music some of the time, I want to mention it.

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Can community radio save classical radio?

The cause of classical radio may be waning for some, but not for Brenda Barnes, President of Classical California, which runs classical public radio stations KUSC-FM in Southern California and KDFC-FM in San Francisco. Writing in Current, Barnes takes exception to non-commercial radio blogger Ken Mills' warning that classical radio has reached an ominous "tipping point," in the wake of Houston Public Media dumping its classical station KHUA, which it gobbled up from Rice University five years ago. On top of that a Miami public radio station is also throwing in the towel, classical music-wise.

Cat in violin case.

[motherboard.vice.com]

Is this the beginning of the end? Insert dark Rachmaninov soundtrack here? Say it isn't so, Brenda Barnes. "I believe that public radio's classical stations have significant opportunities for continued growth," she writes, "and deepened connections and value to the individuals and communities they serve." Barnes cites statistics showing that since around three years ago, 31 classical radio stations across the country have enjoyed a slowly growing 1.6 percent audience share, plus actual growth in listeners. As for those two troubled radio stations, they borrowed too much money and relied too much on the syndicated service Classical 24, she notes, "making scant use of local hosts and local programming."

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College Radio Watch: University of Houston to Sell Former KTRU Frequency + More News

Houston Public Media announced yesterday that it plans to sell off its KUHA 91.7 FM license (aka Classical 91.7) and will move its classical music programming to HD radio (via 88.7 FM HD2). Radio Survivor readers may recall that the license for 91.7 FM was previously held by Rice University and was the former home to college radio station KTRU-FM. Back in 2010 it was announced that the license would be sold to University of Houston (which runs Houston Public Media), which planned to use 91.7 FM in order to divide its talk and classical public radio programming across two frequencies.

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UK classical public radio strong despite decline on TV; South Florida classical radio in trouble

Ofcom_logo-600x300A somewhat discouraging report, classical music-wise, from the United Kingdom's broadcast regulator, titled "Public Service Broadcasting in the Internet Age." It concludes that since the government lifted requirements on content, public media spending on the arts and classical music has dropped by 25 percent. Still "there continues to be strong classical music provision on radio," the survey released by Ofcom notes. The report defines "PSB" (public service broadcasting) as "the provision of TV programmes dealing with a wide range of subjects, of a high standard and catering for as many different audiences as possible." The content should be "for the public benefit, rather than for purely commercial purposes." I am not sure why the document focuses on radio only in passing. In any event, it cites "minimal provision" in arts and classical music genres following the removal of content quotas in 2003:

"Provision has all but ceased of religion and ethics (£13m, down 26%) and formal education (£7m, down 77%) . . . . We note that this is happening at a time when matters of religious belief are prominent in public debate."
The decline is more striking when you go back to 1998. Then investment for arts and classical music stood at £60.9m, so the drop stands at 32 percent since 2014. This means that radio is more important than ever for UK classical music lovers.

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