Friday, November 27, 2009

Radio (& Internet Streaming?) Changes

     Interesting (to me, anyway) stuff is happening in the Boston classical music broadcast scene. WCRB, the commercial, all classical station was put up for sale. WGBH was the only bidder that wanted to keep it all classical. Fortunately they were successful.

     But running a 24-hour classical music station and broadcasting 7 hours of music to compete with it, didn't make much sense, I guess. Anyway, they decided to put their hosts and programs on the WCRB frequency. The change happens on December 1. After that classical music on WGBH will be no more, and we'll have to rely on the all classical station for it.

     I'm not sure what will happen to the webstreams. They now have a new url , which you are directed to via Meanwhile, the WCRB website has a link for ownership change which takes you to the same page at WGBH.  So it looks as if all the streaming will be accessed through the WGBH website. But at the moment I'm not entirely sure.

     I had a bit of a scare earlier this week. I noticed that in all the information they had given out about the change of broadcast frequency, they had mentioned the Saturday evening symphony broadcasts, but never a word about the Friday afternoon concerts. So it began to seem that those were being dropped. I wrote a member feedback note to WGBH on Monday, making the case for the importance of the Friday broadcasts for those who were busy on Saturday evenings. And I got back a very noncommittal reply on Wednesday saying, in part, "We will be broadcasting Saturday evening BSO, we will no longer be broadcasting Fridays unless we gain the rights to broadcast that as well. … We'll certainly send your requests to our production team. Thanks again for writing."

     WTDickens! Why don't they already have the rights? They've had the rights as WGBH for 58 years, for heaven's sake! What difference does the broadcast frequency make? Is the BSO holding things up? Or have they decided not to ask for the rights and just using this as a cover?

     Finally, this afternoon, at the end of the concert, the radio announcer, Ron Della Chiesa, said that next week's concert would be broadcast, with the usual pre-concert half hour show, but it would be on the new frequency. So I'm greatly relieved. I still wonder why, as of Wednesday, they couldn't tell me that the Friday afternoon concerts were still on. Did my intervention, and possibly some from other people, have an effect on the station management's mind, or was this in the works all along? I guess I'll never know the story behind the story, but all's well that ends well, and the important thing is that the broadcasts continue.

     So I expect that it will continue to be possible for you to hear either or both of the performances each week over the web.

     BTW, this week's program, which I neglected to tell you about, is the Debussy "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun," Stravinsky's 1945 suite of music from "The Firebird," and the Brahms Violin Concerto with Joshua Bell as soloist. For more info, see the bso website's page. I expect the stream to be over the WCRB website at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time on Saturday.


  1. I encourage you to join "supporters of folk and blues on WGBH". Your blog is not allowing me to post the URL, so do a search inside Facebook or contact me at notlobreservations @ comcast dot net

    Although it was created in support of programs that have been cancelled, we have been tracking all other developments related to the WCRB acquisition. The Friday matinees are one of them.

    You may also wish to read more in my blog, but again settings are not allowing the posting of the URL. Google "notlobmusic".

  2. I hate when radio stations change things, for frivolous reasons or just to muck things up.

    A few years ago our local "oldies" station changed to pop, apparently I missed this notification until I was listening one day and couldn't figure out why I was hearing all these songs and different announcers.

    And I was terribly upset when my favorite announcer on the NYC classical station retired. LOL.

  3. Just a guess.... Technically, WCRB, but not WGBH, has broadcast rights for the Friday afternoon BSO broadcasts. Following the official date of the sale, WCRB formally disappears, and with it, the broadcast rights, for which WGBH must then apply, and be granted, before they can broadcast legally. (And the FCC (and ASCAP, BMI, etc.) is a bit touchy about broadcasting without formal permission.)

  4. Thanks for the comments. It's nice to be reassured that someone occasionally reads this blog.

    I spent an hour composing individualized responses to each of you as part of a comment, and it vanished into the ether when I made a couple of errant keystrokes. I'm not in a mood to recreate it right now. But tomorrow I probably will, because I think each of you deserves a reply.

  5. Now for the individualized responses to your comments.

    @ notloB — I've looked at the notlobmusic blog. It makes for interesting reading, both regarding things on WUMB and with respect to the changes at WGBH. What was especially striking to me was the spokesperson's saying that it was "impossible" to continue folk and blues on 'GBH. That needs a lot of explaining to make it credible. After all, there are 7 more hours every day where classical music used to be, 35 hours or more per week. Maybe they want the weekday hours for the public affairs programming. But why is it not "possible" to keep blues and folk in their accustomed time slots, or even to rejigger the overall schedule to find a reasonable place for them?

    Frankly, several years ago, I got a very strong impression that the station management did not like music programming and would eliminate as much as they felt safe eliminating. The only way to preserve it, I thought was to be sure that it drew a lot of money. So I've been contributing as much as I can, earmarking it for classical music.

    Now they have what they want: a station with no classical music. I am, of course, grateful that they only made the change when they were able to buy WCRB and shift some of their hosts and programs to that frequency.

    While I am symapthetic to the listeners to folk and blues, I must admit that I have not been listening to those programs. So even though I don't see the justification for dropping them from 89.7, I feel it would be slightly hypocritical of me to join a group that is saying, "I want to be able to hear these genres on WGBH." I do wish you well, however, because I know how distressing it is to lose good radio programming.

    @ Seth — The Friday afternoon announcer on WGBH, Ron Della Chiesa, is an old hand, with considerable background in jazz and opera. His presentation comes across as based on real familiarity with the music, the performers and the symphony scene — he knows what he's talking about, even if he uses material supplied to him by his producer and the symphony offices. By contrast, the Saturday announcer on WCRB, Mark Edwards, seemed to be unfamiliar with the music, the orchestra, and the concert culture. Ironically, last evening, for the first time, he seemed to actually be somewhat knowledgeable about the music and the performers. I speculated that the WGBH staff had begun to mentor him in preparation for their ownership of WCRB. So it was with an unexpected twinge of regret that I heard him say that last night's symphony broadcast would be his last.

    @ Anonymous — a reasonable enough guess, but actually it's going the other way. The Friday matinees have always been owned by WGBH, which has broadcast them over 89.7 mHZ. It will continue to own them but now broadcast them over 99.5 mHZ. So the change on Friday was frequency, and that was ostensibly a problem. OTOH, Saturday evenings will continue on 99.5, where they always were, but under the corporate ownership of WGBH; and we are told that the change in ownership did not bring a change to broadcast rights. Your explanation would make sense. They way they told me it was happening makes much less sense. But I'm glad they finally got their act together.

  6. I don't know my classical music and I wonder if you could steer me to some violin music that is not a dirge or screechy short somber pieces.
    I like to call it singing violins in that it's more melodious and exciting music within an orchestral piece.
    I bought Michael Rabin's double cd hoping to find a wonderful piece I heard on classical radio. But it wasn't there as I remember it.

  7. @ Mary Sheehan Winn — I don't hold myself out as an expert on all classical music. I just like to call attention to things I've listened to. But here's a link to a recording of the 3rd movement of Beethoven's Violin Concerto.
    I chose this particular recording because the orchestra is the Boston Symphony, with its conductor from 1949 through 1962, Charles Munch.

    Then there's this video of the first movement of one of Morart's violin concerti (no. 4).

    If this is the sort of thing you are interested in, you can follow some of the links. You can also search YouTube for Mozart violin concerti (there are 5). You might also like the one by Mendelssohn. Or for an older style of music, there's Bach. For example:

    If this isn't what you wanted, maybe I can try again if you give me further guidance.

    Thanks for reading this blog. I hope you find it useful.

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