“Accountability and transparency are two of our watchwords. . .” according to the WGBH website, except seemingly when management doesn’t like BMInt’s questions.
Within the last few days, according to sources I believe to be knowledgeable, WCRB station manager Jon Solins resigned (effective next month). He was one of the prime architects of the new All-Classical WCRB. On the WGBH radio side management just posted an opening for a new program director in order, according to an industry expert, to help that station improve its dismal performance in building listenership and differentiating itself from WBUR.
In their apparent quest for WBUR’s 400% higher audience share, WGBH radio has elected to duplicate WBUR’s NPR program during about 36 hours of every week. The FCC awarded WGBH radio its potent clear channel in order to serve a disadvantaged public. Since listeners can hear NPR on many outlets, is there any current justification for making such a claim to the FCC? This redundancy of programming also creates an unfortunate waste of resources—natural and financial. WGBH radio’s 100,000 watt transmitter (consuming about 40 kw per hour at the mains) also requires the emission of a rather large carbon footprint. About 200 lbs of coal equivalent per hour or 14 tons per month are burned for this duplication of services—not a very green enterprise.
The readers of The Boston Musical Intelligencer have responded to our coverage of the changes in classical music broadcasting in Boston like no other topic. It has generated much debate and many hits and comments. So as the anniversary of the changes approaches, we are revisiting the consequences of the move of classical music broadcasting from Boston’s powerful 100 kw WGBH radio to Lowell’s 27 kw coverage-challenged WCRB, eliminating clear reception to most of downtown Boston and to the south and east. BMInt hopes that this article will foster useful discussion.
So how is the WGBH radio strategy working nearly a year later? Average daily adult rating figures obtained from the marketing department of another radio station in Boston show that in the eleven months since the multi-million dollar changes, WCRB has lost one-third of its listeners while WGBH’s listenership has been flat. Of greater Boston’s average daily audience of 4,300,000, WGBH’s share hovers at 1% and WCRB’s has dropped from 3% to 2 %—a loss of almost 40,000 daily listeners. The rival WBUR has retained its 4% share.
WGBH Audience Survey Reports show that 25% of respondents think classical programming on WCRB is dumbed-down, 25% think the programming is too demanding, 25% report that they are happy that classical broadcasting still exists in Boston and 25% complain about reception issues, according to sources whose veracity I respect.
But beyond statistics, redundancy and wastefulness, there are issues of content, coverage and finance that continue to nag.
Some months after the changes, the quality of WCRB programming has been improving from the perspective of former WGBH listeners even as one-third of the former WCRB listeners have abandoned the station (according to rating numbers). Yet there seem to be fewer live performances and fewer on-location recordings than on the former some-classical WGBH. Indeed, All-Classical WCRB is also seemingly resorting more often to re-broadcasting locally recorded music from its archives rather than offering newly produced programming, though we have not been able to get accurate statistics. Public broadcasting should support its local community, which WGBH formerly did so very well with its peripatetic recording engineers and luxe Fraser Performance Center, in support of Greater Boston’s vibrant classical music scene. We nevertheless remain hopeful that WCRB, when it can increase its signal coverage, boost its recordings of local artists and reduce its dependency on syndicated programming, will once again honor its local mission rather than functioning as a mere jukebox.
Management is apparently very much aware of the problems with the WCRB signal. Respected analysts of the broadcast industry have told BMInt that WGBH has considered buying 99.1 WPLM in Plymouth. With that station out of the way and no longer requiring protection from interference, WCRB could increase power and change the antenna pattern to get more signal to the south and east in areas they no longer reach. Or alternatively it could simulcast WCRB on WPLM. The same industry analyst speculated that the reason for moving classical music to WCRB rather than news and public affairs was that classical listeners are much more generous than news listeners and would be much more likely to respond if a debt-ridden WGBH management came back to them with requests for contributions to buy yet another station. Radio stations are seen as bargains at this time, and classical listeners are seen as generous enablers.
Thus it should be no surprise that sources within WGBH tell me that in terms of donations, WCRB is the tail wagging the WGBH dog, maintaining that WCRB’s listener contributions are running four to five times higher than WGBH radio’s. WCRB’s spring fundraiser was evidently the best ever for a WGBH-owned radio station. What does that say for classical listeners as a breed?
The WGBH glossy Annual Report—which, it must be noted, is not an official filing document—has a couple of interesting facts: 48% of revenues come from listener/viewer support, and 6% of all revenues go to support radio. That’s about $12 million of $200 million total revenue. Since nearly half of WGBH revenue comes from “viewers/listeners like [us],” we have a stake in what’s broadcast and we should make our voices heard, both in praise and criticism. The cautionary admonition to me from a WGBH director, “Gentlemen don’t criticize WGBH,” certainly raised journalistic hackles.
Repeated calls and email requests to top management for fact-checking and responses for this article have met with “….we respectfully decline” to answer BMInt’s questions. It is therefore impossible, using financial statements available to the public to tease out official numbers pertaining to radio alone, let alone to compare expenses and donations between WCRB and WGBH. These numbers should not be treated as proprietary by a publicly supported entity, but rather as WGBH often says, “. . . shared with the world.”
Forced to make its own analysis of WGBH finances based on publicly available reports, BMInt’s troubling conclusion is that the WGBH Foundation had a $21 million loss in their fiscal year ending in August 2009 and doubled its payment of debt service from 3% to 5.8% of total expenses in the past two years. As per the 2009 IRS Form 990 reporting, and before additional debt was incurred for the purchase of WCRB, debt was 33% of net assets versus 0% for New York City’s WNET and .5% for Washington, DC’s WETA. BMInt’s spreadsheet [downloadable here] provides a detailed analysis of the situation at the WGBH Foundation with names redacted. The website Guidestar offers much more financial data than we are able to present here.
Meanwhile, WGBH’s organized labor is apparently working without a contract and management is reportedly asking for concessions even as the top twenty employees continue to get raises.
Note: This report was written on the basis of conversations with persons close to WGBH but no one at the station would speak for attribution nor would management permit BMInt to interview anyone on staff. I have known many workers at WGBH/WCRB beginning with Robert J. Lurtsema, with whom I spent many amusing hours and have also brought many artists to the studios for live performances over 25 years. As an old friend of WGBH, I have made a good faith effort to make this report fair, though regrettably without being able to confirm the accuracy of every conclusion, attribution or opinion. We at BMInt want the best for classical music broadcasting in Boston and take no pleasure in reporting again on its current state of affairs.
81 Comments [leave a civil comment (others will be removed) and please disclose relevant affiliations]
A very real “damned-if-you-do/damned-if-you-don’t” problem for WCRB is shown in the statistics from the audience survey. When equal numbers regard the programming as dumbed down or too difficult, it would seem that almost any change in either direction is likely to alienate more listeners. This is a (hopefully) unforeseen and unintended consequence of the change from having 3 stations — not forgetting WHRB — that play classical music to two. But count me in the third 25%: I’m glad WCRB didn’t go to a sports talk format. Perhaps the only hope is more analysis of the “difficult” works being played — à la (or should that be “au”) Robert J. Lurtsema. I think the one hour “pre-game” show as well as the intermission features that accompany BSO concert broadcasts are a good thing. Brian Bell does a good job of giving insights into a new or unfamiliar piece. The more of that the local hosts give us, the better.
And of course the acquisition of WPLM would certainly boost audience levels (still divided as to what they want to hear, but more of each). So I hope it will happen.
It’s not possible to make a definitive judgment about the appropriateness of raises for the high earners, while cuts are requested for the lower-paid, but on principle it doesn’t sound good, especially in a “public charity.” I think one problem, whether in for-profit corporations or non-profits is that the directors, who are theoretically ultimately in control, are actually dependent on management for information and recommendations. Few are in a position to make an independent analysis of what management presents, and few have the nerve to challenge management, with their position on the board of directors presumably at stake. If “gentlemen don’t criticize WGBH,” even more “directors don’t criticize management” except under the direst circumstances. We can hope that at least some of the directors are savvy enough to make good suggestions to management as to how they can improve the financial situation, perhaps even extending to salary structure.
And I’m sorry to hear that Jon Solins is leaving. His name has been connected to a lot of good programming for a long time, and I hope his departure doesn’t result from a diminution of the commitment to that sort of quality.
Comment by Joe Whipple — November 7, 2010 at 6:06 pm
A helpful reader has just pointed out a site that shows radio ratings without the the restrictions imposed by the original source of the data. The ratings for WCRB show a 25% uptick between September and October. Numbers for WGBH have not moved. Readers who wish to keep abreast may follow the ratings here: http://www.radio-info.com/markets/boston
This data was posted too late to reflect in the article above.
Comment by Lee Eiseman — November 7, 2010 at 9:18 pm
The replies to the audience survey make clear that the “Boston classical audience” is not a monolith and has differing musical tastes. Obviously, many of us wish that two stations still existed: one commercial and simplistic, one listener-supported and more challenging. As much as the publishers of this blog may wish it, that option is not available.
Throwing in the “green” bit seems a bit disingenuous. If we didn’t turn on our radios at all, we could save even more energy. And as far as duplication, how many hours per week were duplicated before the changes? My (possibly faulty) memory tells me there were 4-5 hours per week day, so 36 hours is not an enormous change, considering that Saturday alone accounts for many hours of duplication.
I am not thrilled with the current arrangement, but I am amused that several groups hate it for diametrically opposing reasons.
Comment by josh nannestad — November 7, 2010 at 11:01 pm
In addition to the foolishness of cloning the bulk of the NPR lineup formerly the exclusive domain of WBUR, GBH slashed the superb folk and blue programs from its schedule. The must recent cut was the distinctive “Sound & Spirit Program,” a show that was well produced and researched.
Comment by Paul Mozell — November 7, 2010 at 11:17 pm
Still, if you turn on WCRB at any random time, more likely than not you’ll catch something worth listening to.
For instance, right now …
Charles Stanford, Irish Rhapsody number 6.
OK, well, maybe the next piece …
Comment by Mark Lutton — November 7, 2010 at 11:18 pm
Whether its numbers are going up or down, CRB is irrelevant for those of us who live in parts of the city or greater Boston who cannot receive it. A year later, the essential point is that GBH, a so-called public radio station with a strong signal no longer brings the public any classical music. The damage to the region’s cultural life is immense. There are many other good options for news and information. For most of us, there are no good alternatives to the high-quality classical music programming GBH used to provide. No one in the mainstream media has even told this story. It’s a shame that classical music listeners, who are more “generous” contributors, didn’t make a bigger stink. We’ve canceled our membership. If everyone stopped contributing — and that includes to CRB — the soulless suits who run the place might get the message.
Comment by RC Knox — November 8, 2010 at 12:18 am
While I don’t listen to WCRB much any more: I do listen briefly in the car for a few minutes at differnt times almost daily in the vain hope of hearing something interesting….Except for “Live from Fraser Studio” it’s SAME OLD-Same old… easy listening classical. I’m so tired of ‘GBH + ‘CRB both on radio and TV..blabbling on and on about how wonderful the programming is… these people remind one of the Stepford Wives… After 40 years, I’ve dropped my membership!
Comment by Ed Burke — November 8, 2010 at 3:16 am
The new WCRB is year old. It is nice and sad at the same time. I would like to take focus out of WHGB 87.9. Yes, the WHGB station is an unfortunate disaster after the last year change. However the agenda of this publication and is not criticizing FM skylight of Boston but to defense interests of classical music.
With all my criticism of new WCRB I can say that there are some positive moments in what they do. The extended Tanglewood coverage was one of the very pleasant moments. Even though artistically BSO was very week this season in Tanglewood but the WCRB efforts to extend coverage do count. I just wish WCRB would “get” the BSO is not the only band is the town worth live coverage. Still, without WCRB the stunning performance of Bach’s “Jesu Meine Freude” by Tanglewood Festival Chorus during the season closing would be missed by the people who hate traffic and hate to listed music while neighbors are chewing double- cheeseburgers. Ten months ago WCRB broadcasted only own old recordings, presenting them as “live”. Nowdays is look like they have some traffic of alive musicians and some live-to-tape concerts from Europe. It is also nice to see that new WCRB pick up a few good sponsors. The Private Bank of Boston is a great addition to the WCRB. It kind of emblematic that in this city we have bankruptcy attorneys, scrap gold buyers, organ enlargement doctors and pimps from the Battle District are clustering around the WTKK-96.9 while the institutions like The Private Bank of Boston (absolutely beautiful little local bank!!!) sponsor live BSO broadcasts.
The general program, with a few very seldom exceptions, of cause is very boring, unsophisticated and very I would say Hoi-Polloish. The presentation of material (by most of the hosts) is also not too bright and mostly oriented for imidetaly-impressive “shocking” reaction. The WCRB still has no long term agenda and it feels that the station is made for the people who will listen it for an hour while they are driving from New Hampshire to Connecticut. The station has absolutely no investment on own educational capacity and in own ability to grow own listeners.
I can give literally a thousand critical points of what WCRB does wrong (in my view) starting from retarded hyper-cheerful woman who spin con-bravura marches in major key at 6AM in a morning and ending with absolute contribution non-transparency. But the short point of those thousands and one complains is that somebody who runs WCRB does not really like or understand what they are doing. A year ago John Voci bravely brought himself to public as a front face of the new WCRB. I do not know if he truly “owns” WCRB or if he is just a well-oiled clerk in a large machinery of NPR lubrication. Regardless who he is, from the comment he made is was self-evident that he has nothing personally vested in classical music and no specific personal interests the station specialty. I am sure that if tomorrow somebody above him would decide to make WCRB dedicated to art of yodeling then Mr. Voci’s outlook would not be affected. Again, I do not know who is responsible for it but I know that I would like to see a person who is in charge of decision making for Boston classical musical station to have personal vested interest in classical music and in the using public broadcasting for advancement of classical music. You would never have a butcher who hate meet and you would never have a fat personal trainer. Why wouldn’t we permit the same in people who run out public radio. To love what you do – it is a too demanding requirement?
Another subject of my frustration is that WCRB use sometimes sub-acceptable sources and more and more able to go away with it. It shall be absolute taboo for classical station to broadcasts compressed MP3 files or satellite feed files. A classical station is not a talk station, the subject of a classical station broadcast is not a verbal message but Sound itself. The sound that WCRB sometimes broadcast, using sub-acceptable sources is absolutely revolting. The great WCRB program, like the“The Sunday Concert” for instance sometimes features a Pittsburgh Symphony with so overly-compressed and so overly-discombobulated sound that a leading flute sound louder than the whole orchestral crash. In the same way the Chicago symphony does not sound like they play Brahms or Saint-Saëns but rather they sound like a sequence of harmonic digital artifacts.
Quality of Sound is a commodity of classical music station. I would like to live to see the time when WCRB run a program dedicated to differences in Sound between Budapest String Quartet from 40s and from 60s or a program describing tuning differences between Boston Philharmonics and Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the advantages that OAE sound has for interpretation of let say Palestrina. Sound itself is a propulsion engine of classical music and it need to be treated like a radioactive material – with respect and dignity. The today WCRB has so generic, so hardly over-ridden by stupid digital toys Sound that a listener would hardly differentiate between a tone of Vienna and Los Angeles Philharmonics. It pushers to air instead of the delicate sounds of world class harmonists a gray lamp-mass blob of general acoustic pressure. Sure I would like to see WCRB to sound different and in fact it WAS sometimes different under the old WGBH and under the new WCRB.
In the end I would like to note that all of those internet postings shake the air but has no actionable outcome. Until the WCRB run at very top but absolutely indifferent people we will have indifferent classical FM in Boston. I might write pages of criticism but it serve the only my criticism-starving ego. Until all of this doodling has any actionable impact it will be still… just doodling…
Comment by Romy The Cat — November 8, 2010 at 11:15 am
The statistic of WGBH and WBUR overlapping for 36 hours per week is misleading. Just on Mondays through Fridays, they have 12 hours per day of identical or copycat programming (Diane Rehm or On Point–how much difference is there between those shows?), sometimes at different hours, sometimes different hosts. That’s not including 2 hours of Takeaway drivel on WGBH each morning against rebroadcasts of Morning Edition, rebroadcasts of On Point and Fresh Air on WBUR, and rebroadcasts of The World on WGBH. The major difference is evening and overnight, where WGBH has 9 hours of jazz and WBUR had 6 hours of BBC.
And I haven’t even looked at weekends…This is enough to make it obvious what a waste of energy and bandwidth this all is. Look at Louisville, where there are two complementary (not competing!) public stations, and weep.
Comment by David Ofsevit — November 8, 2010 at 11:20 am
Sorry about that last statement: Louisville has three, count ’em, three, public stations, and they don’t overlap at all in programming.
Comment by David Ofsevit — November 8, 2010 at 11:31 am
It’s good to find Lee Eiseman again on the hustings. Pressure must be applied! (Question: Does anyone at GBH/CRB read this stuff?) I agree with almost everything written above, one quibble only: The re-broadcasts of live recordings even from years ago are still live performances and therefore better than most studio recordings, so bring ’em on!
I am fascinated by the idea that overly-generous CRB listener/donators are enablers of the intransigent GBH management. And doesn’t it make one wonder why the latter are so wedded to a news/analysis/commentary format? Do they get invited to better parties, or what?
Let me dwell here more on Romy’s comment about the “hyper-cheerful” announcers. Myself I would take them out back and shoot them all, but as access is doubtless disallowed I’ll have to be content with words. There used to be on the old station an irritating vocalism I called “the CRB chuckle”. That disappeared for a while but lately it seems to have returned, especially among announcers from other program suppliers. All of them however engage in the exasperating practice of personality projection, otherwise known as chit-chat. And it’s chit-chat of exceptionally banal quality. Not only that, but they not infrequently get so lost in their verbiage that they forget to announce the title and/or performer. That, and the hyper-cheerfulness. If I had to pick just one, I’d say Mindy Ratner is the worst.
As for programming, perhaps if Strauss waltzes and short guitar pieces weren’t mixed in with the real music — and were confined to, say, certain hours of the morning and drive time — listeners of both types would be happier with the station.
Comment by Clark Johnsen — November 8, 2010 at 3:27 pm
Almost forgot! Those Friday Boston Symphony broadcasts are still sorely missed, and GBH/CRB seems not to have lifted a finger to restore them — despite a generous offer from these quarters to underwrite them. I can’t understand what’s wrong with those station people.
Comment by Clark Johnsen — November 8, 2010 at 3:40 pm
I can assure Clark that WGBH staff and management read our coverage of them. Many were in attendance at the Old South Church panel discussion and several contributed anonymously to the article above. Much of the “talent” at WGBH/WCRB is in accord with BMInt’s readers.
Comment by Lee Eiseman — November 8, 2010 at 3:43 pm
how about the overlapping of npr news shows with surrounding public radio such as NH, Maine Pub Radio, Worc and Western Mass Pub Radio? and overlapping celtic progrmming w/WUMB on Sat afts.?
no excuse for any of this.
did this major programming change benefit npr financially? is npr draining Boston’s cultural gem to enhance their own financual situation at our expense? it happened in NH
kudos to GBH for keeping Jazz alive, tho. hey, npr: hands off our jazz!
Comment by Dave — November 8, 2010 at 4:47 pm
Let me take this opportunity to thank BMInt for the wonderful service it provides classical music lovers in Boston. The calendar feature alone makes this a very worthwhile venture, and given the sorry state of classical music reviews in the Globe, I look here first for that, too. I appreciate that you are fighting the good fight for classical music radio but I fear it is a lost cause. I haven’t owned a television in years, but my impression is that hoping for high quality programming on WGBH television is somewhat of a lost cause as well.
That said, this town abounds in musicians and musicologists. They could all be doing podcasts which could be appended to this very website. Many groups record their own concerts for use internally. Even if these recordings aren’t “broadcast quality” they might make interesting podcasts as well. I’d gladly switch my public radio donation to this website to gain access to something like this. (Oh, I forgot, I stopped donating to WGBH and give only to WBUR because I listen to BBC in the middle of the night!)
Sadly this solution does not help to solve the “audience” problem for classical music. I’d bet a great many BMInt readers were turned on to classical music serendipitously by hearing it over the radio. These days, however, I doubt many young people tune into WCRB accidentally. We need to figure out how to get it to “go viral” on the internet!
Comment by Mary Lincoln — November 8, 2010 at 5:18 pm
on multiple stations and overlapping: Minnesota has three with no overlap (although all from a single owner, now). In all this noise, don’t forget that Boston has at least FOUR public or listener supported stations which support a remarkable diversity of needed programming.
Comment by josh nannestad — November 8, 2010 at 10:10 pm
The new WCRB makes you miss Simon Geller’s WVCA Gloucester.
Comment by Mark Lutton — November 8, 2010 at 11:18 pm
Clark’s points are well taken…”Not only that, but they not infrequently get so lost in their verbiage that they forget to announce the title and/or performer.” How true and how exasperating!
To these blabbers (announcers they are not) the music itself is unimportant. It is also evident in the few PBS classical music TV broadcasts..Symphony, Opera, Chamber Music etc. that the hosts are often celebrities who claim to love the medium but are embarrassing in their lack of knowledge and inability to express themselves… Alec Baldwin for example… PLEASE. ‘PBS seems to feel that the folks watching won’t enjoy themselves unless the host is just like the guy/girl next door.
I’ve heard from a reliable source that the President of WGBH has NO USE for classical music PERIOD. He loves modern-day Lawrence Welk type crap like Yanni, 150 tenors, Celtic drek, plus Charlotte Church, Bocelli etc. The dumbing down of America is in full swing!
On a bright note: the recent 3 part Musical Prodigies was superb.
Comment by Ed Burke — November 9, 2010 at 2:27 am
Actually, accidently or not, but this morning WCRB host was a bit more environmentally-conscious. I wonder it was the result of them reading this blog. Still the music they played when I was leaving my house was semi-bombastic for 6AM Telemann’s Concerto for 3 Trumpets. Thanks God they did not play Mahler 6th symphony…
I wonder if CRB is considering playing as a wake up music on the morning something like let say Shostakovich’s string quartets. Come on, we are no in Florida but in Massachusetts! Sure, the Shostakovich quartets would not only be a nice extension of Boston whether but will also increase the rate of suicides in great Boston area. Well, hopefully they all will be republican, so it will not be a lot of damage…
Comment by Romy The Cat — November 9, 2010 at 8:57 am
Re “In addition to the foolishness of cloning the bulk of the NPR lineup formerly the exclusive domain of WBUR, GBH slashed the superb folk and blue programs from its schedule. The must recent cut was the distinctive “Sound & Spirit Program,” a show that was well produced and researched.
Comment by Paul Mozell — November 7, 2010 at 11:17 pm”
For a contemporary accounting, read “WGBH drops folk and blues programs” in the notloB Music Blog – http://notlobmusic.blogspot.com/2009/11/wgbh-drops-folk-and-blues-programs.html
Fans of folk and blues continue to communicate and commensurate in the Facebook group “Fans of Folk and Blues on WGBH” – http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=201481030324
Comment by Jeff Boudreau — November 9, 2010 at 11:03 am
I share the general unhappiness with the Top 40 style of WCRB. However, the poor reception is not all their fault. Here in Dorchester, we have a pirate station broadcasting rap at 99.7, which simply blots out WCRB in much of the town. The FCC is aware of the problem, but not acting very effectively to solve it.
Comment by John C. Berg — November 9, 2010 at 3:42 pm
Thank heaven for WHRB. I heard a rumor, which may have no basis in fact, that for political reasons WCRB’s signal will never be strengthened. Why that would be is a mystery, but perhaps some conspiracy theorist has the answer.
Comment by Francine Crawford — November 9, 2010 at 4:37 pm
Thanks, Lee and all the posters, for so much passionate commitment to the cause of good music. My own comment will procede from the personal to the general.
In large part because of the artistic/programming problems at WGBH-WCRB I have recently “made the switch” to internet-based radio feeds. There are dozens and dozens of classical music broadcast sources available this way. I now listen only very rarely to over-the-airwaves broadcasts from WCRB/GBH — mainly, to check the action, or non-action, from a once beloved source of musical nourishment. My spot checks of WCRB/GBH confirm, alas, my impressions of a year ago regarding a severe, and probably intentional, decline in quality.
Most of the internet stations do, with variations, essentially what WCRB does: they provide a stream of canned music. A number of them do this better than WCRB, some do about the same. A number of stations have much better sound quality than WCRB, whose signal, as Mr. Romy correctly noted, is now often flat and compressed to the point of unpleasantness.
Two of the internet feeds do, however, stand out: BBC 3 and France Musique. These two (there of course may be others) devote signifigant resources to programming: on-location concert recordings, inhouse performances, intelligently structured programs around interesting subjects, informed commentary by presenters who know and appreciate music. Good, music-centered radio!
There is no reason in the world, except financial/bureaucratic, why Boston, with its enormous pool of excellent musicians and sound people and scholars, should not provide our American equivalent of what the Brits and the French are doing, but with our own unique spin/accent. We have just as much quality to offer! Mediocrity in a place, in a setting like ours is inexcusable.
I do not believe that the obstacles to excellence are insurmountable.
Has the time come for a first-rate music station, called, say, Radio Boston 1, to come forth, perhaps initially as an internet-only broadcaster? Would there be willing participants, artistic, technical, and administrative, for such an enterprise? Would there be financial backers? This could be such an exciting and nourishing project. Who is on board? I am sending out a call.
Comment by Joel Cohen — November 10, 2010 at 9:24 am
As a start, how about encouraging local presenters to post performances on YouTube. Then BMInt could build a site which indexes and links to those performances in a clear attractive manner.
Would musicians share their performances with the world? What would the unions say?
A great suggestions. I’m on board
Comment by Lee Eiseman — November 10, 2010 at 10:10 am
Excellent idea, Lee. A Boston Musical Intelligencer bulletin board would make a signifigant contribution.
My concept is a little more ambitous — to create an internet broadast stream of good music programming, along the lines of BBC 3 or Radio Free Lower Slobovia (pick one), tuneable from a computer or an internet radio device. That project, “pushing” high quality content 24/7, would demand lots more resources — is there a will and a way in our community for one idea or the other, or both?
Comment by T. Robador — November 10, 2010 at 10:48 am
Not to put a damper on a good idea, but all this seems to suggest one person at a computer. How about the couple who like to sit in the living room, of an evening, reading (separately)and listening (together)? With a fire nearby? Are we rarae aevi or common enough to warrant some attention?
Comment by Settantenne amante di musica — November 10, 2010 at 11:22 am
Internet streaming radio can be social- no computer is required anymore
Comment by Lee Eiseman — November 10, 2010 at 11:24 am
There are a number of internet tuners on the market now. Mine is labeled Aluratek, it patches into one’s pre-existing sound system just like an FM tuner (you also need wifi or an ethernet cable). It’s quite easy to set up a database of stations, especially with the help of the company’s website. Sound quality at the high end is signifigantly better than FM radio. Works totally well in conjunction with a fireplace and an affectionate companion.
Comment by T. Robador — November 10, 2010 at 11:42 am
A few comments. If you guys are accustom to listen BBC 3 and France Musique then do not forget the ABC from Australia – a great station that broadcast dally live in very good quality and their evening live events are at early morning of our time:
There are hundreds of phenomenal Classical Live Online Radio station that output data over IP. If you have nothing to do in office then it a great phenomenal:
Joel Cohen, you idea of Radio Boston 1 is very much inner layering with my old idea of High-End Audio Channel (HEAC). Here is a quote from my site about how I see properly made radio in future:
“There are no sources. The 78, LP, tape, CD, DVD and whatever else are gone. Music is being distributed by global communication channels. They are regular free channels, similar to today FM and satellite channels, and there are in addition the high-end audio channels/channel. This High-End Audio Channel (HEAC) broadcasts over IP in 64kHz/22Bit format (or analog in Super FM format) and strive to get the most topmost quality of sound available. The HEAC is administered by individuals who build up programs on the artistic merit and feature a great percentage of LIVE broadcasts from the many performing stages around the world. The reception of HEAC is possible only via given to users special receivers that made with very much High-End audio objectives. The receiver has recording options, similar to today’s TiVo. The use of HEAC service is by subscription only….”
Hey, if anybody would go for this idea then take me from whatever I do, I will be the first time in my career that I will be begging for employment.
Comment by Romy The Cat — November 10, 2010 at 2:11 pm
On the last day of Nassau’s mismanagement of WCRB, the station signed off completely while links were established for Laura Carlo’s return at 5:00 am from WGBH. During that period, from my listening post in the Merrimck Valley of Massachusetts, I was able to pick up a listenable signal from NH public Radio’s station in the northern portion of the State also operating on 99.5. There are FM stations on frequencies right next to 99.5: a 99.3 in the southern tip of Maine, and a 99.7 near Providence, RI. The FM dial here in the northeast is jammed, so any assertion that WCRB could possibly undertake a major upgrade of its signal is bogus. The only option would be to install a tower just a few miles closer to Boston but not too close to the 99.7 in RI, and that would be VERY expensive.
Comment by Laurence Glavin — November 10, 2010 at 5:32 pm
I’ve been thinking more about Joel Cohen’s suggestion of an internet stream for the Boston classical music scene:
Fifty years ago the Lowell Institute created WGBH radio in large part as an electronic megaphone for BSO broadcasts. At this point the two institutions that have massive archives of locally recorded music are the BSO and WGBH. So why not ask the Lowell Institute to look back at its former mission and fund a pilot internet entity which would offer streams and downloads on demand of some of the thousand or more concerts originated in Boston each year which are deserving of sharing with the world? WCRB’s website and New England Conservatory’s have already made gestures in that direction.
The BSO transcription trust could re-negotiate with BSO players to allow streaming of BSO recordings and all of the Boston presenters could offer their archives for this project. Imagine 24 hours a day with the likes of Ben Zander and the Boston Phil, David Hoose with Cantata Singers, Brian Bell with the BSO, as well as the dozens of other groups that make our music scene so lively.There could be a stimulating mix of live and recorded events. All the BSO concerts could be available live again.
That would take the pressure of WCRB to serve a public which is probably too diverse to please.
BMInt will try to assemble another expert panel to consider Internet Alternatives to Classical Broadcasting. Stay tuned.
Comment by Lee Eiseman — November 10, 2010 at 5:34 pm
Regarding Lawrence Glavin’s comment on WCRB’s power, the experts suggested a directional antenna array that aimed more signal to the south and east. WCRB already has plenty of reach into New Hampshire and needs no boosting in that direction.
Signal patterns do not have to be circular like waves in a pond. They can have relatively narrow lobes in desired directions. That said, the option of buying WPLM might be a better move.
Comment by Lee Eiseman — November 10, 2010 at 5:38 pm
Lots of talk here about WGBH and WCRB as the only players in town for classical music. It seems a lot of people must not realize that WHRB in Cambridge (95.3 with a strong local signal) plays classical music 9 hours each day (1-10PM) and with very little talking. As a serious classical music lover for many years, I think WHRB’s progamming is actually the best. They make a serious effort to range widely over the repertory from the 15th to 20th centuries and never play the same piece more than once every six months. Wasn’t the most recent WGBH program only of similar length (or less)?
Comment by Jack Little — November 10, 2010 at 7:29 pm
As someone who spent many hours in the mid-1950s playing bridge and other pastimes in flagrant disregard for parietal hours at WHRB’s studios in what used to be a cellar hole-in-the-wall between Holyoke and Dunster Streets, and has since spent many thousands of hours listening to this fine station, Jack Little’s comment is most appreciated. Nonetheless, even this station has problems. It is fine for those who are listening within its radius, but it is sorely limited if one ventures beyond 128, for example.
Yes, their programming is superb. Students affiliated with the station are allowed to come up with some pretty spectacular (not surprising) ideas. It may be dreaming to think that the Boston classical-music community could get behind the marriage of such programming as that at WHRB with the muscle of a “public entity” with money.
Comment by Norton, Bettina A — November 10, 2010 at 8:46 pm
Jack, as good classical programming as WHRB has the station is not truly equipped to handle live events. They do fine broadcasting the recording of others (those Tuesdays and Thursday 8PM live-to-tape concerts sometimes are truly phenomenal) but if you remember the late year live WHRB even were truly disasters. To handle live event requires a lot of technical and intellectual recourses, WHRB does not have it and it is not agenda of this station to obtain it. The GBH has it all and they have it for years. They can juts with a flip of finger to record any worthy live events in eastern Mass – they have staff who know the location the mics arrangements per location for given performance type – they do it for years and they do it very well. What I think GBH has problem is to sell it, or to fine some kind of package where it all might be a tradable commodity.
I have to admit that do not care to much about music the AFM station play, unless it is a abroad of live or live-to-tape event. Sure, even the pre-caned recording might be interesting but live transition is always set themselves apart from anything else FM station can do. The WHRB did not men to be live station but the WGBH very much did and I hope dose…
Comment by Romy the Catf — November 10, 2010 at 9:31 pm
Lee’s suggestion about working with the Lowell institute in order to help stream archived concerts is excellent. I’d also like to see, besides concert master recordings, a lot of original, radiophonic programming by some of Boston’s best musical minds, built around interesting themes/topics. A really good morning music program, with an INTELLIGENT mix of musical styles and news of the arts world. GOOD programming for kids and younger audiences. A composers’ forum. Et cetera. Et cetera. There is so much that could be done with our wonderful human resources right here in the Northeast. Let a new structure come into being. May that structure allow the Boston Muse to jailbreak from the stultifying, formulaic chains that are currently binding her. Freedom! Venceremos! Let the good times roll!
Comment by Joel Cohen — November 11, 2010 at 12:56 am
I very much share the Joel’s enthusiasm about “intelligent mix and good programming” via a dedicated independent channels but this idea requires a LOT of thinking and business plan testing from wary pragmatic perspectives in order to be economically reasonable….
Comment by Romy The Cat — November 11, 2010 at 10:48 am
Totally agreed that there need to be wary, pragmatic types in on the ground floor of Radio Boston 1, as well as performers, scholars, poets, dreamers, geeks, and a gazillionaire or two. But it seems to me that we have all of the above sorts of people abiding in our lovely region, if they would be kind enough to step forward.
Comment by Joel Cohen — November 11, 2010 at 1:46 pm
WGBH is seeing a new classical music program director [for WCRB as well as a new station manager for WGBH].
Comment by Jeff Boudreau — November 11, 2010 at 2:16 pm
After being horrified at the change in WCRB and WGBH, I find that the day time announcers right from 5 am on (how I wish I could get this station on my alarm radio and NOT wake up to the world’s mayhem!)is doing better. I don’t mind the cheery voice in the morning(how I wish I could feel like that) and the mix of music is improving. I’m actually learning some things from these hardworking announcers. I also enjoy the expanded BSO broadcasts of the BSO on Saturdays,(when home on Saturdays) thankful that Brian Bell is still there with his interviews and insights, and his BSO on Record is still important in my Sunday listening.I bemoan the quality of the feed, though.
I never expected to have a positive thought about this new 99.5, but it is improving.
I sorely miss the Friday afternoon symphony broadcasts, and cannot understand, when funding was offered, why it is not reinstated. I do wish the signal were improved, frustrating not to be able to get it at work or when I’m at school. Frustrating not to be able to wake up to it and go to sleep to it, though that brings up another problem; the overnight broadcastingJust plain awful!!! I will never understand why an announcer gives a wonderful story about a composer and a piece of music, and then proceeds to tell us we will hear this in “about 20 minutes.” Now in about 20 minutesmight be all right if the music leading up to this important music were related, were connected, were something that would help us understand the ultimate desitination music which we are hearing in “about 20 minutes.” No the music we have to wade through to get to the destination piece has NOTHING TO DO with the music which has been introduced. Why? What is gained?
I have written about this, called about this and get told this is not 99.5, this is the music from some midwestern radio station. Well, they need help. You lose me to Cds when this happens.
BRING BACK THE FRIDAY BSO, PLEASE.
I have not listened to the new WGBH, though. I like WBUR. I do occasionally watch WGBH-TV—occasionally. TV is nit my choice of entertainment.
Comment by Leslie Miller — November 11, 2010 at 3:03 pm
Ooops, sorry for the awful proof reading.
Comment by Leslie Miller — November 11, 2010 at 3:04 pm
The Boston Metropolitan Area deserves a real live Classical music station. Boston is one of the great culture capitals of the world. Nothing less than live hosted and seriously curated music should be what comes from WCRB.
In the same time period, WQXR, taken over by WNYC, has thrived, with a revamped and updated view of traditional Classical music on its 105.9 FM station, and that station’s 128k mp3 web stream.
The “New Music” stream wnyc2 morphed into the now absolutely terrific Q2, another 128k web stream headlined by “Nadia Sirota on Q2”, a four hour gig noon and midnight (one is a repeat)and terrific specific focus programming: “Hope Springs Atonal” featuring guess what; “Hammered!”, keyboard music. Both are one hour daily doses which grew out of full four hour treatments for a week each. Special archives of live New York Concerts at “Cued Up on Q2”. The list is endless.
This is not to gloat. WGBH has been historically every bit the equal of WNYC. There is zero excuse for not doing this kind of intelligent programming. It need not be the “New Music” of Q2. It just needs to be Something, and the membership should settle on what it is. And, just like the listeners and members of WQXR, be able to express their opinions in Comment pages on the WCRB web site. We WQXR listeners can comment on every single track on both streams.
If nobody else “outed” the “Classical 24” thing, I did, because a WCRB listener irritated me about our trials and tribulations at WNYC/WQXR, and, believe me, for a while the fur was flying. So, I went looking for “trouble in River City” and found it.
Boston deserves only the best.
Comment by Richard Mitnick — November 11, 2010 at 4:09 pm
WXHR in Boston, in its glory days (1950s, 1960s), had regular features like “Piano Personalities,” “The Art of Song,” different symphony orchestra’s concerts (Cleveland under George Szell, Philadelphia under Eugene Ormandy…) on given nights, &c&c. Seems to me that we now in Boston are no better than Washington, DC, was in the pre-Kennedy years, when the highlight of the afternoon broadcasts was a half-hour program, “Soapless Opera.” Lucky us. Turandot, I remember, in half-hour segments each afternoon (two to two-thirty)…
Isn’t it disheartening that in these days, post Camelot, post Kennedy Center enthusiasm, with years of incremental funding for NEA and NEH, NPR, that we are left with what we have in Boston classical radio today, almost as bad as it was back in the Dark Ages of our Nation’s Capitol?
Suggestions, anyone, on how to martial forces? Is it time to start a group? Our own CALL TO ACTION, perhaps, which we could call SCAM (Serious Classical Advocates for Music) or perhaps SCAB (Serious Classical Advocates of Boston. Membership free, one stipulation that potential donations to WGBH be held in escrow for purchase of a decent tower. Another that announcers have a demonstrated knowledge and understanding of the classical music repertoire. … We need a logo, a PR campaign,a martial tune,…
Comment by Norton, Bettina A — November 11, 2010 at 10:37 pm
I thinking that talking about any more or less serious results regarding the Real Time Classical Music Channel we are way above any capacity what the kBits compression rate can handle. The 44kHz/20bit sound to me as the most plausible, the 66kHz/20bit preferable, and I am taking about the full 20 bits…
The problem with this whole idea of Real Time Classical Music Channel is that with all my love and admiration of Boston we are too small for it. Let face it, with all unnecessary pomposity that we Bostonians employ, in really Boston today is quite drowsy town in musical sense. Even if a city was booming with musical happenings of appropriate caliber then I still feel it is not enough to fill by one single precinct’s interesting events a 24Hz Classical Music Channel. The whole idea of live Classical Music Channel is to have it as a global IP network, where the time difference around the world would be a self-moderating factor. This project to do it properly is much bigger than the stinky WGBH. The whole point to make the Real Time Classical Music Channel “interesting” is to have 150 stations like WGBHs plugged in the network with real time feed, plus 550 of concert stages from around the world, plus 5550 of private contributors from the would… Do you know how many private releases out there? How many LP that never made CD? How many phenomenal CDs that we never seen in US? Do you know how many stunning recordings sit in private collections that never were seen own audiences? Go to Google’s Symphonyshare and get a very- very remote feeling how it might be…
The whole point is that a good Real Time Classical Music Channel, as I can envision it, shall not broadcast the recordings that are WIDELY available otherwise. From this perspective the WGBH is 2 hours per day station. To run the operation like this world-wide network, to synchronize legal aspect of different jurisdictions and to maintain the sonic and artistic quality at high level is very difficult but very noble task. I think it is time that something might be done in this direction during the coming years. I think that it will not be coming from US but I will be happy to be mistaken…
Comment by Romy The Cat — November 12, 2010 at 1:15 pm
Thank you for introducing me to Pandora.
Class(ical)less in Fall River
Comment by Paul Cienniwa — November 12, 2010 at 3:16 pm
“6% of all revenues go to support radio” and “WCRB’s listener contributions are running four to five times higher than WGBH radio’s”. I have repeatedly told WGBH fundraisers that if they want to save money and reduce their debt they can turn off the TV transmitter, and that ALL of my annual contribution should be used to support WCRB ONLY. I have been a WGBH member since 1975, and this past year I have listened to 89.7’s programming less than 5 hours in the entire year. One wonders how long it will be before management wakes up to the same realization as the folks in D.C and California, and dumps the news operation in favor of all-classical on their main transmitter. Or are we more pig-headed in Massachusetts?
Comment by Mark Fishman — November 12, 2010 at 5:09 pm
“The problem with this whole idea of Real Time Classical Music Channel is that with all my love and admiration of Boston we are too small for it. Let face it, with all unnecessary pomposity that we Bostonians employ, in really Boston today is quite drowsy town in musical sense.”
Agreed, Boston is only a second or third rank city in terms of live musical offerings, and it’s way down the list in terms of donor generosity…in fact, Beantown is pretty well known outside of our area for both its artistic conservatism and its funding stinginess.
AND YET I am convinced that the makings of a wonderful internet channel are right here. When you survey all the very intelligent people who live in close geographical proximity, you perceive all kinds of talent: performing, scholarly, technical, organizational. If there is going someday to be the American equivalent of BBC 3 or France Musique or Australia’s ABC, it might as well be right here! I envision more than a continuous concert feed: we need well structured programs of recorded music, INTELLIGENT interviews, mini-symposia on music history, musical compositions conceived for the Net, aesthetic debates and challenges, insight and wit, AS WELL AS lots of concert feeds from here and elsewhere. I think we can coax out lots and lots of creative programming from the human resources around us. We DON’T particularly need another corporate, conglomerate sound. I’d like the regional aspect, the Yankee individualism, the Boston quirkiness, to be part of the mix. Who is going to help make it gel?
Comment by Joel Cohen — November 12, 2010 at 11:43 pm
Just an idea to fill the time of a broadcast day: Repeat every 12 hours. Daytime listeners are probably not nighttime listeners, nor for that matter does anyone have the radio on 24/7. The repeat could even be put on a different day.
Also — after each Met broadcast David Elliot on WHRB assembles a great show. Something like that could be added to the rotation, so wherever the Met is broadcast the listener could tune in to Classical Radio Boston (has a certain ring to it…) for the wrap-up.
Comment by clark johnsen — November 14, 2010 at 5:04 pm
Yes, nothing prevents this station from archiving and recycling programs. Even the big guys do this.
Comment by Joel Cohen — November 14, 2010 at 5:34 pm
Or how about asking David Elliot to program Radio Boston 1 for the 10-14 hours per day that HRB is not broadcasting classical music?
Comment by Lee Eiseman — November 14, 2010 at 7:23 pm
Nice to hear from Joel Cohen and Lee Eiseman. I couldn’t agree more w/Joel’s comments. I worked at WGBH Radio for 15 years and worked with all the announcers at WCRB years ago when they routinely broadcast tapes of local/New England musical organizations (I ran tapes over to Waltham all the time). I don’t listen to WGBH Radio or WCRB anymore. When I was at WGBH Radio, we did adventurous and exciting programming, several live performances per week, no “top 40” overplayed classical tunes, and we and other programs did cutting edge music and a myriad of different kinds of music all day and evening. I really miss that. Other cities in the U.S. have multiple, non-overlapping, intelligent public radio programs. I agree with Joel that in a city like Boston (and, in fact, all over Mass.) there are so many diverse groups of musicians playing all kinds of music, and very few of them are ever heard on local radio, certainly not to the degree that they were heard in the 1980s and 1990s. It’s really too bad. I’d volunteer to help anyone who wanted to start up an internet channel, a new radio station or program, anything that would promote music and arts (and music history and education) in the way Joel describes.
Comment by Laura Finkelstein — November 14, 2010 at 10:58 pm
There must exist a term for the mental bruising caused by hearing frequent and relentless repetition of the same recorded words spoken by the same voice, as in, “support for WCRB…” I chose the word bruise because that is just what it is like, being bruised and repeatedly pressing on it. It hurts, makes it worse, and the only relief and possibility for healing is to stop.
I’ve wondered, do the people working at WCRB have the station playing in their offices? Are they not driven mad by hearing, “support for WCRB…” hundreds of times per week, thousands per year? Isn’t there a torture technique based upon the principle? Am I super-sensitive or do others not merely dislike it, but also feel pained by it? Is there a ‘modern human’ faculty for bearing such a thing I simply have not developed? And if there is, do I want to develop it?
Comment by C.P.T.L. — November 15, 2010 at 5:28 am
Ah, in my dream of Radio Boston 1, Laura Finkelstein, Lee Eiseman, and Dave Eliot are all onboard contributing programming content and programming ideas. Along with a raft of other exciting people.
See, the thing is, there are MANY MANY smart and musically hip human beings in Boston. I have had the privilege of knowing some of them. Others are among us and their minds and hearts are alive. They are, most of them, currently, voiceless. Many of them sit, hour after hour, in front of their radios, as I am doing right this minute, quietly fuming, as their favorite performers/repertoires/styles get consistently passed over by Corporate FM. Or they turn off the radio and go for a walk (better choice perhaps, and heart healthy. I’m gonna do this as soon as I finish the post).
Before I head outdoors, I’d like to propose a Third Way, involving neither passivity nor refusal. Let’s face it, friends, we’re not going to replace the management of WGBH. It’s clear that they have their own priorities and concepts. So why not create an internet-based alternative, based on taste, knowledgeability, passionate commitment, Yankee individuality, and a sense of fun?
Let many ensembles contribute concert masters. Let many music mavens submit their programming ideas. Let the educational institutions provide content and even course material. Let the area music lovers who are economically secure provide financial support, and help raise up a new generation of young good-music fans.
Something tells me that it’s all SO doable if the right people come together, and get active.
And now, enough of musical brown sauce. Radio, be still. Out for a walk!
Comment by Joel Cohen — November 16, 2010 at 11:56 am
BRAVO…Joel Cohen, you have proposed some great ideas.. True, WGBH isn’t going to change. Serious lovers of great music can STOP contributing to WGBH and use that money to support an Internet alternative that you have suggested.
On a different note…[the balance of this post was not germane to this thread]
Comment by Ed Burke — November 16, 2010 at 11:43 pm
I would like to take advantages that WGBH reportedly read this blog (I doubt but who knows). As WCRB is picking up with live and live-to-tape broadcasting practice I would like WCRB clearly understand that there is a difference for many listeners if WCRB spins CDs vs. the WCRB plays for instance a live-to-tape concert from Rotterdam Philharmonic or from Cleveland Symphony. I am absolutely convinced that quite many of listeners would like to be notified in advanced about those live events. So, I would like the WCRB inform the subscribers of the “Live Music Monitoring Service” about the following events:
1) All Frazer Live concerts.
2) All live-to-tape performances the never were issued on CDs
3) All BSO Live broadcasts.
4) All In-Concert performances that never were played on GBH before
The “Live Music Monitoring Service shall dispatch messages by all contemporary means (email, remote outlook scheduling, messaging, texting, postal pigeons etc…). I think it would be very much useful service and I would be the first who subscribe it.
Comment by Romy The Cat — November 18, 2010 at 7:16 am
Good idea to quantify the live performance statistics. I could not get an answer from official sources at WGBH
Comment by Lee Eiseman — November 18, 2010 at 1:59 pm
Many thanks to Lee Eisman for continuing to keep the subject[s] open. Possibilities suggested by Joel Cohen and others are exciting, but in the interim how about BMI readers and writers demanding that GHB simply reinstate the Friday afternoon BSO live broadcasts –ON the old station, as before.
Comment by Robert Meyers — November 18, 2010 at 3:26 pm
….. how about BMI readers and writers demanding that GHB simply reinstate the Friday afternoon BSO live broadcasts –ON the old station, as before…
Robert, I do not think that BMI’s readers and writers are a reference or any kind of expressive authority for GBH. The slashing of Friday afternoon BSO broadcasts took place by a decision of some kind GBH’s idiot-manager or an idiot-consultant with cultural sensibility of a pterodactyl but with authority of a Studio 54’s doorman. I think nowadays the GBH managers are too busy to kiss other asses in order to keep third jobs and to anticipate from them any prudent reaction is like to anticipate from my Cat to get quantum physics.
What I think is might be done is to play some maneuvering: for instance, if someone would find right ears of one of the GBH’s sponsors. Lately WCRB picked up quite a number of sponsors. So, if some of them would request to bring Friday afternoon broadcasts back, or set the Friday broadcasts as a condition for their underwriting then WCRB would comply faster than my Cat wakes up.
So, I would like to ask the BMI’s readers to look at the WCRB sponsors and look around. It is highly possible that among the people with whom you fry BBQ, play poker or even listening music you will find CO of the WCRB sponsors. From there to reinstate the Friday’s broadcasts will be the matter of a single phone call.
Comment by Romy The Cat — November 18, 2010 at 6:46 pm
Yes, I agree that it’s a good idea to keep urging GBH-CRB to improve the programming. I know for a fact that there are intelligent people who love music working at that station, and they need to be given every possible opportunity to make their best contribution.
But WGBH is a big, lumbering corporation, with an enormous bureaucratic superstructure, myriad concerns apart from cultural/artistic ones, and a weak knowledge base and sense of mission, at least as far as music is concerned.
So I suggest supplementing what that station offers by creating an ALTERNATIVE structure — small, fleet, as unbureaucratic as possible, concerned ONLY with the arts/culture side, fueled by an overriding sense of mission and passion about music, hip and knowledgeable. In the internet age it is possible to launch such an enterprise…so let’s do it! We can build a better mousetrap! Radio Boston One!
Comment by Joel Cohen — November 19, 2010 at 4:07 am
I think Romy has made some excellent suggestions regarding getting WCRB to give advance notice of live and live-to-tape broadcasts, and getting sponsors to request the return of the Friday BSO. (Random thought: if the esteemed Ron Della Chiesa cannot announce on Fridays, maybe Brian McCreath could spend those Fridays at Symphony Hall instead of at the studio.)
The idea that Joel Cohen and others are developing for an internet service is very exciting. I have no idea how it could be put together, beyond the fact that an organization has to be formed — probably a non-profit corporation — and that the suggestion of a BMInt-sponsored open meeting seems like a good starting point to gather a coalition of the willing and hopefully able.
Comment by Joe Whipple — November 19, 2010 at 11:38 am
I’ll come to any meeting any day I’m free, up til Dec. 19, then I’m outa here for several weeks.
Comment by Joel Cohen — November 19, 2010 at 4:17 pm
Great stuff and I hope Joel Cohen’s dream comes true.
Comment by Marie Pelletier — November 21, 2010 at 1:06 pm
Talking about life in city with great FM…
No matter how great was this week BSO/Masur all Schumann program but the BSO still did not win my Performance of The Week reward. The reward goes to Chicago Symphony playing Bruckner Second under Riccardo Muti. The event was broadcasted live-to-tape over WCRB at 3.30PM, sourced from WFMT. The Bruckner Second was phenomenal – super intelligent reading with very complex and ambitious playing – what else one might dream about?
The point is that BMI might consider start reviewing the live FM events. The WCRB might even to consider repeating the performances that got high BMI reviews – how about this integration?
What is the difference between live and live-to-tape musical event? If you read the Richter’s diaries then you see that he provided a feedback about each performance he herd and he very seldom differentiate if it was live concert or a recording. So, the pre-announcement of live-to-tape event. Somebody like Brian Bell hits up the public with a few infomercials a day-two before. The Broadcast and the after broadcast follow up in the town media… Too much for a wet dream of FM junky…
Comment by Romy The Cat — November 21, 2010 at 5:50 pm
How does the WCRB broadcast of the WFMT/Chicago Symphony concerts compare with WFMT’s stream?
Comment by Lee Eiseman — November 21, 2010 at 7:07 pm
How does the WCRB broadcast of the WFMT/Chicago Symphony concerts compare with WFMT’s stream?
Lee, I did not know as I do not listen the WFMT stream. The WFMT customary has very good sound. The Chicago Symphony concerts that we get are not true life-to-tape but edited by WFMT to prepare the programs. They unfortunately do not understand that digital recordings are not editable and in some cases they vandalize sound very dramatically. The biggest problems however is I think locally. It is all depends how WCRB get the WFMT files. Usually the better stations exchange with 24/48-92K but I do not know how WFMT distribute the files. I heard many times the WFMT programs were with huge digital compression – obviously there were MP3 feeds. So, go figure how Brian Bell get the files and what he does with them. A few months back it was very bad now it is a bit better. The concerts from Pittsburg are the worst. Reportedly the WCRB use a satellite feed that convert any instrument of any section into unturned accordion – a truly nightmare. With good pipes and hi-res files the WFMT feed is listenable, far from perfect but listenable. Again, we are talking about good Sound or about lowering the expectations? I am not sure you want me to open at your site my incorrigible mouth about “quality” of sound reproduction…
BTW, does any mechanism exist to make WCRB to play that Bruckner Second with Chicago/Muti again? I wonder if I request it in the “4 O’Clock Request” program then I am not sure that that will do it as it was WFMT recording and probably was licensed for a single play. I do not know how it works….
What I do know that the sunning performances like this are a huge commodity and a good station might built up upon the events like this. I wonder is any bank of insurance company out there is willing to underwrite a weekly Bruckner Orgy on WCRB where Brian Bell, John Berky and Benjamin Zander pick some unique and not available otherwise Bruckner performances? Why only Bruckner? How about Friday and Saturday WCRB broadcasts live but on Thursday WCRB plays the greatest recordings committed to media of the same program that BSO plays? Would it help the BSO to sell tickets? Would it make the people like me eventually to reach my wallet and donate some money? Would it make me to mention to my clients that Boston Classical FM Station is looking for sponsors? I wonder… Anyhow, now I am sighting off to listen on WCRB the 328th version of the Sugar Plum Fairy from Nutcracker arranged for upperbass, banjo and a colony of virgin turkeys…
Comment by Romy The Cat — November 21, 2010 at 9:41 pm
In 1956 when I came to Cambridge to go to school, WCRB was it, and all of it. I heard Vivaldi for the first time! Then ‘GBH came along and I contributed. Then Richard Nizely (sp?) was canned. Too expensive,I heard. He programmed, he collected, he taught. I listened often, if not every day. I enjoyed and I learned. When he left, there was no structure. I stopped listening and contributing. I listen to ‘HRB, but as intelligent as the programming is, I miss Richard as an intelligent friend who talked about and explained a bit about the music and the performers. Just as Lurtsema did. “Classical” music is in trouble and not just in Boston. What made ‘GBH at its best was that it played, talked, collected … MUSIC. No rock, but at least jazz and country in addition to the 3 Bs. But the “no rock” was perhaps an omen, because it was rock where the action was. I went to a concert last night at Sanders and at age 79, I think I was one of the youngest in the room. This cannot be a good sign. And for all its fancy new facilities, its syndications,its glossy magazine, I see age old TV from England, and I hear Strauss waltzes. If Joel Cohen asked me for money (small stuff)I would jump at the chance to give. If the MFA could build with Norman Foster, surely Boston could have one decent FM station that played intelligent music of all kinds. Robin Upton
Comment by Robin Upton — November 22, 2010 at 5:34 pm
Tuned into to WCRB around 6:30PM yesterday while driving. Ravel’s BOLERO… quite the novelty! Perhaps ‘CRB’ could make the Guiness Book of Records for the number of times it has played BOLERO.
WGBH TV has hit a new low in “GREAT PERFORMANCES” series with David Garrett..violin.. “Live from Berlin”.
Comment by Ed Burke — November 29, 2010 at 1:40 pm
I bet you don’t want to hear the “Three Tenors” or Yanni again either…
Comment by Lee Eiseman — November 29, 2010 at 8:02 pm
Ed Burke, but at the same time on Sunday morning they played a very nice program of Bruno Walter. I woke up, turned up tuner and here it was Mozart 40 symphony but not the crap that they typically play but surprisingly very seriously performed. Also, it sounded like it was LP and the WCRB unfortunately hardly ever played LPs!!!! Then they run with Bruno Walter across Mahler: the Children Magic Horn and the 4th symphony. Let agree that it was a nice Sunday morning wake up. It was the James David Jacobs’ program. I think I need to watch what this guy does….
Comment by Romy The Cat — November 30, 2010 at 8:37 am
While being extremely critical re: WCRB and WGBH in several commments, I try to be objective and don’t mind being proved wrong. During the last few days there have been some great things on “CRB” during the afternoons…particularly the In Performance series and European Union concerts… It appears that Wednesday is their best day…Kathy Fuller. as always is a great credit to WCRB… BRAVO!
Comment by Ed Burke — December 2, 2010 at 9:41 pm
The focus on WGBH seems such an anathema to me. Look, if you want more serious classical music ask your grandchildren about Pandora.com and have them set up an account for you and then create an all Bela Bartok station and listen to him all day. If you really want to go all out, go buy a Tivoli internet radio and listen to your Bartok station.
There are simply too many other choices out there for good classical music and worrying about decisions by the Politburo over at WGBH seems like time wasted.
Comment by Thurston Howell — December 7, 2010 at 10:35 pm
There is a lot to be said for having someone deliver good stuff to you through a medium with which you are familiar, rather than having to DIY. A corollary is that if what is being delivered could be better, you ask for improvements.
It may be true that radio is a dying medium, as some have suggested. But while it’s around, there are those of us who don’t want to give it up.
Comment by Joe Whipple — December 8, 2010 at 12:00 am
Your article is very accurate.
I find it sad that much of the programming on WCRB is voice tracked or the announcers record everything in advance. As a former broadcaster, I can tell you that there is something missing when you record what you’re going to say as opposed to being heard live on the radio.
I was also sorry that WCRB is using a nationally syndicated service, classical24 for much of their programming. This proves that the station has “dumbed down itself” i.e. what they are playing.
Despite what I have written, I hope that WCRB survives and improves over the next few years.
Comment by mozartman — December 8, 2010 at 5:17 pm
A year later and I still miss the community that existed on WGBH, both in terms of the Classical programming, but also the Blues programming. I guess the upside is that I now have enjoyed WHRB (Classical+Jazz) and WICN (Jazz) considerably over the last year. So while WGBH and WCRB are festering, the richness of WHRB and WICN is shining through. I’m happy to be financially supporting these two stations!
Comment by Chris — December 28, 2010 at 8:13 am
mozartman says, “I find it sad that much of the programming on WCRB is voice tracked or the announcers record everything in advance.” To the best of my knowledge, only the station promos and a small handful of programs (e.g., BSO on Record, The Bach Hour) are recorded in advance, and those are recorded complete, with the music AND the announcements together. There are some syndicated concert broadcasts (usually on Sunday Concert) that are supplied with announcer and concert recorded together, and the Live from Fraser pieces are recorded earlier in a concert/interview setting and edited to fit the hour.
The bulk of the schedule at WCRB is filled with people sitting in a studio, at a mike, announcing and playing recordings in real time. This true for both the local hosts (Laura Carlo, Cathy Fuller, Brian McCreath, Ray Brown, Naomi Arenberg, Steven Karidoyanes) and the Classical24 folks. Classical24 isn’t intended (by Minnesota Public Radio) to fill huge blocks of time: it’s intended to fill any odd hour in a schedule mainly consisting of other sources, which is why every hour follows the same format. But all of the hours are done live, as you hear them.
Comment by Mark Fishman — December 29, 2010 at 11:23 am
I just discovered KCSM 91.1 in San Francisco on my computer. That’s what I’ll be listening to.
WGBH and WBUR can do whatever they want. I couldn’t care less. I do listen to WCRB sometimes.
WBUR was once a great jazz station. I still listen to Eric Jackson and Bob Parlocha on WGBH.
But all this boring liberal talk who cares? Same with conservative talk on commercial radio.
Comment by johnJoeg — January 12, 2011 at 6:36 pm
I just want to add, WGBH HD2 comes in very good in Boston and
south of Boston. You can buy an HD radio for about $100.00 at
Radio Shack. Now if only WCRB would get an HD2 for jazz.
Comment by johnJoeg — January 12, 2011 at 6:43 pm
I really like Naomi Arenberg at 4:00-8:00 pm.
I hope they keep her in that time slot at 99.5.
In the morning,before 9:00 am, I put on Classical Masterpieces on the Comcast channel.
Comment by johnJoeg — February 12, 2011 at 2:29 pm
I think some of you are being more difficult than is necessary regarding the current iteration of WCRB. The degeneration of the station under Nassau is a given. I remember the days of the two Daves (McNeill and Tucker), Lurtsema, Richard L. Kaye and similar folk. That station, toward its end must have broken records for playing Finlandia, Bolero, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (always mis-pronounced). Very few works were played in their entirety (the current formula, by the way, of KDFC in San Francisco).
But, De Gustibus non est disputandum. I like WFMT in Chicago. I think Richard Knisely is not only pompous but knows less than he thinks. I think Brian McCreath and Kathy Fuller are terrific. I can’t stand Naomi Arenberg (?sp) who can’t get through a sentence without flubbing it. I could do without Laura Carlo.
I also remember the wonderful variety of musical offerings on WBUR and WGBH ranging from classical works with Boyer (I wish I could remember his first name) to Jose Maso with his Afro-Pop.
By and large I think WCRB is vastly improved from its condition two years ago, and that we are fortunate compared with, let’s say, New York City.
Comment by Joseph R. Barrie — February 17, 2011 at 8:34 pm
I suggest also that these stations could use an editor. There are too many announcements where “only” is misplaced (eg “you can only hear this on…” instead of “you can hear this only on….”.
I wouldn’t have written more, but I just heard an unfamiliar voice in a sort-of commercial about Chopin making reference to the Mi-nute Waltz. I hope I was hallucinating, but I don’t think so
Comment by Joseph R. Barrie — February 18, 2011 at 4:41 pm
To Joseph R. Barrie — it was Dennis Boyer.
Comment by John C. Berg — February 18, 2011 at 7:52 pm
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