As it has for many years, 99.5 WCRB Classical New England will broadcast some of the BSO’s summer season from Tanglewood. Hosts Cathy Fuller and Ron Della Chiesa will host broadcasts of 25 BSO concerts from the Koussevitzky Music Shed. The opening night concert is scheduled for July 5th at 8pm. According to Benjamin K. Roe, managing director of WCRB Classical New England, “The BSO’s Tanglewood performances are the embodiment of what we are always looking to present: great music in a relaxing and welcoming setting.” A link to the Tanglewood Festival season is here. But according to sources, there will be changes.
For one thing, rather than doing its own engineering, WCRB will rely on the same technicians who provide the audio to lawn patrons, because James Donahue, who was in the Tanglewood control room for 21 seasons, will be gone — the victim of budget cuts.
The continuing departures of staff at WCRB (among them longtime producer Brian Bell), can likely be attributed in part to loss of underwriting revenues as the WCRB audience share dwindles. Just before WGBH bought WCRB, in November 2009, the then commercial classical radio station had a market share of 3. Now it’s a 1.5 share. In other words, despite following BMInt’s and its readers’ advice to broadcast a lively and sophisticated mix of live concerts, many of them local, and despite the ministrations of lively hosts, WCRB has lost half its listeners since WGBH took over. The energetic manager Ben Roe has been unable to reverse the decline.
And upper management is apparently concerned enough to have engaged a consultant, Anthony Rudel, the son of the famous conductor, Julius Rudel. WGBH’s media relations director, Michael Raia, told BMInt that Rudel’s mission is to “help WCRB and Classical New England engage their audiences. When one of our hosts plays an 18th-century piece, we have to do a better job of connecting that with today’s Boston.” We may not all be thrilled with the chirpier format changes this augurs.