La Scena Musicale

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Comparison of Arguments: CBC vs Save Classical Music on CBC

The following is a table comparing the arguments on both sides of the changes at CBC Radio 2.

Part of this was published in the Summer 2008 issue of La SCENA / June 2008 issue of La Scena Musicale.


Monday, May 26, 2008

Bramwell Tovey’s Rally Speech

This past Saturday, May 24th, 2008 saw a significant protest against the dumbing down of CBC Radio II on the steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery. The event saw many musical performances, as well as many speeches by som eof Canada's most important classical music figures. One of the most eloquent and thoughtful speeches was given by VSO conductor Bramwell Tovey reprinted below:

To whom it may concern:

I write to you as the longest-serving music director of a major Canadian orchestra, having served in that position with the Winnipeg Symphony (from 1989 to 2001)and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestras (from 2000 onwards.) Additionally, I was principal guest conductor of the Calgary Philharmonic from 1995-1998 and co-founder of the Winnipeg New Music Festival. I am also Principal Guest Conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl and Founder and Conductor (since 2004) of the New York Philharmonic’s annual Summertime Classics festival at Lincoln Centre in New York.

CBC Radio 2 is in dire straits. Loyal listeners are abandoning ship. On Easter Sunday a performance of J.S.Bach’s B minor Mass by a European ensemble was followed by a song from Johnny Cash. Such a lurch of programming would guarantee failure at any box office in the real world. This style of programming forms the core of the new schedules on CBC Radio 2 and is the result of a surfeit of management consultants.

Protesting financial problems, the CBC has abandoned its own 70 year old radio orchestra, an institution born of the need to promote Canadian talent and new music. Exactly a week later the network managed to find the cash to print a self-congratulatory full page ad in the Globe and Mail, extolling itself in partnership with major record companies, none of whom in fact, contribute one cent to the corporation.

Distinguished hosts have been dismissed without regard for the long standing relationships they enjoyed with listeners across the country. Great broadcasters like Manitoba born Eric Friesen who was poached by CBC from a public radio station in the US, and Howard Dyck, distinguished host of Saturday Afternoon at the Opera for 20 years.

These are broadcasters whose knowledge base and dulcet tones guaranteed a welcome into Canadian homes across the country. They were unceremoniously ditched with announcements laced in Orwellian doublespeak about ‘new pursuits’ and ‘tremendous service’. Canadians do not enjoy being treated like fools and everyone knows what’s going on. An ageist agenda that allegedly favours 35-50 year olds is being pursued. CBC became a laughing stock within the music business as it emerged that all kinds of inappropriate people were being pursued by the corporation to take over Saturday Afternoon At The Opera from Howard Dyck.

Lifting management-consultant speak, CBC Radio managers have talked of ‘phase one’, and with no realization of irony, ‘phase two’ as if such unexplained jargon could placate the increasingly disgruntled public. Constantly interrupting programmes (four times an hour in some cases) with self-promoting advertisements, the network mantra is chanted “Everywhere music takes you”. As a distinguished opera singer said to me recently, “It takes me to the off button.”

The changes on the network have amounted to a dereliction of duty on the part of the CBC. It is as if the CRTC, the House of Commons and above all, the Canadian public were not owed deference in what amounts to a wholescale change of emphasis in the way public money is spent. New policy was decided unilaterally by a handful of bureacrats at CBC Radio 2 after a derisory set of focus groups and ‘consultations’.

In seeking to control the debate about Radio 2 programming the network has ruthlessly censored its own blogsites. In May 2007 I submitted a comment to a blog about changes at Saturday Afternoon at the Opera. I received numerous telephone calls and then an email from a senior CBC manager:

“Let’s talk further about what we’re trying to achieve. I’d still be more than happy to post most of what you wrote, but do need to edit out one line, and want your approval to do that before I get Jowi [the supposed editor of the blog] to post. We’re not trying to censor you.” (sic)

Various websites, including on Facebook have blossomed since it was more widely realized that CBC was incapable of listening to criticism.

CBC is a public broacaster with obligations to Canadians that are clearly laid out in the corporation’s mandate. The lack of public debate has been appalling. I am delighted that the Heritage Committee has decided to hold hearings across Canada. I have accepted the invitation to speak next Thursday.

Given the present government’s significant commitment to young artist training that was announced today, the CBC’s decision to programme classical music between 10 am and 3 pm seems particularly churlish. The VSO, for example, performs to 50,000 children every year and is about to open a state of the art music school in downtown Vancouver. Yet none of these children will hear any classical music on Radio 2 since classical music will only be on the airwaves between 10am and 3pm.

Perhaps CBC Radio needs more airwaves on FM to fulfil its national obligations. CBC Radio certainly needs new direction with an ear to public opinion and a vision that does not discard its traditional powerbase. Classical music is very healthy in our country and CBC simply isn’t aware of this.

My youngest daughter is 7 years old. She has been learning the cello at the Vancouver Academy of Music for two years. A little while ago she played “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” at a family party. Her tiny hands pressed gallantly on the strings as her bow found the sounding point on the instrument and she entered the world of self-expression afforded by the language of music. She dreams of playing in our local youth orchestra. As things currently stand, CBC Radio 2 couldn’t care less about her.

Yours truly,

Bramwell Tovey O.M., LLD, FRAM, FRCMT


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Letter From Member of the CBC Radio Orchestra

An open letter by Gene Ramsbottom, principal clarinet for the CBC Radio Orchestra.

gene.jpgThe CBC Radio Orchestra had flourished for 67 years as a studio broadcast recording orchestra, with occasional public concerts and important tours of Canada’s far North. Radio broadcasting provides a viable alternative to transporting an orchestra around this vast country. CBC Radio reaches every community in Canada, whereas moving an orchestra around by float plane would be absurdly expensive.

Over the past thirty years, CBC Radio’s overseas service has coordinated live-to-satellite orchestra broadcasts in simulcast events to 36 or 38 countries. Canadian composing and performing talent has been fostered through CBC’s many broadcast programmes, festivals and competitions. The CBC Radio Orchestra is internationally renowned for its innovative programming and devoted listener base - statistics that don’t show up in Canada-only surveys.

Only three years ago, the current CBC administration obliged the orchestra to move from its less expensive studio broadcast environment to the public stage. Costs of theatre rental, ticket sales, promotions, flyers, programmes, and higher artists’ airplay fees, together with a restrictive no-fundraising policy, resulted in an operating deficit. At  the same time, new internet-broadcast fees and royalties added to the CBC’s financial woes. Management responded by declaring the orchestra too expensive to sustain.

Lost in the corporate spin was the fact that it was far cheaper to feature the orchestra from the CBC Vancouver Studio One broadcasting facility. Rather than return the orchestra to its former studio broadcast business model, management succumbed to another outside agenda - that of independent producers. The $50,000 Globe and Mail ad a few weeks ago showed the wholehearted endorsement of the international music industry, which stands to benefit in the short term from the changing agenda of the CBC executives responsible for axing the CBC RAdio Orchestra.

Sadly, by September, the devolution of CBC Radio Two programming will probably end up in a catastrophic loss of audience, culminating in a nationwide listener boycott.  CBC Radio Two will have become just another pop-jazz, blues, world-fusion-roots, light accessible classics forgettable music station. The damage will take years to unravel, as the CBC’s core audience becomes lost to commercial stations, ipods and CDs. True, the “concerts-on-demand” proposed by the CBC executives are an interesting delicatessan salad-bar approach to allowing audiences to make their own listening choices. But so is putting on earphones and dialing one’s ipod selections.

Many other countries are proud of their national radio orchestras. Canada, however, is joining the United States in not having one. Consider how many performers’  voices will be silenced as a result of the commercial music industry’s lobbying. The loss of the CBC Radio Orchestra strips away a piece of Canada’s national heritage.  This is cultural bullying, cultural vandalism, cultural terrorism. What of the investment, across so many decades, of the funds and energies of so many groups of people?   The Canada Council, provincial and local arts councils, national, provincial and local music festivals and competitions, public and private scholarships, estate gifts, bursaries  to universities and colleges, and countless others have helped build the multi-faceted infrastructure necessary to to foster the “non-vogue” musical art forms, which have been focused through the artistic prism of the national radio orchestra. A huge part of Canada’s heritage will be demolished by the smashing of this cultural jewel, and the fundamental nature of Canada’s public broadcaster transformed into a confederation of independent regional productions.

Try to imagine the Roman Catholic Church eliminating the office of a central figure, such as the Bishop of Rome (the Pope) as “too expensive to susatin.” Imagine the Church  deliberately eliminating its central representative, its focusing spiritual force. This is not so different from what the CBC executives have decided to do.

Becoming a CBC-commissioned composer or guest soloist or conductor featured with the CBC Radio Orchestra requires running a complex selection gauntlet. Those selected are adjudged the best the country has to offer. Many young composers and performers launched by the CBC Radio Orchestra have gone on to illustrious careers. Generations of children have been introduced or exposed to CBC Radio’s classical programming before and after school. To elide that a five-hour, mid-day segment of classical music now constitutes sufficient programming severely delimits the next generation’s interest in and knowledge of the “non-vogue” art forms. Symphony managers across the country should take notice - theor jobs, for the next twenty years or more, are about to become far more difficult.

If the same triumvirate of CBC executives got hold of the funding reins of the symphonies across Canada, they would no doubt soon argue that it was too expensive to sustain 30 various-sized orchestras, and that federal and provincial funding would best be concentrated in one orchestra, most likely based in Toronto. Through a series of regional programming initiatives coordinated by the cabal, that singular symphony would be able to serve the entire country.  Just as the CBC budget inexorably shrinks by a million dollars each year, the budget for that single symphony would also contract. The cabal’s cost-benefit analysis would further reduce this fictional Toronto National Orchestra,   to avoid obvious redundancies in manpower. Too soon, that fictional Torontonian orchestra would go the way of television shows and commercials, its strings sections reduced to a stack of synthesisers. Those executives would readily concur, after another budget cut, that the whole orchestra could be rendered by synthesisers, and that a sole cultural performance resource could be operated, like the CBC’s digital radio service, out of a single, computer-filled room. There would be no need for concert halls, so  the real estate could be sold to developers. The perfect music would come from the CBC’s synthesiser orchestra. Virtual orchestras are already a reality. The executives would win big bonuses for meeting the country’s diverse musical cultural needs with an ever-diminishing budget. Unexpected windfalls could be had as zealous administrators  realized that university music schools, conservatories, and public/private school music education programmes were unnecessary. There would be no point in a career in music  in Canada. The one one job, the only job left in a once struggling industry would be that of a lone soul running the computers and synthesisers in the CBC’s basement.

And so would end the Music of the Brave New Night.

Yours truly,

Gene Ramsbottom,
former Arts Commissioner for Music,
North Shore Arts Commission

principal clarinet,
CBC Radio Orchestra
member (1974-2008)

producer, co-sponsor,
Out For Lunch noonhour concert series

Source: Michael Vincent | Fully Composed


Sunday, April 6, 2008

Lettre de Alain Trudel au sujet de l’Orchestre de la radio de la CBC

[English Version]

Vendredi, le 4 avril 2008

Chers membres de mon orchestre,
Chers collègues,
Chers mélomanes, d'un océan à l'autre.

Au cours des derniers jours, j’ai reçu vos très nombreux messages concernant la mort prématurée de l’Orchestre de la radio de la CBC. Je tiens d’abord à vous remercier le plus chaleureusement du monde pour l’intérêt et l’affection que vous lui portez. Je suis profondément ému de constater le nombre de personnes qui saisissent son importance aux yeux des Canadiens venant de tous les horizons musicaux, lui qui célèbre cette année son soixante-dixième anniversaire.

Les musiciens et moi-même sommes bien sûr catastrophés par la perte de notre mandat à la CBC, ce mandat qui constituait notre raison même d’exister. En cette heure de choc et de chagrin, il me semble important de souligner, le plus clairement que je le puis, l’importance de l’Orchestre pour notre pays et pour la CBC elle-même. Pour assurer la suite des choses, il nous faut comprendre ce que l’Orchestre représente, et la place qu’il occupe dans notre vie culturelle.

Au moment où j’écris ceci, le CRO constitue l’un des meilleurs orchestres du pays, un orchestre qu’il nous a fallut, à nous Canadiens, des décennies à construire. C’est un véritable bijou musical et un irremplaçable repère culturel.

Étant le seul orchestre radiophonique d'Amérique, le CRO suffirait à marquer, à lui seul, la spécificité de la scène musicale canadienne. Du simple fait de son existence, de ses objectifs et de son travail, il participe à exprimer l’unicité de toutes les cultures du Canada.

Depuis le début de son histoire, le CRO fait appel à des compositeurs et à des interprètes de toutes tendances et venant de toutes les régions du pays, faisant ainsi la démonstration de ce que la musique est bien vivante au Canada, même aux heures où d’autres sujets de préoccupation sont de nature à engendrer le désespoir ou le découragement. Par l’entremise de concerts en salles radiodiffusés, le CRO permet aux solistes et aux compositeurs canadiens de se faire entendre, ce qui en soi équivaut à envoyer un message d’espoir à tous les jeunes créateurs et à tous les jeunes musiciens de toutes tendances musicales. Il représente une promesse : leurs voix seront entendues et reconnues !

Tout au long de mon mandat, j’ai insisté pour nous développions des projets appartenant à tous les genres musicaux, y compris au jazz, à la world music, au populaire et à la musique des Premières Nations. En 2007, nous avons entrepris le Great Canadian Song Book, qui a commandé à des compositeurs de toutes tendances de vrais poëmes musicaux pour orchestre sur des oeuvres de grands auteurs compositeurs, de Joni Mitchell en passant par Neil Young, de Buffy Ste-Marie aussi bien que de Serge Fiori Michel Rivard et bien d'autres. L’Orchestre a mis sur pied des projets de création sur les musiques d’Asie et du Moyen-Orient. D'autres collaborations incluent des concerts avec des grands du jazz autant que le répertoire traditionnel pour orchestre, et même une collaboration avec le rappeur K-os. Au cours de la dernière saison, vous avons passé commandes pour 18 oeuvres, destinées à sept concerts. Grâce à l’Orchestre, la radio de la C.B.C. ne se contente pas d’être un diffuseur mais devient partie constituante du processus de création artistique au Canada.

Grâce au réseau de diffusion nationale, l’Orchestre a pu rejoindre des gens de tous les coins du pays. En septembre 2007, nous avons interprété en direct un programme mis au point spécialement pour l’occasion, à partir d’Iqaluit. Quelques mois plus tard, nous étions à White Rock, en Colombie britannique. Nous avons reçu des invitations de petites et de grandes communautés d’un bout à l’autre du Canada, et même de salles de concerts européennes importantes. De tels projets doivent, hélas, être désormais abandonnés.

J’ai eu la chance, au cours de ma carrière, de travailler assidûment à travers le pays, et ce autant en anglais qu’en français, ce qui m’a permis d’acquérir une perspective réellement nationale. À mon grand bonheur, au cours des derniers mois, la radio française de la SRC est devenue non seulement davantage consciente de l’excellent travail accompli par le CRO, mais a même émis le souhait de participer désormais à son existence. À ce chemin-là aussi, nous devons à présent renoncer. Quoi qu’il en soit, le rôle de rassembleur entre les différentes regions du canada qu’à joué l’Orchestre ne doit jamais être oublié.

Plusieurs choses se confirme par le travail de l'orchestre de la CBC, et maintenant dans vos réponses à l'annonce de sa disolution : l’importance de la musique dans nos vies, l’importance de cultiver, d’épauler et de diffuser l’extraordinaire talent, incroyablement diversifié, qui existe dans notre pays, le rôle de rassembleur que se doit de jouer un radiodiffuseur national, et bien d’autres encore. Chacun d’entre nous tirera ses propres conclusions de tout ceci, mais une chose est certaine : le CRO nous rappelle ce que nous chérissons les plus profondément dans la musique et dans notre pays.

Bien respectueusement,

Alain Trudel
Chef principal, CBC radio Orchestra

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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Letter from Alain Trudel

The following is a letter from Alain Trudel, Principal Conductor of the CBC Radio Orchestra.

Dear members of my orchestra, colleagues, and music lovers across the country,

Over the past few days I have received your many communications concerning the untimely demise of the CBC Radio Orchestra (CRO). I want to thank you so much for your concern and love for the Orchestra. I am very moved to see how many people understand the importance of the CRO (celebrating its 70th anniversary this season) for Canadians of all musical backgrounds.

The musicians, and myself are, of course, devastated by the loss of our mandate from the CBC, which first gave us life. In this time of shock and obvious distress, I think it is important to articulate, as clearly as possible, the value that our Orchestra brings to music lovers from everywhere in our country and to the CBC itself. In order to move forward, we need to grasp what it stands for and its place in our cultural life.

At this moment the CRO is one of the top orchestras in the country; an orchestra, which we as Canadians have spent seven decades building. This Orchestra is a musical jewel and a cultural landmark.

Being the only Radio Orchestra in the Americas, the CRO is the ONE music ensemble that sets the Canadian music scene apart. By its existence, its mission and its work, it helps define Canada’s uniqueness.

Throughout it history the CRO has called upon composers and performers of all cultural backgrounds from across our country, proving that music is alive in our country, even when other matters may cause despair or discouragement. Through live performance and national broadcast exposure the CRO gives exposure to Canadian soloists and composers, sending a message of hope to all young Canadian creators and to musicians of all musical backgrounds. It shows that their voices will be heard and celebrated.

Throughout my tenure, I have insisted that we develop projects from all musical genres, including jazz, world, pop and Canadian native music. In 2007, we started the Great Canadian Song Book, which commissioned a diverse roster of composers to create “art song” settings of works from Joni Mitchell to Neil Young, from Buffy Ste-Marie to Serge Fiori and Michel Rivard. The CRO has developed creative projects around music from Asia and the Middle-East; around jazz improvisers as well as traditional orchestral repertoire as well as collaborating with the rapper K-os. During the last season, we commissioned 18 works over seven concerts. Through the CBC Radio Orchestra, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is not only seen as a programmer but also as an active partner in Canadian art-making.

The CRO, through the elegance of a national broadcasting network, has reached people across our country. In September 2007, we performed a specially developed program, live, in Iqaluit on Frobisher Bay. Months later, we went to White Rock, B.C. We have received invitations from large and small communities across Canada and even from major concert halls in Europe. All of this, alas, we are now unable to entertain.

I have been fortunate in my career to work extensively in both English and French Canada, having thereby, a truly national perspective. To my great joy, in recent months the French services of the Corporation have not only become more aware of the fine work of the CRO, but have expressed a desire to embrace it. This also is a path that we cannot now pursue. However, the role of the Orchestra in building bridges across our country is something we must never forget.

Many things have been made clear in the work of the Orchestra and in your response to its closing: the importance of music in our lives, the importance of nurturing, supporting and broadcasting the diversified and astonishing talent we have in our country, the role of a national broadcaster in bringing us together, and much more. We will each have our personal reflection on the meaning of all of this, but one thing is certain: the CRO reminds us of what it is we cherish most in music and in our country.

Respectfully yours,

Alain Trudel
Principal Conductor, CBC Radio Orchestra


Facts to Counter False Claims around Radio2 Changes

Canadian baritone Peter McGillivray, founder of the Facebook group Save Classical Music on the CBC was sent by a CBC insider an internal CBC document "Facts to Counter False Claims around Radio2 Changes" to respond to complaints about the changes to CBC Radio 2 Programming. See below

Facts to Counter False Claims around Radio2 Changes

Claim: - Classical music gutted by cancellation of Studio Sparks and Disc Drive
Fact: - In September Radio2 is introducing a new weekday, five hour classical program that will run from 10am to 3pm
-Classical Music will continue to be the single, most played genre on CBC Radio 2

Claim: - Live performance broadcasts of classical music have been significantly cut back.
Fact: - Last fall Radio 2 introduced a new, weekly four-hour classica performance show called Sunday Afternoon in Concert
- New nightly program The Signal (10pm - 1pm) regularly airs contemporary classical performances from across the country.

Claim: - Two national competitions at the heart of musical development in Canada have been cancelled or cut back
Fact: - CBC's national choral competition is scheduled for April-May 08
- Currently working on an alternative, higher impact approach to showcasing emerging classical performers.
- Expanding opportunities for youth development to include singer/songwriters, folk and roots music

Claim: -R2 doesn't care about listeners.
Fact: - R2 cares about Canadians from all regions, from all cultures, from all socio economic backgrounds

Claim: - Changes will be devastating to classical music fans and musicians in rural and less-dense areas of the country
Fact: - Continuing to spend the same amount on classical music overall and spending more (not less) in the regions of the country: Aired first opera in the Cree language; Tomson Highway's "The Journey (Pimooteewin)", a music drama he collaborated on with composer Melissa Hui.
- CBC's classical commissions expanding to include previously ignored segments of the country and society: Kiran Ahluwalia collaboration with the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra and contemporary composer Glenn Buhr, in two CBC commissioned works, called "Chant of Wind and Thunder" and "Chant of Water and Sky"
- Continuing to bring classical special events to rural Canada: Gould 75th annniversary; Upcoming Beethoven Festival featuring his Nine Symphonies.

Claim: - Degradation of Good Music
Fact: - Let's not confuse quality of music with style of music: CBC is committed to introducing Canadians to quality Canadian Music. it's a key value that drives all decision-making; We're broadening the genres we play in order to better meet our mandate of representing all regions and the broad range of music performed by Canadians.

Claim: - Focus on commercially lucrative music
Fact: - In fact, we're doing the exact opposite: Commercial radio only plays .8% of the Canadian music produced in any given year; We're going to go deeper exposing a lot more recorded Canadian talent that deserves to be heard; As a public broadcaster Radio2 doesn't, has never and has no plans to run advertising on air.

Claim: - CBC's abandoning mandate by moving away from Classical Music.
Fact: - Untrue. CBC's mandate is to reflect the regions, thepeople and the music of this country: By broadening the range of music we play we will do a much better job of meeting our mandate.

Claim: - No classical options left.
Fact: - Radio2 is featuring whole classical programs, jazz and other types of music in newly launched digital environment. Thsi means you now control what you listen to: Classical concerts on demand; Dedicated classical web radio stream

Claim: Competing with private radio for pop music crowd
Fact: - Not true: Private radio plays select few, in focused genre, in regular rotation; Radio 2 morning and drive programs wil play more emerging Candian talent in genres ranging fro blues to jazz to folk to roots and more; in between, five hours per day, we will continue to feature classical music

Claim: - Radio 2 still maintains a huge audience in Canada.
Fact: - Radio 2 does not have a a huge audience in Canada: According to latest BBM, of Canadians who listen to radio, only 3.1% listen to Radio 2; Research (Arts and Culture Study /06) tells us the reason many Canadians don't listen is because CBC doesn't represent them, their taste in music, their cultural roots or the region of the country where they live.
-Goal of redevelopment is to make the network more relevant to more Canadians while maintaining our strong commitment to classical music.


Sunday, March 30, 2008

Save CBC Radio 2 Battle Heats Up

The battle to save CBC Radio 2 is heating up. In Saturday's Globe and Mail, the CBC took out a full page ad to defend its recent decision to change CBC Radio 2's programming (See the ad here). The Facebook Save Classical Music at the CBC group has responded by questioning where the CBC got the money ($30,000 according to Mary Soderstrom's blog) to take out an expensive ad when it claimed just days ago that due to lack of funds, they are cutting the CBC Radio Orchestra (See's spotlight for the news articles). The Facebook group's next action is to mount an email letter campaign from March 30 to 31st. See . Here is what they wrote including a list of cuts CBC has been making to its Radio over the last few years:

Here we go again, folks. It sure appears we've made our voices heard. Columnists in the major papers are taking note and taking sides. And the CBC execs themselves sense the threat to their schemes, taking out a full-page ad in the Saturday Globe in rebuttal to our criticism. We're going to keep the pressure up.

EVERYBODY: Write an email outlining your outrage over the changes happening to Radio Two. be as personal as you can. If you need inspiration, we've got a list of issues below, and many people have posted create feats of rhetorical splendour back at the Save Classical Music at the CBC site. Write your quick email tonight to Richard Stursberg and CC it to all the people we mention below plus any journalists you can think of. We expanding things this time to board members and members of parliament. Write you letter before the end of the day on Monday. Let's make another huge statement, folks!

LIST OF ISSUES AND EMAIL ADDRESSES (Thanks to Margaret Logan for compiling all this!)

1. The CBC Young Composers Competition has not been held since March 9, 2003. It, as well as the CBC Young Performers Competition, have been suspended for the past four years. The Canada Council provided the funding for the $10,000.00 grand prize.
2. CBC erased the classical music budget for CBC Records in February 2008, precisely on the eve of their first Grammy win by Canadian violinist James Ehnes and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra under Bramwell Tovey on the CBC Records label. Many artists, such as Measha Brueggergosman, launched their careers on a CBC Records label recording.
3. The commissioning budget previously devoted to commissioning new works from composers is now spread out to cover jazz, pop musicians, and some unspecified amount of contemporary music.
4. CBC cancelled Two New Hours, a multiple-award winning program that was aired for two hours a week in the incredibly prime time slot of Sundays 10pm to midnight. This program was dedicated to the music of living Canadian composers. It was cancelled in March 2007 in its 29th year.
5. CBC cancelled The Arts Report. The late Val Ross, an arts columnist for The Globe and Mail, lamented the loss of this particular radio segment, saying that it kept her in touch with important cultural developments across the country.
6. CBC cancelled Music For A While, which aired classical music daily from 6pm to 8pm. It has been replaced by Tonic, a jazz program which also features hip-hop, soul and world music.
7. CBC cancelled In Performance the flagship Classical concerts program. It was replaced by Canada Live, which has an uneven and unpredictable offering of funk and R and B bands, jazz, Middle eastern fusion music, throatsinging...
8. The proposed cuts for the Fall of 2008 represents further reductions in classical music content, eliminating classical music 6am to 10am and 3pm to 6pm.
9. The new hosts are not musicologists and have little depth of knowledge to share with radio listeners. Howard Dyck, for example, who is no longer hosting Saturday Afternoon at the Opera, is an Order of Canada recipient, a conductor and the recipient of numerous honourary degrees for his contribution to music in Canada. See Larry Lake, former host of Two New Hours, is a Toronto composer, performer and broadcaster. He is Artistic Director of the Canadian Electronic Ensemble, the oldest active live electronic music group in the world, now in its 35th season. Other hosts whose, such as Tom Allen, Eric Friesen, Rick Phillips are also giants in the field of music broadcasting.
10. The axing of the CBC Radio Orchestra: North America's 70 year old last remaining radio orchestra and platform for countless premieres of new Canadian compositions
11. Gone are Music & Company - Tom Allen's morning show, Here's to You - Catherine Belyea's (Formerly Shelley Solmes') all-request show, Studio Sparks - due to the venerable Eric Friesen's "retirement", and Disc Drive - Jurgen Gothe's popular drive-home show after almost 30 years. These changes come on the heels of last years round of cuts to vital programs such as Danielle Charbonneau's much-loved Music for Awhile; Larry Lake's new composer showcase Two New Hours; Symphony Hall - Canada's live orchestra recording showcase; The Singer and the Song - Catherine Belyea's excellent Classical vocal program; Northern Lights - the overnight Classical program beloved by Night Owls everywhere; The reformatting of In Performance- a primarily classical live performance show into the much-reviled Canada Live - a uniformly non-classical and completely unfocused hodge-podge of World music, soft pop, and sort-of Jazz; and the controversial replacement of veteran Howard Dyck from Saturday Afternoon at the Opera after many years of great service.
12. The CBC axing the Radio Orchestra one day citing lack of resources, and the next day buying hugely expensive full-page ad in the Globe and Mail to convince us how wonderful everything is going to be in their Brave New World.

Send your letter to Richard Stursberg, head of English services at CBC, condeming any of the issues above, or, preferably, one of your own. Demand his resignation for single-handedly destroying 70 years of a carefully evolved musical ecology at CBC Radio 2.

cc: ALL the following individuals:
1. CBC President Hubert Lacroix
2. CBC board chairman Timothy Casgrain through his assistant Kathleen Martin
3.. Board members Peter Herrndorf
4. and Trina McQueen
5. Stursberg's Executive Assistant, Cathy Katrib-Reyes KatribC@CBC.CA
6. Lacroix`s Chief of Staff Francine Letourneau
7. Exec in charge of CBC Radio, Jennifer McGuire or
8. Radio 2 Programming chief or
9. Peter Steinmetz, Chair of the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame
10. Josee Verner, Minister of Heritage
11. Prime Minister Stephen Harper
12. Liberal Heritage critic Mauril Bélanger
13. NDP Heritage critic Charlie Angus
14. The major newspaper journalist of your choice - local is best!

Cc: KatribC@CBC.CA;;;;;;;,;;;;;;

Note! Your email client may require commas rather than semi-colons.

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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

CBC Radio 2 Changes Programming - Less Classical More Pop

Yesterday, timed to coincide with Canadian Music Week, the CBC announced changes to its day-time lineup for CBC Radio 2 that will begin after Labour Day 2008. According to a story on CBC News,

The changes were announced Tuesday by Jennifer McGuire, executive director of English programming for CBC Radio.

Radio Two will remain a music station, with an emphasis on classical and boosted Canadian content after the final phase of the redesign, she said.

The plan for weekday programming on CBC Radio Two is:

  • 6-10 a.m.: A music program dedicated to a range of genres, including classical, pop, jazz and roots music.
  • 10 a.m.-3 p.m.: A classical program that will emphasize the most popular and accessible classical music, including Mozart, Beethoven and other favourites.
  • 3-6 p.m.: A drive-home show focusing on vocal music, including many new artists.

The format for the morning program also will continue on weekend mornings, with a different host.

This morning's Globe and Mail reports that

In September, Radio 2 will also launch separate all-day all-classical, all-jazz and all-singer-songwriter stations on the Internet. Radio 3 will remain an Internet- and satellite-based service. However, one petitioner among a vocal group of listeners, musicians and composers who have criticized the overhaul argued yesterday that even an all-classical Web-based service wouldn't rectify the fact that Radio 2's on-air, non-classical programs are moving away from what had been the network's core listeners.

While acknowledging that change always meets opposition, Jennifer McGuire, executive director of radio, said that overall ratings haven't dropped as significantly as anticipated, as some listeners tune out and new ones tune in. She also emphasized that only a tiny fraction - 0.8 per cent - of new Canadian songs get commercial radio play and that the Radio 2 changes will allow for much more Canadian music to be heard, from pop to experimental.

But, "people who like classical music can still find classical music on Radio 2. In fact, it is still the most represented single genre on the service," McGuire said.

The proposed all-day all-classical and all-jazz web stations, already in service on the French CBC, are red-herrings; if someone wants to listen to classical or jazz online, there are already thousands of web radio stations, and one or two more won't make a dent.

The announcement has stirred up passion amongst CBC Radio 2 listeners. Both reports were filled with comments (see G&M comments; comments to the CBC story is at the bottom of the page), mostly lamenting the lost of classical music.

The bigger question is what is the role of a public broadcaster. Supporters of the change put forth the argument that a public broadcaster should serve all of its citizens. The consequence of this argument is that the public broadcaster would end up chasing ratings, as this plan aims to do. Ratings are the currency to justify the broadcaster's existence to its political masters. Historically, the role of a public broadcaster is to offer quality programming rather than follow the motives of commercial media. Favouring quantity over quality is usual a passing fad. Hopefully, saner minds will prevail, one day. Let us know what you think in the comments section or by emailing

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Tango Notturno

Isabel Bayrakdarian, soprano, Serouj Kradjian, piano; Fabian Carbone, bandoneon; Marie Berard, violin; Roman Borys, cello; Roberto Occhipinti, bass; Shalom Bard, clarinet; Daiel Bolshoy, guitar; Levon Ichkhanian, oud
CBC Records MVCD 1176 (70 m 15 s)
***** $$$

Arguably more than any other musical genre, the tango epitomizes romance - or should I say desire - in all its varieties. Though Latin in origin, tango is really an international genre, as this CD amply demonstrates. Prominently featured are of course the magical pieces by the famous Argentinean tango masters Carlos Gardel and Astor Piazolla. But equally important are the works by Danish, German, Egyptian and Armenian composers featured on this disc. In fact, one of the most popular of all tango melodies, "Jalousie", was written by Jacob Gade, a Dane; and the more adventurous minded should seek out a highly enjoyable disc sung by, of all people, the great basso profundo Matti Salminen in a delicious selections of Finnish tango music!

This new disc from CBC Records stars soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian. Her affinity to the Latin genre is well known, witness her Azulao disc on CBC, and in particular her lovely interpretation of Villas-Lobos' Bachianas brasileiras No. 5. While her lyric instrument is a departure from what one is used to hearing in these sultry songs, Bayrakdarian's stylish singing here is a marvel. She combines a beautiful voice, solid technique, innate musicality, not to mention immaculate diction and great attention to textual nuance. A true vocal chameleon, one is struck by the variety of timbres and accents she employs, from an innocently girlish sound in some of the pieces to a highly dramatic and world-weary timbre in Piazolla's "Rinacerò", the last selection on the disc. She is beautifully supported by the Tango Ensemble on this recording, led by the collaborative piano of Bayrakdarian's husband, Serouj Kradjian, an accomplished pianist in his own right. Playing no small part is the idiomatic bandoneón of Fabián Carbone. Also deserving of mention is Canadian Opera Company concertmaster Marie Bérard, for her lovely violin solo in "Jalousie". Kudos to the CBC engineers for a most atmospheric recording, a few overdone reverbs notwithstanding. On balance, this disc has my vote as the best "World Music" album by a Canadian classical artist in 2007.

-Joseph K. So

Buy this CD at

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