The old programming had been watered down over the course of several years, and was severely flawed. But I kept listening, because it was the best option available on commercial radio, and because so many of the hosts displayed such immense knowledge and enthusiasm about the music they played. Often, the CBC hosts came out with interesting music I would otherwise never have listened to - a symphony by Edgar Bainton, or a concerto by C. P. E. Bach. Starting Tuesday, that era is over, and the CBC will have lost me as a listener.
The CBC, as an independent broadcaster, is of course free to play whatever they want on their airwaves. And my musical life will go on - I can listen to my own recordings, to Internet radio, or attend live performances. But the affair has left a bad taste in my mouth because of the bull-headed, ideological stance of the CBC administration. They seem to have ignored every opportunity for public consultation on their programming change, while taking every possible chance to portray its classical audience as a bunch of aging, conservative reactionaries. As exhibit A, compare these blurbs for the CBC's new Internet radio channels - one dedicated to classical music, another to Canadian singer-songwriters, and a third to contemporary compositions:
Classical: CBC Classical is the online home of all the great classical music from across the centuries uninterrupted 24 hours a day. You'll hear the music of the great classical composers performed by the best Canadian and international orchestras, chamber ensembles and soloists. CBC Classical is the perfect at home or in the office companion for those who love wall to wall classical music.The "Canadian Songwriters" blurb informs the reader concisely what sort of music one can expect to hear on the channel. The "Classical" blurb compensates for its total vagueness about the actual content of the new channel (orchestral? opera? chamber music? Messiaen organ works?) with appeals to our snobbery ("the great classical composers", "the best . . . orchestras. . .and soloists") and potshots at our supposed conservatism and intolerance of other musical styles ("uninterrupted . . . wall to wall classical music").
Canadian Songwriters: CBC Canadian Songwriters is a celebration of the Canadian Song. From Gordon Lightfoot, to Bruce Cockburn to Alex Cuba, to Feist to Basia Bulat to Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor. CBC Canadian Songwriters - Canadian songs and songwriters at their best 24 hours a day.
Canadian Composers: CBC Canadian Composers features the entire range of music composed by Canada's great composers and performed by our premiere ensembles. From John Weinzweig to Christos Hatzis, CBC Canadian Composers presents the best from Canada’s rich homegrown music community.
Meanwhile, the ghettoization of all contemporary composition into a separate channel confirms my worst fears: the CBC's "classical" programming is to consist entirely of the sort of vapid eighteenth- and nineteenth-century music you hear in hotel lobbies. The previews for Julie Nesrallah's new classical show confirm this impression - she seems like a nice enough person, but the choice of music for her preview is hardly encouraging (one of the Brandenburg concerti, a bit of the exposition of Beethoven's Fifth, and "Nessun Dorma"). To me, the whole point of listening to radio is to hear the host make those unexpected connections between different pieces: familiar and unknown, ancient and contemporary. If the CBC's classical programming is to stick to repertoire we know backwards and forwards, why not just put on a CD?
At the end of the day, it seems obvious that CBC has no interest in maintaining classical music programming. Between its unencouraging choices of programming (does Richard Stursberg really think that I would like to hear Tom Allen play Jully Black first thing in the morning?) and its obvious disdain for its listeners, I will no longer be listening to CBC Radio Two. It remains to be seen whether the CBC will have any success in attracting new audiences, but it has certainly succeeded in driving away its old one.
Boy, that was depressing.