Classical Music and the Personal Need for Culture

Sunday afternoon I listened to the Philadelphia Orchestra on Temple University’s WRTI. (They have a repeater here in York, and overnight it’s a jazz radio station instead of classical.) I sat in my living room, my Christmas tree plugged in, a cup of tea in hand, and listened to a number of Tchaikovsky pieces, concluding with a rousing performance of the “1812 Overture.”

No cannons.

The thought struck me after the stirring conclusion to the hour of Tchaikovsky. When did I become this person? When did I become the person who would listen to classical music on the radio… and make a point of listening to classical music on the radio.

Naturally, I had to ponder this.

And I came to a conclusion.

It’s WITF‘s fault.

WITF is the public radio station in Harrisburg. In the summer, they stopped broadcasting A Prairie Home Companion. They are, largely, an all-news station. There are some exceptions — Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me and the excretable Ask Me Another — but largely, it’s all news, all the time. If it’s not an NPR news program, then it’s a BBC news program. (And they don’t even broadcast an NPR news program I really like, On Point with Tom Ashbrook. I used to listen to that in the evenings after work.)

My point here is, WITF is bereft of culture. Are there music programs? No. No Thistle & Shamrock. No Prairie Home Companion. No Mountain Stage. No Jazz at Lincoln Center. No opera. It’s all talking heads.

And I don’t like it. At all. I need more than talking heads. I need culture.

I’m not getting my Prairie Home Companion fix on the radio, so I have to listen to the Philadelphia Orchestra on another NPR station. I do listen to Chris Thile’s Prairie Home Companion thanks to the miracle of the Internet and streaming audio, but it’s not the same.

As for the “1812 Overture,” my favorite version is the one by conductor Igor Buketoff and the New Philharmonia Orchestra. He added a choir to Tchaikovsky’s piece, turning the overture into a haunting choral piece and the climax into a powerful performance of “God Save the Tsar.” It’s incredibly effective, and this is the version I have on CD.

As for WRTI, tomorrow afternoon they’re playing Handel’s The Messiah at 3 o’clock, followed by the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia’s Christmas program at 5. There’s a good chance I’ll be listening! 🙂

Published by Allyn

A writer, editor, journalist, sometimes coder, occasional historian, and all-around scholar, Allyn Gibson is the writer for Diamond Comic Distributors' monthly PREVIEWS catalog, used by comic book shops and throughout the comics industry, and the editor for its monthly order forms. In his over ten years in the industry, Allyn has interviewed comics creators and pop culture celebrities, covered conventions, analyzed industry revenue trends, and written copy for comics, toys, and other pop culture merchandise. Allyn is also known for his short fiction (including the Star Trek story "Make-Believe,"the Doctor Who short story "The Spindle of Necessity," and the ReDeus story "The Ginger Kid"). Allyn has been blogging regularly with WordPress since 2004.

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