Help me make my local classical station more interesting.

The classical music station in my area has a rather tame repertoire. It’s not that I mind hearing the “New World Symphony” or the “Enigma Variations” again, but when your format includes four hundred years’ worth of great music, it seems like a waste to just play the old favorites all the time.

So help me come up with some interesting things to call in during the request hours! It can be a specific work, a composer, or some other category–I often like to give the host some leeway to exercise his own taste.

I hate to be a scratched record on these Classical music threads, but Arvo Part. Some of his best is not suitable for radio in that the dynamic range is just too high for someone to hear in a noisy car, but he has plenty of popular sounding stuff.

Holst (The Planets) is also very radio friendly, although my crystal ball tells me that it is part of your station’s short list (it is on mine).

My local classical station is like those “Mozart for people who hate Mozart” CDs, where they play 3 minute segments of the parts you can whistle from the super well known pieces. I feel your pain.

Monteverdi. They probably have some in their library, but rarely play him

As a matter of fact, the last time I called a classical request show (although it was a different station) I asked for “anything by Arvo Pärt” and was not disappointed. :slight_smile:

I suggest picking a significant yet less familiar composer, and making an ‘anything by…’ request. Make it someone for whom there isn’t an obvious choice of a single familiar piece, or of course a familiar title, if the piece itself is rarely heard. This gives the host the opportunity to dig out a particular gem from their work, and even for very minor composers, there’s often something special to be found. A few to try could be:

CPE Bach

Play every 7th record backwards.

Request something by P.D.Q. Bach.

Ives’ string quartets.

Jordi Savall’s viol stuff. I like his soundtrack to Tous les matins du Monde.


Beat me to it.
Would some Diamanda Galas qualify?

I expect Vivaldis Four Seasons and Berliozs Symphony Fantastique are already on your stations play list but how about some Bruckner,Purnell or Sibelius?
All of whom are my personal favourites.

I bet these don’t get frequent rotation: Dowland, Boccherini, Arensky, Nanes…

Do you think they’d play original orchestral music from movie soundtracks? That’s where most of the 20th century’s composers worked, after all… to name a few, Korngold, Gold, Hermann, Goldsmith, and more recently Michael Nyman* and Carter Burwell – surely some of their works deserve to be heard, perhaps in special “film music” blocks? Maybe a program of the best clips of orchestral themes and motifs from the Bond films, around the time when The Quantum of Solace comes out?

  • If you really want to mess with people’s heads, arrange to get airtime for music from the score of Ravenous [Michael Nyman and Damon Albarn (Blur, Gorillaz)], featuring their uniquely skewed take on folk idioms, using instruments like the squeezebox, and some really weird time signatures. Then, after the fact, explain the source and the context – a horror/black comedy about cannibalism in the post-Civil-War American West! Getting them to play it could be next to impossible, however. It’s not like classical stations go out of their way to procure such recordings in the first place, so you’d probably have to arrange to drop in on them and loan it, or something.

On edit: another pop music star who’s been establishing himself in the movie music biz is one of the guys from Radiohead, who wrote the impressive score for There Will Be Blood. Another one who’s been doing this for many years now is Lisa Gerrard [ex-Dead Can Dance], who scored Gladiator.

My local station plays Sibelius’ Finland more often than they play their jingles. I liked it the first 547 times. After that, not so much.

To use the category approach, see what living composers (and especially what living composers born since 1950) they’d be willing to play.

It can also be interesting to request an instrumentation that they don’t play very often - solo guitar, cello sonata, woodwind quintet, accordion, organ, etc.

Nationality can work - Argentine, Brazilian, Cuban, Canadian, Danish, etc.

If it’s a not-for-profit station, you might suggest that a prize for a silent auction or phone in could be to plan the playlist for a certain time-slot for one day.

CBC used to have a couple of interesting shows on the FM network - Gilmour’s Albums was a Vancouver music critic (Clyde Gilmour) who had a massive collection of albums, and once a week would take the country on a tour through his vinyl. There was also RSVP, which was a daily mail-in request show. Both long gone, alas…

It’s hard to program classical radio, which is why lots of stations fall into the trap of sticking to what is well established as ‘unoffensive’. Regular listeners want their horizons expanded, while infrequent listeners want the comfort of hearing something predictable. The trick is keeping both groups happy.

Villa-Lobos, Bernstein, Chopin, Regondi, Debussy, Francesco da Milano, there’s more beautiful music in this world than any of us have time to listen to, and that’s only in the classical section.

Good luck with it.

Phillip Glass. There’s not near enough of his stuff being played on the radio. I don’t think I’ve ever heard any of it on radio, in fact.

Failing that, call up and request a rousing rendition of 4:33.