I’d been thinking about WGBH’s purchase of WCRB for a while now, especially Richard Knisley getting cut from the former, the decision to turn the former into a competitor of WBUR, and the completely ridiculous saga that is that big TV screen on the Pike.
Our greatest indulgence as parents (next to owning over 100 books about dinosaurs and prehistoric mammals) has been to allow our five-year-old son to have his radio on all night, tuned to WCRB. Sometimes he’ll tell me that he heard Peter and the Wolf — “without the words!” — when he woke up in the middle of the night. I’m convinced that his obsession with owning a Toyota when he’s older is because he’s heard too many ads on ‘CRB about “the best day of your life.”
His complaints about WCRB were mostly the times when they’d play swing music on the occasional Saturday night; he’d turn up his nose at something so blatantly “not classical music” and we’d pop in the Beethoven CDs we keep in reserve for those occasions.
I heard the new WCRB last week while driving him to T-Ball, and I was pleasantly refreshed. It wasn’t the typical Top-40 Classical music that ‘CRB usually would play in the 5-7pm slot, but much more aurally challenging music, more typical of WGBH’s classical selections. I asked my son if he liked the change in format; he said it was “different” but that he still liked it. He also likes the lack of commercials. (No word on whether his preference for Toyotas has abated.)
“Different” is fine for someone like me, because I’ve played more Vivaldi than I care to think about. But part of me hopes that WCRB doesn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. It’s great to hear something I’ve never heard before, but there are people out there (like my son) for whom a classical station is also an education, not just a way to prove how cultured they are or what excellent taste in music they have.
I hope that my son will still have opportunities to hear Peter and the Wolf — with or without words — in the wee hours.