Monday, 21 June 2010

The Beatles, Bach, and Early Music: Susie Napper on the CBC

Quite by accident on Saturday (since I've just about quite listening to Radio Two except for the opera) I caught part of a marvelous program: Susie Napper's Music. Apparently it ran two hours, but I only caught about 20 minutes. That was enough to learn quite a bit about a fine musician who is the force behind the Montreal Baroque Festival which begins on Thursday.

Influences arrive in many ways and forms, and Napper, who obviously comes from a very musical family, had a formal musical education. But she also loved the Swingle Singers' renditions of Bach, much to the dismay of her father, as well as the exhuberant popular music of the 1960s and 1970s--"I was more Rolling Stones than Beatles," she said on air. When, as a serious student of the modern cello, she inherited a period viola da gamba, she explained that the Bach she was working on "just played itself" on the old instrument. The result of this varied experience has been a new--and sometime playful--approach to early music.

What a shame that in the CBC's mad rush toward "relevance" it has slashed its programming of "serious" music. There is no reason on this green earth why Radio Two shouldn't play a whole lot more of it. In trying to broaden its audience, CBC has cut out melomanes whose tastes include many sorts of music, not just the current pop. The resulting programming, as I've mentioned earlier, has not done anything for ratings, and has alienated many formerly stalwart listeners.

But who's listening among CBC brass? At the very least, this program should be repeated, and several of the Montreal Baroque shows should be recorded for rebroadcast too.

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