Members of Vancouver’s classical-music community have been given the floor this week in hearings held by the Commons heritage committee on the dismantling of the CBC Radio Orchestra, the changes to CBC Radio 2, and the public broadcaster’s commitment to classical music. As reported in the Straight on May 15, the committee unanimously agreed to hold the hearings following a motion on May 6 by NDP heritage critic Bill Siksay, MP for Burnaby-Douglas.
On May 27, the first of two video conferences took place in downtown Vancouver, at which the committee heard from Canadian Music Centre regional director Colin Miles and Vancouver Chamber Choir artistic director Jon Washburn, among others. The second video conference takes place Thursday (May 29), and the list of witnesses includes Vancouver Symphony Orchestra music director Bramwell Tovey and UBC School of Music director Richard Kurth.
“My concern is mostly about the important role that the CBC plays for cultivating and nurturing and broadcasting musical talent,” Kurth told the Straight by phone. “Many of our alumni have performed with the CBC Radio Orchestra over the years and launched their careers. Composers have done so. It’s been such a wonderful greenhouse for talent.”¦I know many of the players in the orchestra, a lot of them teach at UBC, and they play such an important role in our city. The abandonment of the orchestra is such a blow economically for them, but also culturally for the life of the city.”
In a phone conversation with the Straight, Tovey said he would be discussing the changes to CBC Radio 2 programming. A number of classical-music shows have been cancelled, and a new weekday schedule has classical music being played only between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., as of September.
“There has been an internal debate at CBC, with some consultations from people who perform on the network,” Tovey said. “But there was not a full and passionate public debate where listeners were invited to engage in the future of the network, and that is the core of the problem and the difficulty. Now we’ve got CBC doing quite unnecessary duplication. We’ve got Shania Twain, Billy Joel”¦all available on other radio stations, and CBC are quitting their customary function as a public broadcaster of quality.”