For the third Classical Challenge, I looked at WHRO in Norfolk, VA. For a representative sampling, I used their playlist for Monday, 11/02/09.
Assuming this snapshot of WHRO's regular programming is typical, what would someone whose only exposure to classical music is WHRO's broadcasts might think about the genre?
As with the other stations I've looked at to date, classical music would seem to be an exclusively male form of expression -- no works by women composers were aired. Most were European (95%), with the other 5% being a mixture of composers from the Americans (North and South). And although no music by living composers were aired, at least WHRO doesn't dwell as far in the past as other stations -- 37% of the works aired were written in the 20th Century, most before 1950, but a goodly number after World War I.
About a quarter of WHRO's music came from the Classical era, and the same amount from the Romantic era, with only a small amount of Baroque music (8%). And there were some renaissance works as well (2%).
Although WHRO stayed with deceased composers, they played many more of them during the broadcast day than the other stations I've sampled, which is a plus. Our hypothetical listener will hear more than much more than the Three B's on WHRO.
Unfortunately, some things remain constant from station to station. Orchestral music made up over two-thirds of the music aired, keeping the sound closer to the 101 Strings side of the street. Solo instrumental works (25%) were mostly solo piano, leavened with mostly classical guitar. Chamber music was heard least often (8%), with a good portion of that also accounting for the Baroque era selections.
And although musicians played all throughout the day and night, not one of them opened their mouth. No choral music, and no vocal music. Although WHRO explores the classical repertoire more thoroughly than any of the other stations I've looked at, there are still lines that weren't crossed.
So what about people going to hear their regional ensembles? What's the correspondence between what they hear on stage and what they can hear on the radio?
Certainly nothing by the Virginia Chorale. They're singers.
On the other hand, most of the works of the 2010/2011 Virginia Symphony Orchestra concert season could be aired on WHRO. Repertoire mainstays such as Rachmaninoff, Brahms and Schumann are no problem. And WHRO's adventurous enough to air Barber, Schmitt, Glazunov, and Bantock -- they could even air the same works the Symphony's performing.
But there's an issue with Michael Torke and Lowell Liebermann, who will both have works performed by the Symphony. Is their music too wild for the radio? Nope. Both composers write compelling, imaginative, melodious and accessible works. And their recordings sell very well and in Torke's case, even have appeal outside the traditional classical market. In any other genre, that would help one's music get on the radio.
Michael Torke and Lowell Liebermann are both male, which is good -- so were 100% of the composers aired on WHRO. But they're also Americans composers (only aired about 5% of the time). And they have an even bigger strike going against them. Torke and Liebermann are both still alive. And during our sample broadcast day, 0% of the composers aired shared that condition.
Types of Ensemble
66% Orchestra (includes soloist with orchestra)
25% Solo instrumental performer (mainly piano, and some classical guitar)
8% Chamber group
0% Choral ensemble
0% Solo vocalist
37% 20th Century
2% Early music (renaissance only)