JunoFest: Celebrating Classical at the Junos

Junos 2008 Venue Calgary Pengrowth Saddledome

What do Toronto classical composer Brian Current, Montreal cellist Matt Haimovitz, or violinist James Ehnes have in common with Anne Murray, Avril Lavigne, Feist, Jann Arden, Paul Brandt, or Michael Bublé?

They are all Canadian musicians sharing the limelight in this year’s Juno Awards coming up April 6.

The Canadian Music Awards extravaganza is to be held this Sunday April 6 in Calgary’s Pengrowth Saddledome.  Click here for the official website of the 2008 Juno Awards.

Before the grand event, there is going to be a celebration of classical music.  A first ever JunoFest will be held in Calgary’s Grand Theatre this Saturday.  The event celebrating classical music is organized by CBC Radio 2, the Canadian Music Centre Prairie Region, the 2008 Juno Awards Host Committee, and the Honens International Piano Competition.  It will feature works and performance by nominees in the classical music categories of this year’s Juno Awards.

Click here to read the April 2 Calgary Herald article on JunoFest.

Items on the JunoFest program include work by Toronto composer Brian Current (nominee for Classical Composition of the Year), performance by Montreal cellist Matt Haimovitz (nominee for Classical Album of the Year), and the renowned violinist James Ehnes (nominee for two Album of the Year).

Cellist and McGill faculty member Matt Haimovitz’s work may be most effective in dispelling the myth of Classical music being elitist and passé.  His work embraces both the classical and modern day popular genres, as well as the multicultural roots of folk music.  From his own repertoire, he has an eight-cello rendition of Jimi Hendrix’ war protest song Machine Gun, and from his multicultural, fusion CD “Goulash”, Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir in a four-cellos arrangement.

As we go further into this so-called postmodern era, we’re going to see the increasing blurring of the line between “classical” and “contemporary”.  And why not, we’re already enjoying a proliferation of fusion food.

This is another reason CBC Radio 2 should all the more venture into this brave new world.  Instead of cutting classical music programs, instill fresh and creative ideas to present the exciting development of “classical music” in the 21st century, and act as a bridge to draw closer the cultural and musical chasm.  Just look into the myriad of modern day film scores, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, The Kite Runner, Atonement, just to name a few, you’ll be surprised how much you enjoy ‘fusion’ music.  You may not recognize the classical music theory on which the compositions are based, but you’ll be enthralled just the same.

Calgary’s Pengrowth Saddledome Photo Source: aol travel

CBC Disbands Radio Orchestra

Update April 1:  Reader Tom has alerted me to the site for online petition to save the CBC Radio Orchestra.  http://www.savecbcorchestra.com  Please sign the petition and spread the word. 

Another shocking news:  The CBC Radio executives have just decreed that The CBC Radio Orchestra is to be dismantled as of November, 2008, on the heels of Cutting Classical Music Programs on Radio 2. 

What a swift one-two punch!

Formed in 1938, mandated “to make engaging musical radio programs, commission and perform works by Canadian composers, showcase Canadian performers and conductors, and discover and expose Canadian excellence”, the orchestra has been a Canadian cultural and musical tradition for 70 years.

 Click here for the news coverage in the Globe and Mail of March 27, 2008.

Click here for the Vancouver Sun article on Canada.com: CBC Kills Radio Orchestra

Click here for the article:  The Day The Music Died in The McGill Daily.

Does the CBC management even have the right to do that?  I thought this is a publicly-owned national radio station.  A cultural and arts institution with 70 years of history can be chopped off the Canadian landscape by a few executives like a branch off an old tree in the backyard? 

With this executive order, the CBC has finished off a piece of North American history, disbanding the last radio orchestra in the continent.

Again, I was alerted to this piece of appalling news by my teenaged son…talking about axing classical music to attract younger audiences.  CBC has gravely miscalculated the musicality of our youth and done an utter disservice to them, depriving them of knowing and appreciating a heritage dating back to hundreds of years of human civilization.

To save Classical Music from being axed off the cultural tree, Click here for the Online Petition.

BTW, the Facebook Group ‘Save Classical Music on the CBC’ now has over 8,000 members…I’m not trying to stereotype, but would these not be some of the ‘younger audiences’ CBC is trying to woo?


CBC Cutting Classical Music Programs

What a shock it is for me to learn that our national radio station CBC Radio 2, is choosing to axe more classical music programs to appeal to a ‘wider audience’.  Why, aren’t we who have been enjoying the arts and music, who have cherished the long tradition of these CBC productions, who have raised our children on them, teaching and nurturing them to appreciate their content, not a part of the general public? 

Click here for Russell Smith’s article in The Globe and Mail on March 13, 2008, “No classical?  Then kill Radio 2 and get it over with.”  Just let me try to fathom the motives behind these further cuts:

1.  Diversity.  If it’s diversity they are aiming at,  they should all the more leave the classical edge in because CBC Radio 2 is the only nation-wide English radio station in Canada that offers classical music.  Which station can I tune in for such extensive and in-depth coverage of the arts and artists, classical music and musicians, live concerts, commentaries, CD reviews and even an audience requests program? What alternative do I have when the only classical music station in Canada decides to go with the flow and become just another dial for easy listening or contemporary pop?  I feel like I’m a CBC copywriter doing a promo for the station…but why would they need me to tell them this?   To CBC Radio: Respect your role in the Canadian cultural landscape.  What ‘diversity’ are you offering if there are no choices in genre? If ‘diversity’, and ‘choice’ are such powerful words nowadays, honor the real meaning of these terms and not just utter them for political correctness. 

2.  Multicultural. The term “Classical Music” has often been misconstrued as being monocultural.  Are CBC program researchers and management not aware that many so called “classical” composers, especially the more contemporary ones, are from a diverse cultural background including not only Western European, but Central and southern European, Scandinavian, Russian, North American, South American, and Asian?  And do they not know that for this last group here, Asian-Canadians, especially appreciate classical music and particularly in the teaching of their young, the next generation of music lovers?  I for one can speak out on this issue where I personally and know and have come into contact with countless parents of Asian descent who have involved their children in the learning of classical music, and have nurtured numerous talented young classical musicians here in Canada.  Jan Wong in her recent book Beijing Confidential notes that there are 30 million piano students and 10 million violin students in China today.  Two of the most popular music icons among the young are Lang Lang and Yundi Li, both world renowned classical pianists in their 20’s. Wouldn’t it be odd that one can enjoy classical music on radio in China but not be able to in Canada?

3.  Education. If it’s just for the sake of our young, we owe them a great heritage if we do not nurture them to appreciate the roots of modern music. Without going deep into music theory, isn’t it true that our contemporary music evolves from classical foundations?  Calling it ‘classical’ sounds so politically incorrect, as it wrongly conveys ‘elitism’ or simply connotations of being passé. But, would you avoid teaching our next generation Canadian history just because history is passé? 

4.  Business. If it’s for marketing reasons, why add one more ‘easy listening’, ‘pop’, ‘jazz’ or ‘contemporary’ station to the already competitive business, why fight for market share while you can distinctly offer something very different and unique, a real alternative to the radio audience in Canada.  If you wish to morph into a more hip mode to appeal to the young, look for younger DJ’s for your classical music programs. If George Stroumboulopoulos (previously of MuchMusic) can become a Canadian news icon on CBC Television, I’m sure you can find young blood equally well versed in the classical music sector.  

5.  Identity. And if it’s Canadian identity they are seeking, trying to appease the ‘general public’ (as if we are not), then CBC Radio 2 should all the more realize, as a publicly owned radio station and a national institution, the classical music they are eliminating is not just a part of Canadian identity, but human civilization…and I suppose western or eastern, old or young, we are a part of that.

Enough said here.  My teenaged son who alerted me to this piece of incredulous news has sent me a link to the on-line petition.  Click here to sign.

Other reactions to this announcement:



A Facebook group has already been formed:  “Save Classical Music on the CBC”, has gathered more than 8,000 members and counting.