This Friday night (Feb. 5), Seattle'ês FM airwaves will crackle once again with the sound of live classical music, performed by the Pacific Northwest Ballet Orchestra under the direction of Allan Dameron. PNB will perform Tchaikovsky'ês The Sleeping Beauty at McCaw Hall, and KING-FM 98.1 (also online at king.org) will present the audio portion live beginning at 7:30 pm. Forward into the past!
Live broadcasts of classical music were a mainstay of radio in the 1930s and 1940s, and represented the high hopes that many scholars and social critics had in those days for what mass media could do to elevate American culture. Sadly, those high hopes were mostly dashed (thanks to sitcoms and game shows), but classical music can still occasionally be heard live, thanks to a few daring broadcasters, including KING-FM.
Host for Friday night'ês broadcast is KING-FM'ês Bryan Lowe. During the intermissions, he'êll play pre-recorded interviews with Ronald Hynd and Annette Page, the husband and wife choreographers for the production; Mona Butler, a bassoonist in the orchestra; and conductor Dameron. Lowe says that, technically speaking, there is much more to this broadcast than flipping a switch (as is the case with KING-FM'ês weekly Compline broadcast from St. Mark'ês).
'êPacific Northwest Ballet is probably our most expensive and time-consuming broadcast,'ê Lowe says. "Toe shoes are great for dance, [but] bad for broadcast. So we have to set many mics all throughout the pit . . . and we have to do several test recordings of rehearsals." Lowe says the effort pays off, however, when the 'êon air'ê light glows and the broadcast gets under way. 'êIt's a lot of fun to do. Live music with a great orchestra, and the energy level is so high, it's infectious,'ê Lowe says.
According to Lowe (who, with his 30 years at KING-FM, wears the 'êunofficial historian'ê crown), the radio station has been doing live remote broadcasts since the late 1970s, beginning with the Seattle Chamber Music Society'ês Summer Festival, followed soon after by Seattle Youth Symphony and Seattle Symphony concerts. KING-FM has several additional live broadcasts planned during the next few months, including Seattle Opera's production of Verdi'ês Falstaff next month; a concert series from the Seattle Symphony in April; and PNB's Copelia in June.
Lowe says live broadcasts of great music are something only local radio can do, and that they are critically important to the health of the local arts community, 'êespecially as arts exposure diminishes at virtually every other [media] outlet.'ê Even so, Lowe'ês not satisfied with the number of local live broadcasts in the works, and says that KING-FM is working on plans to present even more. 'êIt's the right thing to do, and it makes great radio,'ê he says.