It was an honour to guest co-host Canada’s longest running classical music show, West Coast Classics, at co-op 100.5 fm. The show’s been going on since 1979, the show is older than I am and the internet combined most likely.
When the host of the show, Kerry approached me has asked me if I knew anything about classical music, I knew that it is a serious type of music that grandparents listen to, probably from european tradition, not jazz or folk and something that happened during the 1750-1830 time frame.
He wanted me to come into the show with hopeful eyes and a wee bit of background knowledge, mostly to let the music surprise me. And so it really did.
Prior to start of the show, at around 8 am we became to discuss what classical music meant at the station. He told me all about how classical music is not the right title for it, because it gives off the vibe that it was simply “classic” as in “from the past in a certain era” while rather, the music is something that has a certain unnamed style but can appear in new works even today.
I feel the same debate with every genre of music, categories are never “quite” right at the very least and viciously wrong at most.
The show’s intro and outdo featured Peter Sculthorpe’s Earth Cry, which then we kicked off the show listening to the entire version. The Australian composer used Australian aboriginal chants to camouflage with his western influences to create a caressing chamber and orchestra music sound. This piece, containing a wide instruction of flutes, clarinets, bassoons, trumpets, trombones and more had a vicious percussion sound with strong timpanists guiding the way.
It was an adventure , I thought it excited me but I didn’t know what to expect next.
What followed was a piece by Beethoven, the op.111 piano sonata. It was his 32nd sonata, also his last, it had a bit of fugue happening in it and there were two movements. Each captivating in its own light. It was overall impassioned, but also not my favourite yet- we dove into a conversation about how this type of music seems “relaxing” to some, yet rather these pieces have such a strong message to be heard that is uncomfortable, disorienting and disturbing.
Suddenly “The Dreams of Gandalf” began to play. Not much of a hobbit fan, but the piece was all “wizard-world” like, delicate, eery and ready to pounce in a hypnotizing way.
We only had a brief conversation on this song as we frolicked into the world of Ralph Vaughan Williams and my favourite piece, Tallis Fantasia.
The work takes its name from the original composer of the melody, Thomas Tallis from the English Renaissance, Williams used the choirs melody into something broad. Like a found poem in a sense. The piece was a reflection of life in a breath-taking, deep, nostalgic, and wordless way.
Bach: concerto for 2 violins, played in 1915 and again in 2014. However, the 2014 recording was arranged in the way Bach would have done it himself, same ancient instruments and mediums of playing. It was ironic to observe that the stye of playing i 2014 reflected an era that seemed to be similar to our own, fast paced, full motion, lots of embellishments and not enough time to process the wonder that passes by.
After a warm-up fugue, we listened to Beethoven’s Great Fugue arranged for orchestra. The piece is insane, far from anything anyone could ever call “relaxing.” This was probably the first time that I felt a composer genuinely feeling something with me. The feeling of having an internal struggle, of fighting yourself and trying to escape from your inner destruction resonated in a real way.
The last was Jon Leifs Helka. It was a fantastic piece, somehow expresses the sense of an unstoppable emerging volcano in a hungry eye-opening way. It made me feel like I was swimming through greed of fascination.
There you have it, I know a little bit about classical music and it’s certainly exciting, new and something that I will see myself diving into more and more. Elements of the music are so genuine, something that is lost in the formulated money scheme tunes created today.
You can take a listen to the 3 hours show here if you click on Wednesday, March 18, and I’ll be doing another one this Wednesday!