To the editors:
Your correspondent Bryan Miller comes across as voicing yet another “yuppie-puppie” lament about poor WFMT and how it is being despoiled [June 22]. And frankly, I’m completely fed up with these condescending comments putting down Jay Andres whose credentials in Chicago radio were earned long ago and who will long outlast your reporter’s churlish comments.
I was shocked when Studs Terkel’s remarks about the “unctuous” tone of Mr. Andres appeared in the Tribune, and find your reporter’s niggling comments about Jay and WNIB in the same vein. “Unctuous,” using the Webster definition of “smug, ingratiating, or false earnestness,” fittingly describes much of what has accompanied the music from FMT for years.
Mr. Andres, far from being unctuous, brings a welcome breath of fresh air and informality to his introductions of classical music. True, he doesn’t roll his “R’s,” a practice which in the mandatory and laughably provincial attempt at “culchah,” even extends to proper name pronunciation in FMT newscasts (be still my heart!). For those whose memory goes back farther than your reporter, let it be noted that the legendary Milton J. Cross managed to “compere” the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts and other classical music of AM radio with authority and a fitting sense of propriety without being unbearably stuffy. Mr. Andres comes far closer to that ideal than the Pellegrini trained staff at FMT ever has.
And as far as automatically tuning in a Strauss waltz for those poor plebeians unfortunate enough to accidentally spin the dial to WNIB–outside of the sheer idiocy of that statement, I refer your reporter to the well known incident when the wife of Johann Strauss was approached by another composer at a concert who autographed her fan with the first few notes of the “Blue Danube” and the message “unfortunately not by yours truly, Johannes Brahms.”
Mr. Pellegrini, as described by your reporter, may be a natty dresser, but he also lost me as a regular FMT listener years ago when he made it impossible for the eminent Claudia Cassidy to continue her brilliant and pithy radio reviews of the arts in this town because of his craven capitulation to a dictatorial manager of the Chicago Symphony who objected to some of her opinions.
Bryan Miller replies:
Some people might consider it churlish to impute to me motives and attitudes not found in my article. For one thing, as it happens, I disagree with Mr. Terkel’s assessment of Jay Andres’s voice and delivery as “unctuous”; I think “smarmy” is closer to the mark.
Can’t there be differences in taste, without one side being accused of cultural elitism? What’s wrong with proper pronunciation? In this case, what seems like “fresh air” to Mr. Sheldon comes across as flatulence to me. For those whose memories go back further than Mr. Sheldon’s, Mr. Andres’s aw-shucks delivery was much more at home on WGN, where he once worked.
I never implied that WNIB and WFMT should be carbon copies of one another–quite the opposite! I believe their differences are–were–a positive thing, and I frequently tune in to ‘NIB. I like Strauss waltzes and the lighter sort of music that they represented in that question. I just don’t like a steady diet of them, any more than I’d care for nonstop Mahler symphonies, end-to-end Puccini operas, or endless repetitions of “The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba” from Handel’s Solomon.