To the editors:
I was exasperated to read Robert McClory’s almost hysterically overdramatized account of the tempest in a teapot at WFMT [March 20]. As a classical music lover, I appreciate the existence of WFMT, in the same way that, as a reader, I appreciate the existence of the Chicago Public Library. They’re both better than nothing. As far as I can tell, WFMT is pretty much what it was 10 or 15 years ago: slick, heavily laden with advertising, and oriented toward music which is likely to be “popular.” And I would certainly not use “exquisite culture and civility” to describe the mannerisms of those affected disc jockeys who, clearly ignorant of every language but English, are apparently required to dress up their mispronunciations with the WFMT All-Purpose Continental Accent. Steve Reeder is particularly awful, like someone from Iowa trying to sound like the BBC. His fake French is hideous, and what kind of classical station employs someone who can’t pronounce Kochel? If this is culture and civility, give me the barbarians! Some of the announcers seem to think people turn on the radio to hear them rather than the music. Much of WFMT’s music programming is excellent, but the announcers frequently drive me to turn off the radio, and I’m embarrassed to think what sort of impression of Chicago they give music lovers in the rest of the country.
A better subject for an article would be the decline of WNIB, Chicago’s other classical radio station. Ten years ago, WNIB presented quality classical music with a minimum of advertising and pleasant, low-profile announcers. Today, most of WNIB’s airtime is devoted to ballet music, guitar concerti, little bits of Baroque fluff, and even hockey games: whatever they think might appeal to Muzak lovers. And this with a thin, tinny broadcast sound, continual interruptions from ghastly prerecorded commercials, and morning programming which is now made intolerable by some giggling lowbrow imported from an easy-listening station. A city this size deserves better classical radio.
Or, if Mr. McClory is genuinely concerned about the health of classical music in Chicago, he might investigate why the Washington administration has decided to discontinue the practice of allowing the Chicago Chamber Orchestra and the Friends of the Public Library to use the Cultural Center on Sundays for free concerts. This move has deprived many people of the chance to hear orchestral and chamber music in a comfortable and proper setting. The loss of the concerts given by the Chicago Symphony String Quartet (sponsored by the Friends of the CPL) on Sundays, when the Cultural Center is quiet, is particularly upsetting to me personally. If these people played football or baseball, they wouldn’t have any trouble getting a decent place to play from the city.
If Mr. Nordstrand no longer has as much power at WFMT as he used to, well, that’s too bad for him, but I can’t see that his demotion makes even a minimal contribution to the generally declining state of music in this city. Why worry about what might happen sometime at WFMT when so much is already happening elsewhere? Access to good classical music here is rapidly becoming the privilege of a few rich people who can afford concert tickets or who have an unlimited record budget.
Mary E. Hoberg