CBC Radio Orchestra: R.I.P.

CBC Radio logoRaymond Bisha, Naxos’ Radio Promotions Manager (North America) and also the creator of Naxos’ podcasts, forwarded this email to all of us at Naxos of America from Alain Trundel, the conductor of the CBC Radio Orchestra. I thought, in light of what we’ve seen happening in the United States, that it was a letter worth posting. I’ve been reading the online newspapers for the past several months, so the fact that there is trouble with the arts in Canada is no great surprise. A little over a month ago, the CBC announced they would cease producing classical recordings, a terribly tragedy in my view. After all, like the BBC, the CBC has a treasure-trove in their archives as well as a roster of superb living Canadian performers and composers.

God knows we’ve been through this here in the States (and continue to go through it). But for the past couple of decades I’ve looked up to Canada and the U.K. for what seemed like their unshakable commitment to the arts. And while music is continuing to flow over the internet and in different ways than some of us older listeners are accustomed to, there still is nothing quite like a live performance. I know there will be some debate as to whether the demise of this particular orchestra ultimately matters. Let’s face it, priorities change with the times. That said, as much as I love my CD and LP collection (and the convenience of my iPOD), there is still something magical about hearing music in a public space, warts and all, with throngs of other listeners around you—and that sense of collective ecstasy when the power of a single performance transports an entire audience. After all, you were there too, and you have the story to tell.

Dear members of my orchestra, colleagues, and music lovers across the country,

Over the past few days I have received your many communications concerning the untimely demise of the CBC Radio Orchestra (CRO). I want to thank you so much for your concern and love for the Orchestra. I am very moved to see how many people understand the importance of the CRO (celebrating its 70th anniversary this season) for Canadians of all musical backgrounds.

The musicians, and myself are, of course, devastated by the loss of our mandate from the CBC, which first gave us life. In this time of shock and obvious distress, I think it is important to articulate, as clearly as possible, the value that our Orchestra brings to music lovers from everywhere in our country and to the CBC itself. In order to move forward, we need to grasp what it stands for and its place in our cultural life.

At this moment the CRO is one of the top orchestras in the country; an orchestra, which we as Canadians have spent seven decades building. This Orchestra is a musical jewel and a cultural landmark.

Being the only Radio Orchestra in the Americas, the CRO is the ONE music ensemble that sets the Canadian music scene apart. By its existence, its mission and its work, it helps define Canada’s uniqueness.

Throughout it history the CRO has called upon composers and performers of all cultural backgrounds from across our country, proving that music is alive in our country, even when other matters may cause despair or discouragement.
Through live performance and national broadcast exposure the CRO gives exposure to Canadian soloists and composers, sending a message of hope to all young Canadian creators and to musicians of all musical backgrounds. It shows that their voices will be heard and celebrated.

Throughout my tenure, I have insisted that we develop projects from all musical genres, including jazz, world, pop and Canadian native music. In 2007, we started the Great Canadian Song Book, which commissioned a diverse roster of composers to create “art song” settings of works from Joni Mitchell to Neil Young, from Buffy Ste-Marie to Serge Fiori and Michel Rivard.
The CRO has developed creative projects around music from Asia and the Middle-East; around jazz improvisers as well as traditional orchestral repertoire as well as collaborating with the rapper K-os.

During the last season, we commissioned 18 works over seven concerts. Through the CBC Radio Orchestra, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is not only seen as a programmer but also as an active partner in Canadian art-making.

The CRO, through the elegance of a national broadcasting network, has reached people across our country. In September 2007, we performed a specially developed program, live, in Iqaluit on Frobisher Bay. Months later, we went to White Rock, B.C. We have received invitations from large and small communities across Canada and even from major concert halls in Europe. All of this, alas, we are now unable to entertain.

I have been fortunate in my career to work extensively in both English and French Canada, having thereby, a truly national perspective. To my great joy, in recent months the French services of the Corporation have not only become more aware of the fine work of the CRO, but have expressed a desire to embrace it. This also is a path that we cannot now pursue. However, the role of the Orchestra in building bridges across our country is something we must never forget.

Many things have been made clear in the work of the Orchestra and in your response to its closing: the importance of music in our lives, the importance of nurturing, supporting and broadcasting the diversified and astonishing talent we have in our country, the role of a national broadcaster in bringing us together, and much more. We will each have our personal reflection on the meaning of all of this, but one thing is certain: the CRO reminds us of what it is we cherish most in music and in our country.

Respectfully yours,
Alain Trudel
Principal Conductor, CBC radio Orchestra