Turn on your radio, you never know what’s in there.

For the best part of all the years I’ve been alive my taste in music was pretty much set by my ‘Little Richard moment.’ I’ve described it elsewhere on here, but it happened one day when I was little. In a coffee bar on Walton Vale I pushed in the money my mother had given me into the juke box there, pressed all the right buttons, and heard ‘Tutti Frutti’ for the first time.

Even the beloved Beatles when they arrived were clearly drawing from the same well as Little Richard. A well full of blues, R&B, pop, soul, reggae, folk and roots music that sustained me from that first day. And sustains me still, but not all the time.

In a stressful time a year ago now I was finding I preferred silence to my usual daily soundtrack of 6 Music, a silence I needed for a few weeks.

Then as the silence was ending I made a discovery. That my radio could receive more than one station and that the new one was BBC Radio 3. Like silence but better. Longer pieces of music and not much talking. Announcers rather than DJs. Musicians themselves not personalities.

At first, I’ll admit, I listened as background music while I worked and read novels. Only slowly and subliminally realising I was in a treasure trove, or an entirely other well to re-use the metaphor I began with Little Richard. A well I’ve mostly stayed in ever since.

Discovering music you might well know but which I’d mostly never heard before. New discoveries seeming to turn up every time I turn the radio on. Picked out and presented from centuries of possibilities, just for me, by the people who live inside the radio. Like it’s a real place. I could name some names and direct you to particular programmes there but I won’t. The point of this writing being to encourage you towards the whole thing. The public service and national treasure trove that is BBC Radio 3.

So pick up your radio, find Radio 3 and turn it on, any time. Go on.

You’ll hear music from some names you might expect like Mozart, Beethoven, Debussy, Schubert and Rachmaninov. But also others who might be new to you. Rebecca Clarke, Herbert Howells, Albert Roussel, John Field, Thea Musgrave, Judith Bingham and who knows who next?

I didn’t know, for example, that some of Tchaikovsky’s most gorgeous and life-affirming music is sacred and Byzantine. And I’d never heard Thomas Tallis until just now whilst writing this. ‘Spem in Alium’ it’s called, for eight choirs of five voices each and written around 1570. Twelve minutes of sublime perfection that’s as good as Little Richard. That good.

Turn on your radio then, you never know what’s in there. It might be BBC Radio 3.

Here it is.

Published by Ronnie

Writing about life, Liverpool and anything else that interests me. As well as working with others to make the world a fairer and kinder place: http://asenseofplace.com.

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  1. If you like a quiet pint while enjoying Radio 3, the Edinburgh pub in Sandown Lane (corner of Orford St) off Picton Rd, has Radio 3 on while Scotty the manager is behind the bar. My husband Pete goes on Wednesday afternoons and loves R3 from 2 till 4 (different bar staff come on then and turn it off!)

  2. Dear Ronnie And did you know beforehand that it was the Liverpool Phil tonight. I quite agree with you about Radio 3. Ann Truesdale ps and every good wish in your new venture. Very exciting for you


  3. Lovely post Ronnie. I’ve struggled with Radio 3 and class war for years now until, in the end, I just gave in realising some of the best music from down the centuries is often revolutionary stuff in itself. Loads of Bach is proper class war – at least for me.Thanks for posting!

    1. I do get what you mean. Record Review on Saturday mornings could seem particularly like an upper class voices exhibition when I first listened. Until I got over the accents, listened to what was being said, and was educated, enlightened and enthralled. So we all get on fine now.

  4. I listen to Radio 3 on the iPlayer Radio app on my smartphone. Go to menu and then schedule where you can get programme listings for the past 30 days. You can choose any programme or series and add them to ‘My Radio’ for playback whenever you want, as many times as you want. I have been listening virtually constantly to Brahms German Requiem from this year’s Proms – absolutely divine as Peter Philip’s ‘Glory of Polyphony’, which introduced me to Josquin de Prè, Gessuoldo and Lassus, great Renaissance sacred choral composers as well as reacquainting me with Palestrina, Thomas Tallis, William Byrd and Victoria. Choral music washes over me like calming balm. It refreshes my soul and makes most other music pale into insignificance. Start with Hildegard of Bingen and you will be hooked. Also try Wagner’s Parsifal, Haydn’s Creation, Mozart’s Requiem, Faurè’s Requiem and anything by J S Bach – the greatest composer of all time. Follow with a good helping of Handel and fall in love with instrumental pieces by Debussy, Delius, RVW, Elgar and Stanford. The choice is endless, soothing and stimulating. Once you have discovered Radio 3, you can ‘rip off the tuning knob’!

  5. Completely agree with everything that’s been written here so far.

    I was introduced to classical music by my first secondary school music teacher, who was actually taking a sabbatical from his Day Job, which was producing music films for the BBC. He ended up doing videos for Stuttgart Opera and also producing the annual New Year’s Day Concert tv broadcast from Vienna. He, too, believed that classical music was for everyone and I am so grateful to him.

    Radio 3 used to have some odd ideas, though; one such was “No Bartok before breakfast”, or in other words, nothing too modernist before about 9am. And I currently have a beef with Petroc Trelawney, who seems to take delight in trumpeting an anti-Soviet line whenever he introduces anything by Shostakovich.

    Still, it could be worse. My car radio aerial has broken, and until I can get it fixed, the only station that comes in at all clearly from the two-inch stub of antenna is Classic FM. Hardly anything written after about 1820 (at least in the morning), no complete works, nothing at all challenging and an emphasis on “smooth classics”. Oh, and DJs instead of presenters whose babble is more suited to Hits FM than a classical station and for the most part don’t give any impression of knowing much, if anything, about the music itself. And don’t even get me started on the adverts, because they show where they consider their demographic is – adverts for equity release, cruises and Mercedes Benz. They really are the elistist side of classical music and I’ll be very glad when I can get the aerial repaired and return to Radio 3’s genuinely cool sanity!

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