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.