The Day the Music Stopped

The other day my wife and I drove to Springfield and heard the last half hour of Martin Goldsmith's Performance Today on the way home. We learned about Franz Shubert's last quintet and heard the slow movement in its entirety. It was so beautiful. I nearly wept. Not just because of the music, but because Macomb lost Performance Today the day the music stopped on WIUM.

We renew our support for WIUM (as we are doing here) because we respect the dedicated staff and because we wake up to Morning Edition seven days a week. But something died the day the music stopped and WIUM became "talk radio". And the corpse that everyone tries to ignore is Performance Today, a perennial Peabody Award winner, and arguably the best music program on radio anywhere in the world today.

To make things worse, a 30 mile drive in any direction at the right time of day and will reveal that Performance Today is still alive and well and living at all the college and university stations that still feel they have a responsibility to provide cultural and performing arts programming for the listeners entrusted to them. No, talk is not a performing art.

We never knew the music was about to stop at WIUM. It was like a bloodless coup. One day our music and cultural programming was there; the next day it was "talk" and World Cafe. I asked a colleague if he listened to WIUM and he replied in a heartbeat, "Not any more.". There are many things I miss about the former WIUM, but Martin Goldsmith brought me beauty every week day, taught me more about the music I love, suggested new pieces and new recordings of old pieces, and pointed out don't-miss live performances one might be able to get to. When Martin Goldsmith aired a tribute to Arleen Auger, my wife called to break the sad news that my favorite Handelian soprano had succumbed to breast cancer. He unearthed many things of rare beauty for us. My wife would often call me from her office to ask if I was listening so I would not miss a performance she knew I would want to hear.

Since the day the music stopped on WIUM the public outcry and a car dealer restored Car Talk and the music fraternity picked up the weekly Metropolitan Opera tab, but nobody has rescued Performance Today. I listened to the pledge drives and contributed (should I have done more?) to keep my favorite shows, just as the pledge announcers tell us to do now. But, my favorite show is gone and I now I know that the hype about "your public radio station" is just hype. Others always decide what we should hear, and these other decided that the music should stop on WIUM.

Yes, I still contribute. What if we were to lose Morning Edition?

PS. I would be saddened it anyone were to think this letter is a criticism, implied or otherwise, of Jeff Holtz. He is all we have and we are fortunate to have him. I like to think that maybe he misses Performance Today, too.

 

Joseph Chiaravalloti