CBC 75th birthday- Music

Glenn Gould - CBC Still Photo Collection

Glenn Gould - CBC Still Photo Collection


Michael Enright is joined by Tom Allen of Radio 2 and they look at music programming from the past 75 years. The CBC's role in Canada's culture is almost immeasurable. It has commissioned music, uncovered and nurtured talent, had live on air performances, interviewed musicians and composers and of course played all sorts of recorded music over the years.
From the Metropolitan Opera to the Merchant Navy Show, Maureen Forrester to Oscar Peterson, The Action Set to Brave New Waves, this hour is full of music.

Clip 1  In 1933 the CRBC, precursor to the CBC, began to broadcast from the Metropolitan Opera on Saturday afternoons. When the CBC was officially born in 1936, it continued, making the Metropolitan Opera Live at the Met the longest running radio program in Canada. And it's the only program on CBC Radio that still has a sponsor. We aired a bit from February 1937, which is the earliest recording of the Met in our CBC archives.

Clip 2  In 1941, CBC National Music Director Jean-Marie Beaudet convinced senior management that CBC should become actively involved in commissioning special works. The first Canadian commission was called Transit through Fire. The first clip was from March 1942.

Clip 3  Lorne Greene- who went on to become a big TV and movie star- might be best known in CBC circles as the Voice of Doom. His sombre tone delivering news during the Second World War seemed to hit just the right note. But as was true for most of the announcers at CBC, he did more than that. The broadcast we aired was from January 1943. It was a series called Our Canada that saluted the composers of Canada.  

Clip 4  One of the programs that entertained Canadians during the war was the Merchant Navy Show. It originated in Montreal and in July 1944, it featured a young, tall, shy piano player called Oscar Peterson.

Clip 5  There was plenty of variety in the music played on air. We played a couple of selections- Don Messer and his Islanders in 1945 and Mart Kenney and his Western Gentlemen on a program called Sweet and Low in 1946.

Clip 6  In 1949, the CBC aired a live performance of a Canadian ballet called The Red Ear of Corn- simultaneously at a theatre and on air on the program CBC Wednesday Night. And in between acts the commentator- Fraser MacDonald- had the task of filling time for the radio audience.

Clip 7   You might think that American Idol and its ilk were revolutionary in introducing the concept of a singing competition. Well, think again. Way back in the 1950s CBC Radio had a program called Opportunity Knocks that set out to find Canada's best singers. In 1951 one of the contestants was a 20-year-old Maureen Forrester.

Clip 8  Another long standing CBC Radio program was called Nocturne. It aired late at night and was described as an interlude of harmony and verse- poetry and music that were meant to be soothing and relaxing before going to bed. Our sample was from 1951.

Clip 9  Glenn Gould was one of the great pianists of the 20th century. As well as being a world-renowned musician, he appeared on CBC Radio regularly as a performer, guest and producer. When our clip first aired he was twenty-six years old and recognized for his genius in interpreting Bach. It was from a documentary made by his friend Vincent Tovell.

Clip 10  Although classical music was the mainstay on CBC Radio, popular music appeared as well. In 1967, the Beatles had just released the album Sergeant Pepper. A young journalist called Peter Gzowski put together his first radio documentary and called it How the Beatles Changed the World.

Clip 11  CBC Radio Elvis Presley's popularity was at its peak in 1957 when Presley came to Canada for his only performances outside the United States. CBC Radio reporter Bill Beatty took it all in- wild-eyed teenage girls "screaming, sighing and pounding their feet." His report was from April 2nd, 1957.

Clip 12  In 1967 on CBC Radio you could have heard a program on Saturday mornings called The Action Set. It was CBC's answer to private radio's top ten programs and one of its hosts was Al Maitland, who later when on to co-host As It Happens.

Clip 13  Before 1975, CBC Radio had five separate FM stereo stations in five cities, each with its own programming. But with the explosion of Canadian arts and culture, we launched a new network called CBC FM. We played a bit from that first broadcast.

Clip 14  Choral Music has always been popular.....one of the early programs was The Carl Tapscott Singers, which aired on Sunday Morning starting in the mid 1950s. Our clip was from 1962

Clip 15  Midnight to 6 a.m. was the time slot CBC forgot -- until late 1983 when a program called Brave New Waves hit the airwaves. It was an avant-garde rock show with a mix of new music, interviews, conversation and literary readings and it was hosted by Augusta LaPaix.