Music Broadcasting | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Music Broadcasting

Canada's contribution to BROADCASTING is noteworthy. Montréal's XWA (now CIQC) was one of the first stations in the world (May 1920) to offer regular, scheduled broadcasts.

Music Broadcasting

 Music broadcasting is the transmission of music via AM and FM radio and television networks and stations and by satellite. All transmission modes have French and English services and operate through privately and publicly owned systems. The FM stereo network is one of the world's largest high-quality music networks. In general, radio has been more important than TV for music broadcasting. The development of music broadcasting in Canada falls into 4 periods: pre-1936 (to the establishment of CBC); 1936-52 (to the introduction of TV); 1952-75 (to the pan-Canada FM stereo network); 1975 to the present.

Canada's contribution to BROADCASTING is noteworthy. Montréal's XWA (now CIQC) was one of the first stations in the world (May 1920) to offer regular, scheduled broadcasts. On 1 July 1927, the Diamond Jubilee of Canada's Confederation, a transcontinental network was inaugurated with a day-long broadcast, mostly of music. In the early 1920s the Canadian National Railways, under its president Sir Henry THORNTON, built radio studios in several centres across the land. In the mid-1920s complete Gilbert and Sullivan operas were studio broadcast, as was an ambitious series, "The Music Makers."

In 1927 the famed HART HOUSE STRING QUARTET travelled coast to coast for (and on) the CNR, broadcasting recitals of Beethoven quartets. In 1929 the new network began North America's first series of radio symphony concerts, by members of the TORONTO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA under Luigi von Kunits. The CPR had also begun to broadcast concerts, but the Depression in the 1930s ended the railways' involvement in national broadcasting. Between 1932 and 1936 Canadian public radio was developed by the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission under the Toronto critic Hector CHARLESWORTH. It was hastily organized and not well supported by the federal government.

In 1936 the CANADIAN BROADCASTING CORPORATION was founded and by the 1940-41 season CBC radio, operating nationally, regionally and locally, and in 2 language services, had presented some 600 symphonic broadcasts (many from the US), 2000 broadcasts of chamber music and 45 full-opera broadcasts (including the Metropolitan Opera, still broadcasting today). In 1942 the CBC commissioned from Healey WILLAN and John COULTER the radio opera Transit Through Fire, and 3 years later, the opera Deirdre of the Sorrows.

In this period Canadian programs were heard over the US Mutual, NBC and CBS networks. This was a time of much original live broadcasting, including the talent hunts ("Singing Stars of Tomorrow" from 1943, "Opportunity Knocks" from 1947) and many amateur-hour programs. Between 1944 and 1962 the CBC operated an alternative English-language network, the Dominion. Toronto's CJBC was owned by the CBC, but all other stations were privately owned affiliates.

Alternative programming was mostly lighter than that of the trans-Canada network, though the Toronto and Montréal Symphony orchestras performed on Dominion on Tuesday nights followed by "CBC Concert Hall." In that period the CBC maintained studio orchestras in Halifax, Québec, Montréal, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver, providing welcome employment for local musicians. By the late 1940s the CBC was the largest single employer of musicians in North America. Music broadcasting ranged from symphonic and opera to light and popular. Private stations broadcast local musicians, and many pop singers and instrumentalists owed their first encouragement to radio broadcasts. In general, the most intensive music broadcasting was from the CBC.

In September 1952 the CBC inaugurated its television broadcasting. In those first years CBC-TV was inventive and adventurous. Major opera and dance productions were mounted by Franz Kraemer, Vincent Tovell and Norman CAMPBELL in Toronto, and Pierre MERCURE in Montréal (whose French-network series L'Heure du concert was among the most remarkable ever produced on this continent). As costs mounted and the CBC was forced to economize by buying imported programs, Canadian TV production dwindled, especially in music programs, though the occasional special made its mark, such as Norman Campbell's 1966 National Ballet production of Prokofiev's Cinderella, or Harry SOMERS's opera Louis Riel produced by Franz Kraemer in 1969.

Although large audiences enjoyed the TV medium and private radio narrowed its perspectives, music on CBC Radio continued to flourish in the period from 1952 to 1975. The jazz and popular stylings of Phil NIMMONS (Toronto), Neil CHOTEM (Montréal) and Lance Harrison (Vancouver) were widely appreciated. Chamber music broadcasts also abounded. The CBC Symphony Orchestra, North America's only radio symphony orchestra, was active from 1952 to 1964 and featured many modern works, with special attention to Canadian composers. The Orchestra's growing reputation drew Igor Stravinsky to Toronto in the early 1960s for his 80th birthday celebration. This was a period of exceptional support for Canadian composers, through performances of their works, commissions and the engagement of John BECKWITH, Somers, Norma BEECROFT, Mercure and François MOREL as commentators. The English network began to produce its own series of stereo discs, first for broadcast use but later for sale.

After 1975 the increasing use of disc and tape wrought profound changes in the pattern of music broadcasting. The live or studio broadcast gave way to the varied program package, held together by a program host. The radio networks were reorganized in the mid-1970s and for the first time a fully national FM stereo network of high technical quality was inaugurated. AM retained its policy of providing programming for a general audience and FM was mostly music, largely non-pop though with some serious jazz. At first the schedule was perhaps 75% records, rarely Canadian. By the 1980s, however, CBC programmers had begun once more to diversify their formats, reviving "live-to-air" techniques for special events and in other ways projecting music as an art.

There was much live broadcasting of local origin, but after the early 1950s private radio settled comfortably into the "top 40" and foreign records, effectively preventing it from contributing to the development of music in Canada. One private-sector initiative of special note was the Canadian Talent Library, initiated and developed by Lyman Potts for the Standard Broadcasting syndicate. The Library recorded discs for broadcast only, featuring Canadian performers and much original Canadian composition.

By the early 1970s the regulatory CANADIAN RADIO-TELEVISION AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION (CRTC) had laid down new rules governing community service and Canadian content, which stimulated Canadian recordings and pop groups. New Canadian stars emerged (Anne MURRAY, Bruce COCKBURN, Burton CUMMINGS, the GUESS WHO) retracing a similar development already far advanced in Québec, where CHANSONNIERS (Gilles VIGNEAULT, Pauline JULIEN and Robert CHARLEBOIS) had for years been accorded star status.

During WWII the federal government established its International Service (mostly shortwave radio), supervised by the Department of External Affairs but operated by the CBC. In 1968 the service came under full CBC responsibility and was renamed Radio Canada International in 1972. The IS/RCI made and distributed internationally hundreds of recordings. By 1977, RCI had begun its Anthology series, each a package of several discs of the music of a Canadian composer. Thirty-nine such packages had been produced by 1991 when the project was terminated.

Music broadcasting has been crucial to the vitality of music in Canada. New technologies and changing tastes will affect form and style, but broadcasting will still play a leading role in bringing music to the public.


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