Whatever lay behind Radio 3’s decision four years ago to reduce the number of live concert broadcasts to a mere handful, it cannot have been the recent phenomenal success of ‘live’ relays from the Met in New York to local cinemas.
Whatever lay behind Radio 3’s decision four years ago to reduce the number of live concert broadcasts to a mere handful, it cannot have been the recent phenomenal success of ‘live’ relays from the Met in New York to local cinemas. Even the service of Nine Lessons and Carols from King’s has been a hit in this format. The director of the Met says that 6 million people are expected to see his company in action this year via a cinema hook-up.
In the light of this success, it is unsurprising perhaps that the BBC’s decision has just been reversed, to a chorus of approval from around the professional circuit. Sir Mark Elder’s comment was typical: ‘We are all pleased and excited about the decision. There is nothing like the audience having the chance to experience the excitement of a live performance.’ Radio 3’s Roger Wright went further: ‘Live is the essence of music-making.’
You don’t say. But then what does ‘live’ really mean? It is one thing with a video link, but when can a radio relay be described as being live, when the listener can see nothing and is not in the hall with the performers? It has to be an exercise in virtual reality: but how virtual? It is assumed that the excitement is greater for the listener if it is known that the broadcast is happening right now. It is not so exciting if it happened yesterday; and it certainly isn’t as exciting if it is played from a disc, since discs offer no unscripted surprises.