Unsung National Treasures – 1 – Radio 3

BBC Radio 3 Radio 3 is known as the BBC’s classical music station, but that description sells it short. It provides just over 2 million people with all sorts of minority programming: in fact I am not listening to the Theban Plays of Sophocles right now because I cannot listen to one set of words and type another.

Who else would broadcast Lifehouse, an obscure play (or is it an opera, ach, Pete Townsend calls it a ‘project’) which combines music by The Who with cyber-fiction and spiritual commentary?

What other station would wake you up with music by Mozart written for and played on the glass harmonica, which is an astonishing instrument apparently invented by Benjamin Franklin.

What other broadcaster would broadcast the complete works of J S Bach over a ten day period, as Radio 3 did last Advent?

Classic FM’s presenters drop their voice by a third or so and talllk realllly smoo-oo-thly. They tell you to relllaxssss with Classssic eFFFFF eMMMM, and intersperse their cheap seductions with advertisements for chocolate and weekends in York or Bath. The presenters on Radio 3 tell you what the music is, who is playing it, and maybe provide you with a fact or a point of interpretation to help you understand what you are listening to.

Radio 3 is unafraid of its own intelligence. If you want arrogance and exclusivity go to Radio 1. If you want radio that is easy on the ear and easy on the brain go to Radio 2. If you want radio that is politically engaged go to Radio 4. If you want the Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves go to Classic tweeting FM. If you want radio that considers its subjects for their own sake, engages with them on their own level and as a result is neither repetitive, patronising nor pretentious then go to Radio 3.

It is shocking that the 60th anniversary of the Third Programme went past earlier this year unannounced, unnoticed and uncelebrated.

Ladies and gentlemen, one of Britain’s unsung National Treasures, and thanks to internet technology a wonder of the world, I present to you BBC Radio 3.

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5 responses to “Unsung National Treasures – 1 – Radio 3

  1. I’m a big Radio 4 fan, mostly Women’s Hour and anything by Mariella Frostrup. I’ve never even tried Radio 3, largely because I thought it would be cod Classic FM – all that easy listening does eventually get to you.

    Thanks for the hot tip. Glad you’re feeling better.

  2. Radio 3 is almost undiluted oxygen. Too heady for all day every day, but pure and clear when you need it.

    Feeling much better, but up too late! Time good Aphras went to bed. And good Charlottes too, I’d have thought.

    All the best.

    Aphra

  3. There are some real gems on R3. World routes on a saturday afternoon, the Andy Kershaw programme, Late Junction playing all sorts of stuff that takes the presenters fancy.
    Even the filler pieces (20 Minutes, during the evening Performance on 3) can have something that will make you listen and think and go wow!

  4. Yes, Radio 3 is a national treasure, an oasis of intelligence and real culture in an increasingly dumbed down world – the only media outlet in this country that celebrates European and world music over the past 800 years, and ideas and literature over an even loger period than this. It is the only consistent outlet whose remit is serious art and culture.

    Sadly, over the past 10 years the station has become increasingly poppy, with the introduction of programmes like Late Junction and Andy Kershaw. These programmes should be on Radio 1 or 2 – there is enough pop music on the Radio (wall to wall pop music on almost every station)without Radio 3 subverting it’s task of covering serious music to provide spave for what is mostly populist dross.

  5. Yes, Radio 3 is a national treasure, an oasis of intelligence and real culture in an increasingly dumbed down world – the only media outlet in this country that celebrates European and world music over the past 800 years, and ideas and literature over an even longer period than this. It is the only consistent outlet whose remit is serious art and culture.

    Sadly, over the past 10 years the station has become increasingly poppy, with the introduction of programmes like Late Junction and Andy Kershaw. These programmes should be on Radio 1 or 2 – there is enough pop music on the radio (wall to wall pop music on almost every station) without Radio 3 subverting it’s task of covering serious music to provide space for what is mostly populist dross.

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