I call to order the 31st meeting of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.
Today we're participating in a video conference that extends to Vancouver and Montreal. Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), we're undertaking a study on the dismantling of the CBC Radio Orchestra, CBC/Radio-Canada's commitment to classical music, and the changes to CBC Radio 2.
In Montreal, from Festival Vancouver--which seems interesting--we have George Laverock, program director. It will be easy to identify Mr. Laverock because he's the only witness in Montreal.
We have Jeremy Berkman. From the Canadian League of Composers we have Janet Danielson, the newsletter editor. We have, as an individual, Calvin Dyck. From the Canadian Music Centre, British Columbia Region, we have Colin Miles, regional director for British Columbia. From the Vancouver Chamber Choir we haveJon Washburn, artistic and executive director. And as an individual, we have George Zukerman.
I think all of the participants today are aware that each will have the opportunity to make a five-minute statement. The committee members are aware that we will take all of the statements first, and then we'll continue the meeting with questions and answers.
The first person we're going to is with Festival Vancouver, George Laverock, program director, for five minutes.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman and honourable members of the standing committee, for this opportunity to comment on this disastrous decision by the CBC management to discontinue the CBC Radio Orchestra.
I submit this brief as a person who has had considerable experience with the CBC Radio Orchestra. From 1980 until 1990 I was the producer in charge of the CBC Radio Orchestra, and from 1994 to 1997 I was the head of CBC records, the branch of CBC radio that produced dozens of outstanding recordings of this orchestra.
My opinions have also been informed by my experience as a board member and past president of the National Youth Orchestra of Canada, a remarkable institution that is generously supported by Heritage Canada.
Speaking as the program director of Festival Vancouver, I'm acutely aware of the great contribution the CBC Radio Orchestra has made to our international music festival in five of the seven festivals we have had. We've enjoyed the partnership and were able to share costs to present concerts with great soloists, adventurous repertoire, and thrilling guest conductors. This is all lost now, and of course we are greatly disappointed.
Over the past decades the CBC Radio Orchestra has enhanced the programming and audience awareness of many independent organizations besides Festival Vancouver, such as the Music in the Morning Society, the Vancouver Chamber Choir, the Vancouver Cantata Singers, the Vancouver New Music Festival, and even Expo 86. These partnerships were an effective and efficient way for arts organizations to work together, as both the CBC and the independent presenting organizations were able to save money and at the same time produce events they normally could not have afforded without the partnership.
The network of CBC radio producers across the country has always been a very effective talent scouting system that has managed to provide opportunities to the best talents from every corner of the country. This sort of network does not exist in the U.S.A. and many other countries. The way it worked is that a producer in Montreal or Saskatoon, for example, would bring a talent to the attention of the producer of the CBC Radio Orchestra. In many cases this young artist would be invited to perform as a soloist with the orchestra. This feeding or funnelling of talent information to those entrusted with performing opportunities is a fundamental advantage of the CBC's network of knowledgeable staff.
The other way that talented soloists found themselves playing with the CBC Radio Orchestra was through the now defunct CBC young performers' competition. All of the past winners of the CBC's young performers' competition were automatically invited to do a concerto with the CBC Radio Orchestra. In many cases this was this first time they had the opportunity to perform with a professional orchestra. For many of them it was also the first time they gained some experience in a recording studio. This was a valuable experience, the sort that builds careers and strengthens confidence.
These people include a list of artists who are now very familiar to Canada's musical community: pianists such as Angela Cheng, William Aide, Janina Fialkowska, Richard Raymond, Jon Kimura Parker, Angela Hewitt, and Jane Coop; violinists such as Chantal Juillet, Gwen Hoebig, and Angèle Dubeau; and singers such as Judith Forst, Gabrielle Lavigne, Ingemar Korjus, Heather Thomson, Claude Corbeil, and Ben Heppner. All these people played with the CBC Radio Orchestra at the beginning of their careers, and most of them performed again many times as their careers matured.
What a showcase for Canadian talent the CBC Radio Orchestra has been. What is to become of the next generation of talented young soloists? Will they be given opportunities to play with the many orchestras across the land that have foreign music directors? I doubt it. For one thing, these orchestras do not have the talent-scouting network I mentioned: the team of CBC producers that advise the producer in charge of the CBC Radio Orchestra. Our young soloists need the CBC and the CBC Radio Orchestra to help them launch their careers.
I feel that I must comment on one aspect of this disaster that many are reluctant to talk about, and that is the loss of work for freelance musicians in Vancouver. The annual earnings of a member of the CBC Radio Orchestra were not lucrative. They were probably around $6,000 to $8,000 a year. But that was an important part of their overall income, combining with other performing work and teaching to provide a modest income, and allowing them to be part of Vancouver's thriving music scene. With the loss of this work, I would not be surprised to see some of these wonderful talents forced to move to a less expensive city where there is more support for the arts.
I'd like to comment on the CBC's role as an initiator versus a reflector.
Another aspect of this pathetic decision that is often overlooked is the devastating impact this sort of cut has on the morale of the production people working at CBC. Instead of being encouraged to be creatively involved in planning program content and choosing artists, they are just being asked to negotiate with outside music organizations and act as parasites on concerts planned by others. How demoralizing. How unsatisfying. How lacking in any sort of contribution to the national creative productivity.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman and honourable members of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.
My name is Jeremy Berkman, and I am a Vancouver-based trombonist who performs with a broad section of musical ensembles, though I'm not a member of the CBC Radio Orchestra. This year's efforts, for me--and to get a sense of the Vancouver music scene--range from the Vancouver Opera Orchestra; A Touch of Brass quintet; the Jill Townsend Big Band; the Spamalot pit orchestra, for the Broadway show music for the cartoon Ed, Edd n Eddy; and the salsa band, Orquesta Goma Dura.
I am also the co-artistic director of the Turning Point Ensemble, which has the nurturing of Canada's musical heritage within its mandate. This heritage is still unfolding, obviously, to reflect the geography, demographics, and multicultural nature of contemporary Canadian society. It requires its musical advocates to be of the highest quality and deepest commitment.
In March the public heard, only through leaked internal discussions, that the management of CBC considers the CBC Radio Orchestra not necessary to sustain any part of this heritage. I'd like to speak about the current value to Canada of this particular orchestra and the special role it has in the musical ecology of our country, and to thank you for bringing the Canadian public into the debate.
As a professional trombonist, I am fortunate to have a life that includes trying my best to make Mozart's intentions true, to bring Stravinsky's passion to life, and to champion those peer voices of so many prospectives in Canada who can say with the universal language of music what is in their heart today and ours tomorrow.
But one of the most thrilling moments I've had in a concert hall was actually as an audience member last season, listening to Veda Hille sing the music of Buffy Sainte-Marie, with an arrangement for the CBC Radio Orchestra by Vancouver music artistic director-composer Giorgio Magnanensi, as part of the orchestra's Great Canadian Songbook project. Since, I've listened to that concert several times on the CBC website.
As I've worked with Veda, I also know that she felt this event was one of the highlights of her international career. This season, as part of the Great Canadian Songbook , in April she and Georgio collaborated with the CBC Radio Orchestra for a fantastic encore with the music of Neil Young.
The CBC Radio Orchestra can play Mozart or the music of contemporary Canadian composers with equal commitment and at an extremely high level. It's a shame that the existence of an organization that has made musical history in Canada for over seventy years, and which has achieved the consistent excellence of the CBC Radio Orchestra, should be threatened.
The CBC management has said that it can more efficiently utilize its insufficient funding by disbanding the orchestra and spending their budget on other efforts. What I fear is that the true cost of dismantling the orchestra is not something that will be felt tomorrow or next week. I actually think every musician in Canada, including myself, has thought at some point that they were performing a concert that CBC should have recorded and didn't.
However, the pain of losing the radio orchestra is something that will be heart-wrenching 25 years from now, when we realize that our international reputation for music-making is diminished; that we have lost composers, who themselves have lost hope that if they write for an orchestra it will be properly recorded in their home country; or that we have missed hearing Canadian performers or conductors who might have been engaged to perform and record with a premiere international ensemble but will be overlooked because they don't have the reputation and experience that would have been gained by working on broadcast recording sessions with an outstanding recording orchestra and sympathetic producer-engineer team.
Accordingly, we will find that many Canadians who for geographical or economic reasons can't attend live concerts in our big cities will never realize that their passions, struggles, and stories could be expressed at the highest artistic level by a national orchestra that is theirs.
What enables the CBC Radio Orchestra to be unique among orchestras is that it doesn't have to bow as deeply to the commercial marketplace. While in practice Canada's orchestras seek, and often achieve, excellence in their programming, their planners are tugged by the necessity of revenue generation. The marketplace is an important stakeholder in the artistic process in helping us find a common denominator, but it is not a determiner of quality. For 70 years the CBC has initiated, with their orchestra, the seeking, nurturing, and championing of Canadian performers and composers based solely on their potential for great music-making. Predictably, this has played a significant role in the careers and artistic output of so many internationally renowned Canadian musicians.
The orchestra lives mostly in what we affectionately call “the basement bunker” of CBC's Studio One, but it is actually the place from which the sunshine has emanated and brought forth our country's greatest musical talent. The issue of the radio orchestra's survival that we are discussing today is big. If the richest of our civilization is reflected in the lasting value of what it creates, the CBC Radio Orchestra is an alchemist for the true wealth of our nation.
I understand that the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage has discussed the role of public broadcaster in great depth over the past year. I hope that a report from this meeting encourages the finance ministry to fund the CBC at a level where revitalizing the CBC Radio Orchestra is viewed as the wonderful opportunity it should be, and that you will instruct the CBC management to restore its commitment to this radio orchestra so that the wisdom, legacy, and inspiration that the CBC Radio Orchestra provides to Canada has an opportunity to flourish.
Thanks again for the opportunity to speak before you today.
I'm Janet Danielson from the Canadian League of Composers. I'm a composer, a Vancouver resident, and I teach at Simon Fraser University.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak for Canada's composers and for your work as a committee. I appreciate your dedication.
The Canadian League of Composers has had a key historic connection with CBC radio since 1951. Our 300 members composed music for concerts and for broadcasts, and until recently have been very strong supporters of CBC's musical activities.
We applaud the intent of the CBC president, Mr. Lacroix, to provide distinctive, innovative, and compelling programming of the highest quality, created by, for, and about Canadians. We also support his request for stable and adequate funding for CBC, provided it promotes a revitalized partnership with Canada's composers and with those who perform their music, specifically the CBC Radio Orchestra, in the context of a CBC radio that takes seriously its role in cultural leadership and understands its mission as a public trust.
The CBC has been our strongest single partner, but in the past few years we have witnessed the crumbling of nearly every pillar of this partnership. There are seven pillars here.
Commissioning: CBC has a stagnant 1993-level budget for commissioning new Canadian compositions, and recently it has been siphoned off into other musical genres.
Young talent: the cancellation of the young composer competition was done without warning or consultation.
Recording: the end of the classical CBC records label.
Audience exposure: the planned removal of classical music from prime listening hours.
Keeping us up to date in our field: the demise of Two New Hours, which was a program devoted to recent compositions.
Live to air: a great reduction in live-to-air broadcasting, and more recorded broadcasts, the equivalent of offering hockey reruns.
Great performance for our music: the dismantling of the CBC Radio Orchestra, the only Canadian orchestra specialized in the virtuoso performance of Canadian new music.
Now, is this as a result of recent trends? Since 1978, the number of Canadian works performed by major orchestras in Canada has risen by 40%, while the number of CBC commissions has dropped by nearly 50%. The 2005 Canadian music industry profile indicates that sales of classical music recordings exceeded production of classical music recordings in Canada by over 50%, and that sales of the popular and rock music recordings, with which CBC Radio 2 plans to fill their prime listening time, fell 42.1% between 2000 and 2003. Yet CBC Radio 2 claims to be reflecting current trends.
The proposed changes in Radio 2 programming mean a sharp drop in public exposure to the music of Canadian composers. The architects of these changes, far from safeguarding, enriching, and strengthening Canadian musical culture, seem bent on imperilling, depleting, and undermining it.
We recognize the challenges faced by the CBC, the main one being unstable and insufficient funding, and the other being the need to adapt to changing technology. But the CBC's 2005 arts and culture research survey, commissioned by the CBC, indicates that within the CBC there's a weakening of commitment to its mandate to inform, enlighten, and entertain.
This mandate, we are told in the survey, does not reflect the new reality. Imagine, if you will, a restaurant determining its menu offerings on the basis of a poll of what people could recall off the top of their heads that they actually ate for supper in the past week. Would the menu be broad, rich, and diverse? No. It would likely be a mélange of fast food, processed foods, and leftovers. The menu might reflect the “new reality” in Canadian eating habits, or what is easily available, or current trends in food purchases, but why would anyone bother eating there?
The survey also reflects the use of loaded language, such as “elite”, “genre”, “reflect”, and “change”, which seem to have rendered CBC radio management impervious to the growing cries of alarm from their audiences across the country.
Canada's composers are working hard to provide imaginative, exciting music that is distinctive to our country's aspirations and character. We want to see our former partnership with the CBC radio restored and vibrant, so that our finest work can be commissioned by, performed by, and broadcast by a revitalized CBC to our national audience.
Canada's musical accomplishments, both in performance and composition, foster national unity and pride, enhancing our international reputation as a place where visionary ideas thrive and virtuosity is celebrated.
Thank you very much.
Honourable Chairman and members of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, I submit to you that the last radio orchestra that exists in North America is worth keeping.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be a witness before you today. I am Dr. Calvin Dyck, concert master of the Vancouver Island Symphony orchestra in Nanaimo, conductor of the Abbotsford Youth Orchestra, an instructor at Kwantlen University College, and a freelance violinist who occasionally has been hired as an extra player with the CBC.
I want to thank you and the Government of Canada for your wholehearted support of Canadian culture and the arts. I am a grateful product of the culture of excellence in creativity that you have helped foster in Canada. Canada has a reputation for producing outstanding artists, from Céline Dion and Anne Murray to Ben Heppner and Ian Parker. Many of our Canadian artists were helped along in their careers by the CBC, especially when they were given air time. Ian Parker directly credits the CBC for getting his career off the ground. Even as recently as this spring, one of my own students was involved in the CBC-sponsored Beethoven competition for pianists.
CBC radio has in the past fostered excellence in the classical arts, promoted Canadian artists, provided opportunities for Canadian musicians to perform for a wider audience, and introduced Canadians to new repertoire. In fact, some of the repertoire that I have chosen for my own recitals and my own youth orchestra is based on music heard on CBC radio.
The CBC Radio Orchestra has also pursued excellence, recorded music by emerging composers, featured new Canadian artists and conductors, and through its CDs provided a public record of Canadian musicians and Canadian compositions. I personally have appreciated the variety and good taste of programs on CBC Radio 2, especially Jurgen Gothe. As Maestro Taurins has pointed out, great art and music express profound beauty, intellectual complexity, and a transforming power.
I do have some concerns about the economic viability of the CBC orchestra, but I suggest that instead of canning the orchestra, we should think outside the box and look at ways to reinvigorate the orchestra. As a classical artist and a concert producer, I am constantly looking for ways to make my art pay.
Now, I know some would say that we should just do art for art's sake and that the mandate of the CBC orchestra is not to pander to public taste or stoop to merely entertain, but to nurture the arts, to explore new music, to take artistic risk, regardless of audience response. On the other hand, perhaps we should ask why some classical organizations are experiencing such success. Why is it that the Vancouver Opera is so successful? Why does the Vancouver Island Symphony consistently play to sold-out houses? What draws over 3% of the population of Abbotsford to the Abbottsford Youth Orchestra? What makes André Rieu such a successful commercial enterprise? Perhaps there are a variety of reasons.
These organizations connect their art to the public. Their music is of the people, by the people, and for the people. These organizations use a variety of modern technology to make the music acceptable to their audiences. They encourage their members to be creative and innovative. They involve the audience in the performance and break down that invisible fifth wall. They recognize that the most prominent art form of the 21st century is visually based, the movie and the video. Many people in our time hear with their eyes, so we must make classical music visually accessible. These organizations embrace a wide variety of musical genres, recognizing that classic music exists in a number of forms.
Perhaps you wonder why these musicians are so passionate about classical music. I think for me it is primarily because it is a spiritual experience. I am never so fully alive as when performing great music. I can hardly express to you the exuberant joy that I feel in a Mozart symphony or the heart-wrenching pathos of Michael Conway Baker's Canticle. He's a composer who lives here in North Vancouver. I've experienced the oppression of the Stalinist regime through the music of Shostakovich and have been inspired by the uplifting music of Handel.
CBC Radio 2 is in the process of cancelling 11 shows. Why is there this great hurry for wholesale change? If classical music is not available on CBC radio, what other station in the Vancouver area offers it? The answer: none.
I believe there is great value to preserving our musical heritage and keeping it alive through excellent live performances. It informs us and challenges us. It causes us to reflect on who we are and where we have come from. It connects us to our past and it inspires us for the future.
I find it interesting that yesterday, Monday, the producers of the Calgary Stampede came to Vancouver to record their mainstage show. Many of the musicians they hired for the session were from the CBC Radio Orchestra. Two weeks ago, Anne Murray was in town. Who did she hire? A number of strings who have played with the CBC orchestra. Members of the CBC orchestra have played for Céline Dion, Bryan Adams, and the rap group KAOS for various recording projects. These same musicians have played on Disney films, CBC-TV specials, and many other projects.
You might ask yourself why these people seek out the musicians who play with the CBC Radio Orchestra. Might it be because they are some of the finest musicians in the country?
Chris Boyce, director of programming at CBC radio, has said, “Cost effectiveness had a direct bearing on the decision to disband the CBC orchestra”. So what of the cost?
We are very pleased that it was by unanimous motion of the heritage committee that these hearings are taking place, and we're very grateful that you could arrange to have these in Vancouver.
I'm part of the Stand On Guard For CBC coalition and was instrumental in starting the campaign to restore Canada's CBC Radio Orchestra within the revitalized CBC. The mandate of the CBC in the Broadcast Act of 1991 specifies that the programming of the corporation should actively contribute to the flow and exchange of cultural expression. It is the only one of the ten principles that is prefaced by the word “actively”.
We believe cultural expression includes classical music. Commercial and CBC radio and TV do a splendid job of presenting popular music, but only CBC Radio 2 contributes in a sustained manner to the creation and dissemination of classical concert music. Canada's composers of serious music are creating a crucial component of our living musical heritage. The Canadian Music Centre library now contains some 18,500 music titles by more than 700 of Canada's professional composers in the concert music field. The collection has grown fivefold in just 30 years.
Productivity of Canada's finest music creators increases while CBC Radio 2 reacts by cutting and cutting. The amount of money CBC is devoting to musicians' fees has been negotiated down from $11 million per year to $5.2 million, and even this budget is being underspent.
Canada's beloved CBC Radio Orchestra is perhaps the purest embodiment of the CBC mandate. The proposed axing of the CBC Radio Orchestra has enraged performers, composers, and listeners from coast to coast to coast and ignited a firestorm of protest. How can this happen? It's not just a matter of saving a radio orchestra that is a national cultural treasure, nor is it merely a question of how to the think about the role and purpose of our public broadcaster. Rather, the proposed closure of the CBC Radio Orchestra goes to the heart of what it means to live in a 21st century democracy that values and supports the full spectrum of creative expression.
It is common knowledge that a ship has a mark on her hull called the Plimsoll line. Unscrupulous shipowners in the 19th century would overload ships so that they and their crew would sink. It did not matter how fine the ship was, how skilled the crew, or how valuable the cargo--it would perish. The shipowners profited largely from the insurance claims. The Plimsoll line is for the safety of ships, their cargo, and crew.
How can a cultural treasure be sunk? One has to be ignorant of its history and to hold it in contempt. The value of its cargo, the skill of its crew, and its significance to the nation cannot dissuade those with a zeal to scuttle. They can do so if they're not held to account.
Canada's Parliament should place something like a Plimsoll line on the CBC Radio Orchestra hull so this magnificent ship with its highly skilled crew may continue transporting cargo of immense value to Canada and the rest of the world.
In answer to a question from Bill Siksay, the NDP member of Parliament for Burnaby—Douglas, Mr. Stursberg said:
|| I think we have to sometimes just remember what the CBC Radio Orchestra actually was. The CBC Radio Orchestra is not an orchestra like the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, where we have employed musicians, full-time. That's not what it is. It's different kinds of players who get together occasionally to play music, and we pay them to do that.
I submit to you that Mr. Stursberg has embarrassed his own employer by characterizing the orchestra as a pickup band. I further submit the CBC executives were responsible for embarrassing Canada, as the The New York Times reported the axing of the CBC Radio Orchestra:
|| “Really, it’s a straight-up case of economics,” Jeff Keay, a spokesman for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, said. “We couldn’t afford to maintain the orchestra.”
Allow me to offer a word of praise for the CBC Radio Orchestra for fulfilling the letter and spirit of the CBC mandate. One of Canada's top five orchestras and among the finest radio orchestras in the world, the men and women who play in the Vancouver CBC Radio Orchestra were carefully hand-picked from the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and the community of freelance musicians. As the orchestra is contracted for each service and all players are paid the same fee, it is remarkably cost effective. That should surely appeal to taxpayers if this is really just a matter of money. The orchestra can record a one-hour broadcast in six hours and a compact disc in nine hours. In a typical season, it produced twelve broadcasts, three or four CDs, three public concerts on its own and three in partnership with other organizations. It did all this for about a half-million dollars per year.
No orchestra in Canada has done more to champion the music of Canada's composers. In the 35 years before the bizarre decision to expel it from its state-of-the-art recording studio, the orchestra had premiered 200 works by 80 different Canadian composers. The CBC Radio Orchestra recorded 200 LPs and 32 CDs and half of these were devoted to Canadian composers. Last year the CBC Radio Orchestra and its brilliant conductor, Alain Trudel, gave seven concerts and commissioned 18 Canadian compositions. Canada's radio orchestra has travelled to communities, large and small, earning a place in the hearts of Canadians from coast to coast to coast. Canadians might well ask why CBC TV did not cover its tour to Iqaluit last fall. And now it's axed.
CBC upper management have nothing with which to replace it. The CBC developed a young composers competition and a young performers competition to identify and recognize the finest talent in the nation in an open, public, transparent, and accountable manner, and now that's gone, and there's no system for choosing performers and composers.
So what's the way out of this? I think we should ask that you and your committee and Parliament restore the CBC orchestra with a proper budget, restore the CBC young composers competition and the young performers competition, restore The Arts Report, and find a way to properly fund CBC.
I want to finish with a story about--
Hi. I'm Jon Washburn, from the Vancouver Chamber Choir, Canada's longest-existing professional choir.
For 40 years now, I've lived on both sides of the radio speaker--as a regular performer and as a regular listener.
From the outset, I want to state clearly that Canada needs the following things: one, its radio orchestra reinstated; two, its national classical music network restored, probably by moving jazz and popular music to a third network; and three, a revitalized CBC administration, which prizes Canada's vigorous musical heritage and wants to build on it and expand it instead of trading it in on newer, seemingly more fashionable or more flashy models.
Preservation and development of our heritage, our cultural roots, and artistic history are crucially important to the maintenance of Canada's artistic creativity. Flowers must have fertile earth to spring from. Our artistic heritage must be preserved for the sake of the future, and heritage, in my opinion, should be additive. You don't tear down a heritage building to erect a new one. And the CBC shouldn't tear down one music to supplant it with another.
Classical music, in its many different forms and manifestations, is a preserver and creator of heritage par excellence. It preserves our musical past through the work of living performers, and it creates our musical future through the work of living composers. It is indeed, in spite of its name, a living and vital art made up of many diverse kinds of music important to a civil society. It is the cornerstone of musical education, the handmaid of Canadian culture, and the envy of various forms of entertainment music, which aspire to its permanency and longevity.
It should be noted that today's classical music practitioners are ethnically diverse, with deep roots in Canada's immigrant populations, and often seek out classical music as a universally respected route to education and advancement.
I consider radio to be the perfect medium for music. Marshall McLuhan called radio a hot medium, requiring listeners to create their own images, unlike the cooler medium of television, which tries to do everything for you. Indeed, I find that music on radio remains music, while music on TV usually reduces itself to spectacle. On radio, music can preserve its purity.
The CBC, as our national public radio broadcaster, is an essential lifeline to classical music for all Canadians who reside outside of Toronto and Montreal. For them, the CBC should aspire to more than mere entertainment. It should be an instrument for promoting the flow and exchange of cultural expression, the documentation and preservation of our musical heritage, and the creation and facilitation of our musical future. It should represent the nation's art and culture to all corners of Canada and should not descend to the aims or content of private commercial radio.
The CBC Radio Orchestra has been the single most important supporter of Canadian composers and Canadian music for 70 years now. It has set a clarion example to my own organization and to many others. But its work is not finished. I simply do not understand why the CBC brass are not exceedingly proud of it or why they want to undercut it instead of growing it. Rather than being proud parents, they're acting like ugly stepmothers.
Somehow we need to get the radio orchestra reinstated. We need to reverse course on the gutting of classical programming on Radio 2, and we need to persuade the CBC leadership that destroying Canada's classical infrastructure is no way to build our country's artistic or cultural strengths. Anything the committee can do to assist in achieving these goals will be of great importance to the future of our country.
Good afternoon, friends. As they say in opera, Coraggio
, the end is near.
For over 50 years I have enjoyed a modest international solo career. Before branching out as a soloist, I was for many years a member of the Vancouver Symphony and the CBC Radio Orchestra. In my spare time I founded and developed Overture Concerts, which brought thousands of concerts, performed mainly by up-and-coming young Canadian artists, to smaller communities throughout the country, on a financially secure subscription basis. For this peripatetic performing and organizational activity, I've been honoured with the Order of Canada and the Order of B.C.
In recent years I've worked with tenor Ben Heppner, arranging his tours to smaller rural Canadian communities. And I've taken particular pleasure in developing Remote Tours Canada, which provides professional musical ensembles to schools throughout Canada's most isolated regions. I therefore particularly appreciate this opportunity to address the standing committee.
This morning, before coming to this meeting, I received an e-mail from Ben Heppner, and he asked me to read it to you. With your permission, I will read you a bit of what he said:
Dear esteemed Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am in a state of shock. As I have travelled throughout the world performing, I have been hearing alarming things about the CBC.
All of the arts reporting is seemingly gone. The CBC orchestra, completely unique in North America, gone with a stroke of the pen. The CBC Talent Festival...named earlier, gone. Every significant arts program vaporised.
I have been on record as saying that the most important moment in my career was the winning of the CBC competition in 1979. Without this national exposure, I quite likely would not have ever decided to pursue a career at all. Now, just as the list of exceptional talent is reaching significant proportions with names like James Ehnes, Measha Brueggergosman, this is the moment when the decision is made to relegate “classical” music to the 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. time slot. This is exactly how you can kill any interest from the successive generations--put it where they won't hear it.
I believe these sweeping changes are a gross mistake for our country. Surely there are some of you hearing these various presentations who will take the courage to challenge the misguided efforts to change CBC to a commercial-style radio station. This is a shortsighted approach to our national culture, talent pool and future.
Please have the courage to reconsider these misguided program changes.
After such a powerful plea, most of my previously prepared text is decidedly anticlimactic. So even though I've saved one minute there, I won't save much more on what remains.
In recent seasons Ben Heppner, surely Canada's most celebrated superstar in the world of classical music, has made a commitment to Canada. In between his engagements at the world's great opera houses he decided to set aside a time slot each season to tour to small-town Canada. Last year it was Dawson Creek and Salt Spring, among others in B.C. This year he's going to Fort McMurray, Whitehorse, and Yellowknife. He recognizes that Canadians don't only listen to great music in Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal.
The CBC, like Ben Heppner, has that same choice. It can follow the ratings or it can serve the nation. Toronto and Montreal have classical music alternatives, but the CBC is the only classical music station for most of the nation. The CBC seems to have forgotten that classical music is the backbone of all the other music and must therefore remain a pre-eminent mainstay on Radio 2. Great music reflects timeless standards of excellence. It is eternally enjoyed by young people, by elderly people, by new immigrants, and by every ethnic and national group that makes up our nation. Instead, we are now to be offered what Victor Borge would call “a little bit of this, a little bit of that”. Nobody, regardless of musical preference, will find much satisfaction in such a hodgepodge of undefined programming.
My own MP, and an associate member of your committee, pointed out just yesterday in a letter to constituents that “an attempt by the CBC to be all things to all listeners may well end up satisfying no one”.
It may sound politically attractive to try to reach a broader audience with varied musical tastes, but the result, as you can see from the massive popular outcry, has been a clear and bitter alienation of Radio 2's essential core audience, with no guarantee of any new audience to take its place.
Take a look at the word “orchestra” before you scrap the CBC Radio Orchestra, and try spelling it backwards. The last four letters, A-R-T-S, make up the word “arts”. It is absolutely impossible to dismantle that orchestra without destroying the very “art” that it embodies. Although the issues you are dealing with today are vastly greater than the orchestra itself, it's scuttling; it's one more step in the general disintegration of respect and historical awareness of great music, which, along with great literature, painting, poetry, architecture, dance, represents the fundamental heritage of our ever-changing nation.
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.
Thank you very much, Mr. Zukerman.
And drawing upon an offered letter seems to buy you more time than two cents, but I thank you very much for your intervention.
What I'm going to do now, before we go to the question and answer part of this meeting, is to ask each of the members of the committee—I'm advised that technically this isn't problematic—to identify themselves, their party, and their riding. And limit it to that, please.
I will start with myself, Andy Scott. I'm a Liberal member from Fredericton, New Brunswick.
Oh, sorry. I don't know where I can get my voice on, as well as with the camera.
Sorry for turning my back to you.
We talked to CBC a while ago and we asked them to explain to us why they were doing this, etc. And while I am aware of the problem and I support all of the very important points you have made, not the least of which is that this is the last remaining radio orchestra in North America, there are some solutions we need to talk about, and I wanted to ask you specifically some things.
CBC has suggested that by disbanding this orchestra they will be able to give regional orchestras across the country an option to appear regularly. That is the cheaper option and it would also allow them to reach the diversity of Canadian symphony orchestras. That's one of their solutions.
The second one, of course, is the fact that they are underfunded, and you've all acknowledged that. But the third one that CBC suggested, with regard to the CBC cutting the classical music to a certain time slot, is that they were looking at encouraging newer audiences.
As you know, the CBC mandate, as they reminded us, is to promote regionalism within Canada and to promote diversity and broaden their audience listenership.
Those are among some of the things they said. How do you respond to those? What are your practical solutions to offer the CBC on this issue--the money, the regionalism, and the fact that they say other symphony orchestras will be able to get a kick at the can?
Thank you, Dr. Fry, for those good questions.
To answer the first one, I think it plays right into the hands of what I said earlier about reflection versus initiation. The problem with doing more of what we call “remotes” in the broadcast business, picking up concerts that are already going on, is that no one at the CBC is choosing those artists; nobody is choosing who the soloist will be and what the repertoire will be. So it's a case of the CBC just giving up on its whole control of who they're going to present.
Many of the community orchestras are directed by foreign music directors. The National Arts Centre, where you are at present, has a foreign music director. I did an analysis of the soloists they have, and even though it is almost completely supported by Canadian Heritage, the soloists in the upcoming season are about 65% Canadian. But the soloists with the CBC Radio Orchestra are 100% Canadian, so that's the difference.
With respect to representing different parts of the country, the CBC Radio Orchestra has always gone to great lengths to represent the talent from all over Canada. It has commissioned many, many composers from every part of Canada and has had soloists from every part of Canada.
So those arguments just don't float.
Good afternoon everybody.
I find what you said today very interesting. Mr. Lacroix, whom we have met on May 1 of this year, seemed to say that, with these changes, CBC could broadcast on Radio 2 various genres of music and transform this station into the number one Canadian music source in the country. What do you think of that?
From what I understood from what he said, this decision will allow a varied programming which will draw another kind of audience. In fact, classical music would not be completely eliminated since there would be a daily program during the week, broadcast from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., exclusively devoted to this musical genre. In September, Radio Two will offer new programs on line, among which two will be devoted to classical music. The fact that this is online could draw a younger audience, that might not turn to classical music otherwise.
What do you think of all that? My question is in fact for everybody. Anybody can answer it.
I will take this one on.
The word “genre” is a dangerous word, and the CBC website assured us we'll be drawing from a broader and richer and more diverse spectrum of music: classical, folk, jazz, and so on. Breaking music down into categories of genre is not as clear-cut and fair-minded as it may seem. You can check this in my brief afterwards.
Why have classical as a single genre? Why not have Renaissance polyphony, 19th century art song, French baroque opera, serial music, minimalism, just to name a few? By any measure, those genres are far more sonically distinct than are, say, singer-songwriter, roots, and folk. But all these important classical genres are now jammed into a shrinking classical pigeonhole in CBC programming.
The thing is that the harmonies undergirding all those current forms of popular music derive from classical chord progressions that were painstakingly worked out over centuries by composers. It's a strange kind of thinking that prunes the trunk in order to make more space for branches.
The very categorizing of music by genre is a sleight of hand. Once you have genre taking the place of excellence, beauty, challenge, and meaningfulness, you have the potential of “genrecide”, and this is exactly what has happened. Composers, conductors, instrumental and choral performers, and their distraught audiences have been told to get to the back of the Radio 2 bus, and we're seeing the only Canadian national orchestra terminated.
The online podcasting, streaming, and so on: that is narrowcasting; that's not broadcasting. It's interesting and it's important. I support the CBC going there. But it's not the same as broadcasting. And this funneling of this huge genre of classical music that's been tried and tested over time and that also represents our most exciting explorations into new areas is just unacceptable. It's not broadening; it's narrowing. It's just a very funny use of the language.
Yes, thank you for that question, Mr. Siksay.
It is cost-effective because it works in a studio, and the studio is a great 21st century creation. It's the way Glenn Gould was actually created as a phenomenon. The CBC radio studio is an amazing place. With just this amazing orchestra, a producer, and a couple of technicians, in about six hours they can produce a broadcast, and in about nine hours they can produce a CD.
It's not market-driven, meaning that the CBC is in the driver's seat, making the decisions about the repertoire, about the performers, and about how things are done.
And because this is a remarkably fine orchestra, contracted on a per-service basis, it's also much more effective than trying to hire an orchestra in another way. And it's not quite the same thing as using remotes.
We submit that of course there should be many, many recordings of remotes and other kinds of recordings of other orchestras across the country to reflect what's happening; but a radio orchestra is a magnificent way for CBC to take the lead and to be proactive in the arts in creating and producing the very finest. And when it has access to people like the winners of the CBC's young composers competition, it can really be a platform for the very finest creations of our youngest talent.
Yes. I'm Jeremy Berkman.
I'd just like to speak as a musician to one issue of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Radio Orchestra, and that is the art of recording, which is actually very different from the art of live performance, and it's something the radio orchestra has become a specialist in.
When you're performing live, you're always thinking forward and you're constantly looking only at the big picture, compared to the art of recording, which often takes a very special focused look at a small phrase and tries to make that phrase absolutely perfect. It's something that, unfortunately, is rarely done in our lives as musicians. And the CBC Radio Orchestra actually spends time doing that. The effect of that on all of our lives, as musicians, is to make us better musicians when we perform live in other situations, as well as creating the legacy that the CBC Radio Orchestra has through its recordings.
I think it's a very specialized skill that the musicians in that orchestra have perfected to a point that it makes it cost-effective to use them, as opposed to people who wouldn't be as well educated in that particular art form.
There is a radio orchestra in Tirana, Albania. There is a radio orchestra in Seoul, Korea. Obviously there are many. Every country that claims to have a civilized tradition of music background has had a radio orchestra. Australia had three radio orchestras. Austria has two. Germany has eight currently operating.
Why radio orchestras? It's because they can disseminate music so much more effectively than going on the concert stage. One broadcast is heard by thousands of people, not just in the metropolitan centres and not just by those who buy a ticket, but by those who sit on their farms or sit in their studios or sit at home, or even drive in their car, where they can hear music. One broadcast can reach millions at a time.
I played in the orchestra 55 years ago, and in those days we did 39 broadcasts a year. That was the job of the CBC Vancouver Radio Orchestra, and we played an immense number of unknown Canadian composers, people like John Weinzweig, people like Murray Schafer, people like Murray Adaskin, people like Jean Coulthard. They became the great names of Canadian music in the 20th century. They got their opportunity.
Without the CBC Radio Orchestra, who will give those composers an opportunity? Radio orchestras do so much more than can be done with a public orchestra.
Again, to our witnesses, I deeply appreciate your taking the time to come in to represent not only yourselves, but I'm sure many other people you have spoken to.
I was interested in the discussion about the enraged audience across Canada. I'm inclined to believe there are a number of people who are really quite exercised about this.
One of the difficulties that I must say I have had, though, in taking a look at this is that in section 40 of the Broadcasting Act it says:
||The Corporation is ultimately accountable, through the Minister, to Parliament for the conduct of its affairs.
The Broadcasting Act also sets out in sections.... If you want to write these numbers down, I think they're germane. They are subsections 55(4) and 55(5), and subsections 71(1) and 71(2). These detail exactly how the corporation is to be responsible to the minister and ultimately to the government.
But subsection 46(5) is particularly vexatious, as it relates even to these hearings that we're in. It states that the Broadcasting Act guarantees the journalistic, creative, and programming independence of the CBC.
That is not to say that I, and I'm sure all of the people on the committee here, have not been listening to the pleas to instruct and recommend that the CBC restore things.
This is my question--and it is not a trick question, because it is something this committee is going to have to deal with. I would like to know from all six of you if you believe the standing committee should be able to give journalistic, creative, and programming direction to the CBC.
In the affirmative, that would mean this would be the starting point for this committee, in its wisdom, to choose to give direction to the government that we believe the committee, or whatever, should be able to give journalistic, creative, and programming direction to the CBC.
Thank you very much, Chair.
Thank you for your very erudite presentations. It's been very invigorating, really, to hear such considered opinions about music. And I commend Mr. Siksay for pursuing this issue and for bringing you to us via long-distance hookup.
I'm getting this sinking feeling that what we're witnessing here is the classical music equivalent of the cancellation of the Avro Arrow. I don't say that tongue-in-cheek at all. I really mean it.
I'm also getting the sense that what the CBC is trying to do is use the model used in film in Canada for classical music. In other words, let's maybe have a funding organism, like the Canada Council, independently funding private sector initiatives in artistic development. While it works for film, I'm not so sure it would work in the area of classical music.
My first question is to Ms. Danielson.
Do you believe that the symphony orchestras across Canada, as a rule, are paying enough attention to new works by Canadian composers? I know that many orchestras like to reserve part of their program for new works, generally, and probably for good reason, maybe because of commercial pressure or what have you. But do you find that they're just not able to showcase enough Canadian composers, like Murray Schafer and Ms. Coulthard? Is it Jean Coulthard?
Thank you to be with us. I would just like to ask a precision to Mr. Dyck. In his presentation, he mentioned a number of artists, from Anne Murray to Céline Dion, who have made their mark and collaborate with various actors of the world of the classical music to showcase their talent.
Mr. Dyck, you said that CBC/Radio-Canada had put a number of artists on the map by presenting their works. You also said that in the 20th century, things were different and that some groups stood out because they were more audacious and presented their concerts in a bolder manner, more to the taste of the day. In 2008, some artists stand out in different musical styles and they are not always broadcast on the commercial radio stations.
Would it not be the role of CBC/Radio-Canada to present those artists on the public radio?
I'm looking forward to Bill Bruneau's recommendations. I don't think anybody is asking for exclusively classical music on CBC—far from it. The CBC has never been an exclusively classical music station.
I remember, as a teenager, long before anybody in Europe knew about Elton John, I knew about Elton John via the CBC. I think this is a very important part of CBC programming. The objection is to the elimination of this major vehicle of classical music dissemination, the CBC Radio Orchestra, and the shunting of classical music to a time when practically nobody will be able to listen to it. Kids driving to school are disappointed because they can't hear it any more.
It's a case of being put into a much narrower area than before. But I absolutely agree with your point 100%, that there is non-classical music that CBC creative programming has always been brilliant at, and that's fine. That's great.
Welcome to the witnesses.
I must confess my own bias. My family are not infrequent visitors to concerts of the Vancouver Chamber Choir. Dr. Dyck has been a musical mentor to my daughter for many years, and we've very much appreciated that.
My question is going to be very direct, however, and it's going to follow up on what Mr. Abbott asked earlier. I'd like just yes or no answers from you, because of the shortness of time.
The only individual who actually has the power to direct CBC to act in a certain manner with respect to its programming is the minister herself. This committee can make suggestions, and we can make very strong recommendations, but ultimately that's the minister's prerogative. The Broadcasting Act very clearly spells out CBC's independence in its programming decisions. So if in fact there were directives made, they would have to be in extraordinary circumstances.
First of all, with respect to the axing of the CBC Radio Orchestra, do you believe that event is significant enough that it should trigger a response from the minister? I'd like a yes or no from each one of the seven of you.
A voice: Absolutely.
I want to congratulate you on the eloquence of your presentations.
Like Ed, I'm going to disclose my bias. I was a three-time attendee at the Courtney Youth Music Camp. I was part of the Vancouver Junior Youth Orchestra, and a member of a woodwind quintet when I was in my mid-teens, and part of the Cape Town Performing Arts Board Orchestra in early university years. So I do have a bias.
What I was hearing George talk about is almost the radio orchestra ecosystem. It's not only that there is the orchestra and the products it produces.... I've been in reforestation for 25 years, so like a tree, it's not only the value of the logs, it's the whole ecosystem that's supported by the tree. You talked about talent development and nurturing the producers as well as the talent, and the composers, so it's quite an ecosystem spreading out.
The question that I have for you, George, is if the provision of this public good--which is the radio orchestra--ends, how do you see that ecosystem of associated benefits being provided?
Thank you, everyone who is participating today in our eco-friendly tour to Vancouver with no resulting GHGs via airplanes going out there.
I have a couple of points. CBC indicated this was a business decision. I recall Mr. Siksay taking some offence to the new president of the CBC referring to it as a company. I think the danger for the public broadcaster is when it starts to make business decisions in a corporate fashion. I think that's why we're sensing some of your frustration. We're talking about something, I gather from testimony today, that fully funded would be less than one one-thousandth of the capacity provided to the CBC.
We're going to make a recommendation, and perhaps a few of you would care to tell us what that recommendation should be. What would your recommended wording be to this recommendation, understanding what we have done? It was a unanimously supported motion. We have provided a platform. Here's your opportunity to say to CBC, through us, what you would like to be said. I'd like to know what that recommendation would be.
When Mr. Laverock was speaking a moment ago about other choices, I had an experience late one night listening to the CBC in my office, on the Internet. Something came on that I wasn't particularly enjoying, so I first of all tried time-shifting to a different time zone to see if I could find something I would enjoy better. That didn't work. So I did what I shouldn't confess to. I switched to ABC, Australian Broadcasting Corporation's classical music station on the Internet. I was enjoying what was on there, and when the announcer came back on I found out that it was actually the CBC Radio Orchestra I was listening to from Australia.
Voices: Hear, hear!
Mr. Bill Siksay: That kind of proves one of our points anyway.
Dr. Dyck, in your presentation you said you had some concerns about the economic viability of the CBC orchestra. You talked about a number of things where you thought there were other possibilities around connecting to the public, modern technology for accessibility, audience involvement. You talked about the visual basis, the visual accessibility of the music listening experience, I think. Did you intend those to be criticisms of the current CBC Radio Orchestra? I just want to clarify how you saw that. Are they concerns that you have about the current orchestra?
In light of the fact that there's been some suggestion from CBC management that the orchestra is in decline, or in my experience in the very few times I've played with the CBC when we've played for not-full houses, I thought we should look at what some other organizations are doing.
The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, for example, has been experimenting with using large screens and doing close-ups of musicians in live performance. I'm speaking about the live performance now. Vancouver Opera has been using English subtitles, as most opera companies have. Recently they did a first nations version of Mozart's Magic Flute, combining first nations culture and costumes with that. And I think we as classical musicians need to continue to look for ways to invigorate what we do and connect to a larger audience.
In Abbotsford, we've been experimenting with combining classical music with backdrops, with costuming where all the musicians are in gorgeous gowns, and we've been getting a younger and younger audience, to the point where I would say the mean age of the audience is around 30 to 35 now for our concerts. You try to invite the audience to participate, to sing along with the orchestra. You invite somebody from the audience up on stage to dance while the orchestra plays. And the concerts become participatory experiences rather than just watching an orchestra at the distance.
In Abbotsford we have an audience that now feels as if it can't wait for the next show. And yes, some people would say we're combining entertainment with classical music, but we are reaching a younger and younger audience and creating a situation in which people who otherwise would not enjoy it are exposed to it and wholeheartedly embracing what we're doing.
I want to thank the committee. We were able to do this in a reasonably orderly fashion, notwithstanding the rather awkward start.
I'd like to thank the witnesses for their patience, their passion, and the eloquence of their interventions.
I will offer my own bias. Sharing Fredericton with Measha Brueggergosman has left me no choice but to hold a very passionate view on this subject myself.
So to all of you there and to the members of the committee, thank you. We certainly have been informed by this afternoon's proceedings.
On that note, the meeting is adjourned.