Day Three of the Genius of Mozart festival entitled ‘Meet the Mozarts’ was dedicated to the extended members of Mozart’s family and his social circle.
I didn’t have a chance – nor the inclination – to become acquainted with either. Nor get to grips with the Wunderkind output yesterday. This because I have since New Year’s Eve gone down with a surprisingly bad bout of man-flu. It’s a cold, but my energy has been low. And that has eeked into my enthusiasm for most things apart from Downton Abbey. I’ve now caught up with the entire series and can’t wait until the beginning of the next series in the autumn this year. (And just for the record, I really don’t like that Miss O’Brien. And as for that Thomas .. dear God almighty!)
What did hook me back in to the Genius of Mozart late this evening was Sara Mohr-Pietsch’s “Play Mozart for Me” programme which goes out live between 10pm and 1am each of the remaining days of the festival.
And what pulled me in was not seeing it advertised in the schedules, nor the opportunity to submit my request and inclusion into the playlist (I suspect that as a BBC staffer I’m probably not going to have my request granted – all sorts of unpleasant editorial guidelines which would be transgressed there).
What persuaded me to climb the stairs to the PC and listen in HD sound was in fact Sarah Mohr-Pietsch’s Facebook status update earlier today. Whilst I sat in the armchair full of self-loathing for the germs swimming around my body, bemoaning the fact that I had to return to work the following day, I realised that SMP had got the late shift all of this week. Mind you, at least she had a spot of Mozart to keep her company.
The “Play Mozart for Me” programme is unusual. It’s not the only requests programme on Radio 3. There’s Jazz Record Requests on a Saturday afternoon and one presented by Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment bassist Chi-chi Nwanoku. And, morning show Breakfast also accepts requests too.
But it is unusual to hear a requests programme on a weekday night. And as a regular listener, that takes a bit of getting used to. Because not only have I had to get accustomed to the Christmas and New Year celebrations playing havoc with my sense of time, so a new year has ushered in a radical change to my listening schedule. I’m having to listen to the radio in an entirely different way. No bad thing, either.
Because now I’m listening to what seemed like the most unlikely of radio formats late at night and realising that for me – and remember this is one listener’s opinion and not a statement in the belief that a great many other people feel exactly the same as I do by the way – programming a requests show on a weekday night is an experiment. Not only an experiment in scheduling but an opportunity in programming too.
Look at it this way. The ‘request show’ as I recall from many long and arduous journeys to and from school is to a certain extent dead and buried. Getting a track played on the radio isn’t perhaps as thrilling now that we’ve all got access to online music services. Why bother persuading a radio producer to play you a piece of Mozart or something from the charts when you can just as easily find it yourself on the internet?
Yeah, OK. I’m assuming that every other person on the internet is listening to music in the same way as I am. I should at least acknowledge there’s still a potential thrill to be had by some audience members and that in a sense it’s still the purest form of audience interactivity and so is still valid. But it isn’t that which makes the request show format something to revisit, rethink and re-evaluate.
Listening to “Play Mozart for Me” tonight, I’m struck by its potential to connect me as a listener with other listeners aurally. As a format it offers the potential to present challenges to the listener. With greater numbers of platforms available to broadcasters and audience alike in the form of Twitter hashtags, emails, blogs and Facebook pages, the opportunity to take in playlist suggestions from the audience is increased.
What needs to be worked on to increase the input are the ‘calls to actions’, the invitations to the listener to submit those playlist ideas. Think outside the Mozart festival and its possible that an entire half-hour segment could be given over to a topic. Offer audiences a keyword as a springboard for music suggestions built around one particular theme and see what the audience comes up with. Do it in realtime. Do it the way BBC London Danny Baker can be relied upon to shape his audience contributions around seemingly banal questions.
In short, while the nightly evening request show may at first seem a rather unusual proposition for your regular Radio 3 listener like me, it also offers miles of editorial opportunities for similarly keen radio producers keen to offer up something fresh.
And yes, in case you’re wondering, I know there’s no copyright on ideas. So, assuming you think this is an idea worth pursuing, you could ‘technically’ you could nick this one. But I will know. And so will my mother. And you so don’t want to mess with her. 😉