Prick up your ears . . . and one thing you won't be hearing is the vamping of on-air personalities raising money for classical radio. WRTI-FM had penciled in its fund-raiser for Feb. 9 through 18, but, instead, decided to try something new, dubbed a "warp drive" - three weeks of short on-air messages telling listeners that if they sent in enough money, the 10-day fund-drive would be canceled.
WRTI raised a total of $590,000 - well over the goal of $325,000. No one likes the usual fund-drive routine of hitting people over the head, and listeners concluded that "they'd rather have all the music [they're] used to," said station manager Dave Conant.
Does this mean no more traditional fund drives for WRTI? Success on this scale isn't likely again, as the big tally is largely the result of one listener (who, Conant says, wishes to remain anonymous). Apparently, she was so happy with the change that she donated $250,000. But even without that gift, Conant says, WRTI has more than made its goal. "I don't think we'll ever go back to the old way," he says, while acknowledging that "I don't know if this will work every time." - Peter Dobrin
In a similar vein . . . WHYY-FM also is breaking with fund-drive tradition. Midweek last week, instead of live pitches, the radio station tried "quiet days" - pre-recorded messages airing only once or twice an hour. The intention, said spokesman Art Ellis, was to "find the best balance between reaching our budgeted fund-raising goals and satisfying the audience desire to stay with our regular programming as much as possible."
Did it work?
"Yes, to the extent that we eliminated three days of live pledge while raising about as much money as we had budgeted for those days," Ellis said. "But since we returned to live pledge, the response has been slower than anticipated. Is this cause and effect or is there something else going on? We don't know for sure." The station was aiming to raise $652,000, and as of last week still thought that the goal was attainable.
If WHYY wants to motivate listeners, maybe it could try a little classical music. Call it a new-old idea. The station dropped classical a decade and a half ago. - P.D.
Even more Valery Gergiev. If you didn't get enough of the oft-protested, usually electric conductor last week with the Philadelphia Orchestra, his two new recordings rank among his best. Berlioz's Harold in Italy with the London Symphony Orchestra (on LSO Live) significantly features French violist Antoine Tamestit. Though his tone isn't captured in optimum sound, his sense of interpretive focus is. With his Mariinsky Orchestra (on the Mariinsky label), Gergiev conducts a penetrating Pictures at an Exhibition in an all-Mussorgsky disc that has Ferruccio Furlanetto singing Songs and Dances of Death. No stentorian Russian singers on these discs: Even the Berlioz offers the Franco-savvy mezzo-soprano Karen Cargill in The Death of Cleopatra. - David Patrick Stearns