Last week I did something I have previously only done by accident. I turned on Radio 3.
Long standing readers of my blog will know that I am a dyed-in-the-wool Radio 4 listener. I love speech radio. The voices of Radio 4 presenters are as familiar to me as those of my own family.
I have written about the fantasies I employ on dull days where I am shopping with Winifred Robinson, drinking cocktails with Fi Glover or relaxing in a spa with Lauren Laverne.
I have a new, very much darker fantasy involving John Humphreys, a blunt instrument and a sound proofed studio, but of that I’ll say no more, save to mention that I no longer listen to the Today programme.
And that’s all part of it. Driving home after work late at night, Radio 4 offers me Today in Parliament.
But I’m all Today in Parliamented out. I’ve had enough of listening to paid representatives trying dig themselves out of holes of their own making.
So I took the plunge and hit Radio 3. It was something by Brahms and it was just what I needed. Soothing. Measured. No bugger talking.
It turns out I’m not the only one seeking oblivion in classical music.
Sales of classical music are up 10% on the previous year, making it the fastest growing genre.
I have a little background in classical music. From the age of seven I was forced to play the violin.
My parents forked out money they didn’t have for lessons I didn’t want.
They’d heard an interview with Itzhak Perlman in which he’d thanked his parents for making him do all the practice that had turned him into a global superstar.
One of the early skills I learnt as a violinist was to forge my parents’ signatures in the practice log book.
I did enjoy a few pieces I picked up from playing in the school orchestra. (I say ‘playing.’ I was accused of miming when I was moved to the first violins. Massively over promoted.)
When I was nine, my parents took me shopping for some school shoes. I agreed to go only if we could pop into the record shop.
I had my eye on Mozart’s Symphony No 40 in G minor.
Moist-eyed with pride, my dad handed over the loot to the shopkeeper and off we trundled.
Entering Clarks we were warmly greeted by the assistant who could spot a pair of outgrown dolly shoes at a hundred paces.
No doubt wishing to ingratiate herself with us in readiness for the upselling of leather protector, she asked, “What’s that? Your favourite pop band?”
“No,” I replied dead pan, “it’s Mozart’s Symphony Number 40 in G Minor.”
It was the first time I’d seen what instant loathing looks like on a face.
In 1982 Michael Jackson released the ‘Thriller’ album.
All my friends had it on their Christmas lists. We’d been trying to tape ‘The Girl is Mine’ every Sunday on Radio 1, but Tommy Vance kept spoiling the intro.
So, when I communed with Father Christmas that year, I wrote THRILLER ALBUM in capital letters.
Imagine my excitement when, on Christmas morning I ran downstairs to spot an album shaped present beneath the tree. This was it!
This wasn’t just great music; it was instant access to the ranks of the ubercool girls at school!
I ripped the wrapping paper off.
Where there should have been a slightly odd looking man in a white suit against a black background, there was a field of sheep.
It wasn’t Thriller. It was Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony.
So much for the first class ticket to Cool. I’m just glad my parents were still in bed and didn’t have to see anticlimax writ large across my face.
I’m going to have to be honest though. While I continue to get a lot of joy and fun from Thriller, I absolutely cannot relax in a bath to it.
So, just occasionally, Beethoven comes in handy.
As for Radio 3… OMG there’s so much good stuff on there! It’s not just classical music! It’s speech from people who aren’t chippy or shrill! It’s drama and arts and new music!
Radio 4 and me… we’re on a break.