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Telegraph Online: Radio 3 is 'infected by a sort of relentless wokeness', says Tory peer

Radio 3 is ' infected by a sort of relentless wokeness ', says Tory peer

The Telegraph Online

Anita Singh Lord Moylan said the station is celebrating composers 'for their diversity rather than for their musical quality'

A Tory peer has accused Radio 3 of being “infected by a sort of relentless wokeness” by playing the works of female composers.

Lord Moylan, who served as an adviser to Boris Johnson in the London Mayor’s office, levelled the charge at the BBC station during a House of Lords discussion about public service broadcasting.

“In my Neanderthal fashion, I have found that BBC Radio 3 has been the mainstay of my life for nearly 50 years and it is a fine example of public service broadcasting. But in recent years it has been infected by a sort of relentless wokeness, which I think is a tendency of public service broadcasting,” he said.

Lord Moylan later explained his comments, singling out the station’s fondness for Amy Beach (1867-1944), a composer acclaimed during her lifetime in her native US.

He said: “She was a charming lady, I’m sure. But does she really deserve similar exposure to Beethoven or Bach because she’s been ‘discovered’ as a female composer?

“According to Wikipedia, her Gaelic Symphony was premiered by the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1896. Well, splendid, but we don’t have to hear it all the time.

“She is an example of composers who are celebrated for their diversity rather than for their musical quality. I have nothing against her music, it’s just not very special. When you think that in America she more or less overlapped with Charles Ives, and what he was doing as a modernist composer, but of course nobody is interested because he was a man.

“And she had her symphony premiered by the Boston Symphony Orchestra when she was 29-that’s a pretty decent amount of exposure, isn’t it?

“I don’t mean at all to be rude about Mrs Beach and her music. I’m not prejudiced against her. I just think a criterion of musical quality would produce different outcomes.”

He added that Radio 3’s discussion programmes “lay very heavy emphasis now on diversity in orchestras, so you’d think the most important thing sometimes is the diversity of the orchestra rather than the playing ability.”

Lord Moylan said he had no objection to forgotten female composers being played on Radio 3 “but there are an awful lot of ignored male composers. Most male composers are ignored.

“If you sat down with the Radio 3 schedule across a year and picked out the composers they play, I doubt you’d have more than 200 names on it. But over the last 200 years there must have been between 2,000 and 20,000 people who have thought to make a career in music, yet they’re completely forgotten about.”

Lord Moylan said he remained a Radio 3 listener, but had other complaints he wished to air. “All my radios have been tuned to Radio 3 and nothing else. But I’m terribly disappointed with the way it’s gone.

“If Radio 3 really wanted to reach out, one of the things it could do is actually return to being didactic. It used to tell you which music it was playing, before and after, and it used to have a mission to inform. Nowadays it does far too much playlist stuff where you get bits of music in an endless stream with nobody telling you what’s happening.

“And they’ve abandoned notions of chronology, which is terribly important in any appreciation of classical music because you really need to know that Bach came before Beethoven for it to make any sense. Now it’s ‘jumble it all up together and see if they like it’. This isn’t helping anybody.”

A BBC spokesperson said: "BBC Radio 3 is an inspirational place for listeners to hear much-loved familiar music as well as things they may not have heard before, including music by neglected composers.

"Had Lord Moylan been listening this afternoon he would have heard Composer of the Week, George Benjamin; a specially-recorded Lunchtime Concert featuring songs by Janacek, Grieg and Strauss; an afternoon concert from the BBC Philharmonic with popular orchestra music by Dvorak; Choral Evensong live from Durham Cathedral; conversations with leading artists including Bryn Terfel on In Tune: and he might even have made it home in time to hear Sir András Schiff playing Schumann at the Wigmore Hall."

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