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Subject: NY City Hall Chimes
From: donald kane <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:donald kane <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sat, 4 Feb 2017 15:42:40 -0500

text/plain (65 lines)

Are they still there?  Are they ever used?

I fondly recall the sound of them back in the 1940s when, every
evening , they were heard tolling the hour as Thomas H Cowan would
announce "it's six o'clock by the century old chimes in historic City
Hall New York where six and one half million people live in peace and
enjoy the benefits of democracy - time now for the Masterwork Hour".
and so it was, every weekday, even after Pearl Harbor when the
literal peace had ended.  In
those pre-tape days, everything except the 78rpm records that provided
WNYCs .. predominantly classical programming, was heard "live"  A disc
of the chimes could have been made, but it wouldn't have been too much
trouble to point a mike out the window of their Municipal Building
studio down the block from City Hall.. The most wonderful thing about
radio in those days was that everything was live except the records..
newspaper workers called a strike, the mayor (LaGuardia) went on the
air each day and read the comics, so no one had to miss what Dick
Tracy was up to.. Then, if there was a bad fire in the city, he might
climb on to an engine and head out with an attendant mike and report on that.

But we need to talk opera, don't we: -  at least one night a week on
the "city's station" a complete opera could be heard, commencing near
midnight, as I recall, and hosted by the same Mr. Cowan, who, with
touching affection called his show "Velvet and Gold".  By today's
standarda, his repertory was limited, but he managed to rotate the
available complete sets of standard works that had been recorded by
Italian conductors like, Sabajno and Molajoli  with singers whose
careers dated back to WWI, displaying stylistic niceties that Verdi
and Puccini would have recognized, and which Cowan himself lovingly
relished in his commentary between acts - or sides; he was playing the
shellac discs, one by one, himself, of course.   Long after his
retirement, I happened to meet the aged gentleman, and he recalled how
special those nights were, when, at the darkened studio in the hush of
night, with volume kept low, those historic voices seemed to emerge
with magical realism.

I remember a high school teacher at the time who had complained of
WNYC employing a man (Cowan) whose habit of speaking in a
"meandering, improvisational manner,"  she considered to be "very
unprofessional."   He told me that he almost never had any kind of
script to read, and that, considering the low pay, "they were lucky to
have him".  (as well as a couple of other equally low paid men)..
they were all men.

All this reminds me of my other favorite opera program - the lamented,
and lovely "Opera Fanatic" of more recent vintage,

Now back to the scripted banality of a Met intermission.


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