A new voice is now accompanying CRB Classical 99.5’s broadcasts of the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO). Longtime CRB producer Brian McCreath has stepped in to fill the role long held by Ron Della Chiesa, who had hosted at Symphony Hall and Tanglewood since 1991. McCreath, who had a full-time orchestral career playing the trumpet before turning to radio, reflects on his new role.
What did you learn from Ron?
Ron had a way of communicating the spontaneity and that excitement of the hall and then connecting it to stories from the past and other pieces of music. It added a lovely quality to the broadcast. He gave the audience a window into what he was experiencing in the moment. That invitation, that enthusiasm, is the most valuable thing that I learned.
How do you think you'll approach the position and make it your own?
There won’t be any radical changes to the broadcast, but Ron and I sound very different on the air. I’ll be trying to find ways that my voice can communicate excitement and spontaneity, in a way that is genuine to me. I’ll bring my own background as an orchestral trumpet player, which I did professionally for 20 years before I got into radio.
How will that experience influence your broadcasts?
The experience of having performed on stage is pretty unique. Classical music has a reputation for being very ordered, very rehearsed, with performances essentially duplicated from one night to the next. That's not how it works at all. There's a lot of in-the-moment spontaneity and excitement that I’ll try to communicate to listeners. I’ll also try to bring an extra dimension to the radio audience that the concert audience doesn’t get — a short interview with a guest artist, for instance, that highlights their personality and who they are.
What do you do to prepare for a broadcast?
It's a lot of prep work. You have to prepare for the unexpected. When you're live, you are at the mercy of the course of events. For example, there might be a longer wait for a soloist to come on stage than expected, or a guest artist might throw us a curveball with an unannounced encore. You have to be ready for anything.
How did you learn about symphony music?
When I was growing up, I spent a lot of time listening to the Chicago Symphony and the Cleveland Orchestra, both on recordings and in concert. The sound of both of those orchestras is very different from the BSO. Radio audiences may not instinctively pick up on those qualities, so the more that I can communicate what’s special and distinctive about the BSO, the more the audience will take pride in the orchestra as part of this community.
What is the most memorable BSO concert you’ve attended?
One concert is burned in my memory. It was astonishing. Bernard Haitinkwas conducting. There was nothing exceptional about the program – it was Stravinsky, Debussy and Brahms, with no guest soloist, just the orchestra. But Haitink and the BSO just had an amazing chemistry. He was amazing in getting the best out of the musicians, and they just loved playing for him. Mark Volpe, who used to run the BSO, always said that the BSO has an ‘extra gear’ that other orchestras just don't have.