It is almost impossible to imagine that only two weeks ago theatres across the UK and most of the world were operating normally. The calm era before coronavirus already seems like distant history.
For some readers, this has sadly meant the loss of their livelihoods and a great deal of worry, possibly only mildly assuaged by the government’s rescue package for the self-employed. Having given us so much pleasure, they are in our thoughts.
It has to be a fair bet that every reader of this article will be conscious of the need to fill a large hole in their lives. Over coming weeks, we will be highlighting opportunities to watch plays and performances online and interact with other theatre lovers in various ways. In the meantime, those who love musicals might like to try a number of different resources that are already available.
In the UK, there are two mainstream radio stations dedicated to playing music from the musicals. The longer-established Encore Radio has recently faced competition from johnny-come-lately Magic at the Musicals. Both are available on DAB or via the Internet. They have much in common featuring music from both theatre and film with the former predominating.
Each offers relatively limited playlists that can get repetitive after a week or two of reasonably constant listening but still offer great pleasure. Since there is little overlap, by switching between the two, it is largely possible to overcome too great a sense of déjà vu.
One of the big advantages that they share is bad news for the owners, since unlike so many other commercial radio stations neither is overwhelmed by advertising content. That is likely to be even more the case at the moment, since regrettably there are no shows to advertise. To please those who like their music unadulterated, they also utilise disc jockeys relatively sparingly, featuring a mixture of enthusiasts and those from the profession.
If you’re willing to look (and listen) a little more widely than on your radio dial, there are other methods of enjoying your favourite show tunes. Accuradio is a wonderful Internet resource that is free, features minimal advertising and allows listeners to tune in to hundreds of channels featuring every genre imaginable and some that most would probably struggle to imagine.
Impressively, a search under the word “musicals” yields no fewer than 23 channels to choose from, admittedly with an American slant, including such gems as Broadway Finales, Overtures, Broadway Jazz, Composers: Berlin, Gershwins, Kern & Porter, Kids’ Broadway, Tony Award Best Musicals from various decades and Comedic Musicals, and that’s without the opera!
For those who know more precisely what they want, the number of musical streaming channels is constantly on the increase, the best free offering coming from Spotify. Type in the name of pretty much any musical soundtrack you can imagine and it will probably come up.
Those who prefer higher sound quality and have a tenner to spend each month can try out the premium version, or go for one of the high-res music offerings such as this critic’s favourite, Qobuz. For £15 a month, this French resource provides a large playlist that sounds (one of their brandings) sublime in either CD or even higher quality. For example, yesterday having listened to one of the radio stations the writer got an urge to hear the whole of Sweet Charity. Within seconds, three choices came up and he was listening to the original Broadway cast recording starring Gwen Verdon.
Even better, they offer a 30-day free trial, which is currently being matched by biggest rivals Amazon and Tidal.