Adventures in Good Living

KarlHaas.jpgI can’t count the number of lonely hours Karl Haas brightened for me with his radio program “Adventures in Good Music”. I spent most of my twenties in a haze of misery, and I used to drive around aimlessly for hours, sometimes every night for months on end. One of the few things guaranteed to make me feel better was “Adventures”; I remember with pleasure and gratitude the lift I always got from the opening notes of his theme, and then that gentle voice: “Hello, everyone.” He made me laugh, he taught me plenty, and he played me lots of good music; now he’s dead. Ninety-one is a pretty good innings, but I’m still very sad.
[Biographical information mostly from here and here; picture swiped from the CNN obit.]
Born in Speyer am Rhein in 1913, Haas began piano lessons at six and by twelve had formed his first piano trio. He studied at the Mannheim Conservatory and the University of Heidelberg before leaving Germany in 1936 ahead of the rising tide of Nazism. He moved to Detroit, studying at the Netzorg School of Music and commuting to New York to study with pianist Artur Schnabel. In 1950 he began working in radio, hosting a weekly preview of concerts by the Detroit Symphony. In the course of another series for the Canadian Broadasting Commission he began adding commentary to his program of piano recitals and chamber orchestra music, and in 1959 Detroit station WJR offered him a one-hour timeslot to do just that: talk about music. “Adventures in Good Music” was born, and for more than forty years, with never a script, Karl Haas spent an hour a day talking about music. The program is currently aired in over two hundred US cities and by four hundred stations of the American Armed Forces Network and 37 stations of the Australian Broadcasting Commision; Haas also recorded selected series in German and French for Suddeutscher Rundfunk and the Canadian Broadasting Commission, and translation into Spanish makes the Mexico City broadcast run 90 minutes.
“Adventures” was aimed at the casual listener; Haas chose a theme (“The Joy of Sax”; “Baroque and in Debt”; yes, they were often howlers) and illustrated it from his truly astounding encyclopaedic knowledge of music (think about it: more than 12,000 hours without a script). He played recordings, talked about the music, related anecdotes from his own experiences as performer and conductor, told stories from the history of music and illustrated his points on the studio piano. In addition to “Adventures”, Haas maintained a lively performance schedule as pianist and conductor as well as a variety of musical and diplomatic appointments (conducting the Boston Pops; consultant to the Ford Foundation; US delegate to congresses of the International Music Council of UNESCO; visiting faculty at universities all over America; and on and on). He won two Peabody Awards, a National Telemedia Council Award and the National Endowment for the Humanities Charles Frankel Prize, was WGBH‘s Person of the Year, received the first ever lifetime achievement award from Fine Arts Radio International, was appointed Officier d’Académie and awarded the Chevalier d’ordre des arts et lettres by the French goverment, received the First Class Order of Merit from the Federal Republic of Germany and eight honorary doctorates from American universities and colleges, released three best-selling CDs, wrote a book that is currently in its tenth printing and was the first classical music broadcaster inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame. I’m sure I missed some, and I’m sure he wouldn’t have cared: it was the music that mattered.
Thank you, and — auf wiederhören, Dr Haas.

One thought on “Adventures in Good Living

  1. I wanted to see if this was the same man I associate with classical music programming, so I went through the links till I found one that included a clip. That’s the Voice, all right.
    He’ll be missed.

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