One day back in the ’80s, a tall, rangy, irrepressible Brit teaching chemistry at St. Lawrence University burst into the station and offered to do a classical music program for us. The difference between Paul Connett’s offer and those of other members of our community was that Paul wanted to go heavy on the vocal repertoire. While we aired the Met Opera back then, as we still do, every bit of programming “wisdom” around the public radio system warned us away from devoting a lot of air time to operatic or classical vocal material. People don’t like it. People will listen to a Beethoven symphony or Bach’s Brandenburgs, even if they’re not serious classical music fans, but vocal music? No way.
Yes, enter Paul Connett. First, he turned everyone who works at the station onto an extraordinary chorus of beautiful voices. (For me, it was Kathleen Ferrier–I will always be grateful to Paul for introducing me to her recordings.) Then, he was off and running with audiences across our coverage area. Everyone loved Paul on the air (how could you possible resist his enthusiasm?) and everyone loved listening to him and his music. He took the operatic voice out of the dustbin and into our lives. This was definitely not your grandmother’s approach to “serious” vocal music. Plus, he played beautiful voices from every genre–he had something to teach classical listeners, too. He taught all of us. He certainly touched all of our musical hearts.
And it was only a “hobby” for Paul–he had a full-time teaching position. Personally, I think music always comes first for Paul.
Now, Paul is about to take on a worldwide effort on behalf of all of us–spreading the word about healthier practices in our communities and industries. So, for now, he leaves our airwaves after tomorrow’s program.
The video below reminds me of how Paul surprised all of us, and along the way opened our ears to the unexpected and beautiful. Thank you. Come back to us soon, Paul.