The classical station is tapping into popularity of ambient “comfort listening” sounds, which provide listeners with a soothing, meditative backdrop.
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A study found a boom in classical listening among young people during the first lockdown, fuelled by “mood music” playlists which are popular on Spotify.
Smith and Celeste, cutting-edge contemporary singers, will present an “emotive” playlist, ranging from orchestral to piano pieces and pop, in their shows, also airing via the BBC Sounds app, designed to provide solace for listeners during the Winter lockdown.
From Saturday, the Brit award-winning Smith’s 12-part show, Tearjerker, will explore the “healing powers of sad music, from piano classics such as Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven to the soothing electronica of artists like James Blake.”
The move to Radio 3 is quite a leap for Smith, who has worked with Drake and Stormzy.
British-Jamaican singer Celeste, winner of BBC Music’s Sound of 2020 poll, launches her series Downtime Symphony on January 23.
It will feature an hour of “escapist music and down-tempo selections to help listeners unwind, from classically-infused house and hip-hop to choral music and jazz fusion.”
The pop star-fronted shows are likely to increase concerns among purists that Radio 3 is “dumbing down” its commitment to serious classical music in order to lure younger listeners from streaming platforms and radios rival Classic FM and Scala.
Celeste said: “Separating work and relaxation is so important for creativity and wellness, now more than ever, so I’m delighted to be presenting a series which spotlights the best music for slowing down, filled with musical nostalgia and discovery.”
BBC Radio 3 controller Alan Davey said: “We know that younger audiences are discovering orchestral and instrumental music through streaming cross-genre playlists and find it not only enjoyable and enriching, a time for discovery, but also relaxing and calming and helping to manage their moods.”
“We hope that this new series enables us to provide a rich array of sounds for audiences with a growing appetite for music that help us to connect with our emotions, improve our sense of well-being, and be better in touch with ourselves and others.”
Young listeners solace in classical
Research from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra found that under-35s were also the most likely age group to listen to orchestral music during lockdown – 59 per cent compared with a national average of 51 per cent.
Respondents under 35 felt listening to orchestral music during lockdown had helped them relax and maintain a sense of calmness and wellbeing.
The genre had “lifted their spirits” in isolation with streams of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Johann Sebastian Bach recording a surge in popularity during the pandemic.