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Pierre's Tuesday Blog

Remembering Bob Kerr

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When I was an undergraduate, I used to help Jerry Markiza, one of the Physics Lab coordinators at Concordia University. His office – for those who are familiar with the place – was in the old Drummond Science building on the Loyola Campus, and he would have his radio tuned consistently on what was known then as “CBC Stereo”, the FM classical music network that has since evolved into CBC Radio 2.

We are talking about the early to mid-1980’s here, and the CBC Stereo lineup used to feature shows originating from specific cities – not just the home office in Toronto. You had Mostly Music with Sheilagh Rogers emanating from Ottawa, Leon Cole’s Sountrack from Winnipeg (later, Leon would host the original RSVP from Winnipeg as well), Bob Harding hosting Montreal Apres-Midi and, of course, Bob Kerr and Off the Record from Vancouver.


Bob Kerr hosted Off the Record for nearly 40 years (the last 21 of which were heard coast-to-coast on the CBC Stereo network), and became known for his love of music and dislike of poorly produced albums, especially incomplete liner notes.

Each program began with a warm "Good afternoon, friends," and ended with "A fond good afternoon" over his closing theme, the Pachelbel Canon.

"With his inimitable voice, distinct style and delightful character, Bob charmed listeners on a daily basis, sharing his erudite opinions and spinning songs from his formidable music collection," said at the time CBC Vice-President of Radio Jane Chalmers. The program's music came from his own library, which filled two rooms and an entire hall of his home.

"His infectious enthusiasm for the music he played garnered a large and loyal audience, and inspired listeners to explore music they might never have otherwise discovered." Chalmers called Kerr one of the corporation's "true broadcasting legends."

Born in Cal;gary, and educated in a boarding school in British Columbia, Kerr found his way to broadcasting after Arts studies in Edmonton and a stinit in the Navy during World War II. Kerr began his broadcasting career with CFCN in Calgary in 1947. As Canada's first ad-lib classical disc jockey, he played serious music interspersed with his discursive off the cuff conversation. He'd interview visiting musicians, and to encourage "the religious conversion to harpsichord" offer free harpsichord albums to fellow enthusiasts who wrote in.

He moved to the West Coast in 1960, launching Off the Record from the CBC's studios in the Hotel Vancouver. When the one-hour Radio version was cancelled in 1976, a petition with 1070 signatures protested the decision. In its heyday, the 2-hour Stereo program (1:04 pm Monday-Friday) was prepared at Kerr’s home the preceding night.

He remained a mainstay on the stereo network until his retirement in 1996.

The programme opened with Antal Dorati’s recording of the Bergamasque from the Ancient Airs and Dances suite no. 2 by Respighi, and ended with Jean-François Paillard’s slow rendition of Pachelbel’s Canon. Although his musical tastes could be eclectic at times, Kerr’s repertoire of predilection was English late Romantic and turn-of-the-century music. Moreover, every Thursday was “Organ Thursday”, sifting through recordings of Bach and the great French masters. Generally, Kerr would “feature” a major work every hour, filling the remainder of the time with his many reflections on the work, the recording he chose, showing sometimes his irascible side by poo-pooing the jacket notes or the quality of the vinyl pressing - On a show that featured Shostakovich, he simmered: "Just before going on holidays, I bought this record of the Fifth on Columbia and put it on the turntable and was absolutely shocked to hear all the pits and snaps and cracks and dirt on the surface. And you could look at it and see little blotches on this gorgeous digital recording. I took it back. I mean, that's ridiculous."

Our Playlist for today is, as I see it, a microcosm of what a Kerr program would have entailed, bookended by the Respighi and Pachelbel works mentioned above.


Ottorino RESPIGHI (1879-1936)
Fourth Movement (Bergamasca) from Ancient Airs and Dances, Suite No.2, P.138
(Uncredited Performers)

William WALTON (1902-1983)
Symphony No.1 in B-Flat Minor (1931-35)
Sir Hamilton Harty conducts the London Symphony Orchestra

Jehan Ariste ALAIN (1911-1940)
Trois danses, AWV119
Christophe Mantoux plays the Cavaille-Coll Organ at Saint-Ouen

Johann PACHELBEL (1653-1706)
Canon from Canon and Gigue in D, for 3 violins and continuo, T.337
Orchestre de chambre Jean-François Paillard

Playlist URL:

November 9th 2012, "I Think You Will Love This Music Too" will feature a new podcast "In Memorian: George Gershwin" at its Pod-O-Matic Channel. Read more November 9 on the ITYWLTMT Blogspot blog.

Updated Nov-06-2012 at 11:29 by itywltmt

Classical Music , Recorded Music