The Best of The Vocal Scene : About

This show is no longer airing.

George Jellinek, WQXR’s music director from 1968 to 1984, hosted his weekly show dedicated to vocal music for some 36 years. When he died this past January at age 91, many longtime fans asked to hear the shows again--and bring them to a new generation of WQXR listeners.

About The Vocal Scene

The Vocal Scene’s beginnings are best described in George’s own words, from his memoir, My Road to Radio and The Vocal Scene (McFarland & Company, 2007):

"Before the end of 1968, I decided to correct what I regarded as a serious imbalance in WQXR’s programming: the inadequate representation of vocal music…I approached [General Manager] Walter Neiman with the idea of a one-hour program, as yet unnamed, to be written and presented by me and devoted to the art of the greatest singers of past and present, offering a wide spectrum of the vocal art – opera, Lieder (long neglected on radio), operetta, and other areas of interest to the vocal aficionado…’Let’s run in for 13 weeks,’ Walter said, ‘and see what happens.’  I am pleased to say that it has run uninterruptedly for 36 years and has turned out to be the ‘magnum opus’ of my professional life." 

The Vocal Scene went on the air on January 1, 1969.  The following year it was syndicated to other classical stations, increasing George’s fan base from the New York area to large cities across United States.  He presented recordings by the most famous artists, but also introduced singers who were less well-known to New York audiences.  A record collector since his boyhood, George knew the singers whose voices had been preserved at the beginning of the era of sound recordings; they greatly informed his understanding of what real singing was, and he shared those recordings and that understanding on The Vocal Scene.  He interviewed great singers of the day, and as he promised, reached beyond strictly opera to showcase Lieder, operetta, zarzuela, and more.

George’s Fans

George Jellinek’s warm, friendly voice was a fixture in many homes on Thursday nights.  We know, from tributes posted to our Web site after George died, what he and his program meant to listeners.

A service to remember George’s life and his accomplishments was held on Sunday, April 18, at Merkin Hall, attended by family, friends, and fans.  Among the speakers was former WQXR announcer June Lebell, who later wrote an article describing the service.  If you missed it, June’s words will give you a sense of that special occasion. 

If you’d like to know more about George’s life, he was the subject of a Janet Malcolm profile in The New Yorker in November of 2004.

→ Hear a few short segments from archived episodes of The Vocal Scene

→ See the outpouring from WQXR listeners in response to George Jellinek's passing

→ Read more about George Jellinek in this profile in the New Yorker from 2004

→ Share your memories of George Jellinek and The Vocal Scene

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