Shows: Café Classicale and WOMR Opera House

Not unsurprisingly, Felice Coral grew up with music. “When everyone else was listening to rock n’ roll, I retained my allegiance to classical music,” she remembers. Science took over as her life’s work, but when she reached middle age Coral took up the flute “and that refocused my interest as a player for my own enjoyment,” she says.

She holds a deep respect for her predecessor at WOMR. “As I spent more and more time on the Cape, I got to know Howard.” She pauses, smiling. “He programmed what he did because he loved the music so much—because it meant something to him,” she says. She listened to his shows and even started calling in when she had a question. “When I finally had the opportunity to meet Howard, not long before he died, I felt like I’d known him my whole life.”

She called the station during Howard’s last days, concerned that his legacy might not live on. “I asked if WOMR was going to maintain its commitment to classical music and opera, and I said I’d be interested in helping out in whatever capacity I could.” She now shares Café Classicale with Reed Boland, programming every other week. “Each of us programs independently, so each of us brings our own preferences to programs. Listeners get different takes on the music. I think that’s enriching,” she says. She also hosts the WOMR Opera House every other week.

“Here’s the thing about the Cape,” says Coral. “We absolutely underestimate the talent that’s available to us. What amazes me here is that there are highly trained wonderful performers who are just here waiting to be heard. There’s a lot of knowledge around other genre performers. I try to offer that promotion, let people know that we have these resources for classical as well.”

She knows that WOMR is the only place where that can happen, as commercial and even public radio stations have obligations that dictate what can be played and talked about. “The most important characteristic of community radio is that we have total freedom and flexibility to choose what we like and what we think our listeners will like to hear. The station gives everyone essentially free rein to program as they see fit, to share what they love.”

So WOMR serves the community, and it’s clear that the community responds, interacting with Coral during her shows. “I usually get several phone calls during a show, an indication that people are listening: opinions, suggestions, all of that is taken into consideration by each of us.”

So how can people think about classical music, especially people who didn’t grow up with it? Coral laughs. “You think you have no experience, but classical music is actually embedded in our culture,” she responds. “You’ve been listening your entire life. Remember Saturday-morning cartoons when you were a child? That was classical music at its best. Soundtracks use classical music—Hitchcock would never have gotten that tension and terror in his films without it. Even current film composers—most of them have classical training. John Williams is a perfect example: he constantly uses extracts from established classical music works. You have to simply think about it differently instead of categorizing it.”

What Coral does with her shows is sharing what she loves. “There’s nothing to be afraid of. Classical music has the reputation of being snobby, but it’s not.”

And music transcends mere listening, according to Coral. “It allows you to process whatever it is you’re feeling,” she says. “When you’re stressed, that calls for a certain type of music. I try to bring that out to listeners.” She smiles. “Music is a tonal representation of our feelings,” she concludes.

A little background helps, too. “Read about some of the composers,” Coral urges. “Once you know what was going on in their lives, you can feel the emotions that they were carrying. Shubert, Beethoven, it’s the same thing. Even more modern styles that sound atonal or unpleasant, say Shostakovich: the more you listen, the more you understand what he was writing—he was torn between his love for his Russian heritage and the fact that he could be sent to a labor camp any day. You have to listen. You have to make yourself listen. Music is a window to story, culture, and other ways of seeing the world that you might not have considered. That’s what I try to bring across.”

How does she prepare for a show? “In the beginning I tried to program via a theme, maybe pick up on relationships among composers or styles,” she says. “You know, if there was a storm, it would be a good time to play Debussy’s La Mer, which led me to Benjamin Britten, which led me to… but then I found I get some of my best connections driving up here from my home in Eastham.” Sometimes she builds shows around requests, or around someone who is playing on the Cape. “I do interviews with musicians, too,” Coral says.

Her goal for her shows? “To let people know about all the opportunities for classical music on the Cape. Try it: you’ll like it!”

“WOMR offers so much variety—not only the tried and true, but opportunities for new music of any genre. Every DJ here brings special expertise, brings in professional musicians, brings a wealth of knowledge and ability to communicate to their programs. Management encourages that. We interact with the community and are receptive to community input, and that makes it unique.”

Join Felice Coral for Café Classicale and WOMR Opera House and let her show you how classical music can enrich your life!