Saturday 18 April 2020

Music in store

As I type this on 18 April 2020, today would have been Record Store Day - the annual event which sees loads of enthusiasts, collectors, boffins and insomniacs start queuing from break of day at independent record shops across the land to get their hands on exclusive, limited-edition releases. It might attract criticism for all sorts of reasons - 'you should support your favourite businesses all year round'; 'why limit the releases' availability? - unscrupulous buyers get in quick and sell them on'; 'the prices are way too high'... and so on.

But on the positive side, it seems to have helped re-awaken some love for cherishing - and therefore buying - albums as physical products, particularly in the resurgence of vinyl sales; re-establish community among record collectors; but most importantly, give the shops an absolutely massive boost on their busiest day of the year. I know we can never truly go back to the days before digital and streaming changed the music industry as we knew it, but this gives one hope that we can all keep buying our music in the format we want, all available and co-existing.

Currently, for obvious reasons, Record Store Day itself is postponed until 20 June. Hopefully, it will still happen - but in the meantime, the records shops are not only missing out on their regular April shot-in-the-arm, but also gamely pressing on during lockdown to keep customers supplied through mail order.

With that in mind, the Record Store Day organiser have created a Twitter campaign, with the hashtag #RSDFillTheGap. (Or, 'Fill the Gap', for people who still prefer to read normally.) The hook is that if everyone who would have gone out today to buy records - and more folk welcome, obviously - orders an album they've always wanted, or had their eye on, from an independent retailer, it will still send some much-needed revenue the shops' way.

While classical music still seems to barely edge its way into Record Store Day, it hasn't been totally absent. One year, Teldec put out a USB stick of the Bach complete works: while the format seems a tad random, perhaps, it's an attractive proposition compared to the CD version, which is obviously so vast it looks a little like a plank you might expect two workmen to carry between them. The Halle once packaged together a multiple-disc compilation of self-released recordings. Handsome vinyl re-issues also crop up: this June, you might be able to pick up a 4LP 'Essential Philip Glass', or a 10" of Walton's 'Facade' with Edith Sitwell reading her own poems.

Until then, why not 'Fill the Gap' in your classical collection?

I have a few suggestions below, but in order to impose some kind of structure / word limit, I've stuck to my favourite area of classical music: art song and vocal recitals. 2020 has got off to a cracking start in this genre, so I offer a few releases that have turned my head - plus an idea or two to 'fill the gap' for those artists if you've heard or bought the latest titles. (Apologies for the slightly makeshift appearance of the table - attempts at anything more technical than this mostly resulted in complete user meltdown.)

Some of these - along with a whole host of other recordings - appear on 'Support Action', my other blog which has links to purchase discs by musicians affected by cancellations this spring/summer.

While there are a lot of options for you to buy discs - including from the labels directly - today is really about the shops. With that in mind, I feel happy to recommend Presto, an independent classical music specialist I often see mentioned by music websites, and who have always provided me with brilliant service. Happy hunting!

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