Thanks for the music, John

John Cargher is one of a handful of people who have been part of my consciousness for as long as I can I remember, and who are still doing their thing — at least, he’ll be in this category until tomorrow. There won’t be many of these great constants left after that: a quick mental survey brings to mind Queen Elizabeth, Michael Caine, Dustin Hoffman, Vladimir Ashkenazy and Rolf Harris. Cargher has been presenting Singers of Renown on ABC radio since 1966. I first remember listening to the program with my great-uncle Jack, a retired sailor, in the car park out the back of the Sea View Hotel in Fremantle, where he had a room. That would have been in about 1972. The glorious signature music (‘Ho sognato una cassetta’ from Il Tabarro) and the warm, calm, urbane voice with the soft German accent delighted me at age 10 and have been an irregular part of my life ever since.

Well, Cargher has missed his last few appointments due to ill health, and it seems he’s decided to retire, at the early age of 89 and after a mere two thousand odd shows. He’s presenting his final program tomorrow (Saturday 26 April) at 4pm on Radio National, but of course you can download it any time.

In the unlikely event that there’s a reader who doesn’t know Singers of Renown but is curious about this enduring institution, you can listen to some recent editions by going to the program website. The one at the top of the list, a special on the career of Beniamino Gigli, is as good a sample as any. As for Cargher’s own life, in particular his improbable route from a tuberculosis sanatorium in the North Sea to a broadcasting studio in Australia, this Herald profile from a few years back sets out the basics.

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Andrew
Andrew
13 years ago

I had a freind at ANU some years ago who was convinced he was actually a vampire. But a nice one.

Caroline
13 years ago

For once I wasn’t surprised by the image that accompanies the voice. A friend and I spread a successful rumour once that Karl Haas (1913-2005) was a 6″ tall African. I like hearing old blokes on radio and miss Alistair Cooke’s, calm and measured ‘Letter from America’. John Hinde was another whose maturity was both soothing and refreshing.

Nicholas Gruen
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Nicholas Gruen(@nicholas-gruen)
13 years ago

He’ll be missed. By me at least, and ditto Caroline.

david tiley
13 years ago

I must admit I had a cry when they played that last ep. In fact, it was a repeat of the 200th ep in 2005.

It ends with a piece of Mephistopheles, an obscure and gigantic opera by Arrigo Boito, in which Margherita rejects Faustus and gains entry into Heaven.

It is a strange exit since it will be followed by specials and compilations for a couple of months. But there won’t be any new material, or rather, no expectation of new material.

Like everyone else, I have heard his long spry battle with old age as his voice has changed. I wish we could have heard it one more time, no matter how frail he has become. I guess the end is near.

James Farrell
James Farrell
13 years ago

Thanks, David. I was going to write an update, but those are my thoughts exactly, so I don’t need to.

pablo
pablo
13 years ago

Thanks James..and thanks John. i used to listen on Sat arvo and then when I heard this strangely familiar voice coming on at around 7 am on a Saturday – actually I never heard the signature beginning so for all I knew JC had been going all night courtesy of a trapped turntable – but the new timeslot was a partial exit.
Cargher set new standards of erudition for me, even at 7 am on a Sat morn. I hope he reconsiders… health willing. Who else wants the timeslot?

Graham Bell
Graham Bell
13 years ago

James Farrell:

Thank you for this post and for linking his biography [which cleared up the mystery of his Silesian connection :-) ].

Strange. I’ve never been keen on opera and yet, whenever I could, I would listen to John Cargher’s wonderful program.

One of the things I really liked about it was that his comments were always so fair: where a singer was terrific, he said so; where a singer was bloody awful, he said so too but never ever in an offensive manner.

He was eclectic and he certainly expanded my musical horizon.

I shall miss him …. and I do hope he enjoys acclaim and comfort and contentment in his retirement. :D

Flash
Flash
13 years ago

Just one pedantic point about David Tiley’s post: it was his 2,000th not his 200th Singers of Renown that was repeated as the ‘final’ programme. I make the point only because it underscores the longevity of his programme.

Mark Swan
Mark Swan
13 years ago

As no doubt most readers of this site will have heard, John Cargher’s death was announced today. He was, indeed, one of those voices you could never forget, and he introduced many of us, not necessarily inclined to enjoy opera, to the joys of the human voice. Vale, John Cargher.

James Farrell
James Farrell
13 years ago

Thanks, Mark. David Tiley’s speculation was right, it seems. What a great thing, though, to be able to keep doing what you love until the batteries run out at 89.