Saturday, Jul 02, 2016
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'The music ain't bad either'

KARL Haas, who died last weekend in Royal Oak, Mich., at the age of 91, must have been horrified when he was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1997 as a "disk jockey."

The host since 1959 of "Adventures in Good Music," Mr. Haas did not merely play classical music on the radio. He was an advocate and, most of all, an educator.

His avuncular personality and skill at acquainting even an ambivalent public with the finer points of the classical world were perhaps best captured by a story he related about meeting a farmer at a recital in Fort Wayne, Ind., many years ago.

"As I shook hands with him, he said, 'Dr. Haas, I listen to your program every day on my tractor while I'm plowing fields. I don't always understand what you're talking about, but I sure do like the way you say it. And the music ain't bad either.'●"

A native of Germany, Mr. Haas escaped the Nazis with his family in 1936 and settled in Detroit, where he taught the piano and founded the Chamber Music Society.

A conductor and musicologist, he began doing radio commentary in the 1950s. His appreciation of the classics, "Adventures in Good Music," first appeared on WJR-AM. The program was syndicated in 1970 and, although he stopped making new shows two years ago, it became the longest running daily classical music program in history, according to the Radio Hall of Fame.

At one point, Mr. Haas' patient and professorial delivery, punctuated by a puckish humor, reached listeners of 180 stations in the U.S. and Australia.

What attracted those listeners was not long passages from random classical works but a different theme each day, in which Mr. Haas expounded on the history, moods, and mechanics of music over the ages.

It was an engaging mixture and his personable presentation brought Mr. Haas plenty of professional recognition, including two Peabody Awards for broadcasting excellence.

As classical music slowly fades away from the broadcasting scene, it is knowledgeable, thoughtful, and enthusiastic personages like Karl Haas who will be missed the most and may never be replaced.

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