If they hadn't kept announcing the time of WGMS yesterday, regular listeners might have thought they had drastically overslept.
The voice that awakened the early audience was that of the afternoon announcer, Renee Channey. The morning announcer, Pete Jamerson, wasn't due on until midnight, while the night announcer, Dennis Owens, wasn't scheduled until the weekend, and the weekend announcer, Dick Coughlan, took over the afternoon.
It was intended not only as a shift in personnel, but in emphasis in the classical music radio field, which WGMS shares locally with WETA, WAMU and WGTS.
"This is the station with personality," said station manager Mike Cuthbert, who also still calls it "the fine arts voice," the term used to characterize the last change of format three years ago.
"Fine arts" meant "expanding from music and talking about painting, architecture, film, wine, whatever. When we talk, that is. Actually," he said, "we're talking less."
The new-new format will be more music and less talk, and less commercial time. About three minutes of commercial an hour will be dropped; there are to be 11 or 12 commercial an hour, when there used to be 15.
The Kennedy Center luncheon program, which was all talk - "if we had good guests, no one complained, but if we had bad guests, as you do when you're locked into a format like that, people said we talked too much" - is conveniently altering with the closing fo the Kennedy Center restaurants for repairs. Instead, Channey will have noontime guests in the studio and supplement their talk with their recordings or with live music.
"Fine arts" is also the term used by Charles Hobson to describe WETA, of which he is station master. He calls it "fine arts and information station," which he breaks down as meaning "75 percent music, 15 percent public affairs and 10 percent cultural news," with the music including classical, contemporary, avant-garde, opera, jazz, folk and show and film scores. WAMU's station master, Susan Harmon, says that station is "60 percent talk to 40 percent music," with the music mostly "counterprogramming - music not commonly heard elsewhere."
WGTS, the station of Columbia Union College, has 60 percent classical music - usually 6 p. m. to midnight - to 40 percent religious, educational and public affairs.
"Personality" in a radio station is harder to define. Renee Channey, who become WGMS's top-spot "personality" in the wake-up-and-get-to-work time-slot, considers it the major factor in attracting audiences.
"I consider it a war of snobbery," she said. "There's an unfortunate stereotype of the classical radio announcer - a gray-haired man alone in the studio who makes you feel terrible if you don't have a master's degree in music. My main goal is to take away that awful snob appeal. Rock music lovers might turn to classical if the announcers didn't make them feel so ignorant.
"When I went to work for WETA seven years ago, I was told what kind of approach to take - to be very low-key and not make any personal remarks. Here they're encouraging the announcers to be people. I'm very proud of the fact that I have young people as listeners - an 8-year-old piano student will call and say, "I'm learning this Bach piece - can you play it for me?" And all because we're behaving like real people. We're not stuffy, we're friendly, we have a sense of humor."
Cuthbert said he that on the afternoon slot, Channey "had to be laidback, down-tempo, for people going home - the morning will allow her tempo to increase, which is much more like her. We feel we don't have to ooze people out of bed in the morning."
Channey said that her taste is "less avant-garte" than Jamerson's and that with the change in commercial scheduling, she will be able to play longer works. "I'm going to avoid slow chamber music, because I don't want people to have a tendency to lie there - but I don't want to irritate them out of bed, either."
In personnel terms, Channey was pleased about changing her working hours to coincide more with her husband's and to "be able to get to the Kennedy Center by curtain time." Jamerson took the After-Hours Show (midnight to 6 a. m.) in preference to the weekend shift, which he had first been offered.
"The After-Hours crowd is somewhat eccentric or at least they have eccentric work habits," said Cuthbert. "They call a lot.
"We broadcast to the biggest number of minority groups in Washington. For every opera freak, there's an antiopera freak. The approach we demand is an exciting music format. We don't consider ourselves a concert music service - we consider ourselves first a radio station."