One hundred years ago, the citizens of North America were treated to something heretofore impossible: simultaneous enjoyment of Bruno Walter conducting the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, thanks to the miracle of radio.
Well, perhaps not all of North America, but that's how the ballyhoo headlines put it. The Minneapolis Star reported that appreciative telephone calls and telegrams poured in from far-flung burgs like Cincinnati and DeSmet, S.D. The station, WLAG, announced that the broadcast was so successful it would air the rest of the season.
Writer Royal W. Jimerson noted that the radio broadcast was "so brilliantly colored and well-balanced as to give the impression of sitting beside an opaque screen," with the orchestra on the other side. No, it wasn't the same as being in the auditorium, but "one cannot wear a comfortable pair of slippers and smoke a pipe" in the hall, either. Now and then, he noted, the orchestra was interrupted when "some amateur breaks into the air with a code message." The static was worth it, because you could put on your headphones, walk to the window and listen to Mozart while regarding the moon.
You can do it today, a century later. Some things have changed — the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra became the Minnesota Orchestra in 1968. WLAG ran into money troubles and closed in 1924, but it was purchased and relaunched as WCCO less than two months later.
The historic auditorium was razed in the early 1970s, replaced by Orchestra Hall. The sound, the signal, the venue: all different, but really, nothing's changed.
Minnesotans still listen, with pride: That's ours.