A word in your ear

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The Independent Culture
As Classic FM registers its first drop in audience figures, the Royal Festival Hall may just have come up with a way to tempt those defecting radio listeners back to the concert hall. Talking Notes - devised by former Radio 3 announcer Malcolm Ru thven and road-tested on blind and partially sighted patrons at the ENO - are the perfect invisible companion for unaccustomed concert-goers: audio programme books delivered direct to your seat by infra-red headset and offering gentle, but perfectly informed, explanations of the music before it begins, whispering a few helpful words in your ear during those awkward pauses between movements, and topping it all off with a quick diary session on upcoming events before it's time to go home. As Ruthven says: "They are a way of breaking down some of the mystique without patronising regular concert-goers or compromising the quality of the music." In other words, all the home comforts of radio without having to tune the dial. Eventually the service will cost £1 a time, but it's free for a two-week trial period starting today.

RFH, South Bank Centre, SE1 (071-928 8800)