Alan Farley, Senior Announcer of KALW Radio, Passes Away at Age 76
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Alan Edward Farley was born to Alton E. Farley and Ethel Marshall Farley (born in London) on January 24th 1936 in Lewiston, Idaho. Alan grew up in Seattle and graduated from high school in Los Angeles. He majored in mathematics at the California Institute of Technology and graduated in 1957. As an undergraduate, he was on the editorial staff of the campus newspaper and wrote reviews of musical events. He studied for advanced degrees at the University of Michigan and at the University of California, Berkeley. He taught at Morehouse College in Atlanta and was chairman of the Department of Mathematics there from 1964-69. He had become a performing arts aficionado and also had ties with the African-American community. He was road manager for Richard Pryor and also worked as guide and head guide from 1958-60 for the Boston Symphony's summer Berkshire Music Festival.
Alan's interest in radio broadcasting led him to settle in the San Francisco bay area where he taught at Merritt College and where his career as a radio announcer bloomed. In 1969, he became operations director at KPFA before moving to San Francisco's KALW in 1975. At the station, he founded, produced and hosted programs such as "Book Talk," "Open Air," "My Favorite Things," "Noël Coward Entr'acte" on Friday nights, and "Explorations in Music," which were broadcasts of Berkeley Symphony concerts. More recently, he hosted "I Love To Rhyme: The Lyrics of Ira Gershwin." Alan also had a program,"AIDs Update," with a focus on San Francisco gay culture. He interviewed numerous performers and musical artists during his long career and loved to appear in venues such as the "Red Room," the press room at the San Francisco Opera, to meet and mingle.
Alan had a deep and abiding interest in the work of Noel Coward. He shared his extensive knowledge of Coward and his works in more than 150 broadcasts over 30 years on KALW. Alan was also a researcher and scholar. Along with Dominic Vlasto, he produced "The Noel Coward Music Index," a remarkable annotated catalogue of Coward's hundreds of compositions. For each entry, the catalogue provides details on date, use, source, notes and discography. Each year, on December 16th, Alan celebrated Noel Coward's birthday by airing "The Noel Coward Birthday Special." He was also a devoted Anglophile which further enriched his broadcasts. On one of many trips to London, he attended a reception celebrating Noel Coward where he took pleasure in meeting the queen mother.
KALW published a tribute to Alan Farley's nearly 40-year career at the station, noting that "Alan's career spanned the station's transformation from its roots as a training institution to a public service broadcaster. One interview at a time, he did incredible work to support the Bay Area's arts and cultural institutions." KALW's recent announcement of his retirement as the station's senior announcer noted: "So many people were touched by Alan's voice, by his skill and generosity as an interviewer, and by his infectious enthusiasm for music and theater and books."
Always a serious-minded man, his love for and commitment to his work made him something of a cultural institution. His voice enriched us all. Alan Edward Farley stayed at the San Francisco home of his good friend Louis Dorsey where he passed away on Sunday, 21 October. A brother pre-deceased him. He is survived by a niece and two nephews who reside on Saipan Island.
Alan Edward Farley was a remarkable man and will be sorely missed by many.
Some of Mr. Farley's programs will continue to be broadcast in his voice on KALW, 91.7 FM through the end of this year.
Published in San Francisco Chronicle on Nov. 18, 2012