A Century of Listening

One hundred years ago today at 6pm, BBC radio officially broadcast for the first time; a news bulletin read twice, the second time slowly in case listeners wished to take notes. The BBC is celebrating its centenary all year and of course including television. But today radio deserves the limelight.

Neither television nor the internet has left radio in the shadows. We got our first television when I was four, so I can safely say only radio has been with me all my life.

‘Lord Reith, first director general of the BBC summarised the BBC’s purpose in three words: inform, educate, entertain; this remains part of the organisation’s mission statement to this day. It has also been adopted by broadcasters throughout the world, notably the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) in the United States.’

Whether you turn on the radio for news the moment you return home or don’t even own a radio, BBC radio has almost certainly been part of your life. My son tells me about various interesting podcasts he has listened to, which turn out to be programmes I heard on the radio in the kitchen. My daughter could listen with ear phones on her smart phone to Woman’s Hour in the middle of the night while feeding babies. Surely all of us have been informed, educated or entertained at some time by BBC radio. Even if you have never set foot on these sceptred isles you may have listened all your life to BBC World Service.

It is not an exaggeration to say I probably could not survive without BBC Radio, yes of course we have commercial radio stations and for a while I was a fan of Classic FM, but we were driven apart by advertisements! Radio has been a great companion whilst at home with babies, housework, ironing, cooking, insomnia through to my recent widowhood.

For most of us radio was our first introduction to music, from Faure’s Dolly Suite, signature tune for Listen with Mother to British light music such as Eric Coates’ Sleepy Lagoon, still the signature tune for Desert Island Discs which has been going for one hundred years, or feels like it. It was first broadcast in the 1940’s long before my parents even met, but it was one of the backgrounds to my childhood. If you want something a bit more lively Calling All Workers, also composed by Eric Coates was the signature tune for Workers’ Playtime, broadcast as a morale booster for factory workers in World War 2.  

Now we listen to every kind of music on all the various BBC stations, from your favourite pop song as you drive to work to Radio 3 broadcasting every single concert in the long Proms season.

Radio is above all the spoken word with no need for pictures; our own home theatre, story teller and entertainer. Afternoon plays, half hour comedies and specials such as real time reading all day of the complete Ulysses by James Joyce.

Do you listen to the radio, what music evokes memories? If you do tune in are you listening for news, music, drama or comedy?

On The Radio

What can any blogger write that doesn’t involve mentioning Covid, Brexit, The White House or the fact that a new year has started? Let us retreat to where most of us are at the moment, home. Home comforts, or what I now call Covid Comforts are keeping us going. If you are reading this it is unlikely you are in a refugee camp, an intensive care unit or a war zone; for that we should be grateful. If you look around your home I wonder how many modern wonders provide your life support system? The internet obviously, books, television, central heating, on line shopping, computer games. Before any of those was The Word, okay so radio came quite a while after the beginning of the Old Testament, but the first modern invention in my life was the radio, long before I could read, even before I could walk or talk music was seeping into my bones thanks to the BBC. Before I was born my parents were listening to programmes that are still being broadcast; The Archers, Desert Island Discs and Woman’s Hour.

Woman’s Hour has just had its seventy fifth birthday and received a letter from The Queen. When Dame Jenni Murray ( a national institution ) announced she was leaving after thirty three years, followed soon after by a similar announcement by Jane Garvey, who has been with the programme for thirteen years, my immediate thoughts were You can’t do this, not in the middle of a pandemic and my mother and husband have just died… As I have been listening at least since our first baby was born forty one years ago, there have been other favourite presenters, the programme will survive.  The modern mother can listen on her iPhone while breastfeeding in the dark watches of the night. Many men also listen and people of all ages can hear the programme in the car or when out jogging. Very different from the early days when it was broadcast at 2pm and mothers were presumed to be sitting down for a rest after lunch while their babies were having their nap. There is fun, but there are dark topics. I imagine there is no controversial issue that has not been covered on the programme, Woman’s Hour is where we first heard about FMG. The final quarter of the hour is a serial, there is always something for everyone.

Woman’s Hour: The Queen sends ‘best wishes’ to show on its 75th year – BBC Newshttps://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-55527576

In that 2020 strange sunny spring and summer of isolation, Cyberspouse listened to Woman’s Hour every morning over our leisurely breakfasts in the sun lounge. BBC Radio Four in the mornings is packed with interesting programmes and three different serials. Thanks to Amazon I bought two more digital radios to add to our collection.

There is much more to say about radio; such as why are we fascinated by the shipping forecast… but that’s for another blog. For now here is something cheery, one of my early memories that I just heard on the radio. Light music is what we all need at the moment and there have been memorable tunes composed on both sides of the Atlantic. This is one for writers by Leroy Anderson, though I don’t think he could have written a piece about computers…

The Typewriter Leroy Anderson Martin Breinschmid with Strauß Festival Orchestra Vienna – YouTubehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=g2LJ1i7222c

What are your Covid Comforts? Do you have favourite radio presenters and programmes?

Advent Calendar – Christmas Eve 2020

On Christmas Eve a return to Christmas Carols at Kings. A clip of Oh Come All Ye Faithful, from this evening’s Covid Careful pared down service, with just the boys and the King’s singers and no congregation. I watched it before I went to cook dinner and it did feel rather muted; a reminder that our great churches should be filled with people. So the second clip is the rousing Hark The Herald Angles Sing from more normal times.

BBC Two – Carols from King’s, 2020, O Come All Ye Faithfulhttps://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0923ffl

King’s College Cambridge 2011 #17 Hark the Herald Angels Sing – YouTubehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A_iLXNSIaYc

Happy Christmas

from Tidalscribe

Advent Calendar – Tuesday Twenty Second of December

The calendar has already opened on a ballet, so today’s window opens on an opera popular at Christmas.

 Hansel and Gretel  was composed in 1891/1892 by nineteenth-century composer Engelbert Humperdinck The libretto was written by his sister, based on the Grimm Brothers’ dark fairy tale of brother and sister lost in the forest and finding the witch’s gingerbread house. The first video is the evening prayer the children sing as they fall asleep in the forest.

Hansel and Gretel: Evening Prayer (Aleksandra Kurzak, Kate Lindsey) – YouTubehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OK7lPC1jodw

The second piece has its own magic. On 19 June 1929, 250  children from 52 local schools, the Manchester Children’s Choir, travelled by tram to the Free Trade Hall in Manchester to record Nymphs and Shepherds by Henry Purcell with the Hallé Orchestra, under the direction of Sir Hamilton Harty. It was issued on Columbia 9909, a 12in 78rpm disc that cost four shillings and sixpence and sold 1million copies. The B side was the Dance Duet from Hansel and Gretel.

Dance Duet.wmv – YouTubehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NevoVhkzwRc

You can read here about the choir and the wonderful musical play Victoria Wood wrote about the poignant reunion of the choir.

Victoria Wood recalls a historic day for Manchester music | Victoria Wood | The Guardianhttps://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2011/jun/30/victoria-wood-historic

Advent Calendar – Sunday Twentieth of December

Today peep through the window to a traditional Christmas scene, carols from King’s College Cambridge. The choir are singing ‘The Angle Gabriel’ and you can see what happens to sweet little choir boys when they grow up in the second YouTube video.

The Angel Gabriel : Kings College, Cambridge – YouTubehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pliqObTHxUQ&feature=emb_logo

You can listen to A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols broadcast live at 3pm on BBC Radio 4 on Christmas Eve, as it has been since 1928. Patrick Magee, the senior chorister, wrote casually of this first broadcast in his journal “Christmas Eve. Practice 10-12.45. Go out to dinner with Mum and Dad. Carol service broadcasted. Comes off well. I read a lessons and sing a solo in ‘Lullay’.” You can watch the carols later on BBC 2 at 5.30pm. This Covid year the choir will be socially distanced and there will be no congregation, I wonder how different that will look and sound?

Carols From King’s: How a tradition was made (theartsdesk.com)https://www.theartsdesk.com/books-classical-music/carols-kings-how-tradition-was-made

THE KING’S SINGERS The angel Gabriel – Basilica S.Nicolò di Lecco 2 dicembre 2019 – YouTubehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gdHcNkSe5W4

Advent Calendar – Silly Saturday Nineteenth of December

YouTubular Bells

Bells are a popular theme at Christmas and Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells was a favourite of mine; this BBC studio recording was broadcast in December 1973, which is a very long time ago and now I’m listening, it doesn’t sound quite how I remember. But before you pop through the ether to hear all 25 minutes of it, today’s window brings warning of the perils of YouTubular. You may be sucked in, never to emerge into the real world again.  I don’t often search YouTubular. I used to wonder when I first started blogging how other bloggers made music magically appear on their blogs. Then I realised they did not actually play the music themselves or invite musicians to their house, they cheated by finding it on Youtubular.

It starts by looking up a piece of music, if you can remember the title or performer. You then discover there are hundreds of different performers, versions and settings, especially for universally known pieces. Some have no film, just a picture of a CD cover, boring, move on… but be careful, do you want to share a great performance of a choral work, or that film made in a tiny church with your aunty’s choir; their singing even more shaky than the hand of the person holding the smart phone to film them. Or you might find yourself in a flash mob performance and you can’t resist watching to see what happens next.

So at last you have chosen a piece to link in to your blog, but when you press Publish and check the link, there is some bloke you have never heard of singing a song totally different from the one you have just written about. YouTube moves on, it never runs out of music, you could spend all evening, perhaps the rest of your life enraptured by strange advertisements and led into the next piece of music…  If you like the music playing and it’s a long piece, you can read the 14, 378 comments and if you don’t like the music choose something else from the display at the side of the screen; scrolling down for ever and ever…

But saddest are the YouTubular videos that have 0 views, no thumbs up or thumbs down in the thirteen years they have been there, notes unheard. It is our duty to view, listen and share them; after all, we writers know what it is like to publish words that may never be read, disappearing into the ether forever.

Mike Oldfield ‘Tubular Bells’ Live at the BBC 1973 (HQ remastered) – YouTubehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KXatvzWAzLU

Advent Calendar – Thursday Seventeenth of December

Today is the 250th birthday of Ludwig van Beethoven, or at least the anniversary of the day he was baptised, but he has been celebrating all year; though like everyone else, he had to cancel all his live concerts and parties. So today’s window opens in Germany once more, to a very special Christmas performance and plenty of  Freude!

Freude! Freude! … Alle Menschen warden Brüder. / Joy! Joy! … All men shall become brothers.

On December 23rd 1989, only a month and a half after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Leonard Bernstein led a concert in West Berlin. Two days later, on Christmas Day, he led an identical concert across the border, in what was previously East Germany. The music was Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

Ode to Joy was first written in 1785 by German poet Friedrich Schiller as a celebration of the brotherhood of man. Beethoven set the words for the final, choral movement of the Symphony completed in 1824. Having soloists and a choir burst into joyful singing in a symphony was revolutionary, but it has obviously stood the test of time.

Bernstein made one change for this two-concert series: he directed the choir to sing “Freiheit” (freedom) instead of “Freude” (joy).

4th Movement – part 2 – Ode to Freedom – 1989 – Leonard Bernstein – Beethoven’s 9th Symphony HD 720p – YouTubehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IciKr8NUmKs

The Ode to Joy is also the anthem of The European Union; an instrumental ( and much shorter ! ) version for a continent of many languages. Alas for British Remainers, this music is now a bitter reminder of the Brexit disaster and all that we are about to lose. Luckily Tidalscribe will be remaining in the European Union and adhering to Schiller and Beethoven’s optimism and belief in the brotherhood of man – brotherhood in the figurative inclusive sense .

European Union International Anthem – “Ode To Joy” (Instrumental) – YouTubehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ecrJaA_mXg

Advent Calendar – Wednesday Sixteenth of December

Today’s window opens joyfully in Germany. Jauchzet, frohlocket! ( Shout for joy ) is a 1734 Christmas cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach that forms the first part of his  Christmas Oratorio. It was incorporated within services of the two most important churches in Leipzig, St. Thomas’ and St. Nicholas’. Bach, a devout Lutheran, composed music for the Lutheran Church and was Thomaskantor responsible for church music at four churches in  Leipzig. Enjoy this music in a beautiful Dresden church.

J.S. Bach WO – BWV 248 Teil1 “Jauchzet frohlocket ” aus der Frauenkirche Dresden. – YouTubehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DlwcZT1XVss

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750) was a composer, organist and violinist widely regarded as one of the greatest classical composers of all time. Not only did he compose great works every week for church services, but his home life was also busy, though full of tragedy. He was devoted to his family. In 1706 he married his cousin Maria Barbara Bach. The couple had seven children together, some of whom died as infants. Maria died in 1720. The following year Bach married a singer named Anna Magdalena Wülcken. They had thirteen children, more than half of them died as children. But he still managed to leave the world so much.

You can read the poignant history of that amazing church with this link.

Dresden Frauenkirche | Landeshauptstadt Dresdenhttps://www.dresden.de/en/05/Dresden-Frauenkirche.php

Advent Calendar – Tuesday Fifteenth of December

The Nutcracker is an 1892 two-act ballet by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky based on  E. T. A. Hoffmann’s story “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King”.

On Christmas Eve, family and friends gather to decorate the beautiful Christmas tree in preparation for the party. Once the tree is finished the children are sent for. The party begins and the March of the Toy Soldiers is played. Presents are given out to the children, but Clara is the only one to be entranced by a wooden nutcracker carved in the shape of a little man.  Fritz breaks it and Clara is heartbroken.

The Nutcracker at the Royal Ballet: “March of the Toy Soldiers” – YouTubehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lfCSlE2tQco

During the night, Clara returns to the parlour to check on her beloved nutcracker and that’s when the magic begins. A rather scary story perhaps, with the Nutcracker growing to full size and a battle between gingerbread soldiers and mice. Fortunately the nutcracker turns into a handsome prince who takes Clara to the beautiful Land of Sweets.

With its story it has naturally become a Christmas favourite, especially as it is full of well known tunes!

My Favorite Christmas Music/Dance/Movies | The Showers of Blessingshttps://theshowersofblessings.com/2020/12/07/my-favorite-christmas-music-dance-movies

My thanks to Miriam Hurdle, whose blog gave me the idea to include The Nutcracker in my calendar. She shared two very different films of the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy and most of us preferred this Russian version.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky / Nina Kaptsova – Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy / 2010 – YouTubehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wz_f9B4pPtg&feature=emb_imp_woyt

Advent Calendar – Sunday Thirteenth of December

Today’s window opens in France with L’adieu des bergers – The Shepherd’s Farewell, not as we might imagine, the shepherds taking their sheep back to the hills after visiting the new baby Jesus.

L’enfance du Christ (The Childhood of Christ), Opus 25, is an oratorio by the French composer Hector Berlioz, based on the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt, first performed on 10 December 1854, with Berlioz conducting. The second part of his sacred trilogy shows Mary, Joseph and Jesus setting out for Egypt to avoid the slaughter of the innocents, having been warned by angels.

And what a journey lay ahead with Jesus now a lively toddler, from Bethlehem to an unnamed location in Egypt. If they headed for the big city, Alexandria, it could be about 320 miles as the crow flies. On motorways this is a long journey with young children, even with the electronic entertainment modern parents install in their cars. What route Mary and Joseph followed we do not know, so it is likely the journey was longer than 320 miles and arduous.

Académie de musique de Paris – Berlioz – L’Adieu des bergers à la Sainte-Famille – YouTubehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k4Qx4QBeekE