Mu­sic Mak­ers . . . .

Evergreen - - Contents - Ed­mund White­house

When it be­gan in 1953 on the BBC Light Pro­gramme, later to be­come Ra­dio 2, Fri­day Night is Mu­sic Night or FNIMN con­cen­trated on light melodic mu­sic and oc­ca­sion­ally the Ra­dio Times would tell you what to ex­pect, as they once did with a splen­did car­toon il­lus­trat­ing the rarely heard London Trans­port Suite by Sid­ney Torch. Nowa­days the playlist is kept se­cret which, sadly, has forced many lis­ten­ers to aban­don the show be­cause they don’t like wait­ing in the hope that some­thing they like might turn up.

For those who have stayed loyal, how­ever, the open­ing mu­sic is “High Ad­ven­ture”, one of many theme tunes com­posed by Charles Wil­liams ( see Ev­er­green, Spring 2003), in­clud­ing Jen­nings at School, Dick Bar­ton, Sports Per­son­al­ity of the Year and Tele­vi­sion News­reel. Our Ra­dio and Tele­vi­sion Mem­o­ries CD, Vol­ume 2, ( CRD3), has 38 fa­mil­iar tunes by Charles Wil­liams, real name Isaac Cozer­breit!

Now the long­est run­ning live or­ches­tral mu­sic pro­gramme on ra­dio, Fri­day Night is Mu­sic Night has had many pre­sen­ters down the decades in­clud­ing Ken­neth Al­wyn, Richard Baker, Robin Boyle, Brian Kay, Rus­sell Davies, Ken Bruce, Aled Jones, Jimmy Kings­bury, Alan Titch­marsh, Paul Gam­bac­cini, Clare Teal and many more.

After the in­tro­duc­tory mu­sic, the host al­ludes to what is com­ing, usu­ally a mix­ture of clas­si­cal, light, the­atre, mu­si­cals, op­eretta and opera. Per­haps not sur­pris­ingly in an age of in­stant ev­ery­thing, much of the mu­sic is fa­mil­iar which is a pity be­cause there is a great deal more good light mu­sic out there wait­ing to be dis­cov­ered.

Back in 1953 the pro­gramme was set up to show­case the newly formed BBC Con­cert Orches­tra, at the time one of many BBC mu­sic en­sem­bles but the only one now left de­voted to this par­tic­u­lar genre, although re­gional or­ches­tras also played lighter mu­sic, leav­ing the BBC Sym­phony Orches­tra to con­cen­trate solely on more se­ri­ous works. Sadly, all the re­gional or­ches­tras were dis­banded in 1979 which caused a furore, fol­lowed by the BBC Ra­dio Orches­tra and the BBC North­ern Dance Orches­tra, bet­ter- known as the NDO ( see Ev­er­green, Sum­mer 2012). The BBC North­ern Orches­tra meta­mor­phosed into the BBC Phil­har­monic while the BBC Big Band is al­lowed to tour as a semi- in­de­pen­dent out­fit.

Back in 1953 Sid­ney Torch was given the brief of light­en­ing up Fri­day evenings. Fresh from con­duct­ing the Queen’s Hall Light

Orches­tra, he ran all his en­sem­bles with a firm hand and, although not popular with all mu­si­cians, his high stan­dards pro­duced sev­eral years of ex­cel­lent broad­cast­ing be­fore he re­tired in 1972. These were the days when the Light Pro­gramme did ex­actly what its name de­scribed with sev­eral pro­grammes of tune­ful mu­sic ev­ery day, Fri­day Night is Mu­sic Night be­ing the crème de la crème at the end of the work­ing week.

Venues have been many and var­ied. The Cam­den The­atre and Gold­ers Green Hip­po­drome fea­tured promi­nently in the early years, as did the Fair­field Halls at Croy­don and the De La Warr Pavil­ion at Bex­hill- on- Sea. Other venues have in­cluded Hack­ney Em­pire, Wat­ford Colos­seum and London’s Mer­maid The­atre. FNIMN has also made guest ap­pear­ances at many other halls and the­atres.

Prin­ci­pal conductors of the highly ver­sa­tile BBC Con­cert Orches­tra have been, in or­der, Gil­bert Vin­ter, Charles Mack­er­ras, Vilem Tausky, Mar­cus Dods, Ash­ley Lawrence, Barry Wordsworth and Keith Lock­hart. How­ever, FNIMN in­vari­ably uses guest conductors and apart from Sid­ney Torch who, de­spite his pub­lic per­sona was also known for dis­creet acts of financial generosity to mu­si­cians in need, an­other long- stand­ing stal­wart, Ken­neth Al­wyn, spent 30 years

as both con­duc­tor and pre­sen­ter, a record un­likely to be equalled.

Match­ing the mu­sic to ev­ery­one’s tastes is ob­vi­ously im­pos­si­ble, but older lis­ten­ers some­times feel that mu­sic from their younger days is now ne­glected in favour of mu­sic with a mod­ern pop­ulist ap­peal. Nev­er­the­less, there is a small co­terie of peo­ple who avidly fol­low the pro­gramme wher­ever it goes and one as­pect they hear, which has never changed, is the fi­nale where the pre­sen­ter an­nounces with due aplomb: “I hope that once again we have proved that Fri­day Night is Mu­sic Night,” fol­lowed by the play out theme tune.

The Ae­o­lian Hall in London was used by the BBC for record­ings after St. Ge­orge’s Hall was bombed in 1943.

Few ra­dio or tele­vi­sion pro­grammes achieve 1,000 per­for­mances, but Fri­day Night is Mu­sic Night man­aged it with­out any trou­ble and is still go­ing strong 45 years later!

The front cover of the September 1973 BBC mag­a­zine fo­cused on the mul­ti­tal­ented and highly adapt­able BBC Con­cert Orches­tra.

Richard Baker, pre­sen­ter ( seated), and Ken­neth Al­wyn, con­duc­tor, take a break from re­hearsals at Wey­mouth dur­ing the 1994 Cutty Sark Tall Ships’ Race.

Fri­day Night is Mu­sic Night of­ten cel­e­brates no­table events and this is the 50th An­niver­sary of the Bat­tle of Bri­tain which took place in 1990.

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