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The Early Music Show (weekend lunchtimes 13.00 - 14.00) is concentrating during February on the musical traditions of Paris. The announcement said that a proportion of the programming would be from Versailles, so I would hope that the organ therein is featured. They surely won't ignore the other organs in the city so there should be at least some organ music of interest, in addition to the show's normally high standard of offering.

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The Early Music Show (weekend lunchtimes 13.00 - 14.00) is concentrating during February on the musical traditions of Paris. The announcement said that a proportion of the programming would be from Versailles, so I would hope that the organ therein is featured. They surely won't ignore the other organs in the city so there should be at least some organ music of interest, in addition to the show's normally high standard of offering.

 

 

Full marks for enthusiasm and your kind efforts in keeping us informed! However, I hate to be pessimistic, but previous experience leads me to question your confidence. Your word 'surely' might apply to some broadcasters but not IMHO to the BBC. We'll see who's right.

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Full marks for enthusiasm and your kind efforts in keeping us informed! However, I hate to be pessimistic, but previous experience leads me to question your confidence. Your word 'surely' might apply to some broadcasters but not IMHO to the BBC. We'll see who's right.

 

We can be slightly less pessimistic, as the play list is up for Saturday.

 

Last item:

Nicolas Clerambault: Caprice sur les Grands Jeux

Michel Chapuis (organ)

 

 

Jonathan

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Full marks for enthusiasm and your kind efforts in keeping us informed! However, I hate to be pessimistic, but previous experience leads me to question your confidence. Your word 'surely' might apply to some broadcasters but not IMHO to the BBC. We'll see who's right.

 

I totally agree cynic - point taken! I heard the item in the car whilst returning from my early morning swim and can only assume that the optimism was caused by an excess of oxygen in my bloodstream!

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I totally agree cynic - point taken! I heard the item in the car whilst returning from my early morning swim and can only assume that the optimism was caused by an excess of oxygen in my bloodstream!

 

 

The writing was on the BBC wall when they laid Paul Spicer off some years ago.

Essentially, Radio 3 only does one kind of outside broadcast, apart from Choral Evensong (which is looked after by the Religious Broadcasting Dept.).

Viz. they set up for a festival and get several orchestral or chamber music concerts on the cheap at the same time.

 

Otherwise, their practice is to broadcast from CDs or record in one of their own venues.

 

I'm guessing, but I think John Scott-Whiteley's 21st Century Bach series was already prepared and handed to them ready done. I think the only hope if someone really wanted to get organs on BBC Radio or TV would be the same - make your programmes and then be prepared for the BBC to pay you fairly little for the privilege of broadcasting them.

 

Even so, this doesn't explain why they don't have live organists chatting in studios introducing their existing recordings as Thomas Trotter did last night.

BTW did anyone moan at the sort of items they chose? I did a bit. After all, if we want to hear any Overture on radio, surely in that context an organ is a poor substitute and I'm talking as one of the most obsessively pro-organ nuts there are. What ought to be made clear is what glorious music Radio 3 listeners do not get to hear at all if 'pure' organ music is kept off the airwaves. TT could have selected tracks by Messiaen, Alain - two composers who wrote wonderfully idiomatically for our instrument, or Bach, of course - whose organ works blow away all but 5% of the best piano or harpsichord music ever written.

 

P.S. Not everything the BBC does on radio is poor. Totally by chance I happened upon a half hour programme yesterday lunchtime on Radio 4 dedicated to Tallis's 40-part Motet 'Spem in alium'. It was superb.

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Not everything the BBC does on radio is poor. Totally by chance I happened upon a half hour programme yesterday lunchtime on Radio 4 dedicated to Tallis's 4-part Motet 'Spem in alium'. It was superb.

Only four parts eh! Perhaps a special BBC cheap version? :blink:

I agree, an excellent programme that I also caught by chance rather than intention.

JC

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The writing was on the BBC wall when they laid Paul Spicer off some years ago.

Essentially, Radio 3 only does one kind of outside broadcast.......

 

.....Otherwise, their practice is to broadcast from CDs or record in one of their own venues.......

 

.....Not everything the BBC does on radio is poor.

 

 

============================

 

 

 

I suspect that we are all lamenting the days when the BBC used to trawl the country, set up shop, record this or that organ or choir, and then trundle off to the next venue. It was in that particular era that some truly great broadcasting was achieved, and the list of titles (or close approximations) would include not only live recitals and recorded performances, but major series such as "Britain's Cathedrals and their Music", the Geraint Jones tour of Historic European Organs (what a revelation THAT was), recordings from the Nuremberg organ-festival, opening recitals such as Francis Jackson at Blackburn Cathedral (with a new, almost finished but slightly improvised Sonata by "the Doctor") and weekly recitals from all over the place. In addition, local radio did its own organ thing, and for the lighter side enthusiasts, "The organist entertains" was an hour long.

 

Age delivers one advantage (just the one), and that is an ability to compare things then and now. To-day, I would be hard-pushed to feel inspired by almost anything I hear on radio concerned with the organ, and as for choral music, that has now become something of a divided camp, with the great oratorios still holding a pre-eminent position, but with daily, lesser fare now relegated to the great social watering-holes of English eccentricity.

 

The world has changed it would seem, but I suspect that people have not.

 

It's all very easy to think that "dumbing down" is a cause celebre, and that "pop" culture will somehow unite the land and save the world. Is it not maybe the exact mirror-image of everything that has happened in religion, where the emphasis has shifted towards what those in authority regard as the bricks and mortar of society, which is then carefully transported to the individual in carefully packaged, easily understood, byte size offerings? Thus, everything goes the way of "ratings," which is actually worse than "the lowest common denominator" because it concerns statistics rather than people.

 

I shall not bore everyone with the story of my uncle yet again, but of course, it is very much the case that ordinary people can be quite extraordinary in unexpected ways. I once knew a chap who was, to all intents and purposes, as thick as a paving-slab. He achieved little, did not a lot and lived in modest surroundings and circumstances. It was only when he died that I learned of his life-long passion for pigeon-racing, which had made him one of the great authorities of his age on the subject. People are seldom straight-forward.

 

In defence of the broadcasters, they are living in unusual times. The BBC (and all other broadcasters), are rapidly moving towards a new digital era, which I suspect means that every piece of broadcasting equipment has to be changed; save for the actual buildings and transmitter masts. That, as any knows, is mega-expensive, so the broadcasters tell us that they have to find the money out of exisiting budgets, with a subsequent lessening of available funding for the more enlightened or off-beat type of broadcasting.

 

It seems to me, that the BBC (and Channel 4 frequently) are really good at certain things. The recent spate of costume-dramas have been outstanding, and one of my personal delights has been to watch the televised version of a favourite novel, "Lark rise to Candleford" by Flora Thompson, and that magnificent Victorian drama set in Cheshire, "Cranford.". The fact that these programmes are made with such attention to detail, and such superb acting, suggests that they were made with world-wide audiences in mind, with lucrative rights being sold to other broadcasters. All power to them.....we should never knock excellence, even if it has a commercial objective. "Life on Earth" with Sir David Attenborough, is still raking in the readies.

 

Verbally, radio can still delight. The world music series of Radio 3 often throws up the unexpected treasure, such as the one which caught my attention, about Tuvan throat-singing. Radio 4 "Book of the week" is another, and I still chuckle at one particular broadcast entitled (I think) "My heroes and others," which included the extraordinary story of the Witch Trials and the judge Sir John Powell who brought them to an end. We learned that he was was described by Milton as ".....the jolliest man I ever met; who would laugh 'til he cried very often." In the same programme, we came face to face with a man who was a human cannonball; of Hungarian decent and working for Jerry Cottel's Circus, "....he was a giant of a man, who wore a moustache like Vlad the Impaler and who seemed to have a coat-hanger for shoulders."

 

What a contrast, for instance, in the budget for a programme like "A boy named Alex" mentioned elsewhere on the board; a sort of "fly on the wall" of a specialist hospital and the music departent at Eton College. This was not big-budget programme-making, but it's one of the best I've ever seen on TV.

 

I would argue that money (or rather lack of it) is not at the root of either dumbing-down or the ratings chase. It is far more to do with organisations which become infested by the sort of people who make a career out of being "celebrities." Consequently, even a programme about a pigeon-fancier would be simply marvellous luvvy, with some fast-fading celebrity wearing a false-tan and costume jewellery to present it. The celebrities are the new elite....mindless, arrogant, self-selecting and self-seeking; with agents to match. God forbid the day that we will see a programme about organ-builders presented by Jerry Springer! Nevertheless, a cooking programme with celebrity organists and Gordon Ramsey might prove interesting......in a sordid sort of way. (I would love to have seen that with the late Conrad Eden at the helm).

 

"What the f... are you doing Conrad?" (BANG goes the frying-pan across Gordon Ramsey's head!)

 

More seriously, the BBC and other broadcasters may be suffering from reduced circumstances financially, and for a complex variety of reasons (including competition from down-market cable companies and a contraction in advertising revenue), but in professional, top-drawer organisations, there is simply no excuse for bad programmes and a lack of imagination. If they can't do it even on a budget, they shouldn't be doing it all; especially considering the obscene fees paid to celebrities.

 

Go back to those original programmes such as "Cathy come home" or the sequel "Johnny go home".....low budget, factual and absolutely ground-breaking TV. Did it cost much to have Sir John Betjamin catching trains to cathedral cities and a small team with a tape-recorder at the venues? Consider what he left us with the things he said. St.Alban's Abbey....."marvellously restored by that ultra-protestant, clock-making millionaire, Lord Grimshaw" or one of my favourite obervations about Hereford, "....the train draws out form under the Malvern hills, and into a city mercilessly assaulted by heavy traffic." This was great radio and great prose; devoid of celebrities and made on a relatively low-budget. I remember them clearly to-day.

 

The sad thing is, that we live in one of the most fascinating times ever, on the edge of the most stable and successful region in the world, and yet, we wallow in the mire. We learn nothing about Europe, we hear very little about the effects of the global economy. We never see a single image of Krakow, Versailles, Paris, beautiful German towns and villages and nothing of Prague. (The excellent Micheal Palin series was a pleasant but slightly trivial exception). People say and do outrageous and even crazy things, without ever being challenged or being asked to explain themselves. I for one, would love to know why the Pope thought the trial of Galileo a "good idea" at the time of it happening. Is the current Pope barking mad? We need to know!

 

It isn't just a lack of organ-music. It's a lack of imagination, a lack of education, a lack of inquiry and ultimately, a lack of professional standards in broadcasting. The internet is now a much more important means of real communication, and a treasure-trove of information for those who bother to seek it out. It is also a good place to hear organ-music. God help us when it has a Board of Governers and an agenda of dumbing-down and social compliance.

 

I call the internet "People Power," in all its wonderful variety and obtuse perspective; the very essence of the conflicts which make for good programming.

 

MM

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Not everything the BBC does on radio is poor. Totally by chance I happened upon a half hour programme yesterday lunchtime on Radio 4 dedicated to Tallis's 40-part Motet 'Spem in alium'. It was superb.

 

This programme is going to be repeated on Saturday, 2 February at 3:30pm.

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There was a piece on "3 Breakfast" this morning about the desirability of piped classical music being used in shopping arcades as a deterrent to assorted oiks and yobs, together with a request for emailed comments.

 

I complied with the request saying that there wasn't nearly enough pipe(d) music on Radio and asked for more organ music. My email (and name) were read out, followed immediately by the playing of a CD of Prelude & Fugue by Bruennes (apologies if misspelt). I emailed to thank Rob Cowan and received a reply within a couple of minutes - "A pleasure Peter and a welcome prompt".

 

At least they listen, if only in the very short term!

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