Genome – the mighty online database that contains every edition of the Radio Times, from its origin in 1923 to 2009 – tells us that, on this day in 1929, The Children’s Hour featured “‘The Little People’ – a Gnome Play by Janet Muir.” It also tells us that the broadcast included songs by baritone Harold Casey. Here’s a picture of said baritone – leaning in, let’s face it, quite a louche way – on a BBC piano in 1936.
On this day in 1953, the BBC adopted its first ‘television symbol’ (these days we’d call it an ‘ident’). It was designed by famous poster artist Abram Games and it quickly became known as the ‘bat’s wings’ symbol. It lasted for eight years. On its 50th anniversary, the BBC’s Nigh Higham wrote about the symbol on the BBC News web site.
Edward Clark was a conductor and a hugely influential BBC music producer in the very early days of the BBC. He helped found the BBC Symphony Orchestra and made a huge contribution to bringing new music to BBC audiences from 1926 until he left the corporation in 1936. He brought Anton Webern to London on several occasions and on this day in 1929 the composer conducted soprano Ruzena Herlinger and a ‘Special Orchestra’ in his ‘Five Pieces’ Op. 10 in a programme from the Arts Theatre Club, in the fourth series of ‘British Broadcasting Corporation Concerts of Contemporary Music’.
On 24 October 1946, Sir Thomas Beecham (pictured, in 1954) conducted a live Tristan and Isolde for the Third Programme. Performed in German, the programme ran from 6-10.45pm, with two intervals. Arthur Carron sang Tristan and Marjorie Lawrence Isolde. The best part? There was a live repeat four days later.
23 October 1946. The Third Programme, Radio 3’s predecessor station, was only a few weeks old. The centrepiece of the evening’s output was Paul Hindemith’s complex, neo-classical piano work ‘Ludus Tonalis’, played by young Australian pianist Noel Mewton-Wood. This splendid picture shows Hindemith conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra in a studio performance of his ‘Requiem’ in 1955. The composer died in 1963.
Listen to Donald Macleod’s epoisode of Composer of the Week about Hindemith on the Radio 3 web site.
20 October 1934, on the National Programme broadcast from Daventry, Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, adapted for radio by Barbara Burnham. Burnham – pictured, earlier in 1934 – had been adapting plays and stories since the previous year and went on to work as a theatre producer and to make television drama. She produced episodes of the BBC’s Play of the Month and Saturday Playhouse and made several major TV adaptations, including a four-part Persuasion in 1960.
The Post Office Tower (latterly the BT Tower), a near neighbour of Radio 3’s own home, Broadcasting House, and, in its day, an icon of both sixties glamour (that revolving restaurant) and technological progress (that hypermodern shape, all those thrilling antennae), is 49 years old today. It was opened on 8 October 1965 by Prime Minister Harold Wilson and then Minister of Technology Tony Benn.
It’s a thing of beauty to this day and still radiates a rather reassuring, pre-Internet optimism about life and the world (although the restaurant has been closed for years and the world has changed completely). These two pictures of the Tower feature, incidentally, star of TV and radio Nicholas Parsons (top) and the charming War Machine, star of Doctor Who’s 1966 adventure ’Doctor Who and the War Machines’. The newly-completed Tower – playing itself – was a star of the series.
Forty-five years ago today: Joan Bakewell vs Harold Pinter. Late Night Line-Up, BBC 2, 11 September 1969.
Richard Attenborough – actor, activist and peerless storyteller – has died, aged 90. This splendid picture was taken in a BBC studio in April 1952, when he was 28. More about Lord Attenborough on the BBC News web site.
Adelaide Hall played Hattie in the BBC’s first broadcast of Kiss Me Kate, a live radio relay from the London Coliseum on the BBC Light Programme on 1 August 1951. The Coliseum production was the first in London and the cast also included Patricia Morison (who later appeared in this BBC Two gala production), Bill Johnson, Julie Wilson, Walter Long. Hall, born in Brooklyn in 1901, had been a star of Broadway since the early twenties and was an important figure in the Harlem Renaissance of that period. She made hundreds of appearances on the BBC until her death in 1993.
Listen to the John Wilson Orchestra’s version of Kiss Me Kate from the BBC Proms 2014 online now. The picture of Adelaide Hall at a BBC microphone was taken in August 1945.