BBC – Proms –

The first thing you need to know is: tickets for this years Prom Concerts go on sale tomorrow, Saturday 12th May, at 9.00am.

But before then, you’ll need to decide which ones you want to see. So here’s the link you need …

BBC – Proms – BBC Proms homepage.

I’ve had a quick look and there are  a few concerts (funny how it’s ‘concerts’ for classical music and ‘gigs’ for modern music) that I’d like to see, time and finances permitting.

I suspect I’ll listen to most of these and many more on Radio 3.

My Fair Lady – July 14. Well, we all like the songs, and they won’t mind if we sing along, I’m sure.

Beethoven symphonies 5 and 6 – July 23. Well, alright, I’d like to see all of them, I think he’s my favourite composer, but I do like these two in particular.

The Wallace and Gromit Prom: Musical Marvels – July 29. This includes a showing of A Matter of Loaf and Death, screened for the first time with a live orchestra. Magic.

BBC Radio 3 World Routes Academy – July 31. We’ve heard him on the show a few times, but this is a great chnace to see their apprentice José Hernando Arias Noguera play his accordion live.

Delius, Saint-Saëns and Tchaikovsky – August 14. In paticular, I like Tchaik’s fifth symphony. And it’s always good to hear other, unfamiliar music.

Gilbert and Sullivan: The Yeoman of the Guard – August 19. Well, we all like the songs, and they won’t mind if we sing along, I’m sure. Ahem.

Family Matinee: A journey to Far Corners of tour Musical World – August 27. I’ve always been a fan of Amadou and Mariam.

Desert Island Discs – 70th Anniversary – September 3. This is one of my favourite radio shows, and it looks like this show will be a good mix of selections from the programme.

Bruckner 9th Symphony and Beethoven Piano Concerto no 4 – September 6. Never seen either of these played live. Now’s my chance.

That’s my ‘short-list’. Good luck to you if you’re buying tickets tomorrow!

 

 

So farewell, then, Mark Thompson

Yes, Mark Thompson has announced that he is stepping down as Director General of the BBC.

That news is a fantastic birthday present.

Just a few weeks ago, he admitted that the BBC had got it wrong on women, “that the broadcaster does not have enough older female newsreaders and presenters“.

No. I’d say he‘s got it wrong. After all, who’s in charge?

And I’d say he’s got it wrong in so many other ways too.

He totally underestimated the popularity of BBC local radio. The BBC Trust has forced you to reconsider making huge cuts to local radio which would result in a much less local service. Making us wonder, what’s the point of having local radio at all?

Before that, he wanted to shut down BBC 6 Music. He thought it was just another pop station. But the great British public stood up and told the BBC Trust what the pioneer DAB digital radio station means to them. So (until the next useless out of touch DG comes along) 6 Music has been saved.

Great to see Broadcasting House being refurbished of course, but why was it so over-budget? Who’s in charge? That’s my licence money he’s been wasting.

This big move to Salford: I don’t know but I suspect the BBC will live to regret that decision. London is the nation’s capital, an eighth of the population lives within striking distance. It’s the cultural centre of the nation, whether you like it or not.

Selling off the iconic Television Centre. I don’t know but I suspect the BBC will live to regret that decision too. In the same way they now regret erasing all those Doctor Who tapes. Because we need more empty office blocks in London. If this building is no longer needed for producing programmes, surely it can be turned into a money-making tourist attraction? Decades of history available, radio,  TV, film, documentaries, technology, props: it would appeal to everyone.

But I can’t resist this opportunity to recall the first time I became aware of Thompson’s existence, back in 1999. The BBC radio station for London, GLR, was threatened with closure. The campaign to save the station ultimately failed but Mark Thompson’s true colours came to the fore:

IN THE light of the BBC’s recent “Train Week”,
viewers and listeners may be interested to hear the
unexpurgated opinions of Mark Thompson, the
corporation’s grandly titled director of nations
and regions, towards rail safety.
Thompson aired his views during a recent staff
meeting at Greater London Radio – which, unhappily
for him, was secretly recorded. The main topics on
the agenda were the proposed reduction of music on
GLR, and Thompson’s Guardian article criticising the
station for playing “pop” music on the day of the
Paddington train crash. Also on the panel was Jane
Mote, head of London and south-east regions…

GLR staff member: “If you turned on GLR in five
years’ time, what would you want to hear?”
Jane Mote: “Mark’s not going to give you a schedule
now because there isn’t a schedule.”
Mark Thompson: “I could do, I could do.”
JM: “No, please! [Thompson laughs.] Paddington
train crash!”
MT: “YES, lots of train crashes please!” (MT carries
an laughing.)

Later in the meeting, Thompson returned to the
subject.
JM: “I think music is an expression of cultural life in
London and therefore it has an important role to play
and…”
MT: “I just want to hear about train crashes.”
JM: “…and Mark just wants death and gloom.”

Thompson seemed to find this all vastly amusing,
apparently regarding the Paddington disaster as
nothing more than a way of jacking up the ratings for
extended news coverage. But he was rather less
amused when staff challenged him about the
Grauniad article in which he revealed that he had “hit
the roof” when he heard a pop song on GLR on the
morning of the crash.
The song in question, Mambo No 5, was played
on Kiss FM at 8.31 that morning and on Capital
Radio at 9.01am – but it wasn’t played on GLR at all
that day, not least because GLR was too busy
providing, er, extended coverage of the disaster. It
transpired that Thompson is so incompetent he hadn’t
even tuned his radio to the correct station!

That’s from Private Eye No 993 Friday 14 January 2000.

Mark Thompson will not be missed.

But on a more positive note, what else did I get for my birthday? Well, a couple of CDs related to radio shows that I like. What a lovely surprise!

The Old Grey Whistle Test 40th Anniversary Album

and

World Routes on the Road

World Routes

I’ve been listening to World Routes on Radio 3, on and off, for a few years now. I think it was the late and much missed Charlie Gillett who alerted me to it all those years ago. I was thinking about him this morning: it’s almost two years since he died, and it’s lovely that he’s remembered by presenters such as Bob Harris and Lucy Doran, both of whom have mentioned him in recent shows.

Over the last couple of days, I’ve been catching up on World Routes: I have a bit of a backlog, but I should catch up within a day or two. I can typically listen to three hours of radio while I’m at work 😉

One of he more recent programme I heard today was broadcast just over a week ago. It featured Mexican duo Rodrigo y Gabriela playing a couple of songs and in conversation with Lucy Duran.

Unfortunately, you can’t listen to the programme on the BBC iPlayer, as it’s over 7 days old. Which is a bit disappointing, as there are several much older programmes still available.

Two of which I also listened to today. The main appeal of the programme is, of course the wide variety of music from all over the world. But sometimes, I am introduced to people that I’d not heard of before, and whose stories are fascinating in the own right.

Today, I learned about two very inspirational women: totally different backgrounds, totally different life stories, but equally fascinating.

In the first, Lucy Duran explored the archive of pioneering ethnomusicologist Jean Jenkins. In the 1960s and 1970s, before I was even aware of such a thing as ‘world music’, she was travelling the world, recording the local music on the best recording equipment available.

Read more on the programme, see photos and listen while you can: The Jean Jenkins Archive.

The second woman was mentioned almost in passing during a show from The Jerusalem International Oud Festival 2011. Roza Eskenazi is (I learned) known as Queen of the Greek Blues. Born a Greek Jew in the 1890s, she enjoyed a singing careen from the 1920s through to the 1970s.

During the Second World War, and the German occupation of Greece, she managed to hide her Jewish identity, helped other Jews and resistance fighters, even sheltering English agents in her home, and all the while having a relationship with a German officer.

The programme featured a tribute to Roza, and as is often the case, knowing the background to the songs renders the songs all the more powerful.

More about the programme here – and this one is still available on the iPlayer.

So, overall, a highly recommmended Sunday afternoon listen:

BBC Radio 3 – World Routes