We had another wonderful (free) evening's entertainment last night, courtesy of the BBC - having again landed audience tickets for Friday Night is Music Night [our fourth this year; we were at the Queen's Birthday celebration concert, an evening of Cy Coleman's music and a birthday tribute to conductor Carl Davis CBE, which I may write about at a later stage], this time at its "spiritual home" The Mermaid Theatre in Blackfriars.
The Mermaid Theatre in the 1960s
This time, it was a rather spectacular celebration of the 80th anniversary of the first regular television service in the UK, hosted by the acerbic anchor-man of Radio 4's morning current affairs Today programme, Mr John Humphrys. From the BBC's own blurb for the programme (to be broadcast this Friday):
It all started on Monday, 2nd November 1936 from a make-shift studio in the south east wing of Alexandra Palace in North London; "Ally Pally" as it was and still is known today. It wasn't a new invention by any means - experiments had been on going around the world since the 1850s to perfect and broadcast television pictures. In this country the work of John Logie Baird pushed the way forward and this November day was momentous as it marked the start of the world's first regular television service: BBC Television. This title was to last until the arrival of the BBC's second television channel in 1964 and this first channel was re-named BBC One.And "great moments" a-plenty there were, indeed!
That first schedule featured a variety show with singer Adele Dixon, comedians Buck and Bubbles, Chinese jugglers the Lai Founs and the BBC Television Orchestra. There was also a new magazine programme Picture Page featuring switchboard girl Joan Miller. The broadcasts ran for just four hours a day. Small fare for the 15 thousand television sets receiving the pictures at the time. But there was much to look forward to - Tuesday's schedule offered a "display of Champion Alsatians" from the Metropolitan and Essex Canine Society Show, and Hollywood stars Bebe Daniels and Ben Lyons.
Since then, of course, there's been a media revolution - you can catch up, download and watch online. How old fashioned it seems to think that viewers made an appointment to watch our schedules. But the last 80 years produced a wealth of comedy, drama, music, documentary, sport, natural history and news programmes.
BBC Television's older sister service - BBC Radio - celebrates 80 years of great television and musical moments with the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Gavin Sutherland.
We adore the spectacle of one of the best orchestras in Britain in full swing - all the intricacies of the plucks, toots and tinkles that make up the greater whole of every piece of orchestration laid out before us; all the running around (especially in the percussion section at the back), the swapping of instruments mid-flow, the tiny pieces being played on one instrument after another, even for the briefest of moments - and they certainly did us proud yet again, as they took the audience on a trip down memory lane. Among the many TV themes they played:
Vision On ("Gallery" theme; aka Left Bank Two):
Doctor Who [unfortunately on this occasion without either Matt Smith or the monsters]:
The Sky at Night (Sibelius: At The Castle Gate):
Quatermass (Holst: Mars, Bringer of War from The Planet Suite):
One of my favourites [in every way] - Brideshead Revisited:
...and many, many more (including medleys from classic comedy shows like Morecambe & Wise, Two Ronnies, Terry and June, Are You Being Served, Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em, Last of the Summer Wine, Monty Python and the rest, American cop shows and current affairs programmes and documentaries such as The Blue Planet, themes from popular recent successes Strictly Come Dancing and Poldark, and some from very old classics such as Dr Finlay and Maigret)!
We had a fabulous time...
Friday Night is Music Night, the world's longest-running live orchestral music programme on radio.