Tag: West Country Studio Orchestra

Music and drama

DOYEN OF REGIONAL DRAMATISTS – Eden Philpotts relaxes in his eighty-sixth year, with Sara. For the last twenty years the famous Devon playright has been an enthusiastic contributor to west-country broadcasting.

GILBERT PHELPS – Talks producer.

In music and in drama the West has its characteristic traditions. Writers like Thomas Hardy, Eden Philpotts, and Charles Lee speak to Dorset, to Devon, to Cornwall, with a special intimacy and understanding of local foibles. The folksongs of the West and the Cornish style of choral singing are similarly inimitable. They are only one thread of our cultural pattern, it is true, for the arts are no great respecters of frontiers; but they express something vital and unique in the make-up of west-countrymen.

During the war the resources of local culture were so uprooted and diffused, so generalized in the national pool, that the return of regional broadcasting in 1945 amounted almost to a new venture. The pre-war fabric had largely collapsed. Choirs and orchestras had disbanded, broadcasters of every kind had moved or died or lost touch. The programme staff of West Region were mainly newcomers with no pre-war recollections to guide them, so there was much to be done.

KATHLEEN FRAZIER at the piano.

A few experienced radio stalwarts were available — among actors one thinks of Phyllis Smale, George Holloway, Hedley Goodall — but in the main the first need was to make a new survey of the region’s resources; to find more actors and dramatists, singers, choirs, bands, and orchestras, whose work was up to broadcasting standards.

‘WHAT A CONCERT HALL SHOULD BE’ – The Bournemouth Municipal Orchestra plays under the baton of Rudolf Schwarz. Bournemouth’s Winter Gardens, in a setting of pine trees, is now the home of the West region’s premier orchestra.

This meant, of course, a great deal of auditioning. Over a hundred actors and actresses were heard in eighteen months, and about a quarter of them broadcast subsequently. In nine months over two hundred and thirty musicians and singers were heard at auditions, and thirty-five of these broadcast shortly afterwards. There was also considerable auditioning of bands, choirs, and light orchestras, and this search for new talent still, of course, goes on.

PLAN FOR ACTION – Like a general poring over maps, Rudolf Schwarz studies a score before rehearsal at Bournemouth.

Here it’s reasonable to ask why all this is necessary, when the abundance of national talent on which London draws can provide a full programme of music and plays and general entertainment. The answer is that regional broadcasting has the obligation to foster local talent for two reasons: because the opportunities it offers can resist the draining into London of provincial talent (and the consequent impoverishment of local life), and because each region is best fitted to provide its own distinctive style of performance. To present the works of Charles Lee and Eden Philpotts in anything but the Cornish and Devon dialects respectively would be to rob them of their essential quality (and incidentally to foment an uprising in Cornwall and Devon!) The resources of the professional stage in London cannot provide authentic casting in such cases as these and the many other regional dialects which lend diversity and richness to our language throughout the United Kingdom. Again, it is not enough to have thousands of music-lovers dependent on the occasional visits of London orchestras, and the enterprise of the Bournemouth Municipality in forming a first-rate resident orchestra is a fine example of the sort of activity West Region should — and does — support. The primacy of London as the focus of our national culture is indisputable and right; but it has been becoming too strong a magnet. One of the proudest objectives of regional broadcasting is to restore vigour and abundance and exacting standards to local forms of culture. The formation and training of the West Country Studio Orchestra and the West Country Singers are two achievements which show what can be done.

‘THEY SING LIKE ANGELS’ – Music critics have paid many compliments to the West Country Singers. Conducted by West Region’s Head of Music, Reginald Redman, they delight connoisseurs by their exquisite phrasing and bland of tone.

To the factory

Producer Brian Tate talks to the inventor, the production manager, the test-mechanics, the fitters — or rather, he asks questions and listens. He is looking for the bare outline of the story, the skeleton of his programme; and after that, for touches of character, colourful anecdotes, voices with personality, distinctive turns of phrase — anything to garnish the story with liveliness and ‘bite’. There’s a foreman who talks well; another chap with one good story of the early experimental days; an interesting machine noise. Promising bits and pieces in the jig-saw of script-making. Tate goes on asking questions until he reckons he has absorbed the essential material and mastered the outline of the story, and then he goes back to Bristol.

BY THE TAIL of the giant Brabazon aircraft, Peter Maggs records progress in a great West-country enterprise. In the car Jimmy Cauldfield vets the quality of each disc.

He can now start writing his script. It must not be so technical that the broad general public cannot follow it clearly, nor so popularized that specialists in the subject dismiss it as trivial and misleading. A compromise here — simplifying without distortion. When the first draft of the script is complete it will go to the planners of other services, and since M32 is a spectacular subject of the widest appeal we may assume that in due course Tate receives several teleprinters expressing interest in his project. M32 scheduled in basic Home Service on such-and-such a date. Overseas Planners want M32 recorded off transmission for overseas repeat. M32 accepted for transcription. Transcription, incidentally, means that the programme will be sent to smaller broadcasting organizations in the English-speaking world in the form of processed recordings — similar to commercial gramophone records — which can be used at suitable local times.

‘LET’S CHECK THIS, NORMAN’ – The leader of the West Country Studio Orchestra, Norman Brooks, discusses a new score with the conductor, Leonard Dennis.

With the script approaching final shape the producer is ready to brief the musician who is to compose the music. ‘On page 3 I want a slow build-up, heavy, rather ominous — about twenty-five seconds of it — and then you check it and run behind the following speech — should take another fifteen seconds, that — and then you start to swell up through him to a triumphant peak. Full-throttle, brassy, elated — and cut out fairly sharply, I think. Do you see what I’m after?’ The producer describes the effects he wants to achieve. The composer considers how to convert these ideas into music. His first sketches are written for piano; when they have been demonstrated and argued over and modified, the composer prepares an orchestral score.

It will soon be time now to send off the ‘billing’ to Radio Times for inclusion in the published programmes. There is casting to be done, so that the actors’ names are included in the billing. There is publicity material to prepare. Copyright details have to be cleared, studios booked, recording facilities laid on, operational matters settled with various engineering sections. As the days pass, one department after another begins to focus on the forthcoming production of M32.

‘BRING IT IN BEFORE THE WHISTLE’ – Reggie Miles plays over a batch of effects discs, and Drama Producer Owen Reed chooses the ones that build up the impression he wants.

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