Friday Night Is Music Night


THE doors were already open when we arrived just after 6:30pm.
Looking at the queue snaking around the theatre, a moment of panic set in.
Would we be turned away, dashing my hopes?
Friday Night Is Music Night is the world’s longest running live music programme on radio.
Like me, it’s been going for half a century, but appears to have held on to more of its hair.
It was one of my mum and dad’s favourite radio shows.
So I remember listening to it as a little lad in the days before Radio Two was invented.
Back then the network was known as The Light Programme, alongside the Home and Third Programme.
On a radio dial which also included such exotic destinations as Hilversum, Moscow and Athlone.


Thanks to our valve-powered radiogram, the sound was fabulous.
Broadcast from a far away place called London.
It never crossed my mind that you could actually go and see it for yourself and be part of that applauding audience.

I imagined they must have lives as exciting as the glowing radio dial.
Then, one Saturday afternoon, my brother brought home a newly released LP by a group called Led Zeppelin and placed it on the turntable.
Whole Lotta Love shook the radiogram in an early demonstration of the effect a taser gun would later have on bad people.
And all thoughts of Friday Night Is Music Night mostly disappeared.
Until last year.
That’s when I saw a repeat of a BBC4 documentary and the first televised coverage of a Friday night concert.
Realising then that, of course, you could be in that unseen audience.
Having applied for tickets in the random BBC public ballot, I finally got lucky.
Two arrived in the post a few days into 2009 for the first show of the New Year.
As with all free BBC audience tickets, admission is not guaranteed.
Hence those anxious moments last night as we feared The Mermaid Theatre in London would be full by the time our part of the queue reached the entrance.

Thankfully, we made it through the doors.
For what turned out to be an evening every bit as magical as I’d hoped.
Many in the 600-strong audience appeared to be regulars and were, shall we say, of a certain age.
The woman behind us was animated in her discussion of Arthur “Hello Playmates” Askey.
But there was also a surprising sprinkling of much younger music fans.
The spirit of those old radio valves must have been with me last night.
Not only were we treated to the regular BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by the easy to digest Roderick Dunk.
They were joined on stage by Ronnie Scott’s Big Band, led by conductor and musical director Pete Long.
Plus Manchester vocalist and lead trumpet player Georgina Bromilow, jazz singer Liane Carroll and the Ronnie Scott Singers.
All introduced by Clare Teal, who also contributed her vocal talents.
The clock ticked down and 7.30pm arrived at last.
That’s when this little spot by the Thames went live to the nation and – thanks to the web – the world.

Including, no doubt, the good people of Hilversum, Moscow and Athlone.
Hundreds of miles away my daughter was listening via her laptop computer, just as I had once done beside a humming wireless.
As the orchestra struck up the familiar signature tune, Clare was in place by the microphone to read the introduction:
“All of us brought together to entertain all of you with our delectable Friday night programme of music for everyone.”
Call me sentimental, but it was a very special moment.
Being in the audience you, of course, see things never to be revealed to listeners wherever they may be.
Like the animated Pete Long bouncing up and down on stage in much the same way as our radiogram reacted to Led Zeppelin.
Along the way reducing one of the female BBC Concert Orchestra violinists to giggles with a private joke.
Nothing can beat the frisson of excitement that comes with live TV or radio.
With the world – or at least some of it – listening, musicians and singers dodge each other coming on or off stage.
As a sound engineer adjusts a microphone here and there.
We’re all a part of this tiny closed bubble that only we can see.
One which probably looked fairly similar to audiences when I first listened as a young boy.
With some seriously talented people on the stage.
Taking their place in a line of entertainment stretching back over 50 years.
The playlist ranged from Gershwin to Porter via Mancini – scroll to the very bottom of this blog for the full details.
And if you’re reading this within seven days of it being posted, you can listen to last night’s concert via the BBC iPlayer here.

Also including Pete Long’s own composition: “There Is No Tomorrow…And Little Left Of Today.”
In the spirit of that title, we retired at the end of the evening to The Black Friar pub – a drum roll away from the theatre.
A masterpiece in itself, it seemed the perfect place to reflect on the other works of genius we had experienced over the last 90 minutes or so.
When in walked Pete and the rest of Ronnie Scott’s troupe.
Which, as far as I can recall, never happened when I tuned in on my dad’s radiogram.
Watching them energise the bar, as musicians often do, I thought back to Clare Teal’s closing announcement at the end of the broadcast:
“I hope we have proved once again…that Friday night IS music night.”
Somehow, I think it always will be.
(See below these links for the full playlist):
Friday Night Is Music Night
BBC Concert Orchestra
Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club
Clare Teal
Georgina Bromilow Official Site
Georginal Bromilow MySpace
Liane Carroll
Roderick Dunk
The Mermaid Theatre
Black Friar Pub
Black Friar Pub: Flickr images
Arthur Askey
Friday Night Is Music Night BBC Radio Two Playlist Jan 9 2009:
Part One:
BBC CONCERT ORCHESTRA
‘FRIDAY NIGHT IS MUSIC NIGHT’ SIG TUNE
JAMES PEARSON (PIANO) & BBC CONCERT ORCHESTRA
‘RHAPSODY IN BLUE’
(Gershwin)
PETE LONG (CLARINET) & RONNIE SCOTT’S BIG BAND
‘THERE IS NO TOMORROW…’
(Long)
LIANE CARROLL & RONNIE SCOTT’S BIG BAND
‘ORANGE COLOURED SKY’
(DeLugg/Styne)
GEORGINA BROMILOW & BBC CONCERT ORCHESTRA
‘THE PARTY’S OVER’
(Styne)
GEORGINA BROMILOW, IAIN MacKENZIE & BIG BAND
‘I’VE GOT RHYTHM’
(Gershwin)
IAN MacKENZIE, BIG BAND & ORCHESTRA
‘NIGHT & DAY’
(Porter)
ANDY PLAYFOOT, BIG BAND & ORCHESTRA
‘MOON RIVER’
(Mancini)
CLARE TEAL & RONNIE SCOTT’S BIG BAND
‘TOO DARN HOT’
(Porter)
Part Two:
GEORGINA BROMILOW, RONNIE SCOTT’S SINGERS & BIG BAND
WITH ORCHESTRA
‘POINCIANA’
(Simon/arr.Forgey)
RONNIE SCOTT’S SEXTET
‘WORK SONG’
(Adderley)
BBC CONCERT ORCHESTRA
‘ON A CLEAR DAY’
(Lane)
RONNIE SCOTT’S SINGERS, PETE LONG & BIG BAND
‘WHAT IS THING CALLED LOVE’
(Porter)
LIANE CARROLL & BBC CONCERT ORCHESTRA
‘EMBRACEABLE YOU’
(Gershwin)
TONY FISHER (TRUMPET), BIG BAND & ORCHESTRA
‘CLOSE ENOUGH FOR LOVE’
(Mandel/arr.Shaw)
GEORGINA BROMILOW, RONNIE SCOTT’S SINGERS & BIG BAND
‘KALAMAZOO’
(Warren/Gordon)
BBC CONCERT ORCHESTRA
‘UGLY DUCKLING’
(Loesser/arr.Dunk)
CLARE TEAL, GEORGINA BROMILOW, LIANE CARROLL,
RONNIE SCOTT’S SINGERS &BIG BAND, WITH ORCHESTRA
‘BRAZIL’
(Baroso)
BBC CONCERT ORCHESTRA
‘FRIDAY NIGHT IS MUSIC NIGHT’ SIG TUNE

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