Radio 4 UK Theme - brief return

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Brock
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Radio 4 UK Theme - brief return

Post by Brock »

I mentioned the return of Rick Wakeman's election theme music on the "Current TV" forum, and now I've been pleasantly surprised by the reappearance of another much-missed BBC theme tune - Fritz Spiegl's "Radio 4 UK Theme", which used to open up the station every morning at about 5.30am until it was controversially axed in 2006 by the then Controller, Mark Damazer. It was played in full, as a one-off, at the end of Radio 4's PM programme this evening, preceded by an interview with Mark Damazer (who doesn't regret getting rid of it, it seems).

But could the current Controller be persuaded to bring it back permanently?

brigham
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Re: Radio 4 UK Theme - brief return

Post by brigham »

Brock wrote:
But could the current Controller be persuaded to bring it back permanently?
Only if he's looking for early retirement!

Brock
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Re: Radio 4 UK Theme - brief return

Post by Brock »

Why do you say that? A lot of listeners were very disappointed when it was dropped - there were even questions in Parliament.

I don't like the way Radio 4 opens nowadays. After the handover from the World Service at 5.20am there's simply a short trail, followed by the interminable tedium of the shipping forecast for nearly ten minutes. At least listeners were broken in gently in the days of the UK Theme.

(Although I don't understand why the early morning shipping forecast has to be on FM or digital at all. The midday and early evening ones are on long wave only - why not continue with the World Service for ten more minutes while the shipping forecast is broadcast on long wave?)

brigham
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Re: Radio 4 UK Theme - brief return

Post by brigham »

I say that because the tune's 'hideously British'.

Brock
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Re: Radio 4 UK Theme - brief return

Post by Brock »

It's a bit more subtle than that, I think.

The theme was originally introduced in 1978 when Radio 4 introduced a single UK-wide service; opt-outs for Scotland and Wales were no longer needed with the establishment of Radio Scotland, Radio Wales and Radio Cymru. (Radio Ulster had been established a few years earlier.) It was inspired by Fritz Spiegl's remarkable discovery that certain folk-tunes from the four UK nations "go with" each other, in the sense that it's possible to play the melodies simultaneously to the same musical accompaniment. The idea was presumably to represent the four nations melding into one. Here's how it was made up:

Introduction: opening bars of Early One Morning (England)
Rule, Britannia! (UK)
Combined: Londonderry Air (Northern Ireland)/Annie Laurie (Scotland)
Combined: What Shall We Do With a Drunken Sailor? (based on Irish folk tune)/Greensleeves (England)
Combined: Men of Harlech (Wales)/Scotland the Brave (Scotland)
Early One Morning (England)
Combined: Rule, Britannia! (UK)/Trumpet Voluntary (?Europe)

However, given last week's election result I concede that it may not be appropriate for much longer...

brigham
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Re: Radio 4 UK Theme - brief return

Post by brigham »

"...Trumpet Voluntary (?Europe)"

Europe? Denmak, possibly!

Brock
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Re: Radio 4 UK Theme - brief return

Post by Brock »

I never quite worked out the significance of the Trumpet Voluntary, to be honest! It was used for some time as the European Service signature tune of the BBC World Service, but it did seem a bit out of place - and, as you allude to, its correct title is the "Prince of Denmark's March" (though it was by an English composer, Jeremiah Clarke). Maybe it's just there to provide an impressive-sounding final flourish.

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