Grand Hotel

And now we take you to the Palm Court of the Grand Hotel…” as the announc­er used to say, intro­duc­ing a pro­gramme of fine light clas­si­cal and dance music from the Grand Hotel in East­bourne, on Britain’s South Coast.

Today on Radio Riel’s main stream, we take you back to the dance-halls of the ear­ly to mid­dle 20th Cen­tu­ry, from around the mid-20s to the 50s, char­ac­terised by the BBC radio series, Grand Hotel. We’ll also be hear­ing some clas­sic big-band record­ings and much more.

Broad­casts of light clas­si­cal music on the BBC start­ed in 1925 from The Grand Hotel in East­bourne and fea­tured, to quote the Radio Times of the era, ‘Music of the Palm Court Orches­tra’. The Lounge Hall of the Grand was used — the hotel did not actu­al­ly have a Palm Court.

We’ll be fea­tur­ing the mod­ern-day Palm Court Orches­tra — in fact sev­er­al dif­fer­ent ones, includ­ing the Palm Court Orches­tra of the Stock­holm Phil­har­mon­ic! Much of the music you’ll hear today is instru­men­tal, but there are some vocal num­bers; sim­i­lar­ly, the record­ings are a mix­ture of authen­tic 1920s-40s dance-band record­ings from the Charleston era and lat­er, and mod­ern light clas­si­cal dance tunes and oth­er pieces.

The Grand Hotel pro­gramme itself ran on Sun­days from 1943 to 1973 and was gen­er­al­ly broad­cast live, usu­al­ly from the Con­cert Hall at Broad­cast­ing House but occa­sion­al­ly on loca­tion. It was host­ed by vio­lin­ist Albert San­dler until ear­ly in 1948 when he was tak­en ill and left the pro­gramme being replaced by Tom Jenk­ins. Both had pre­vi­ous­ly been musi­cal direc­tors of the Grand Hotel East­bourne  (San­dler 1924–28 and Jenk­ins 1938–40). How­ev­er oth­er hotels were also used, notably the Roy­al Bath, Bournemouth and these pro­grammes were not called ‘Grand Hotel’.

The pro­gramme lapsed for a cou­ple of years before return­ing for its final series in 1951 when it was pre-record­ed and intro­duced by Tom Jenk­ins with the Palm Court Orches­tra and guest bari­tone Alfred Swain. Max Jaf­fa took over in 1956, suc­ceed­ing Jean Pougnet, and stayed to the end. Regi­nald Leopold direct­ed the Palm Court orches­tra for 17 years, until 1973.

The pro­gram­me’s sig­na­ture tune was the “big tune” from Strauss’sRos­es from the South.

Text based on the entry for Grand Hotel in Whirligig, The pic­ture shows Regi­nald Leopold and his Orches­tra rehears­ing for Grand Hotel

Today’s pro­gramme is pre­sent­ed by Elrik Mer­lin and pro­duced by Radio Riel in con­junc­tion with our friends at the Alexan­dri­an Free Library Con­sor­tium of Sec­ond Life. You can lis­ten to the pro­gramme in-world now at, or sim­ply click here to start your play­er, if your brows­er is con­fig­ured to do so. Lis­ten­ers in the Unit­ed States are encour­aged to tune in using this link:

For more infor­ma­tion on the Alexan­dri­an Free Library, cur­rent exhibits and the work of Con­sor­tium mem­bers in gen­er­al, please vis­it the Alexan­dri­an Free Library web­site, or one of their branch­es in-world.

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2 Responses to “Grand Hotel”

  1. Alistair Wills says:

    I do wish a pro­gramme like Grand Hotel would return to the radio. We have a dearth of light music pro­grammes these days, with the dele­tion of Your Hun­dred Best Tunes, March­ing and Waltz­ing and Melodies for You.
    There must sure­ly be a great demand for this kind of pro­gramme on either Radio 2 or Radio 3.

    • Elrik Merlin says:

      I do agree. There is cer­tain­ly a dearth of Light Music pro­gram­ming on the radio. That’s why I decid­ed to do an occa­sion­al pro­gramme in which I tried to recre­ate the feel­ing of those broad­casts I remem­ber from my child­hood.

      Thank­ful­ly, albeit not on the radio, there remains quite a lot of Light Music activ­i­ty in the UK — notably through the Light Music Soci­ety.

      Thank you for writ­ing!

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