The Light Programme: A Classical Touch

in Monthly Programme, Radio Riel Main

by Elrik Merlin on Saturday, 22 April, 2017

Today in our monthly programme of Light Music, we focus on the “light orchestral” or “light classical” end of the spectrum.

We can think of Light Music as filling a gap between out-and-out classical music, and the exceptional quality music production library and film music of the 1940s-50s — the latter also featuring from time to time on The Light Programme. It’s a continuum with perhaps Sullivan at one end (and we’ll hear some of his Overtures today) and maybe Coates at the other – though it’s difficult to define boundaries. In between are composers like Addinsell, Alwyn, Ketelbey, Tomlinson, Binge, Lane and others, and it’s their music that we’ll be featuring today. What these pieces and composers have in common, is a “classical” approach to melodic music. Their work is full of great tunes, and it utilises orchestral forces with as much aplomb as any classical composer. But in general (though not always), the music is a little lighter in tone and feel.

I should note, incidentally, that the title “The Light Programme”, in addition to referring to the BBC radio service of the same name (which was renamed in 1967), also pays homage to “Brian Kay’s Light Programme”, which ran on BBC Radio 3 from 2002 until 2007.

Brian Kay has been one of the key people (along with Gavin Sutherland, Ernest Tomlinson and friends) who has been responsible for the immense resurgence of interest in Light Music in the 21st century and the rediscovery of these marvellous compositions. And if you are a lover of Light Music, please do find out more about the Light Music Society.

In fact, one is moved to wonder why there is no longer any coverage of Light Music on the BBC, even on Radio 2, when there’s a potential audience in the UK of over 20 million people over the age of 55 — plus many others who enjoy the retro appeal of light music along with production library music from the 1960s.

Today’s programme is presented by Elrik Merlin. If you are in the United States, please click here to launch the Stream Licensing player. 

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This programme is also available in enhanced-quality AAC. Tune in here:

Pictured: the BBC Midland Light Orchestra.


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