Death of a classical music newscaster, 93

Richard Baker, the first presenter of news on BBC television in 1954, became the mainstay of the Nine O’Clock News.

A capable pianist, he was a music enthusiast who presented the Last Night of the Proms more suavely than anyone else, appeared on any game shows with classical music content and wrote a number of books.

A gentleman in all senses of the word.

From the Observer: In recent years Baker moved into a retirement home, where he found a novel way of settling in. Each day he would select the interesting headlines from the day’s papers and read them aloud to his fellow residents at six o’clock.

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  • I loved Richard Baker. He was the first newsreader I remember as a little child. He was a great presenter of many shows on BBC television. He never seemed to grow any older. RIP.

  • 93 is a good innings but he’s been part of all my life with first being the articulate newscaster and then in later years the commentator for the Proms on the telly – before that side of things got ‘choreographed!’ Richard Baker contributed so much to life and now a poorer place from his death.

  • He once rang me up as I was listening to the recorded repeat of ‘Start the Week’ (BBC Radio 4), which he chaired, one Monday evening – a momentarily surreal moment! (He announced himself: ‘My name’s Richard Baker; I work for the BBC – sometimes!’) Yes, he was a thoroughly nice chap and a very good pianist too. He was also capable of letting his hair down, as in this amusing clip of him and Mike Aspel at Alexandra Palace! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3vB_JigV6dM

    • Yes, Richard was simply the best. I directed TV coverage for eight “Last Night of the Proms” and was always grateful for his unflappable enthusiasm, including the way he could memorise a script by reciting it in the corridor if there was no Autocue. His acting experience came into play.

      This was before Health and Safety ever reared their heads to prevent a presenter sitting on the wooden ledge of the Albert Hall’s Loggia Box 40, with the boisterous arena in the background. H & S feared he’d fall backwards on to some prommers, something that had never been a serious risk. He did say: “I’m not very tall, so for balance give me a little box to rest my feet on.”

      His ad-libbing was impeccable, such as the first time Sarah Walker climaxed Rule Britannia by unfurling a Union flag from her white dress. He was one of only about six people who knew it would happen, but he never gave the game away.

      In studio programmes and interviews too, Richard was the go-to presenter. For a time he introduced the BBC arts flagship programme “Omnibus.”

      On his final Last Night in 1996, I put a camera in his box to watch his delighted response as conductor Andrew Davis announced his retirement to waves of applause.

      Added to the wonderful resonance of his voice, Richard had two simple rules behind the clarity of his announcing. He never hurried, and you only heard him stress the words that needed it. Sounds obvious, but you don’t need many fingers to count how many of today’s TV presenters do the same. My condolences to his wife Margaret.

  • My wife and I spent many happy times singing on Classical Music cruises that Richard presented. His secret was just to be himself and very relaxed. He was wonderful company and we will miss him greatly! Our thoughts are with his family and particularly his wife Margaret.

  • Such a kind gentleman and so thoughtful to musicians past and present.
    There is a lovely story of how he played an old recording of the delightful British soprano Elsie Suddaby on one of his shows. She wrote to thank him and this way he discovered that she was living in a nursing home just across the road from his new house. He then visited Elsie , who was suffering from Parkinson’s disease, on a regular basis until she passed away. I hope that Mr Baker had plenty of visitors in his retirement too!

  • He was wonderful of course on ‘Face the Music’ with Joseph Cooper, Bernard Levin, Robin Ray, Joyce Grenfell and co

  • A presenter who could speak clearly and with beautifully modulated English, unlike many on the BBC today.

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