Exit signs at BBC Radio 3?

Exit signs at BBC Radio 3?


norman lebrecht

July 06, 2020

Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance has a new chair of governors. He is Alan Davey, Controller of BBC Radio 3, BBC Proms and BBC Orchestras and Choirs, and its champion for socio-economic diversity.

His Radio 3 predecessors were not allowed to hold external office in order to absolve them from any suspicion of bias. On the other hand, Alan Yentob at BBC television sat on dozens of institutional boards.

There are changes afoot at the BBC in the coming months after the departure of Davey’s patron, Tony Hall.

Davey, 59, has been at the BBC for five years.

He said today: ‘I am thrilled to be taking the position of Chair of Governors at Trinity Laban, London’s creative conservatoire. I have long admired the innovation and creativity I have seen from Trinity Laban, its students and alumni: it is a place that creates opportunity for students from all backgrounds and across the globe and works with them to shape the future of music and dance. Arts and higher education have never been more important and I am looking forward to working with Trinity Laban to build on our success as a truly diverse, inclusive and excellent institution where great work can be done.’



  • lillianastanescu says:

    TL has a good profile, not as stuff as the Academy or the Royal College, but they turn out decent, hard-working jobbing musicians and dancers (all we now need is jobs and gigs for them to do! That’s the real issue)

  • christopher storey says:

    The moment I see the weasel words “diverse” and ” inclusive ” I know what to expect : abject failure

  • Herbie G says:

    Bless you, Norman, for being the bringer of good news. I have long been holding a bottle of champagne in reserve for the day on which Davey departs. That’s alongside another bottle to be opened on the day that Lord (my mates call me Tony) Hall finally shuffles off to screw up some other hapless organisation.

    Davey is nothing more than a civil service ‘suit’ and now that I have seen a photo of him, boy does he look that part! He even wears the regulation spectacles and I can picture him at a desk in an pokey little office, sipping tea from his Coronation mug, with an Olivetti typewriter and an almost empty bottle of Snopake before him, laboriously two-finger typing a final demand for an exorbitant amount of income tax ending with the words ‘Your Obedient Servant’. His trajectory to fame and fortune as Controller of Radio 3 resembles that of the Judge in Trial by Jury. To extend the Gilbertian metaphor, he knows about as much about classical music as a novice in a nunnery.

    In fairness to Al, he didn’t invent the dumbing down of Radio 3 – it began more than 20 years ago. Around that time, I tried to find a criterion to define the completion of this process and decided that it would be when they play ‘I’m a Pink Toothbrush’ or ‘The Laughing Policeman’. Never in my most exotic fantasies though did I suspect that they would overstep those two classic masterpieces and play Dolly Parton, who has appeared in that abominable Mixtape, flanked no doubt by the likes of Pachelbel and Debussy – nothing more than a cheap way to fill half an hour before the evening concert.

    In Davey’s hands, most of Radio 3’s day is a roller-coaster cavalcade of ill-assorted snippets, few of which last more than ten minutes, punctuated by banal chatter. A few bastions of excellence have so far survived the onslaught – like the Afternoon and Evening Concerts and Composer of the Week. Building a Library fell more than a year ago when it became a cosy interview rather than an erudite, well-researched talk. But it ticks Tony and Al’s box – it’s fun.

    I can only dream that Tony and Al’s successors will decide to stop trying to out-dumb Classic FM and realise that most R3 listeners have attention spans lasting more than ten minutes. I cherish the memory of being able to hear complete works on my short drive to work – and particularly one occasion when I switched on at about 8:20 am, in the middle of the first movement of a wonderful symphony that so much entranced me that I waited in the car park for another half-hour until the end of the work to find out what it was. That was back in the 1980s. I don’t think we’ll see those days again, but we are all entitled to dream…

    • Armchair Bard says:

      Your words are like a fierce cordial, HG. And greatly entertaining. I toast you!

      (I’ve long pondered how the excellent Donald Macleod has kept his job against the tide of all that is around him. Do you think he has a photograph of Davey ****ing a goat?)

  • Armchair Bard says:

    HEY, there’s at least a fun side to Davey’s regime. My anonymous informant has compiled the following log & comentary. He’s called it:

    The Room Next Door at Radio 3 (with apologies to Mr Michael Spicer)

    * * *

    Sarah Walker plays CD of the Scotch Symphony but disc accidentally runs on to the Midsummer Night’s Dream overture. Then she back-announces only the symphony…

    ——(voice-over to SW from the Room Next Door) Sarah, you total bimbette: you’ve just told the world you think Mendelssohn’s best-known overture is the finale of the Scotch Symphony. Get a grip. And don’t…no, please…

    …and continues, ‘Ooh, weren’t that looverly? I think I’ll just have…

    ——Sarah, we talked about this: no more product placement for Greggs.

    …another eccles cake.’

    * * *

    Sara Mohr-Pietsch introduces the hymn ‘Christians, awake, salute the happy morn’ as having tune by J. S. Bach.

    ——What the…you anagrammaticised atmospheric rash, we agreed after the Warlock f&ckerama you would actually read the running orders in front of you: isn’t ‘to the tune “Yorkshire”‘ a clue here? Just make sure the back-announcement is correct and then they’ll think it was simply a slip.

    ‘…the tune by J. S. Bach.’

    ——Look. Just cos it has ‘awake’ in the first line doesn’t mean it’s by JSB. Tell your analyst from me he is way overdoing the word-association.

    * * *

    Suzy Klein is on TV talking about the classical scene in pre-war Germany. Gets on to that rotten old Nazi Carl Orff and Carmina Burana.

    ——This is good, keep at it…wait, no, eeuurghrgh, stop: ‘O fortuna’ isn’t the whole piece, CB has lots of lyrical, non-Nazi numbers. This is BBC4, we’ll get shedloads of letters complaining about suggestio falsi. Perhaps you could…oh, please god, no…

    Klein sits down to play musical example.

    ——Right: who let her in a room with a piano? We’d all agreed she was going to stop doing piano practice at the licence-fee payer’s expense.

    * * *

    Martin Handley is introducing Britten’s Piano Concerto at the Proms, talks about its première at the 1938 Proms, is apparently unaware we are to hear (as noted in the Radio Times, ffs) the 1945 revised version.

    ——Martin, I know the BBC chucked their copy of The New Grove into a skip ages ago, but I lent you my Britten Master Musicians last week just so’s…oh god, no:

    ‘…it’s his first big piece with orchestra and without voice.’

    ——Well that’s the Frank Bridge Variations told. You thick, distempered plank: put down Freddie Forsyth and at least bone up on the concerto during the performance.

    MH cocks up back-announcement.

    * * *

    SM-P is introducing folksong arrangements by John Rutter. All goes well until…

    ——Sara, you perfect plum. ‘Dashing away with the smoothing iron’ does not mean making off with an essential piece of household equipment. (Whereas your dashing away to run Dartington does mean…oh, better not.)

    * * *

    Sarah Walker is on choral duty and has just told us that in his Four Motets on Gregorian Themes, Duruflé ‘uses Renaissance techniques, to which he brings a burnished warmth’.

    ——Oh, you daft divot: where to begin?

    ‘…sung by Clare College, Cambridge.’

    ——Wtf?? I know it’s a small college, but…for heaven’s sake, pull yourself together.

    (Time, I think, for a personal plea to those listeners that remain. With Clemmy gone and SM-P going [alas, they seem to have been sent back], SW is the last of the original ‘Radio Twee’ three left. Remember Balham, Gateway to the South’s celebrated pianist Eugene Quills? Can we not subscribe to a fund to send Sarah Walker to Italy…or Vienna…or…anywhere?)

    * * *

    ___ ___ is introducing Britten’s Hymn to the Virgin; apparently it is ‘sung in macaronic’.

    * * *

    Now Martin Handley is on choral duty.

    ——What’s that, Martin?

    ‘Victoria didn’t write much as he was such a perfectionist.’

    ——Have you been in the pub with Sarah, mashing up Duruflé and Victoria? I don’t care if your Grove is in a skip: mine lists 22 Masses, 18 Magnificats and – I’m losing count here – 13.6 column cm of motets.

    * * *

    ——Ah, here’s a name new to me. Let’s give Elizabeth Alker the benefit of the doubt, eh? We’ll just sit back and enjoy…

    …some ‘etu’, music by ‘Berli-eau’…

    ——Tiens! we haven’t even left the EU yet. Where did you get those French finials from? Inspector Clouseau?

    • Herbie G says:

      Armchair Bard (or may I call you Arm), please don’t post anything else like this – I nearly went into cardiac arrest laughing! Oh, all right, ENCORE!

      • Armchair Bard says:

        Dear Herbie (if I may)

        Why, thank you, sir! Most gratifying. Tell all your friends.

        As to an ENCORE. This is to hand: topical if not musical.

        warm regards from ACB

        * * *

        [An unredacted extract from the Cabinet Minutes for 19 June has fallen into our hands.]

        Scene: Cabinet Room, 10 Downing Street

        Item IV: the reopening of public houses

        SIR HUMPHREY : This is a matter with serious implications for public health. I should advise views be canvassed round the whole table.

        BORIS : I say chaps, how about 4 July? Then we can call it Independence Day: freedom from lockdown – huzzah, huzzah!

        SIR HUMPHREY : I wonder if that is an entirely good idea: the 4th is a Saturday.

        DOMINIC CUMMINGS : Oh come on. It’s only the proles.

        SIR HUMPHREY (to Cummings) : Yes, Prime Minister.

    • christopher storey says:

      Armchair bard : I’m not quite sure why you have it in for Sarah Walker, who is experienced and knowledgeable. However, I expect that compared with you she is pitifully qualified – after all, she only has a Doctorate in Music, and is a diploma standard pianist