Saturday, 20 August 2011

Melodies for You

This week the BBC announced that the long-running Radio 2 show Melodies for You is to end. The programme has been part of the station’s Sunday schedule for the last 44 years. As the BBC’s press release makes no mention of the original presenter of the show, nor its second longest presenter after Richard Baker, I thought I’d provide a brief history of Melodies for You.

Eric Robinson
Melodies for You started on the BBC Light Programme on 4 January 1967 as a Wednesday mid-morning show sandwiched between The Dales and Midday Spin. The original host was Eric Robinson. Eric was a well-known conductor and broadcaster having played in and conducted the BBC’s Television Orchestra and the Radio Concert Orchestra. He was the musical director for the UK entries in the Eurovision Song Contest and had presented the radio show Music for You. As well as music on disc Melodies for You featured recordings from the London Light Orchestra and the BBC Concert Orchestra – the BBC orchestra continued to provide music for the show until about 2003.

With the change from Light Programme to Radio 2 in September 1967 Melodies for You moved to its traditional Sunday slot. For many years it was scheduled from 10 a.m. to 11.30 a.m. between Junior Choice and the People’s Service and it remained a Sunday morning fixture until 1992.

Light Programme billing 1967
By 1971 Eric Robinson was too ill to continue – he died in 1974 – and another conductor took over. Kenneth Alwyn had already worked with the BBC Concert Orchestra so he seemed a natural choice. In 1972 Sam Costa was the presenter. A former singer and actor best known for his appearances in Much Binding in the Marsh, Sam would be a regular broadcaster in the 1960s and 70s.

David Jacobs was the next host of the show in a run lasting from 1974 until December 1984. He only gave up the programme when he started his Radio 2 daily show in early 1985 and remains the second-longest running presenter.

From January 1985 to April 1986 Robin Boyle was at the helm. Robin already had a long association with classical and light orchestral music having been the presenter of Friday Night is Music Night since the 1950s.

Richard Baker
Richard Baker is the long-serving presenter of Melodies for You with nearly fourteen years in total. Whilst presenting between April 1986 until October 1995, the show moved to its now familiar Sunday evening position on 5 January 1992. Baker was back from August 1999 until June 2003 when he took over Your Hundred Best Tunes following the death of Alan Keith.

When Richard Baker left the show in late 1995 a number of guests presenters took it in turns –Tom Conti, Valerie Solti, Edward Heath, Denis Healey, Nannette Newman, Bryan Forbes, Jeffrey Archer, Hugh Scully, Cleo Laine, John Dankworth, Beryl Grey, Charles Dance, Angela Rippon and Denis Quilley before Hugh Scully became the permanent host from June 1996 until July 1999

After Baker’s second stint presenting duties were taken up by Brian Kay from June 2003 to May 2004. Brian had been with the King’s Singers for many years before joining Radio 3 as an announcer and presenter and later one of the hosts of Friday Night is Music Night.

Sheridan Morley
Following Brian Kay from 9 May 2004 was Sheridan Morley. Sheridan was already well-know to Radio 2 listeners for the Radio 2 Arts Programme that he’d hosted for over a decade. On 28 January 2007 Alan Titchmarsh, the present incumbent, joined the programme and it is with the end of his contract this month that the show also ends.

With the loss of Melodies for You the radio also looses yet another outlet for non-pop music. Radio 2 controller Bob Sheenan promises to “review” how the popular classics and light orchestral music will be broadcast in the future but I suspect that the likelihood is the occasional series rather than a regular weekly show. Experience suggests that when the BBC “reviews” or “rests” a show we are unlikely to see or hear it again.

The only old Light Programme shows still on air today are Friday Night is Music Night and Sunday Half-Hour   

With thanks to Malcy B for additional information.


entssouthwales said...

How sad!

I always like Radio 2 for its variation of musical styles and although I don't regularly listen to Melodies For You, I respect the importance of having a show of its type on Radio 2

Brian said...

Yes, I am a keen listener to light music and yet again another show of its ilk bites the dust. When will it end: watch out Friday Night is Music Night and Desmond Carrington

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