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Ivor Novello Awards Special

1 hour, 57 minutes
First broadcast:
Friday 11 May 2012

Friday Night is Music Night salutes the Ivors!

Question -

What do George Michael; Eric Coates; Elton John, Lonnie Donegan and Nelly the Elephant all have in common?

Answer -

They are all recipients of an Ivor Novello Award - given annually to reward excellence in British music writing.

The Ivor Novello Awards or "Ivors" are given annually to honour excellence in British music writing. Named after the song writer; composer and actor Ivor Novello - the awards were first held in 1956. Back in 1948 the lyricist Eric Maschwitz suggested the idea of awards to honour British song writers and composers at a time when the music scene was mostly dominated by American music. Maschwitz wrote the words to "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square" and "These Foolish Things". He worked in BBC Radio and Television and wrote many light operas. 8 years later the first Ivor Novello Awards were presented at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. Amongst the recipients in that first year - a special award to light music composer Haydn Wood and Eric Coates for his Dam Busters March. Jack Payne received a special award and the Best Musical went to "Salad Days" by Julian Slade and Dorothy Reynolds.

This year's awards are announced next Friday so in this special Friday Night is Music Night concert live from the Watford Colosseum the BBC Concert Orchestra pay tribute to the last 55 years of winners including scores by John Barry; Andrew Lloyd Webber; Elton John; Lennon and McCartney as well as music from the man who gave his name to the awards - Ivor Novello.

Guest vocalists include West End stars Matt Rawle and Alison Jiear and the evening's very special guest is the multi- talented singer / songwriter and producer Mike Batt. .

Paul Gambaccini who has been Master of Ceremonies at the last 25 years of Ivor Awards presents the concert and Richard Balcombe conducts.

The concert comes live from the Watford Colosseum.

Music Played

17 items
  • During rehearsal

    During rehearsal

    Matt Rawle shows us what he's made of during the rehearsal at the Watford Colosseum.

  • Relaxing before the show

    Relaxing before the show

    Alison Jiear takes a moment during rehearsal to share a laugh or two.

    Alison Jiear Official Website
  • Relaxing before the show

    Alison Jiear takes a moment during rehearsal to share a laugh or two.

    Alison Jiear Official Website
  • Bright Eyes

    Bright Eyes

    Mike Batt plays two of his Ivor Novello winning songs.

    Mike Batt Official Website
  • And the Ivor Goes to...

    And the Ivor Goes to...

    Singer-Songwriter Gary Osborne is reunited with his long lost Ivor Novello Award after 32 years.

    Gary Osborne
  • An Insiders View by Mike Batt


    Had a great night last Friday with the BBC Concert Orchestra - it was a celebration of the Ivor Novello Awards (Britain's "Songwriting Oscars") - which are awarded by the Academy Of Songwriters, Composers and Authors. Radio 2 had themed "Friday Night Is Music Night" as an "Ivor Novello" concert, using Ivor-winning tunes, all linked very professionally by the erudite Mr Paul Gambaccini. They got me to close the show (nobody can clear a room like I can) - with two pieces from the movie <i>Caravans</i>; "Caravan Theme" - which I conducted, and "Caravan Song" which I sang, followed by "Bright Eyes" from <i>Watership Down</i>. I was privileged to get the Ivor for "Best Film Theme or Song" two years running - with the latter two songs, back in 1978 and 1979 respectively.

    I've conducted the BBC Concert Orchestra once before - when I was Musical Director of a whole "Friday Night" music show - and they were great then, too. They have to play everything from heavy classics to pop stuff, and I've often thought that they must inevitably sometimes play stuff that they really don't fancy - as individuals. You can't play such a variety of stuff, year in, year out, without that happening occasionally. It happens in all orchestras, Yet still, the first time I worked with them we went through a wide variety of stuff ranging from "Danse Macabre" to "The Closest Thing To Crazy" and there were smiling faces throughout. Actually, on that occasion there was a bit of a weird moment at the end when the horn section played "The Wombling Song" over the last chord of the famous "Friday Night" signature tune that I was conducting, just as a little musical joke. On that occasion, it was recorded a day or so before transmission, and - not recognising that they'd been pulling my leg (I thought they'd just played something not quite right - not recognising my own tune) - I requested that we re-record the last few bars for an edit. They must have thought I'd had a sense of humour bypass.

    Anyway - that's water under the bridge. I think it was about five years ago, maybe longer. Last night I just had the three pieces to do. In a way, it's harder, because you are singing stuff straight in without getting comfortable on stage. You have to walk on and go straight into the piece, - and there's always that background worry about whether you'll be in tune, whether you'll forget the lyrics. The concert was brilliantly conducted by Richard Balcombe - (except my one "guest conducting" piece) - and it was a pleasure from start to finish. The show also featured singers Matt Rawle and Alison Jiear. There was a really great moment when, after an interesting interview with my mate, lyricist Gary Osborne, currently Chairman of the Ivor Novello Awards - Gambo presented him with his Ivor from years ago, that he should have got for the lyrics to "War Of The Worlds", - and which had somehow been misplaced and discovered years later in a car boot sale. Funny. The Award had been for "Best Instrumental Work" - which was weird, because it's full of Gary's lyrics, as well as Jeff Wayne's music!

    There's a kind of old-fashionedness to "Friday Night Is Music Night" that only the BBC could keep going. A commercial station would have closed it down years ago,- but the BBC has remit to cover a wide variety of tastes, and of course there are some who snigger. But it does evoke a broad-minded, quaint, nostalgic atmosphere that is gone from most of our lives, and for me - as a musician and as a conductor - it is an anchor representing and depending upon great musicianship. You need to be a damned good trumpet player to be in the Concert Orchestra trumpet section, just as you do to be in the LSO. I work with orchestras all over the World; several times with the Stuttgart Philharmonic in recent years. They too, are a radio orchestra. They too, have a mass of different stuff thrown at them each week, to perform live on radio after sight-reading their way through a few rehearsals. Many years ago I was Musical Director of the Melbourne Summer Music Festival, and the orchestra was the State Orchestra Of Victoria. Another radio orchestra, also involved with the ballet and other Australian Broadcasting Commission work. These orchestras seem, to some - a waste of public money - something that might well be cut, to improve other public services. But it's vital (as demonstrated above in only three examples) that live music gets to be heard - or recorded by great orchestras which exist as living, ever-changing, organisms. Maybe "organism" isn't the right word, but it expresses what I mean. Sometimes when you are conducting, you can hear them breathing - you can smell a fart, you can hear a sniffle,- but don't let me catch anyone reading a bloody newspaper during a take, as happened on a recent Katie Melua (freelance) orchestral session at Air Lyndhurst Studios!

    What began as a blog about yesterday's "Friday Night" has developed into a rant/plea about the necessity of keeping State-sponsored orchestras alive. I would never have chosen to dedicate my life to music had it not been for the thrill I got from listening to Wagner, Rimsky-Korsakoff, Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, Lennon/MvCartney as enhanced by George Martin's arrangements. Great arrangers like Gordon Jenkins, Peter Knight, Les Reed, HenryMancini. Conducting an orchestral concert or recording session is like being host at a party. I'm not saying things never go wrong - and all sorts of things do. To me it's the ultimate thrill. To stay up all night writing a piece that has to be with your copyist by 7am so that the parts will be at the orchestra session you'll be conducting at 10 am. I've spent my life doing that. God knows how much coffee and how many cigarettes (when I used to smoke) I consumed through those lonely but exciting nights. Even if I've been working on arrangements for two months, somehow the night before the session is still often an all-nighter. My wife says to me, "why do you leave everything until the last minute?" I say "Because it would be a total waste of the last minute if I didn't"! The fact is, the fear of your deadline creates the adrenalin that improves your work. That's my excuse anyway.

  • Conductors Corner

    Conductors Corner

    Richard Balcombe is firmly established as one of the most versatile musicians of his generation.

    In opera he has conducted The Gondoliers (ENO), Magic Flute, Bluebeard (English Chamber Orchestra), Barber of Seville (Ulster Orchestra), Rigoletto (English Touring Opera) and Madama Butterfly (Central Festival Opera. He has also conducted for Bryn Terfel, Jose Carreras and Roberto Alagna and Angela Gheorgiu on BBC TV.

    He has been privileged to work with some of the world’s leading orchestras including Gothenburg Symphony, Orchestre National de Lille, Odense Symphony, Stavanger Symphony, Estonian National Symphony, Stockholm Sinfonietta, Sonderjyllands Symphony and Prague Chamber Orchestra; and in the UK the LPO, RPO, ECO, RSNO, Halle, Ulster, BBC Concert, Northern Chamber and London Concert Orchestras and the Orchestra of Scottish Opera.

    In the West End he was Music Director for Phantom of the Opera, Aspects of Love, Carmen Jones, Cats, Follies in Concert (Palladium) and Once on this Island; Wonderful Town and South Pacific (Grange Park) and Musical Supervisor for the national tours of Kiss me Kate and Top Hat.

    In 2008 he was Music Associate for the highly successful BBC TV series Maestro, and in 2009 he arranged, orchestrated and conducted Shall we Dance for Adam Cooper (Sadlers Wells).

    His recording credits include The Martyr of Antioch (Sullivan), With a song in my heart (Wynne Evans), Love Unspoken, Brideshead Revisited, Merciless Beauty, three original cast albums and The Musicality of Irving Berlin.


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