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The UK Theme
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The last regular 5.30am broadcast of the UK Theme was on Sunday 23 April 2006.
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More about the UK Theme
In 1973 Ian McIntyre, the Controller of Radio 4, was looking to give the network a new sound. As a result, Fritz Spiegl was commissioned to produce an arrangement that would mark Radio 4 as a service encompassing all of Britain. The piece was played at 5:30am when Radio 4 began broadcasting, taking over from the BBC World Service which provides overnight programming on Radio 4's frequencies.   

The UK Theme
is a fantasia of traditional and Irish tunes representing the four home countries of the United Kingdom as well the national maritime tradition.

The piece opens with the first few bars of Early One Morning (English, horns and trombones), before the main theme of Rule Britannia (British, woodwind and strings) is played.

In the second section, the mood changes as the Londonderry Air, also known as Danny Boy, (Irish, cor anglais and harp) combined with Annie Laurie (Scottish, violin) are played at a slower tempo.

The faster third section begins with What Shall We Do with the Drunken Sailor? (Royal Navy, piccolo) combined with Greensleeves (English, strings), then Men of Harlech (Welsh, brass and percussion) combined with Scotland the Brave (Scottish, woodwind).

The finale of the piece, after alluding again to Early One Morning, ends with a full orchestral version of Rule Britannia over which a solo trumpet plays the Trumpet Voluntary.

The piece is exactly five minutes in length and was recorded in 1973 by the BBC Northern Symphony Orchestra.
Fritz Spiegl
Fritz Spiegl, photograph courtesy of Stephanie de Leng
Fritz Spiegl, photograph courtesy of Ingrid Frances Spiegl.
Photograph courtesy of Stephanie de Leng.
Fritz Spiegl was born on January 27 1926 in Austria. In 1939 the family (Jewish/Catholic parents) left Vienna to escape the Nazis. His parents escaped to Bolivia while sending Fritz and his sister to England.

His education in Britain included Magdalen College, Oxford and the Royal Academy of Music. 

In 1948, he joined the wind section of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic as principal flute, a position he held for 15 years. Liverpool became his home for life and he used to joke that for the first six weeks he hated the place and then fell madly in love with it. Spiegl also played with Manchester's Halle orchestra.

Humour was an important part of his character and he saw the potential for humour in music. Spiegl's comic concerts - Nuts in May, Midsummer Madness, April Fool Concerts - attracted large audiences in both Liverpool and London.

He first hit the national stage when his recording of the Z Cars (the BBC's ground breaking police television drama of the 1960s) theme tune, complete with Ulster pipe band, entered the Top Ten when it sold 200,000 copies in its first week on the market.

Fritz Spiegl continued to expand his interests as a musicologist, broadcaster and author. He was a regular presenter on BBC Radio and in particular Radio 4 as his voice became one of the most distinctive in the medium. Spiegl regularly appeared on a number of programmes , including Start the Week, Up to the Hour, Fritz on Friday and Music For Pleasure.

Spiegl also had his own pet causes. He was a passionate and witty critic of the sloppy and ungrammatical use of English. Finally, of course, he will always be remembered for the UK Theme, his arrangement of a medley of traditional tunes which for 33 years launched each day's broadcasting on Radio 4.

Fritz Spiegl died suddenly in 2003 during a Sunday lunch with some friends and his second wife, Ingrid Frances Spiegl.

Selected books by Fritz Spiegl
Keep Taking the Tabloids. What the Papers Say and How They Say It (1983)
The Joy of Words. A Bedside Book for English Lovers (1986)
The Lives, Wives and Loves of the Great Composers (1996)
An Illustrated Everyday History of Liverpool and Merseyside (1998)
MuSick Notes: A Medical Songbook (2001)
Contradictionary: Of Confusibles, Lookalikes and Soundalikes (published posthumously in 2003)

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