Archives for May 2012

Late Junction's Bogota adventure

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Graeme Kay Graeme Kay | 17:27 UK time, Thursday, 31 May 2012

Wilson Cifuentes

Wilson Cifuentes

Late Junction producer Juan Carlos Jaramillo introduces the musicians and unusual instruments from a recent session recording in Colombia. You can hear the results in Late Junction on Thursday 31 May 


The first thing that came to my mind when planning this Late Junction session in Bogotá was making sure we offered a varied and colourful portrait of Colombia’s music. Ok, I wasn’t after traditional folk music as such, as that’s not necessarily the aim in this type of session, but rather to find musicians who’d be inspired by the country’s cultural diversity and who’d be able to blend it all with modern, studio produced sounds.

After all, Colombia is an amazingly rich and varied country, 4.5 times bigger in size than the UK, and its complex geography has produced quite distinct and clear cultural regions, each with its own music – there’s every climate on earth at any given time; there’s the Andes with its high, snowed mountains travelling across the whole country from South to North; there’s plenty of seaside with coasts both in the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean, the latter a region which culturally belongs to the Caribbean; and there are huge plains to the East, and the Amazon rainforest to the South to add for good measure. And if you add to this the blend of races and cultures coming from the local indigenous populations still living there, the black Africans which arrived as slaves centuries ago, and the Spanish and European heritage which came with the Conquistadors, you’ll find that Colombia is many countries in one!

Hence, I got multi-talented keyboard player Carlos Iván Medina involved in this Late Junction project as ‘Distrito Especial’, the band he helped to create back in the 1980s reached iconic status in the country’s rather underdeveloped rock scene. Then came the other musician in this experiment: Wilson Cifuentes, as I wanted somebody rooted in the folk music traditions – and he fitted the bill as he’s played all sorts of wind instruments and percussion in some of the biggest folk music groups of the last 20 years. Wilson has other strings to his bow as he has a soft spot for Jazz and plays the saxophone and the clarinet in other bands closer to the urban scene. Both Carlos Iván and Wilson love to improvise, something that I hope shows in the session!

For the first piece of our session, which they appropriately called ‘kwisi’, I wanted Wilson to concentrate on the two types of flutes he brought along to the studio: first and foremost the kwisi, also called gaita as the Spaniards found it similar to a flute they had in their own music. The kwisi has been traditionally made from local cane by different indigenous tribes in the North of Colombia, near the Caribbean, and it’s the instrument associated with Cumbia, undoubtedly the country’s most famous rhythm. Wilson wanted to use, at the very beginning of the piece another, smaller flute, this one coming from the Orinoco region, closer to the frontier with Venezuela. The piece has a dream-like atmosphere thanks to the delay we put in the recording and its calm, reflective pace.

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New collaborations for Jose Hernando

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Jose Hernando Noguera Jose Hernando Noguera | 16:06 UK time, Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Jose Hernando, Roberto Pla and Lucy Duran

Jose Hernando, Roberto Pla and Lucy Duran

I'm in London and happy to be back, but as soon as I landed I received a call from BBC Producer Helene Frisby telling me about doing a session with maestro Roberto Pla and his Latin ensemble for the World Routes Academy. I said definitely of course it would be an honour to play beside this maestro whom I’ve had the opportunity to play with before when I was a young boy. Helene also enquired whether it was possible to play with Diego La Verde who is a virtuoso Colombian harp player. I was excited and I went for it.

My first session at the Maida Vale studios with Roberto Pla and his big band was amazing. Combining the big band instruments such as the brass section and the salsa style with the Vallenato style accordion - which hasn’t been done before - sounded really good. We played Cali Pachanguero, a salsa classic, and Colombia Tierra Querida which is a cumbia. I really enjoyed it - I added my 'tumbao' to it: tumbao means 'feeling' and Alfonso the backing vocalist was very excited to see the fusion between these genres; he kept on saying how talented I was which gave me more positive energy to play with them - it was a great experience.

The next day we had the session with Diego La Verde, the Colombian harp player; this was in the 'La Bodeguita' Colombian restaurant in Elephant and Castle. We performed in front of the audience inside the restaurant and did a fusion between Janero and Vallenato, another interesting mix. This virtuoso player improvised with his heavenly sounding harp, and we both interacted well. The audience was surprised to see us there but they certainly enjoyed it as much as we did!

Today's picture - Street Games

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Steve Bowbrick Steve Bowbrick | 08:00 UK time, Sunday, 27 May 2012

Recording of a TV version of Walter Gores ballet 'Street Games'. Lionel SALTER conducts the English Chamber Orchestra playing music composed by Jacques IBERT.

Walter Gore's 'Street Games', music by Jacques Ibert

A scene from a TV recording of the Western Theatre Ballet Company's version of Walter Gore's ballet 'Street Games' in 1961. Lionel Salter conducted the English Chamber Orchestra playing music composed by Jacques Ibert. The Lovers are Gail Donaldson and Peter Cazelet. Music by Ibert features in today's Sunday Morning with Rob Cowan. Listen online in HD Sound.

Steve Bowbrick, interactive editor, BBC Radio 3

Today's picture - Aaron Copland

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Steve Bowbrick Steve Bowbrick | 08:00 UK time, Saturday, 26 May 2012

Aaron Copland rehearsing with the London Symphony Orchestra in 1975.

Aaron Copland rehearsing with the London Symphony Orchestra

Aaron Copland composed his Appalachian Spring in 1945. Thirty years later he came to London to perform with the London Symphony Orchestra for a BBC TV programme celebrating his 75th birthday. The picture was taken at a rehearsal for the programme. Listen to the BBC Philharmonic's Afternoon on 3 performance of Appalachian Spring from yesterday afternoon in HD Sound online.

Steve Bowbrick, interactive editor, BBC Radio 3

Today's picture - Morecambe and Wise and Previn and Grieg

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Steve Bowbrick Steve Bowbrick | 09:15 UK time, Friday, 25 May 2012

Eric Morecambe, Ernie Wise and André Previn on 'The Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show' in 1971.

"Im playing all the right notes but not necessarily in the right order"

Donald Macleod reaches Grieg's best-known work today. He discusses the composer's twilight years and his piano concerto on Composer of the Week at 1200 and again at 1830. And, inevitably, our thoughts turn to Eric Morecambe, whose near-legendary interpretation of the work has been causing involuntary fits of laughter since Christmas 1971. The picture, from that landmark or British comedy, is from the BBC's picture archive.

Listen online to Composer of the Week in HD Sound for seven days after transmission and download the free weekly podcast to listen to on your MP3 player or in the car.

Steve Bowbrick, Interactive Editor, BBC Radio 3

Czechs hand big bouquets to Belohlávek and the BBC SO

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Phil Hall Phil Hall | 11:57 UK time, Thursday, 24 May 2012


Smetana Hall, Prague

Smetana Hall, Prague

BBC Symphony Orchestra sub-principal viola Phil Hall reports on an extra-special 'coals to Newscastle' tour and a singular honour for Jiří Belohlávek, who takes the podium for his last concert as Chief Conductor tonight. 

With Jiří Belohlávek 's tenure as chief conductor of the BBCSO entering its home straight, it seemed fitting that the orchestra give  two concerts in this year's Prague Spring Festival. Prague is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and always a joy to visit with every time seeming like the first. Resplendent with 
medieval churches, synagogues, cobbled streets and amazing Art Deco 
buildings, bisected by the romantic Vltava river.

After a restless night in a hotel that seems to have starched its  duvets into large crisp packets, we breakfast and walk across the old  town square, to rehearse in the Smetana Hall. This is the home of Jiri's old orchestra, the Prague Symphony, and he is proud to welcome us. The acoustics (like the weather) are wonderfully 
warm. Four years ago we gave a memorable performance of Suk's Asrael 
here (in the presence of the composer's grandson) and this 
time we bring another part of his trilogy: Zráni (The Ripening)  which glows magically and likewise Ravel's Shéhérazade shimmers.  But to fly the flag we open the concert in the evening with some  English string music: Tippett's Concerto for double string orchestra  to which the audience listens intently. For the Suk the orchestra is joined by three offstage Czech trumpeters and the ladies of the Prague Philharmonic chorus. This difficult  polytonal piece goes very well but still leaves me gasping for some Czech Pils.

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Today's picture - Louis Armstrong

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Steve Bowbrick Steve Bowbrick | 08:00 UK time, Thursday, 24 May 2012

Black and white photograph of Louis Armstrong in 1965, from the BBC picture archive.

Satchmo visited London in 1965.

Geoffrey Smith's Jazz on Saturday was all about the inestimable influence of Louis Armstrong. Listen again in HD Sound online. The picture, from the BBC's photo archive, shows the great man during a visit to the UK in June 1965 for a BBC2 programme called 'Show of the Week'.

Steve Bowbrick, Interactive Editor, BBC Radio 3

Today's picture - Alan Whicker among Sardinian bandits

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Steve Bowbrick Steve Bowbrick | 08:00 UK time, Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Alan Whicker and the 'Whicker's World' team with Sardinian bandits in 1968.

Alan Whicker in Sardinian in 1968

Sunday's remarkable episode of 'The Choir' which featured the American vocal group 'Tenores de Aterue' who developed a passion for the strange and beautiful vocal music of Sardinia triggered a search in the BBC picture archive for images of Sardinia. The caption for this very odd picture reads:

The 'Whicker's World' team in a lighter mood preparing to repel the bandits - Alan Whicker (third from right) and David C. Rea the producer (third from left). Alan Whicker follows the trail of the 'Bandits of Sardinia' in the latest 'Whicker's World' to be televised on BBC2, 24th February 1968.

Click the picture for a bigger version and listen again to 'The Choir' (in HD Sound) on the web site.

Steve Bowbrick, Interactive Editor, Radio 3

Today's picture - Barenboim and Fischer-Dieskau in 1970

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Steve Bowbrick Steve Bowbrick | 10:30 UK time, Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Daniel Barenboim and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau on the Janet Baker Show in 1970.

Daniel Barenboim and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau

Today's picture is one of a handful of the great German singer in the BBC's picture library. It's the only one in which he appears with accompanist Daniel Barenboim. They appeared together on an episode of Janet Baker's BBC TV show in 1970.

Steve Bowbrick, Interactive Editor, BBC Radio 3

Today's picture - the BBC at the Chelsea Flower Show in 1939

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Steve Bowbrick Steve Bowbrick | 16:27 UK time, Monday, 21 May 2012

Picture shows an Outside Broadcast fromt he 1939 Chelsea Flower Show featuring Elizabeth Cowell and C.H. Middleton.

1939 at the Chelsea Flower Show

We're going to start to dip into the BBC's quite awe-inspiring picture library (mysteriously named 'Elvis') for a daily picture here on the blog. To get us going, here's a photograph take during a TV outside broadcast in 1939, during the BBC's first phase of television experimentation, before it was shut down for the duration of the Second World War. In the picture you'll see Elizabeth Cowell, one of the BBC's first TV presenters, and gardener and broadcasting legend C.H. Middleton.

Steve Bowbrick, Interactive Editor, Radio 3

Radio 3 - The latest results

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Roger Wright Roger Wright | 10:34 UK time, Thursday, 17 May 2012

BBC Young Musician 2012, Laura van der Heijden

BBC Young Musician 2012, Laura van der Heijden. Photo: BBC

Discussions about awards and audiences remain fascinating to me. It has been a week of awards, ratings and audience figures.

Do we all feel a glow of satisfaction if something we like does well in audience terms and, admit it, an even warmer glow if there is something we don’t which doesn’t? And what do we think about something we don’t like which does well in ratings?

Look at the response to the BBC Young Musician competition last weekend compared to Britain’s Got Talent?  Those who admired the fantastic talent to be heard and seen on Young Musician seemed to cast scorn on those who watched the dog, Pudsey, act on BGT.  But we live in a complex world where subtle messages are hard to put across. Headlines about headline messages are so much easier to communicate, but there are more subtle things at play.

So it is with our classical music world – let’s celebrate the success of Young Musician and the arrival of the remarkable cellist Laura van der Heijden.

The Radio 3 audience has dipped a little this last quarter, a quarter which saw a non-stop Schubert celebration for eight days in March – but this is not a reason. Radio 3 audience figures do fluctuate around the 2m mark, and we had  a strong end to last year, but the amount of time that our listeners listen to us is up year on year –– audience figures are only one measure of our success.

Elsewhere this week the station picked up three Sony awards (gold, silver and bronze for a news feature Child of Ardoyne, a drama Use It or Lose It and Best Music Programme for In Tune, our drivetime programme) – a list which displays the range and distinctiveness of our programming.

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Alyn Shipton - Arriving at Jazz Record Requests

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Alyn Shipton Alyn Shipton | 14:53 UK time, Friday, 11 May 2012

Alyn Shipton reflects on stepping up to the JRR plate ...
Taking over a programme that has had a knowledgeable and popular presenter for twenty-one years is no easy task. So when I slipped behind the microphone for my first Jazz Record Requests last Saturday, it was in the knowledge that many listeners would be tuning in unaware that Geoffrey Smith’s inimitable 'Hello would no longer be part of the Saturday afternoon aural landscape. Nevertheless, I hope that they will find the mix of music requested by fellow listeners to be as compulsive listening as it has been for the last 45 years or so.
 Some time in 1982, I was having a drink with the programme’s old presenter Peter Clayton somewhere down the Fulham Road, and he bet me that one day I’d be following in his footsteps. I laughed it off at the time, but I’m sure he’d have had a wry smile to know he’d won the bet 30 years later. It’s an honour to be following in his footsteps and those of Humphrey Lyttelton, Steve Race, and Charles Fox, all of whom I knew, and all of whom relished the job. In their hands, Jazz Record Requests was a major part of my own jazz education as I was growing up. As a chorister I was often out singing at weddings when the programme was on air (it used to go out at around lunchtime on Saturday) so it was often recorded by my parents on to reel-to-reel tape, and listened to later. When I formed my own band at school, we’d cluster round the tape machine and learn the music from those recordings. So I have indelible memories of “The Blues” by Artie Shaw (stretched over two sides of a 78, and played by the studio manager of the day with the tiniest of pauses between the halves), Kid Ory’s 'Song of the Wanderer' with Darnell Howard’s mournful clarinet wailing around on no known system of tuning, and Billie Holiday’s wistful 'I Cover the Waterfront'. We transcribed the chords, worked out the solos and tried to play them ourselves. I’m sure we weren’t alone and that JRR has introduced jazz to several generations of players as well as listeners.

If I’ve learned one thing from the postbag in the last few weeks, it is that people’s choices are as surprising, insightful and unusual as ever, alongside requests for well-known evergreens. But there’s also frustration that opera has shunted the starting time around rather too much lately. I’m assured that - at least 'til the Proms begin - the teatime schedule will now be restored to normal, and at least we won’t be off the air every time England plays in a test match, as was the case when the Third Programme made way for Test Match Special back in the '60s!

Finally, it’s great to back on Radio 3 on Saturday afternoons, but not without a tinge of nostalgia for the last five years of Jazz Library. Thanks to all those who listened, and most of all to the team who worked hard with me to make the programme, who are shown in the photo below.

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Jonathan Dove's Portrait choice

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Graeme Kay Graeme Kay | 17:32 UK time, Wednesday, 9 May 2012

On Radio 3's Portraits Day, the airwaves and cyberspace were buzzing with suggestions for composer Jonathan Dove's Radio 3 Portrait commission.  Producer Janet Tuppen has the result ...

Jonathan Dove

Jonathan Dove

Thanks for all the wonderful suggestions you sent in for nominations to Jonathan Dove.  It's been a fascinating process, with a broad range of suggestions, including Gilbert & GeorgeHelena Kennedy, Richard Dawkins, Giles FraserTim Berners-LeeMeryl Streep, and David Attenborough.

Jonathan had a challenging time considering all the nominations, and after sleeping on it, has now made his decision: his BBC-commissioned piece will be a musical portrait about Aung San Suu Kyi (below), the Nobel Peace prize winner and Burmese opposition politician.

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Introducing Portraits Day

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Graeme Kay Graeme Kay | 16:26 UK time, Wednesday, 2 May 2012


Yvonne and Christine Lerolle

Yvonne and Christine Lerolle. © Getty Images

Bank Holiday Monday is Portraits Day on BBC Radio 3. Here, producer Janet Tuppen explains the exciting programming in store, and Radio 3 controller Roger Wright explains how listeners can help choose the subject of a commission from composer Jonathan Dove

Janet Tuppen: Bank Holiday Monday, 7th May, is Portraits Day on Radio 3 – the whole day from Breakfast to Jazz on 3 will be featuring music about people.So what is a musical portrait? How many composers have written music about people and how have they done so? These are questions I have been trying to answer since embarking on this project.

Aaron Copland

Aaron Copland  © Getty Images

As the producer co-ordinating the day, I have been researching all the music to fill the day.  When looking at the breadth of music as a whole, there are many hundreds of pieces which have no external subjects: the music speaks directly in its own way. But there are other works where composers have chosen to represent subjects, characters or events. Baroque concertos and tone poems depicting nature or events are well known. Music representing people is less often discussed, and these are the works I’ve been finding out about for this Bank Holiday.

I think the most obvious musical portrait has to be Elgar's Enigma Variations, where he affectionately and brilliantly depicts a different person in his life in each variation. This was my starting point in planning the day, and it is the culmination of Live in Concert from Birmingham Town Hall, with the BBC Concert Orchestra. Elgar is able to depict moods, and characteristics of his friends, and also events in their lives.  In the noble theme of the famous 'Nimrod' variation he draws on a love of Beethoven which he shares with his friend and publisher Augustus Jaeger, and so can subtly represent the relationship between himself and his friend.

From searching through books and catalogues and listening to CDs, I’ve discovered that many composers have drawn inspiration from the people they have loved – either spouses, lovers, or those who have spurned their affections.  These are often deeply personal works.  Schumann portraying his beloved Clara can be heard both in the Radio 3 Lunchtime Concert and in the evening programme Tom Service’s Audio Guide. Berlioz portraying Harriet Smithson in theSymphonie Fantastique can be heard in Breakfast, and Bartok portraying the young violinist Stefi Geyer, with whom he became infatuated, will be heard in Essential Classics. Famous names that crop up range from screen idols to royalty to dictators. Greta Garbo, Nelson Mandela, Marie Antoinette and Louis Armstrong will all be making appearances, as will Queen Elizabeth I, plus Chairman Mao and Joseph Stalin. Some of the unusual gems I’ve unearthed are the works commissioned at the same time as Copland’s Lincoln Portrait – Jerome Kern’s Portrait of Mark Twain, and Virgil Thomson’s homage to the New York Mayor, in his Mayor LaGuardia Waltzes.  These are appearing in Breakfast and Live in Concert respectively – see what you think.

Greta Garbo

Greta Garbo © Getty Images

Roger Wright: As part of our Portraits Day, we want to keep the spirit of musical portraits alive and well, so we’re commissioning a new one for our own time. Radio 3 is, of course, already one of the biggest commissioners of new music in the world, but for Portraits Day we’re doing something a little different. We’ve asked one of our most important British composers, Jonathan Dove, to write a musical portrait of a 21st-century public figure – a major reflection on a person of our time. His piece will then be premiered by the BBC Concert Orchestra later this year.

However in contrast to individual patronage of old, we want you, the audience, to help Jonathan find his subject. I never fail to enjoy the intelligence and wit of so much of your input – the speed of your poetic responses when we encourage you to write is just one marvellous example of your love of engaging with us.

So here is another chance for you to be involved and also to draw attention to someone you particularly admire: tell us the name of a 21st-century public figure - someone who hasn’t had a piece of music written about them. Who do you believe deserves to the subject of Radio 3’s new commission? Who would you suggest?

Many heads of state are already well-represented in existing music, so who else might we chose? There has been some fun in the Radio 3 office as we have thrown around off-the-cuff names – they have included Aung San Suu KyiDavid HockneyPD JamesTim Berners Lee,  Heston Blumenthal and, with my cricket interests, I had to offer the master batsmanSachin Tendulkar as an idea!  We ended up, inevitably, with a varied but rather random list and no doubt you can do better - so please let us have your ideas.

To hear what you have to say, Jonathan will be joining Radio 3 presenters throughout Bank Holiday Monday as our Portraits Day composer-in-residence. He can then come to his decision in the full knowledge that he has the collective brain power of the Radio 3 audience behind him. He’ll be back the next day on In Tune to announce his choice.   

You can text Jonathan on 83111, email Radio 3 at: – or tweet #r3portraitsday. Just give him the name of your person, and, if you want, perhaps a reason why. You can also visit the colourful Pinterest Nominations Board.

It should be a treat of a day with lots to discover and debate. 

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In the eye of The Tempest

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Jeremy Mortimer | 12:56 UK time, Tuesday, 1 May 2012

J M W Turner: Orfordness


Producer Jeremy Mortimer explains how a unique sound-world was created for next Sunday's broadcast of Shakespeare's The Tempest.

Be not afeard. The isle is full of noises,

Sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not.

Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments

Will hum about mine ears, and sometime voices

That, if I then had waked after long sleep,

Will make me sleep again; and then, in dreaming,

The clouds methought would open, and show riches

Ready to drop upon me, that when I waked,

I cried to dream again.

The Tempest 3.2.148-156

Jeremy Mortimer and Jenni Burnett experiment with sound effects

Jeremy Mortimer and Jenni Burnett experiment with sound effects

Caliban’s speech felt like a really good cue for a radio production of The Tempest. Where better to relish those aural riches ? Sound Designer Cal Knightley (and no, Cal isn’t short for Caliban) and I started planning the recording back in November last year, ready for a five-day recording session in January. I told him that in my mind Caliban’s island was somewhere off the British coast. I had visited Orford Ness last summer and was really taken by the brackish lagoons, the shingle and the bleak North Sea. So we ordered a whole load of sand and shingle to be delivered to the drama studio, and I started collecting reeds, grasses and some large logs. 

Perhaps more than any other Shakespeare play, The Tempest calls for music. There are lots of songs, a masque, and plenty of magic moments – all of which need scoring. I knew that I wanted to go for a folk feel for the music.  I had worked before with cellist Sarah Moody and I remembered that she was a composer with a flair for folk. Sarah is part of The Devil’s Violin Company and they agreed to divide the composition amongst the three of them. Luke Carver Goss (accordion) provided the music and – often drunken - songs for Caliban, Stephano and Trinculo, Oliver Wilson-Dickson (violin) scored Ariel’s songs (‘Full Fathom Five’ and ‘Where the Bee Sucks’) and Sarah wrote the Ferdinand and Miranda themes and pulled everything together so that the music worked seamlessly. We had a half-day recording session in the drama studio, with the cast singing live with the instruments. 

Gerard McDermot plays the washing machine tube

Gerard McDermot plays the washing machine tube

The music – particularly the wonderful and weird musical effects with harmonics and scrapes – provided a great basis for some of the magic moments. But I felt that we still needed something eerie for Ariel. Luckily Gerard McDermott (who plays Stephano) came to the studio with the very thing. His son had found a tube from an abandoned washing machine and had discovered that if you twirl it around your head it delivers a wonderful ‘whoooo’ sound – the faster the twirl the higher the pitch. And I brought in the steel top of a garden table – which sounded just like a thunder sheet. 


Al Weaver (Ferdinand) and Rose Leslie (Miranda) fighting over logs


We were almost there with the sounds – but still needed something for Ariel’s Spirits. There are a couple moments in the play when they are called upon to magic things up for the characters, first a table covered in delicious dishes, and then a collection of gorgeous cloaks and gowns. On one of the recording days we had a visit from a group of drama students, who were brilliant at playing invisible waiters and costumiers, and finally created the sound of a horde of wild dogs.


Studio Manager Jenni Burnett worked with the actors, trudging through the shingle, getting drenched in stagnant ponds, throwing rapiers to the ground, and finding just the right sound for chess pieces.

So much for all our sounds – but the real work was done by the actors. We had a wonderful cast, led by the brilliant David Warner who brings real poignancy to Prospero. As Prospero says, ‘Our revels now are ended’ – but I hope you enjoy the play.


  • The Tempest is broadcast on Sunday 6 May at 830pm. For full cast details, visit the programme page
  • You can download the play as a podcast by visiting this page after transmission. 
  • Read background details and a synopsis.
  • Listen to 'Come unto these yellow sands' from the production's incidental music.



The cast and members of The Devil’s Violin Company in the studio

The cast and members of The Devil’s Violin Company in the studio





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