THE CORONATION DAY BROADCASTS A B.B.C. Triumph
The pleasure a critic so seldom gets of saying something with which nobody will disagree is one I must now seize. The Coronation Day broadcasts from the Abbey and from the streets were magnificently done. This deserves to be said, even though the words have been on millions of lips and in every newspaper, because we are already beginning to take perfection for granted.
The engineers at Broadcasting House seem to be as anonymous as the builders of the old cathedrals. We should like to he able to call some of them out to take their bow. As it is, we forget about them, and not until some unavoidable breakdown occurs in one of these world-wide transmissions are we likely to remember them, or to reflect, as we ought to, upon the amazing skill and devotion and patience and industry that made their work on Coronation Day the wonder of four continents.
" Merrie England"
The best light entertainment was " Merrie England." Not that the Music Hall programmes were not good; they were excellent. But " Merrie England " was so delicately done, and had a polish about it that not only established the Variety orchestra once and for all as the most finished combination the B.B.C. possesses, but showed clearly what we may expect from broadcast opera, should it ever come to anything.
I sound a little ominous; but there does seem to be a doubt as to whether the B.B.C. will be able after all to carry its intentions into effect. If it does, and if it avails itself of the musicians who were responsible for " Merrie England," we shall have strings that are capable of playing a melody and a conductor in sympathy with the singers.
These two essentials, for Italian opera at least, have been notoriously missing at Covent Garden this year; and it looks as if any hope of performances in England comparable to those you hear as a matter of course in Rome or Milan will rest with the B.B.C.'s decision as to whether or not to go on with its opera scheme.
When I listened to "Merrie England" 1 realized, among other things, that 1 had not heard a true pianissimo since I was last in Salzsburg and Vienna.
Drama contributed its gala performance of Barrie's Dear Brutus. It was not calculated to make me dislike the broadcasting of stage plays any less; this is such supreme stage-work that it came over worse than most of them; it was not even the good penny-reading they sometimes make.
The casting was not too happy. Purdie, for instance, was in the hands of a young romantic actor, who could do nothing with it—except make it romantic, which was the last characteristic of that humourless ego-maniac.
But what a theme for a radio play is
the theme of " Dear Brutus "! I was reminded of what Mr. Granville Barker said recently about Shakespeare in the cinema. His advice was to film Shakespeare by all means, but to leave out the Shakespeare. Broadcast Barrie by all means, but leave out the Barrie. In other words, re-write Dear Brutus as a radio play and it would be a masterpiece. The two versions would Very likely not have a word in common.
" In Town Tonight"
Lastly, there was " In Town Tonight." And it was " In Town " every night of the week except one.
I think I must rescue one story from possible oblivion. One of Mr. Hanson's finds was a lady who was employed during Coronation week in taking visitors round London. She came to the microphone and told us all about it. At night time she took parties of them up in an airship to see London from the sky; but during the day she showed them the sights.
This lady's happiest memories of the week will probably be of an American who asked if it would be possible to take her little girl into the stables of Buckingham Palace and get a snapshot of her sitting in the royal coach; and of an old lady who was observed to be fumbling about just as the airship was starting, and being asked whether she was looking for anything, said: " Yes, I'm looking for one of those air-pockets I hear so much about. I want to put my bag in it."