The B.B.C. guards its secrets well. Its pet secret is the fact that Mr. Douglas Woodruff is going to broadcast; and when.
To baffle listeners a little more, the Radio Times mentioned last week that there was going to be a talk on Wednesday evening by a Mr. J. D. Woodruff; and not until the sleek, familiar voice declared itself was the identity of Mr. Douglas Woodruff disclosed. Those who happened to hear him were rewarded by the best wireless talk he has ever given. 1 put it with Mr. Harold Nicolson's talk on Sunday evening as the two most entertaining talks of the week.
The return of Mr. C. H. Middleton to the week-day programmes will be welcome to a few million listeners. As you know, they made him a Sunday feature some time ago; but the considerable protest that aroused seems to have decided the B.B.C. to put him back again.
The ground of objection was that talks on gardening are unsuitable to Sundays. The reason ought to have been that they took place at two o'clock on Sunday afternoons, when three-quarters of the gardeners of England were washing up the Sunday dinner.
Mr. Middleton is one of the half-dozen " top liners " in broadcasting, but as he is a regular feature, there is seldom an opportunity for saying anything about him. His reinstatement gives me one, the more so that I would now urge that he should occupy the same day and hour in the programmes every week, as he used to. The convenience of this to his regular listeners is greater, possibly, than the B.B.C. realises.
" Henry V "
What a success those " From the London Theatre " programmes are! Last week we had twenty minutes' sheer delight in hear ing the Old Vie company in Henry V. It is a dictum you hear a good deal nowadays I believe Mr. Robert Speaight was the first to use it—that you can't cheat before the microphone. This means only that the microphone reveals the weak spots in diction where upon the stage they might be concealed.
Mr. Laurence Olivier stood the test so well that it was difficult to remember that his sense of verse had ever been criticised. And l believe the microphone brought out something that he have never noticed about his verse-speaking: something that I can only describe under the metaphor of a line. The rise and fall in the pitch made a line which satisfied and enchanted the listener, as though it were from the pencil of some fine draughtsman.
It is good to see the name of Mr. Anthony Bernard once again in the programmes. Hidden away for months at a time in the orchestra-well of the Stratford Festival Theatre, this most sensitive and eclectic of English musicians is heard seldom if ever in the concert hall nowadays; nor in the studio.
I am delighted to announce that Mr. Bernard is to conduct the London Symphony Orchestra in a concert which will be broadcast on June 6. In the programmes are works by Gretry (1714 to 1813) and Sacchini (1734), as well as Respighi's Three Botticelli Pictures: just the music that has the hall-mark of Mr. Bernard's peculiar predeliction and genius of interpretation. Mr. Bernard many years ago was music master at the Oratory School, and was connected for a time with the music at Westminster Cathedral.
The relay of the second act of Don Giovanni from Glyndebourne, to any musical listener, must surely have been the crown of the week's listening. For my part, I wondered if I ought not to sit down and send a little conscience money to the Postmaster-General. To pay only ten shillings for that hour and a half alone is almost to cheat the Revenue.
I look forward to hearing the third act of Figaro from Glyndebourne on June 3— that is, on Thursday next. By the way, the last act of Falstaff will be relayed from Covent Garden on June 8, and the first act of The Flying Dutchman on June 11.
The B.B.C. is still preoccupied with the task of making us understand the United States a little better than it thinks we do. A long series of talks, " America Today," began last week. which will go on until August.