Friday Night is Music Night

Friday night has, in fact, been music night for over 60 years, first of all on the Light Programme and then on BBC Radio 2, making it the world's longest-running 'live music' programme on radio.

It features the famously versatile BBC Concert Orchestra, and is frequently broadcast from theatres and concert halls throughout the UK.

The BBC Concert Orchestra

Hailed by Sir Arthur Bliss as "a worthy instrument, ready at hand to present a brilliant new era of 'entertainment' music'" the BBC Concert Orchestra are very much today a jewel in BBC Radio 2's crown. The BBC Concert Orchestra made its first broadcast on 11th September 1952 on the BBC General Overseas Service with a repeat broadcast on the domestic service three days later. But the story starts 20 years before when the BBC brought together a group of players under the title the BBC Theatre Orchestra - their main role was to provide incidental music to radio plays - under their principal conductor Leslie Woodgate.

When not required in the drama studios, the orchestra gave light music and opera concerts. In 1949 the orchestra was renamed the BBC Opera Orchestra with Stanford Robinson as conductor. Its brief was to be an "opera cum second symphony orchestra capable to putting over the finest light music to great effect". Three years later the BBC decided the time was right for a light music orchestra and the BBC Concert Orchestra was born.

Today, the 60 musicians who make up the BBC Concert Orchestra broadcast weekly in BBC Radio 2's Friday Night Is Music Night. They are equally at home playing Bach and Beethoven as accompanying Dame Shirley Bassey.

Its Principal Conductors over the years have been Sidney Torch, Gilbert Vinter, Sir Charles Mackerras, Vilem Tausky, Marcus Dods, Ashley Lawrence, Barry Wordsworth and currently Keith Lockhart.

The Orchestra is featured every week on Friday Night is Music Night, but makes frequent broadcasts on BBC Radio 3 and on BBC Television (including appearances with soprano Lesley Garrett).

The Orchestra also performs annually at the Proms (including Proms in the Park), makes regular visits to the Royal Festival, Royal Albert and Barbican Halls in London, and appears throughout the UK.

In recent years the Orchestra has played with leading vocalists from the worlds of classical and popular music, including: Bill Bailey, Nicola Benedetti, Purple, Kasabian, David Arnold, Terry Hall, Rod Stewart, James Bolam, Alison Moyet, Alan Opie, James Morrision, David Gray, Lionel Richie, Julian Lloyd-Webber, Will Gregory, Ronan Keating, Cerys Matthews, Diana Krall, Sean Rowley, Pet Shop Boys, Jonny Greenwood, Anne Dudley, Bruza , Chloë Hanslip, Uri Caine, Artur Pizarro, Jamie Cullum, Richard Ashcroft, Michael Bublé, Dionne Warwick, Tony Christie, Soweto Kinch, Stephen Fry and Andrea Bocelli.

Contact information:
BBC Concert Orchestra
Room 5078
Television Centre
Wood Lane
W12 7RJ

Other guest bands and orchestras have also played on the programme including the Band of The Coldstream Guards.

Return to the Radio Days Homepage

If you have any comments, questions or further information of interest, please e-mail: