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Bernard Keeffe's Amusing Anecdotes

I was a producer on 3rd from 1955-60 and later a frequent broadcaster as conductor, features writer and presenter on TV as well as radio - appearances on Any Questions.etc.

I could write a book, as the song has it, but briefly, you've missed out a few announcers: the engaging, inimitable Tom Crow who brought a little humanity; John Holmstrom who was a fine actor with me in his Cambridge days; Jack De Manio who was dropped as an announcer after he trailed a broadcast about the Queen's viisit to Africa called The Land of the Niger except that he said the Land of the Nigger. He was moved to the Today programme in the days before it became a lion-taming circus. There was a programme called Music in Miniature where the items were given only at the end - Jack arrived and I dictated the items including Prelude in C - which he wrote down as Prelude, In Sea - I didn't correct him knowing that he would make a meal of it without actually getting it wrong.

Christopher Pemberton was a very nice chap, as we used to say, but a little unworldly (he later took holy orders). He was presenting an OB concert from Cambridge and I 'm afraid we got him drunk - which prompted continuity to ask what the hell's wrong with Christopher. He survived and forgave us.

Frank Philips was the quintessential broadcaster - another complete professional who knew that he was there to convey information as clearly and warmly as possible - he actually conducted himself as he spoke. Pamela Orr's beautiful, mellifluous tones are unmatched today - and wow she knew her job.

Despite the apparent formality of broadcasting in those heady days, it was actually far more flexible; one of the basic principles of the 3rd was that programmes should not be tied to the printed schedule - overruns and less often, underruns, were tolerated. But on one occasion a concert of early music under Anthony Bernard was ten minutes over at midnight with about fifteen still to come - the producer Denis Stevens walked into the studio and at the end of the item closed the score and pointed at the announcer - we wondered whether the listeners would complain - they did not. According to protocol Denis was out of order because the rule was that in a live broadcast (as most were then) the announcer was in charge.

I wonder if today anyone would dare put on a programme headed 'Schuetz and Scheidt' two perfectly respectable German composers - the announcer had to keep a straight face and voice.

Pronunciation was taken very seriously - there was (is there still?- I doubt it) a pronunciation unit that could tell us how to pronounce almost any language on earth, and off it I expect. If they didn't know they rang the appropriate embassy. My very first programme was settings of poems by Mickiewicz, the revered national Polish poet - that gave us great fun but we made sure every title was correctly given whereas these days one can hear as I did, an announcer make the name of the great Austrian conductor, Bruno Walter, sound like the one who had to be led to the altar.

Regional broadcasts sometimes raised problems - as you might imagine with such as the violinist Joseph Fuchs - when told how to pronounce his name the Manchester announcer said 'I can't say that' and insisted on making it rhyme with ducks.

When I was producing Beatrice & Benedict, an opera by Berlioz, the announcer failed to turn up - so I asked myself to take over- and there on tape is the BK of 1959 - not quite as I speak today, but at least I knew how to pronounce all the names.

Bernard Keeffe

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