Trials of Live Radio OBs – Pete Simpkin

PeteI was recalling for somebody else the other day one of my more hysterical broadcasts and thought you might like to hear it too!

I can recall a story involving stereo transmissions, when in the mid ‘80s Radio WM along with several other stations finally ‘went stereo’. To celebrate we broadcast each evening a particular style of music to demonstrate to local musicians the possibilities stereo would bring to their ‘on air’ experiences. …Folk, Country, Asian etc.

My duty turned out to be the below stage concert broadcast announcer for a relay of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and I spent ages boning up on the works to be played and the musicians involved. I discovered for instance that there was no agreed pronunciation of the conductor’s name Neeme Jerve. Anyway the time arrived for me to announce the arrival on stage of the Leader and the Conductor and in true BBC Proms tradition I had my script marked so that I could physically cue them to walk from their position beside me, below stage and arrive in front of the audience at precisely the moment I said their name on air. The first two worked well but when I got to the name of the solo pianist for the evening, Peter Donohoe, he did not arrive on stage and my announcement of his name was greeted with an unexpected silence from the audience. I put down the microphone and rushed to the steps leading to the stage to discover what mishap had befallen him, at the same time attempting to assemble some words in my mind to explain to the listeners what had happened. I could see that he had got halfway to the stage but had turned back to collect a small canister of muscle spray which pianists keep close at hand and which he had passed by where he had left it at rehearsal at the foot of the steps to the stage. At that moment he reached the stage and the applause resulting gave me the time to get back on air and introduce the music.

At the end of the first half I handed back to Ken Dudeney in the studio for a pre-recorded 20 minute interval feature only to discover to my horror that the said piano soloist had decided to give the audience an impromptu encore which went on for some 6 minutes meaning that not only were the players of the CBSO being denied their interval lubrication but I was faced with an impromptu session of my own as the orchestra had decided to stick to their scheduled 20 minutes sherry consumption. Luckily Ken had a variety of trailers to help fill the gap, but I too had lots of fascinating facts about the second half programme and the history of the Town Hall with which to regale the mystified listeners until the Orchestra got back on stage and the rest of the concert continued without more heart stopping moments!

Pete Simpkin

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