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- James Welch - Cyril Taylor - BBC Drama Department -


   LINKS to other pages in this site and to other sites in the Travelling Days series:

Autographs Home Page:      Bedford 1939 onwards:      BBC in Bedford:
BBC Symphony Orchestra Personalities:      Bedford Miscellany:       Bedford School (1940s):
Composers:      Conductors:       David Gentleman:      Glenn Miller:       Instrumentalists:
Personalities of the 1940s:       Pianists:       The RAEC in Cornwall:
Religion and Drama:       Singers:       BBC in Cornwall 1949:      Colin Day's List-O-Links:
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THE REV. Dr JAMES. W. WELCH was the BBC's Director of Religious Broadcasting during the war years. The BBC's religion department was located first in Bristol and moved to Bedford at the end of July 1941. (A local Bristol newspaper reported the move under the headline, "Religion leaving Bristol"!).

    The Daily Service was broadcast each weekday morning from St Paul's Church in Bedford (See also Dr George Thalben-Ball). The BBC Epilogue was transmitted on the Home Service and Forces Programme at the end of each day's programmes (around 10:30pm). It was initially read in St Paul's Church but because of difficulties involved in blacking-out the church windows the programme was later relocated to the Bunyan Chapel studio.

    When the American forces arrived in Britain they brought with them a number religious programmes which they asked to be transmitted on the BBC network. The request gave cause for some disagreement between the allies!

    A significant example is reported that on one occasion, Dr Welch dismissed an American religious programme as "appalling mush" and declared that "I flatly refuse, either as a BBC person or as an Anglican parson, to have anything whatever to do with it!"


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The REV. CANON CYRIL TAYLOR was born in 1907. He was an Assistant to the BBC's Director of Religious Broadcasting during the war. At various times he was also Precentor of Bristol and Salisbury Cathedrals, and was involved in compiling the BBC Hymn Book which was eventually published in 1951 (and to which, incidentally, he contributed some twenty tunes!). Throughout his professional life he made a significant contribution to English church music.

    His most famous hymn tune, "Abbot's Leigh" composed for the hymn, "Glorious things of Thee are spoken", is now to be found in hymn books of most Christian denominations throughout the English speaking world. Cyril Taylor died in 1991.


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PETER CRESWELL. The production and broadcast of the dramatisation of Compton Mackenzie's novel, ‘Carnival’, provided the basis for a radical development in style and production of BBC radio drama. Val Gielgud, who was Director of Productions, and Eric Maschwitz, the editor of the Radio Times, were the main promoters and marketers of this landmark production. The director of 'Carnival' was Peter Creswell. In March 1929 Creswell wrote an article for the the Radio Drama edition of the 'Radio Times' entitled 'On Casting For Broadcasting'. In it, Creswell stressed the importance of the human voice in radio drama:

   " 1: The human voice is one of the loveliest of musical instruments.
     2: The role of the producer is to disembody the voices he thinks of using.
     3: He does this by listening to it with closed eyes or better still over a loud-speaker in another room.
     4: The radio producer has to recapture that invaluable first impression of the listener's point of view: perhaps one should rather say 'point of hearing'.
     5: Another consideration is the transmission of personality over the ether. He discovers this when he ceases taking notes when listening at an audition. Instead 'I heard and saw!'. Transmission of personality is achieved when the listener instantly sees gestures, carriage, colour of hair and eyes.
     6: The technique of radio acting depends on understanding the extreme sensitivity of the microphone.Theatrics have to be avoided and the naturalistic or natural needs to be adopted. 'Character' acting on the radio is a redundant concept and practice."

   Creswell stressed that radio actors should not 'elocute' and complained of 'a terrible unreality about their up-and-down sing-song delivery.' He was a friend of Edward Sackville-West and collaborated with him in a number of BBC drama presentations.

eddy-(sackville-west).jpg - 38303 BytesEDWARD SACKVILLE-WEST was a critic, musician, poet, novelist, editor and writer of record reviews and an heir to the title and property at Knowle. He was a cousin of the writer Vita Sackville-West and the model for the comic fictional character 'Uncle Davey' in Nancy Mitford's 'The Pursuit of Love'. He was a long time friend of the artist Graham Sutherland and composers Michael Tippett and Benjamin Britten.

   Michael De-la-Noy (who as Michael Walker was at one time a pupil at Bedford School - but ran away from it at the age of 13!) has gathered information from Sackville-West's diaries and many unpublished letters - from Evelyn Waugh, Alix Strachey, Duncan Grant and Raymond Mortimer - to relate the story of Edward's life. The biography, 'Eddy - The Life of Edward Sackville-West', which was published in 1988, is set against the literary, musical and social history of Britain between the 1920s and 1960s.

   Early in his career De-la-Noy worked as a journalist on the 'Bedfordshire Times' and the 'Brighton Argus'. He was also, at one time, press secretary to Michael Ramsay, Archbishop of Canterbury. De-la-Noy wrote a history of Bedford School which published in 1999. He also wrote biographies of Edward Elgar, Mervyn Stockwood and Michael Ramsey. Born in 1934, De-la-Noy died of cancer in 2002.

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'L'ARLESIENNE', a play written by Alphonse Daudet, was broadcast from Bedford School during the latter stages of the war. The producer/directors were Peter Creswell and Edward Sackville-West, the latter also responsible for the translating of the play into English. Bizet's 'incidental music', played by the BBC Orchestra, complemented the radio drama presentation.

   The cast was composed of many of the more well known members of the BBC Drama Repertory Company: Laidman Browne, Gladys Young, Lewis Stringer, Betty Hardy, Abraham Sofaer, Malcolm Graeme, Molly Rankin, David Peel and Noel Dryden. These actors appeared in popular radio series such as 'The Man in Black', 'Dick Barton-Special Agent', and Dorothy L. Sayers' 'The Man Born to be King'.

   The actress, Miriam Karlin, representing the British Actors Equity Association, spoke at the 1999 Trades Union Congress in UK regarding the present poor state of radio drama in Britain and in particular the BBC Radio Drama Repertory Company. She said, "Everyone here must remember listening to radio plays and being transported into a different world. Then, at the end, we heard the cast list of brilliant actors, most of whom were in the renowned BBC Radio Drama Repertory Company.
   "Do you remember the names - Vivian Chatterton, Marjorie Westbury, Norman Shelley, Gladys Young and Griselda Harvey? These were all household names. They were part of our lives. They represented the unique and world renowned phenomenon that was BBC Radio Drama providing quality, diversity, giving us a shared experience and stretching our imaginations. These are the things public service broadcasting should be about. Where are the Vivian Chattertons, the Gladys Youngs and the Norman Shelleys of today? What has happened to all that kind of excellence which is only gained from continuous experience?"

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