well known that in its earliest days, Associated-Rediffusion
started their broadcast evening with an arrangement
of The British Grenadiers.
But there was also another contemporaneous daily startup
routine – lost until now – which opened
with a completely different melody – a piece written
a decade earlier by one of Britain’s leading film
music composers. Richard Elen sets the story
to the music.
Associated-Rediffusion station clock, used until 1964
and known as "Mitch" after Associated-Rediffusion's
Head of Presentation, Leslie Mitchell, epitomised the
company's establishment ethos. However, it is possible
that another clock was used early on, which looked quite
here to see an animation by Richard Elen & Dave
Jeffery (105KB - Flash player required) based on a photograph
in Picture Post, September 1955.
start of commercial TV in the UK was marked by an immediate
search for respectability: a sense that, somehow, the
fledgling Independent Television had to emulate the
BBC in representing the Establishment – making
sure that British broadcasting was not tainted with
American commercialism. It was an echo of the earliest
days of Britain’s broadcasting service, when the
BBC was set up "to avoid the chaos that has happened
in America," as the Postmaster General put it.
Television House, Kingsway,
was formerly the Air Ministry's Adastral House.
The name continued as the nickname for Associated-Rediffusion's
16-pointed star emblem.
was this truer than at Television House, Kingsway,
formerly the RAF’s headquarters, Adastral
House, home of Associated-Rediffusion, where Captain
Thomas Brownrigg RN (Ret) ran a tight ship which in
many ways he no doubt saw as simply, "The BBC Television
Service with adverts".
Thomas Brownrigg RN (Ret)
fact, many of his staff came from the BBC, or failing
that from a company a little further down Portland Place
– the Independent Broadcasting Company which,
under its own captain, Captain Leonard Plugge, had founded
Radio Normandy, the first commercial radio station to
broadcast to the UK in the Thirties (although by this
time IBC was essentially no more than a recording studio).
Establishment ethos reverberated throughout the company.
It was perhaps most obvious between the programmes,
where visual embellishment – such as a station
clock with lion and gryphon rampant and a rotating "adastral"
(the famous 16-pointed star-like symbol the company
had inherited from one of its parent companies, tramway
manufacturer British Electric Traction and named after
its building’s previous title - see the head
of this article) – was combined with majestic
the first voice to be heard on Associated-Rediffusion,
on September 22, 1955, was that of chief announcer Leslie
Mitchell; interestingly enough he had also been the
first voice to be heard at the opening of the BBC Television
Service almost twenty years earlier.
Leslie Mitchell (1905-1985)
"This is London" he intoned. "This is
Channel Nine, on Band III, which brings you programmes
by Associated-Rediffusion every week, from Monday to
Between Mitchell’s two sentences was a short fanfare
– in fact it is the first in a series of five
fanfares written by noted film composer Charles Williams
(1893-1978), who had written the music for many Gaumont-British
films including The Thirty-Nine Steps but had
also contributed, like so many other composers of the
time, to the leading recorded music libraries.
to Mitchell's announcements and Charles Williams'
"Fanfare Number 1" from "Five Fanfares"
fanfare was preceded by a quite remarkable arrangement
of The British Grenadiers – a tune
that dates back in written form to 1740. Who arranged
the Associated-Rediffusion version is not known, but
it is interesting to note that the tune was used extensively
by Franz Waxman in his 1955 score for the film The
Virgin Queen, starring Bette Davis – but
without listening to it we can’t tell if this
is a red herring or not.
Following Mitchell’s announcement is an excerpt
from a familiar and appropriate work: Elgar’s
concert overture, Cockaigne (In London Town),
op. 40, although it crashes in rather abruptly.
completes the best-known of Associated-Rediffusion’s
early daily start-up routines – used from September
1955 to September 1956.
is not so well known – in fact I have never
seen it documented – is that there was a second
routine used during the same period. It includes the
same excerpt from Cockaigne and the same
fanfare by Williams, but the voice-over is female
rather than male (though using the same script), and
there is a completely different station theme at the
of my previous article will
recall that I was lucky enough to be sent a tape of
Rediffusion’s Schools Interludes by the person
who used to play the original discs on-air. He included
a number of other goodies on the tape: two of them
are marked "A-RTV Afternoon Intro" and "A-RTV
Evening Intro", and these, transcribed from 78
rpm discs by the sound of it, are the sequences we
are discussing here. The "Evening Intro"
is the well-known one featuring Leslie Mitchell, which
would have been broadcast at 18:55; the "Afternoon
Intro" is the other, and would have gone out
at 16:55, the station going off the air between 18:00
tuning signal was probably the one shown while the
station theme was playing
have had this tape for something like 20 years, I
imagine and, like the Arne piece in the Schools Interludes,
I wondered what the music was. This despite the fact
that I was four when A-RTV started and we didn’t
even have television in the house until 1960 (I worked
this out recently from the fact that I can remember
Pathfinders In Space!) and even if we had,
I was brought up in the land of ATV and ABC, in the
Midlands, a good hundred miles from any of A-R’s
output. By the time we moved back to London, A-R was
on the point of metamorphosing into "Rediffusion,
London" with quite a different air about it and,
no doubt, Johnny Dankworth’s Widespread
World of Rediffusion as its station theme.
This caption would have been shown
after the tuning signal. See below for the animated
day I was visiting some friends at the Findhorn Foundation
near Inverness. Every Friday night they show a movie
in the Hall, and walking in there on one such evening
near the end of the film, I heard a familiar piece
of music: the piece from the Afternoon Intro –
or something like it, anyway. I asked what the movie
was, and it turned out to be David Lean’s 1945
film of Noel Coward’s comedy, Blithe Spirit,
about an author (Rex Harrison) haunted by the spirit
of his dead first wife, Elvira (Kay Hammond) and how
it impacts his life with his second.
years later, I encountered the movie again on TV (again
missing the beginning) and there again was this piece
of music – with its strong echoes of the A-RTV
recording. It was obviously the same basic tune, but
a rather different arrangement.
never really did anything with this information until
quite recently. Having started to discover the wealth
of information and knowledge in the Transdiffusion
archives, I decided to transfer the old Rediffusion
pieces to digital in case they might end up on one
of the microsites.
happened to mention the afternoon intro to my friend
Peter Carbines – and it turned out that he had
Blithe Spirit on tape. "Have a listen
to the last few scenes," I told him, sending
him an MP3 of the Afternoon Intro, "and see if
you think it’s similar".
wrote back, "…although there are some recognisable
figures in the music, it’s not quite what you
are after. I’ve recorded the opening titles,
which you will find are more like the piece you’ve
sent." Lo and behold, the MP3 file he sent me
of Blithe Spirit’s opening titles –
which I had always missed before – was very,
very close to the first three minutes, ten seconds
of music in the Afternoon Intro.
But not quite the same. The end of the movie’s
opening titles dissolves into the incidental music
at the start of the film, while the Intro piece has
a very determined ending. As in the world of library
music, there are no fades in the TV station themes
business. Pieces have to end. In addition, there are
some extra touches in the Intro version of the music,
notably a hint of the 14-note figure that British
children know as the tune to the nursery rhyme "Oranges
and Lemons" which features the bells of various
London churches – appropriate for a company
aiming to give London "The Best of All Television".
to the "Afternoon
Intro" ("Blithe Spirit") - Audio Only (1.4
MB MP3) ("Blithe Spirit", Female V/O
& Williams "Fanfare No.1", Excerpt
from Elgar's "Cockaigne")
the opening music to the 1945 David Lean movie,
Spirit", score by Richard Addinsell
(edited to remove dialog - 750KB MP3)
Looking at the music credits for Blithe Spirit,
I immediately noticed a familiar composer’s
name: that of Richard Addinsell. Addinsell (1904-1977)
has had the perhaps unfortunate fate of not only being
eclipsed by a piece of his music, but by the name
of a piece of his music. Say "Richard Addinsell"
to people and they will ask, "Who?" But
say Warsaw Concerto to them and they can
probably hum it – at least they can if they
are over about 50, listen to Classic FM, or are Spike
Concerto was the Rachmaninov-like musical highlight
of the film Dangerous Moonlight (1941) in
which Polish piano virtuoso Stefan Radetzky escapes
from Warsaw only to return to the war to fight. Addinsell
wrote this and a great many other film scores from
the 30s right up to the 60s, and Associated-Rediffusion’s
earliest Afternoon Intro is not the only place he
turns up in British television’s musical history.
are still unanswered questions concerning A-RTV’s
earliest daily startup routines. Who is the female voiceover,
for example? And who arranged British Grenadiers? When
was the "Afternoon Intro" actually broadcast?
(It may have been transmitted just before 5pm; possibly
more likely is that it preceded the short-lived A-R
service aimed at housewives that began at 1pm.) But
at least one mystery is solved: Richard Addinsell provided
Associated-Rediffusion’s Blithe Spirit.
Afternoon Start-Up Reconstructed
the "Blithe Spirit" afternoon start-up
between September 1955 and September 1956 might
have looked. (QuickTime movie, 6.2MB, using the
audio above.) Click the Play button to watch the
that this is an impression and involves some areas
is possible that the opening Authority announcement
was not present;
assume that the "Mitch" heraldic clock
was used during this period. This is still being
An alternative version, with the "Picture
Post" clock instead of "Mitch",
is show below.
exact length of time the clock was on-screen
is not known for certain.
reconstructions, based on visual material by Dave
Jeffery and Rory Clark, begin with the A-R/ITA
Test Card with tone for atmosphere, and end with
an "A-R Presents" frontcap with eleven-note
brass ident taken from Cockaigne.
alternative reconstruction uses the "Picture
Post" clock instead of "Mitch".
This clock may have been used in the early days.
(QuickTime movie, 9MB, using the same audio as
above.) Click the Play button to watch the movie.
Picture Post clock animation by Richard Elen
to the "Evening
Intro" ("British Grenadiers")
- Audio Only (1.4 MB MP3) "British
Grenadiers", Male (Mitchell) V/O &
Williams "Fanfare No.1", Excerpt from
structure of the visuals was probably similar
to that shown above.
Elen is a recording engineer, producer, designer
and writer. He is former editor of Studio Sound magazine
and writes frequently for recording industry journals
in the UK and US. Based in the United States for the
last eight years, he is returning to the UK in early
2003 to take up a position with Meridian Audio Ltd.
A selection of Richard's audio-related articles can
be found at his Ambisonics
website, and his other activities at http://www.brideswell.com/
ITA tuning signal
and animation by David Jeffery and Rory Clark. Used with permission.
Page background and header elements inspired by art by Russ J. Graham.
"Picture Post" clock by Richard Elen from a photograph in
Picture Post magazine, 1955.