JAZZ: Let’s honour the Great American Songbook

From the archives

Michael Henderson writes:

The BBC threw a party last week at New Broadcasting House, and invited 300 guests to enjoy the kind of spectacle the BBC likes best: patting itself on the back. Tony Hall, its director-general, led the proceedings, and he didn’t lack support from the underlings, who spoke of how excited they were about the improved service they will now offer music-lovers.

To be fair, we, the listeners and viewers, have much to be thankful for. The BBC funds five orchestras as well as the BBC Singers and the excellent BBC Big Band. If you like jazz, folk or “world music” (whatever that is – all music comes from somewhere in the world), you may not feel deprived, and Nigel Ogden is still making sure that the organist entertains. It’s a rich musical world, and the BBC does its best to satisfy most tastes.

Most commendably, Hall has launched a bold enterprise to introduce primary-school children to the riches of orchestral music. Ten Pieces, featuring works by composers from Handel to John Adams, will start in October, and at first glance this venture appears to be public-service broadcasting at its most enlightened. It is worth a hundred Glastonburys