The BBC once had dozens of orchestras. Ensembles of every size: jazz and dance bands, full-sized symphony orchestras, chamber groups, choirs and choruses. They were needed to fill the airwaves with music at a time when an agreement with the musicians’ unions allowed only five hours per day of recorded music across all of the BBC’s stations. Today, the BBC still supports five orchestras and one choir and, between them, they perform over 400 concerts per year, providing an enormous amount of content for Radio 3 in particular.
On this day in 1934, the splendid BBC Midland Orchestra, pictured, made one of its regular appearances on the BBC’s National Programme, from a studio in Birmingham and broadcast on medium wave from the Daventry transmitter. The Radio Times doesn’t record what they played but they were on-air for an hour from 2pm, between a twenty-minute programme of dance music on record and an hour of music from the Torquay Municipal Orchestra. Frank Cantell, deputy conductor, directed the performance.
Masters of Melody is a very comprehensive web site about those early BBC orchestras and ensembles.