Friday, 11 December 2015

Christmas Radio

From Sinatra to Motown, great seasonal listening

Written by Louis Barfe
It’s Frank Sinatra’s world, we just live in it, as the saying goes. So, with the centenary of his birth on 12 December, perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised that he’s taking over Radio 4 Extra for A Frank Sinatra Christmas. Among the treats on offer are two episodes of his 1950s NBC radio drama series Rocky Fortune in the Mystery Theatre slot (21-25 December and 25-28 December, 10am, 3pm and 3am) and a Great Lives episode first broadcast on Radio 4 in 2009 (Christmas Eve, 6.30pm), in which Matthew Parris speaks to Colin Murray and Sinatra expert Will Friedwald. There’s also The Gun Goes To Hollywood, a play about the troubled making of The Pride And The Passion, in which Sinatra (played here by Jonathan Silverman) starred with Cary Grant and Sophia Loren.

Another anniversary being marked on the wireless is the half-century since the biggest names of Detroit soul marched into the Rediffusion TV studios by Wembley Park station for an edition of Ready Steady Go called The Sound Of Motown. In an all-new two-hour documentary (R2, Boxing Day, Lynda Snell of The Archers A Frank Sinatra Christmas From Sinatra to Motown, great seasonal listening 6pm), Paul Gambaccini reunites Motown founder Berry Gordy with Vicki Wickham, who produced the original show, while contemporary artists reinterpret the songs.

radio-590-2From left: Róisín Murphy. Katit Puckrik

Fans of The Archers and coy nudity on the radio will be thrilled that Lynda Snell is mounting a production of Calendar Girls to be heard on Radio 4 on 27 December at 7.15pm. Siân Phillips is coming in to help. I might overcome my Archers antipathy for long enough to listen.

All genres of music can be found on the wireless over Christmas and New Year, and I suspect the highlight for me will be Baylen Leonard’s Country Christmas on Radio 2, Christmas Eve at 8pm. Leonard was a delight on Danny Baker’s much-missed BBC London show, and his selection of festive Preston music (Preston music? Ask Terry Wogan) will bring joy to the world.

Meanwhile, Katie Puckrik is back with another of her annual selections of Yacht Rock (R2, New Year’s Day, 10pm), and 6 Music’s Three Wise Women will surely be worthy of ear time too. On Christmas Day at 7pm, the wisdom is chosen from the archives by composer and performance artist Laurie Anderson. Boxing Day sees Róisín Murphy choosing a couple of fine documentaries, including Sound Of A City: Manchester. Then, on 27 December, Peaches Is In Charge.

radio-590-3Frpm left: Lynda Snell of The Archers. The Sound of Motown

I have trouble with programmes where the whole idea seems to have sprung from the punning title, so I approached the preview of comedian Carey Marx’s Intensive Carey (R4, 31 December, 6.30pm) with trepidation. Happily, I found myself laughing raucously at the story of Marx’s heart attack and the way he deals with it. It’s bawdy to the point of filth, so be prepared. I also liked a doctor after the attack saying ‘You can’t do comedy’, and Marx remarking it wasn’t the first time he’d been told that.

Finally, I know I’m leaning on an open door when I tell you about At Home With Mary Berry on Radio 2 at noon on Christmas Eve. As if that wasn’t enough, Liza Tarbuck is in it too. In the same slot on Christmas Day, Paul O’Grady is in the chair and I can’t think of anyone better to accompany the lunch preparations. God bless us, every one.

Louis on Twitter: @LFBarfe or email: 

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