Tuesday, 13 July 2010


I've just seen the obituary for the former BBC commentator Robert Hudson.

I have no memory of hearing him on the radio - he retired over 20 years ago. But some of the things in the obituary have struck me as having parallels with music making.

He made copious notes on every player that enabled him to fill the gaps in play easily. But, as he wrote in his 1993 book, Inside Outside Broadcasts: "Names are all very well and instant recognition is essential, but give a cricketer a mop of red hair and a cap slightly askew, and he begins to come to life."

It begins to come to life! If you make that happen, you can make an occasion memorable. As musicians we have to prepare, but we also have to find ways of bringing the music to life, to bring out emotions in the audience.

The other point concerns his meticulous preparation.

Hudson ... was well known for his radio coverage of state occasions – royal weddings, Remembrance Day services, investitures, funerals and five royal tours in 32 different countries. He commentated on 21 Trooping the Colours and would prepare for two weeks beforehand by interviewing every key figure. He would then make notes to himself on postcards, all written out in different coloured pencil. He would include everything from individuals' names to the times when he should not speak, such as when music was due to begin or the brigade majors would bark out their orders.

Two weeks of preparation, for one live broadcast (albeit a long one). It doesn't normally occur to us that commentators have to prepare as assiduously for a match as the sportsmen participating in it. So spare a thought for audiences who have no idea how much preparation goes into a concert. It is supposed to sound effortless, so you can hardly blame the audience for thinking that no effort was involved!

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