The Best On Offer

By Louis Barfe

Normally, when it comes to doing Easter and Christmas previews, it’s a question of what to leave out, with the advance information from broadcasters promising a groaning board of riches. However, I’ll be honest with you. Looking at the press bumf for the upcoming fortnight, I found myself thinking: ‘And these are the highlights?’

There are some things worth listening to, obviously. On Good Friday, you could do an awful lot worse than leave your set tuned to Radio 3 from 2pm for the annual 10-and-a-half-hour marathon of sacred music from around the continent.

If you find yourself flagging by the start of the eighth hour, Classic FM can offer some respite in the form of Blowers Around Britain (Classic FM, Good Friday, Easter Saturday, Sunday and Monday, 9pm- 10pm) in which Henry Blofeld, recently retired from Test Match Special, narrates a tour of the British Isles in classical music. Also on Good Friday, Alan Carr and Melanie Sykes return to Radio 2 at 2pm, and 1980s singing sensation Mari Wilson is the guest. How will she get her headphones over her beehive?

Winding back to Palm Sunday (25 March, according to my Letts’ Schoolboys’ Diary), Classic FM offers Kermit and Miss Piggy’s Classical Collection at 3pm. In this two-hour extravaganza, the leading Muppets talk to Charlotte Hawkins about their favourite composers and recall Miss Piggy’s own duet with Placido Domingo. Normally, I would recommend this unreservedly, but I heard the new voice of Kermit being interviewed on Chris Evans’ breakfast show the other week, and, quite frankly, I can do a better Kermit than him. Listen and see what you think. If you missed it when I raved about it in these pages on original transmission (and if you did, why?), you need to catch the repeat of 1977 by Sarah Wooley (R4, Monday 26 March, 2.15pm). It’s a fictionalised, but broadly accurate, account of how Angela Morley, the composer formerly known as Wally Stott, came to write the score for the film, Watership Down, and it’s a joy.

Later, at 8pm on Radio 4, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown returns to her native Uganda to consider the awful legacy of Idi Amin. Then, at 10pm on Radio 2, Jeremy Paxman interviews Joan Baez. As he claims to be a ‘lifelong fan’, maybe he’ll go easy on her. Comedy fans will doubtless get a fair bit from Alexei Sayle, Jen  Brister and Sanjeev Kohli in conversation with Matthew Sweet as part of the Free Thinking Festival (R3, Tuesday 27 March, 10pm). Brister has a strong reputation in stand-up, and as a lifelong fan of Sayle and a devotee of Kohli’s R4 sitcom Fags, Mags and Bags, I feel I can guarantee insight into the thorny topic of what makes people laugh.

Wednesday 28 March’s Late Junction (R3, 11pm) has piqued my interest just from its one line in the listings: ‘Max Reinhardt reveals the sonic fingerprint of Field Station Berlin.’ This was a Cold War listening station, on a hill made by the West out of the city’s rubble, on top of an abandoned Nazi technical college. Yes, exactly. Late Junction’s always good but this could be fascinating.

Classic FM will be rattling through its Hall of Fame (9am-9pm, Easter Saturday, Sunday and Monday), with the 300 pieces of music chosen by listeners as their favourites. Then on Tuesday 3 April, Jane Jones takes some of the highlights from the countdown and plays them in full for The Full Works (8pm-10pm).

Meanwhile, on the World Service on Good Friday at 8.30pm, the CrowdScience series will be looking at nutrition and asking if the future of food is pill-shaped. Given the sensory pleasure of good food, I hope not. If we’re going to have any of the Dan Dare predictions coming true, put me down for a jetpack. 

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