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The Noel Coward Society is the trading name of Noel Coward Ltd, a company wholly owned by the Noel Coward Foundation, a registered charity. The Society is autonomous, run by an executive committee

Noel Coward on the Air
Record Company - Past CD 7840, Pavilion Records, Sparrows Green, Wadhurst,  East Sussex, England
'Better get the children to bed, dear, Noel Coward's coming on!' So read the caption of a memorable cartoon in an American magazine, mid-fifties vintage. Coward had not enjoyed a hit on stage in over ten years, but was being lapped up in cabaret, in Las Vegas and on US television. In his later years, Coward was a successful presence in films, and one hundred years after his birth is proving Kenneth Tynan's 1952 prophecy: 'Even the youngest of us will know, in fifty years' time, precisely what is meant by 'a very Noel Coward sort of person'.

Coward had been a formidable power in theatre for two decades, but postwar austerity and recovery, combined with an influx of American popular culture, had turned that style of sophistication very old very quickly. Not that Coward could ever vanish from our consciousness. Someday I'll Find You was used, straight faced, as the theme to radio's 'Mr. Keen,Tracer of Lost Persons' from 1937 to 1955. Beatrice Lillie kept the 'Marvellous Party' going for years. Mad Dogs and Englishmen Go Out in the Mid-day Sun became part of everyday language and remains Coward's most quoted lyric (inspired, as we learn from this recording, by a 1930 journey through what would later be the scene of the horrendous fighting in Vietnam). And there are still those for whom Rachmaninov's Second Concerto was ruined by the film 'Brief Encounter' (but salvaged by Nichols and May's devastating parody). Extraordinary how potent cheap music is!

So it was that in 1947, a young radio producer named Harry Alan Towers scored a major coup by signing the elusive Noel Coward to a series of syndicated radio broadcasts. This would ultimately benefit Towers more than it did Coward, since it enabled the producer to secure Orson Welles in 'The Lives of Harry Lime' and 'The Black Museum' a few years later. As to the Noel Coward Programmes, they seem not to have found their intended audience, as the transcription discs are exceedingly rare. Thirteen half hour shows were put on sixteen-inch records, to be pressed and made available to broadcasting organisations around the world. Coward would be the master of ceremonies, introducing and describing his songs, which were performed by Joyce Grenfell, Graham Payn, Victoria Campbell and Coward himself, with an orchestra conducted by his frequent musical director, Mantovani.
This was still in the days before magnetic tape, when radio programmes were either 'live' or performed non-stop while a disc-cutter captured the sound on an oversized blank that could hold fifteen minutes. But a different method was used in the production of the Coward series, a method that would be accepted as normal a few years later but was unheard of in 1948: the different elements were all recorded separately, on 78 rpm discs: Mantovani's opening and closing themes, the songs, and Coward's spoken introductions. These discs were then played and mixed to produce the final programme with rather imperfect technical results - wow, flutter, slurred starts, over long pauses and occasional 78 clicks are in the finished product. (Towers learned his lesson. When his series 'Sir Thomas Turns the Tables' went out a couple of years later, stations received a transcription disc containing Beecham's witticisms and introductions, and an album of commercial 78s to play in between.) Not only technical problems exist. Some of the performances may have been too stilted and foreign to North American listeners, and there is the occasional lyric that would today be branded' politically incorrect' but which even fifty years ago would have been offensive to some tastes. Coward's own songs, heard on this CD, still appealed to a rather limited audience and were not 'family fare'. Had these broadcasts been better received, his success in night clubs and on television would have been no less deserved, but far less surprising. Imagine anyone today scheduling a television programme built around one performer and calling it' 90 Minutes is a Long, Long Time'! Even more memorable was the special on which Coward was joined by Mary Martin, titled 'Together with Music'.

The scarcity of these Noel Coward programmes is the cause of a substitution. When the only set of transcription discs known to the producers was transferred to tape some years ago, a problem occurred in the programme containing Uncle Harry. The tape was unusable, and a desperate search turned up another tape made under poor conditions. Only Coward's introduction was salvaged, despite the sound, and the commercial recording from 1947 was substituted for the broadcast version. Coward's recordings of the 'Pacific 1860' songs are almost as rare as the transcription discs, having been marked for deletion in the 1948-49 HMV catalogue!
This disc begins with another great rarity, a complete quarter hour of Noel Coward in the American radio series, 'Treasury Star Parade'. This may have come about as a direct request from Washington. Coward had received scathing criticism when he sang Don't Let's Be Beastly to the Germans on the BBC, and HMV refused to release his 1943 recording of the song at the time. But later in the year he had entertained President
Roosevelt with the song at a private dinner, with uproarious results and requests for encores. It was determined that Coward should record it for America, and the result was not only a more pungent performance but a much longer one, containing verses not heard either in the commercial
recording or the later occasion broadcast in the 'Noel Coward Programme' series. In addition, Coward recites his poem Lie in the Dark and Listen, and the quarter-hour opens with the same Waltz Medley that was a familiar
part of his wartime concerts and which closed the later series of broadcasts.
Veteran radio announcer jimmy Wallington provides the commercial, and elevates himself to 'lames' for this Coward may have spoken of having 'a talent to amuse', and was wont to refer to himself as 'that splendid old Chinese character actress'. But this 'very Noel Coward sort of person' will be with us for a long time to come. (C) DAVID LENNICK
(programme 321, starring Noel Coward)
1. Opening
2. Waltz Medley (I'll See You Again; Someday I'll Find You; Let's Say Goodbye; I'll Follow My Secret Heart; I'll See You Again)
3. Lie in the Dark and listen
4. Fourth War Loan Drive Message
5. Don't Let's Be Beastly to the Germans
6. Closing (Any Bonds Today?' [Irving Berlin])
James Wallington, announcer, with David Brockman conducting the Treasury Orchestra

NOEL COWARD PROGRAMME (Selections from broadcasts 1-13)
7. Opening: Someday I'll Find You (Mantovani & Orchestra)
8. Mad Dogs and Englishmen
9. The Stately Homes of England
10. London Pride
11. His Excellency Regrets
12. Where are the Songs we Sung
13. Nina
14. Don't Let's be Beastly to the Germans
15. Mrs Worthington
16. This is a Changing World
17. A Marvellous Party
18. 1 Saw No Shadow on the Sea
19. Uncle Harry
20.Waltz Medley (I'll See You Again; Someday I'll Find You; Let's Say Goodbye; I'll Follow My Secret Heart; I'll See You Again)
21.Toast Speech from 'Cavalcade'
22. Closing Theme: I'll See You Again (Mantovani & Orchestra)


Record Notes Index

1944-48 On The Air
20thCentury Blues
Ace of Clubs
After the Ball
Age of Style
Noel Coward on the Air
Apple Cart, The
Audio Biography
Best of Nole Coward, The
Bitter-Sweet 1988
Bright Was The Day
Cabaret Medley
Cavalcade - Play
Cavalcade - Songs
Cavalcade Suite
Compact Coward, The
Conversation Piece
Dear Madam Salvador
Girl Who Came To Supper
Got to Be Love, I'ts
Grand Tour, The
Great Shows, The
High Spirits
His Excellency Regrets
I Like America
If Love Were All
I'll See You Again
I'll See You Again
I'll See You Again
I'll See You Again
I'll See You Again
Invitation to the Waltz
At Las Vegas
London Morning
Mad About the Man
Medley - Noel Coward
In New York
Noel Coward Sings
Noel and Gertie
Noel and Gertie 1955
Noel, Gertie & Bea
Noel Coward Vocal Gems
One, Two, Three
Perfect Nostalgia
Poor Little Rich Girl
Poor Little Rich Girl
Poor Little Rich Girl
Pretty Littel Bridesmaids
Private Lives
Private Lives
Revues, The
Sail Away
Someday I'll Find You
Some Day I'll Find You
Songs of Noel Coward
Songs of Noel Coward
Songs of Noel Coward
Sophistication 2
Star Quality
Talent to Amuse, A
The Mster Sings
30 mins with Bea Lillie
This a Changing World
Together With Music
Tonight at 8.30.
Vocal Gems
Words & Music, The
Words & Music, Cole Porterl

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