Wednesday 16 October 2019

Radio: Sing Hallelujah for Handel and the humble pint


Fond of a pint of plain: Josh Groban
Fond of a pint of plain: Josh Groban
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

Whether hearing it performed live or on a record, Handel's Messiah, with its instantly recognisable Hallelujah Chorus, is a staple part of the Christmas experience for many people.

It was first sung, of course, in this country, but the great German composer lived in England at the time of writing, as we learned on Handel in London - The Making of a Genius (Book of the Week, BBC Radio 4, Mon-Fri 9.45am). Conductor and musicologist Jane Glover read from an abridged version of her own biography.

It's 1712, a young composer is travelling to the British capital with his political patron. The latter would become England's King George I, the former one of the most revered artists in history, with an incredible range and quantity of compositions to his name. Glover was an erudite guide, the story was fascinating… and the musical interludes were pretty decent, too.

Now here's a little interlude of a more amusing nature. Staying with music, and singer Josh Groban's interview with The Ray D'Arcy Show (Radio 1, Mon-Fri 3pm). Apparently, Guinness really is good for you.

Speaking ahead of a Dublin gig, he told stand-in Kathryn Thomas that a pint of plain "gives you strength. It's good for the voice and good for the vocal cords". The likeable American added that "a little social lubricant makes you more confident with the high notes too." Something all of us are familiar with, after attempting the Whitney Houston version of I Will Always Love You following one too many alcoholic drinks - another fine Yuletide tradition.

Getting a puppy for Christmas is another seasonal ritual, though not such a happy one. The Hard Shoulder (Newstalk, Mon-Fri 4pm) spoke to Ciara Byrne, communications manager of Dogs Trust Ireland, about their decision to "suspend the rehoming of dogs from their shelters over the festive period".

This is done "to warn people not to rush out and get a dog for Christmas". Finding new homes for abandoned animals, Ciara said, is "the whole point of our rehoming programme" - but just not right now. Christmas is "the worst time of the year" for this, with a 30pc rise in people giving the animals back after a few weeks.

So, until January 15, they've put the whole thing on 'paws'. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

Finally, some festive fun with a Christmas special from the excellent satirical sketch show, Dead Ringers (BBC Radio 4, Fri 6.30pm). I spat out my eggnog on hearing "Theresa May" - an uncannily accurate impersonation by Jan Ravens - describe herself as "the nation's tragic mascot. Like that Facebook video of a dog with no legs who still wants to chase the stick."

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