Britten’s compositions for radio are not all that well known, but comprise a surprisingly large body of work: 28 scores in total. The scores were written for a range of broadcasts – plays, adaptations of well-known novels, or documentaries – and are mostly scored for large orchestra. ‘Where do we go from here’ is no exception, with its band of full woodwind (including alto saxophone), brass, strings and extensive percussion section. This was one of 3 episodes Britten provided music for as part of a series called Britain to America, broadcast in 1942-43. The series was requested by the American broadcasting company NBC, and provided by the BBC in the UK, and intended to portray Britain and Britishness to its US audiences. As such, it resembled another series Britten composed for, An American in England for CBS, but had a considerably lighter tone, sometimes broadly comic. The extract of the programme here – with text by Louis MacNeice, the author of the series – may surprise some viewers who do not associate Britten with this kind of Broadway-like ballad. It was sung by jazz singer Adelaide Hall on its first broadcast in January 1943, and here is performed with great aplomb by Mary Carewe.

Share with us using hashtag

#brittenpears