King's College Choir, Cambridge is one of the glories of the English choral tradition. They are best known for their many acclaimed recordings of the mainstream choral repertoire, but they also sing choral evensong daily in the College Chapel. There are fewer recordings of choral evensong in King's, but one of the classics was made in 1956 by Argo under the direction of Boris Ord who was organist and choirmaster there between 1929 and 1957, and we are fortunate that this is still in the catalogue as Belart CD120 (see sleeve below).
The many students of the King's choral tradition were therefore delighted, and surprised, when the BBC announced that as part of the 80th anniversary celebrations of their choral evensong programme they were to broadcast on October 25th 2006 "a 1950s archive broadcast from the Chapel of King's College, Cambridge." The surprise from King's experts was because it was not known that such a recording existed. When the programme went on air it was announced as a BBC archive broadcast from 1954, but when the music started it was clear why the recording was unknown to the experts - it doesn't exist. On An Overgrown Path can exclusively reveal that what in fact the BBC played was the 1956 Argo recording which was passed off as a BBC archive broadcast from two years earlier. And the story doesn't end there - the two anthems following evensong were again announced as BBC archive recordings when they were actually taken from the Columbia Anthology of English Church Music, also recorded in the 1950s and now re-issued on Testament.
On An Overgrown Path has rightly praised the BBC for their support of classical music. But they have also been criticised here for their sheer arrogance with the Beethoven MP3 downloads, copyright, Barenboim Ring broadcast (which was also from commercial recordings), Bach Christmas, errors in their Annual Report, lack of female composer representation, and Shostakovich saturation.
The BBC should be ashamed of their deception over the King's evensong broadcast. It is yet another example of their fixation with anniversaries and spin. But what is even worse is that the BBC has a vast archive of historic broadcasts which they are failing to exploit. On an Overgrown Path has already drawn attention to the innovative way in which the Finnish national broadcaster YLE is making archive recordings of contemporary and historic recordings available as internet downloads. The very same year that the historic King's evensong recording was made by Argo, Peter Hanslett, writing in the Cambridge Review, described the BBC's Third Programme as 'a service which is literally the envy of the world.' How times have changed.
Update - now read the BBC's disingenuous justification of their fraud via this link.
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