On Good Friday in 1930, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) made an unusual announcement during their regular news broadcast. After the news anchor said, “Good evening, listeners. Today is Good Friday. There is no news,” the program went silent for several seconds before a pianist named Victor Hely-Hutchinson began playing light classical music.
On Good Friday in 1930, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) made an unusual announcement during their regular news broadcast. The anchor said, “Good evening, listeners. Today is Good Friday. There is no news.” Then, the program went silent for several seconds before playing 15 minutes of classical piano music.
A Good Friday with no news
This peculiar event, which has since become known as the “BBC piano interlude,” was a reflection of the slow news day that Good Friday typically is. In the UK, Good Friday is a public holiday, and many people take the day off work. As a result, there is often little happening in the news. In the absence of any news to report, the BBC turned to music to fill the airwaves.
For three hours, the soothing sounds of classical piano music filled homes and radios across the country. Despite the initial confusion and disappointment from some listeners, the BBC piano interlude became a beloved tradition in the UK.
In fact, it became so popular that it continued every year until the outbreak of World War II in 1939, which brought a halt to the broadcasts. Today, the BBC piano interlude is remembered as a charming and quirky moment in broadcasting history. It is a testament to the ingenuity and adaptability of early radio broadcasters, who were able to turn a potentially boring day into something memorable and enjoyable for their listeners.
A waste of time?
The stunt was not well-received by some listeners, who criticized the BBC for wasting airtime and failing to take their obligation to inform the public seriously. In a time before television and the internet, radio was a major source of information and entertainment. Listeners may have been expecting to hear the latest news and updates on Good Friday, only to be surprised by the lack of news and the soothing piano music instead.
However, many appreciated the gesture and praised the BBC for its sense of humor.
Despite the mixed reactions, the BBC continued to play music on public holidays. They even began broadcasting an entire program of light classical music on Sundays. This became known as their “Sunday Concerts.” This tradition lasted for several decades.