Composer of the Week

Each week, BBC Radio Three explores the life and works of some of the greatest composers of all time; this week Donald Macleod discusses American songwriter Hoagy Carmichael.

With no presumptions of the listeners’ knowledge of the history of music, Composer of the Week remembers the greats while highlighting influential, yet less widely celebrated, composers to lightly educate the musically ignorant, or entertain the fanatic.

From the production of his first hit ‘Stardust’ in 1927, America’s ‘unofficial national anthem’, to his declining popularity in the 1960s, a week of Carmichael identifies significant shifts in 20th-century popular culture, from classic songs to 12-bar blues rock and roll in the form of Bill Hailey’s Rock Around the Clock.

Although 27 June remains ‘Hoagy Carmichael Day’, Carmichael’s music includes some of America’s most rerecorded songs, such as ‘Stardust’ and ‘Georgia on my Mind’. At times a forgotten hand in these works, his music is here rediscovered and his impact remembered.

Composer of the Week achieves a wide scope when approaching a rich canon of music, with previous weeks exploring the years of Holst, Mozart, Schutz, and Bellini. These daily hour-long programmes contextualise composers, considering personal and professional influences, in an informative narrative punctuated, quite rightly, by the composers’ greatest achievements – their works.

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