Humphrey Lyttelton: A Celebration, Radio 4<br />Composer of the Week, Radio 3

No Humph, no 'ISIHAC'. But who's next?
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Humphrey Lyttelton's death came too late for last week's column, but I still haven't got over it, and won't for some time.

Although not exactly unexpected, it was wholly unwelcome, for it brings to a close the 36-year-long run of I'm Sorry, I Haven't a Clue, and the show is unthinkable without him (although Barry Cryer did, in the show's early days, alternate the chairmanship with Lyttelton, if my Wikipedia-based research is accurate).

Plenty has already been said about his wit, not least in Humphrey Lyttelton: A Celebration, but still not enough yet, nor about the impact of ISIHAC on the internal life of the nation, because we have not yet fully felt its absence.

One looks anxiously at the birth date of Nicholas Parsons: only two years younger. When he bows out, an enormous chunk will have been taken out of our comic consciousness. In five years The News Quiz will attain equal longevity, but it's not quite the same, is it?

I've worked out how they organise the schedule of composers on Composer of the Week on Radio 3. One week they do someone I really like, then they have a couple of weeks of composers I don't like nearly as much. Fair enough, people with taste not as exquisite as mine have to be catered for. The week before last it was Debussy. I can listen to any amount of Debussy, and wouldn't mind if they played nothing but his music for an entire week.

Last week it was Richard Addinsell and Noël Coward. You only listened for the Coward, didn't you? Can't say I blame you. It was interesting to note that the BBC banned "Don't Let's Be Beastly to the Germans", because it was actually a bit beastly to the Germans. Churchill, on the other hand, made Coward play it again and again until he was hoarse. Go and listen to Coward singing it again: it was at the beginning of last Wednesday's programme.

But I grudgingly concede Composer of the Week's duty to introduce us to composers we might not have known much about before. I knew nothing about Addinsell, and am not now the hugest fan of his Rachmaninovian orchestral work, but it was extraordinary to hear Joyce Grenfell singing "Three Brothers", a song about the joys of servitude, unthinkable today, and all the more charming for it.

"For anyone under 30, I won't need to add that that was sung by Joyce Grenfell," said presenter Donald McLeod, generously overestimating the range of cultural reference possessed by 30-year-olds, who would have been no more than two when Grenfell died.

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