Radio Production

Strauss House Productions comprises a team of associates from a range of multi media fields. Working independently of each other, as well as together, their combined talents form a highly efficient and creative team which is able to draw from a range of experiences.

We produce special features, documentaries and series for regional and network radio.

Hilary has over fifteen year’s experience working for the BBC’s regional and national Faith and Ethics departments. She is the former Producer of BBC Radio 2’s Good Morning Sunday and has produced a number of special interest documentary and music based programmes for the network. She has twice chaired the judging panel for the Gillard Religions Programming Awards. Her former boss, John Ryan wrote of her in The Radio Magazine “Hilary is one of our secret weapons … she has the ability to develop really creative treatments that make the religious subjects appeal way beyond the traditional audience for faith programmes.”

As part of the BBC’s Faith and Ethics team Hilary Robinson has produced the following programmes for BBC Radio 2.

BBC Radio 2 logo

Barry’s Forgotten Musical Christmas

Christmas Day 2016, BBC Radio 2

Produced for Strauss House Productions by Clair Wordsworth.

Barry Humphries as a little boy in Australia clutching a rare snowball

Barry Humphries as a little boy in Australia clutching a rare snowball

In this two-hour programme, Barry Humphries channels the Ghost of Christmas Past and uncovers a treasure-trove of rarities and long-forgotten festive recordings from bygone eras. Barry’s passion and enthusiasm for performers of the past provides the spine of this programme. As well as re-living childhood memories, he pays tribute to the earliest recording stars and celebrates the birth of radio.

Barry is particularly excited to be playing 78 r.p.m. recordings by his compatriot Billy Williams. Australian performer Billy Williams came to London in 1899, sixty years before Barry made a similar trip to further his career in 1959. Billy appeared on the bill at the first Royal Command Performance in 1912 and achieved much critical acclaim. Sadly, his fame was not to last. He became ill late in 1914 and died early in 1915. Thankfully many of Billy’s recordings survive allowing Barry to showcase a little of his talent on the radio today.

Barry also plays the rarely heard opening verse of Irving Berlin’s ‘White Christmas’ (performed by Leslie Hutchinson aka ‘Hutch’) and there are festive tracks by Gracie Fields and George Formby in memory of Barry’s Grandfather, who hailed from Lancashire and emigrated to Australia in the 1880s in the wake of the Gold Rush.

Other featured artists include: Arthur Tracy, Jack Hylton, BBC Dance Orchestra, Max Miller, The Comedian Harmonists, Dick Robertson, Edith Piaf, Ronnie Ronalde (renowned whistler and yodeller), Dorothy Collins and Leslie Sarony.

The Flood at Honey Pot Farm

Hilary’s story, The Flood at Honey Pot Farm was broadcast on Radio 4 Extra on the 5th May. It tells the story of a dog from Poland who helps to rescue a stray lamb. In at 5’04.

The Sheila Tracy Tapes

Wednesday 21st of September 2016 at 10pm on BBC Radio 2

Produced by Strauss House Productions.

Producer Clair Wordsworth, Executive Producer Hilary Robinson.

Sheila Tracy

Ken Bruce celebrates Sheila Tracy’s quest to discover the real stories behind the music. Sheila Tracy presented Big Band Special on BBC Radio 2 for 21 years, from 1979 until 2000. When she died in September 2014, Sheila left behind a treasure trove of interviews with great jazz and big band musicians. These offer revealing insights, not only into the development of swing music, but also into the lives, attitudes and struggles of the musicians who played it.

The Sheila Tracy Tapes showcase Sheila Tracy at work as a specialist music presenter on BBC Radio 2. The programme features a series of captured moments with some of the biggest musicians of the big band era.

Highlights include:

  • Band leader & clarinetist Artie Shaw, who spoke to Sheila before his death in 2004;
  • Before his death in 1985, Nelson Riddle spoke to Sheila about working with Frank Sinatra and Tommy Dorsey
  • British jazz trombonist Chris Barber chats about whether jazz and classical musicians can ever collaborate successfully together
  • British jazz pianist George Shearing discusses his first gig and how his parents didn’t encourage him to follow a career in music
  • American singer Helen Forrest speaks about the trials of working for Benny Goodman
  • Glenn Miller’s musicians (including Bill Finnegan, Billy May, Nat Peck and Bernie Privin) reveal what they really thought of the celebrated band leader
  • American bass player Milt Hinton and his wife Mona speak to Sheila about segregation and what it meant for black musicians and their families on the road in the Southern states of America…
  • In the late Thirties, the big band scene was at its height. Benny Goodman was the top band leader in America at the time and his band was the first swing outfit to play the prestigious Carnegie Hall. Jimmie Maxwell played trumpet for Goodman from 1939-1943. He told Sheila: “It was the most famous band in the country, I suppose in the world. Wherever we would go there would generally be thousands of people waiting for Benny to come out. In New York people would line up the night before to get in show the next day. I never had an experience like that. It was like being with the Beatles”.
  • Trombonist Milt Bernhart worked with Frank Sinatra in Las Vegas in the 1960s: “When Frank Sinatra would open at The Sands in Las Vegas. Opening night we would play and naturally he was playing to turn-away-crowds and he was at his best at that time, but the second night he would have been out all night the previous night drinking, carousing. So he was starting to come down with Las Vegas Throat…Frank would get it and he would be unable to sing the second night. They’d tell the audience and you can imagine the disappointment”.
  • Bill Finnegan started working for Glenn Miller in late 1938 at the famous Glen Island Casino. Bill arranged many of Glenn Miller’s biggest hits including Little Brown Jug, The Song of the Volga Boatmen and Story of a Starry Night… He told Sheila, “the band was in good shape. That was the summer that the band really started packing them in”.
  • Mona Hinton lived on the road with her husband Milt, who was a bass player in Cab Calloway’s band. She spoke to Sheila about the difficulties of life on the road for black musicians. She said, “for instance, in the south [of America] they had white drinking fountains and black drinking fountains. You couldn’t go in the restaurants to eat. You couldn’t go in the stores and shop. And unfortunately in many cases the black proprietors would realize this and they took advantage”.

Barry’s Musical Masterpieces

BBC Radio 2: 10pm 13th, 20th & 27th January 2016.

Produced by Strauss House Productions.

Producer Clair Wordsworth, Executive Producer Hilary Robinson.

Barry Humphries

The best Radio 2 series in this, or any month for as long as I can remember

Humphries weighs every word in his script, switching between what a child would hear in a record and what time has since taught him about it. He speaks lightly, firmly, allusively, letting the listener make connections to the music and its context.

Barry Humphries presents a new three part music series for BBC Radio 2

Barry Humphries presents a selection of his musical memories and aims to transport listeners to a bygone era with vintage records. As a little boy growing up in far-off Melbourne during the 1930s and 40s, Barry was captivated by the sounds and music emanating from his parents’ wireless set. During childhood illnesses, Barry’s mother placed the radio set in his bedroom and little Barry was so entranced by the music that he tried to make whooping cough, measles and mumps last as long as possible. Barry’s early musical memories include Fred Astaire, Flanagan and Allen, The Comedian Harmonists, Joseph Schmidt, Harry Roy and Judy Garland among others.

In the second programme on 20th January, Barry Humphries celebrates the age of the wireless. The show opens with Henry Hall and the BBC Dance Orchestra performing the song ‘Radio Times’ (a copy of the sheet music for which was issued with the 1934 Christmas edition of the magazine of the same name). Also musical comedians Norman Long and Stanelli perform an ode to the BBC Licence Fee with the song ‘All For Ten Shillings A Year’.

In the final programme on 27th January, Barry Humphries recalls his first job working at a major record label in Melbourne in the early 1950s during an historic time in the music industry. The era of 78 r.p.m. was over and the 1950s were the Age of the Microgroove! Also, Barry remembers his arrival in London on 1st June 1959 when there was a sense that London was a city on the verge of change. He arrived just in time to catch Randolph Sutton giving his last performances at the Metropolitan Musical Hall on Edgware Road before it was pulled down to make way for the West Way and just before a new generation made their mark on British theatre in the 1960s.

Good Morning Sunday

A weekly programme of music and guest interviews steered towards the religious and ethical issues of the day. Hilary first worked with Don Maclean on the programme and then spent six years producing Aled Jones before going freelance. Now she occasionally supports the existing production team producing Clare Balding and Hardeep Singh Kohli. Other stand in presenters have included Eamonn Holmes, John McCarthy, and Sally Magnusson.