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27/01/2006
Fritz makes the news by: Leslie Bunder and Caroline Westbrook
FILED UNDER DAILY JEWS >> Arts
Loophonium
Loophonium

Today (January 27) would have been the birthday of composer Fritz Spiegl. But who is he and why is he making headlines even though he died in 2003?

Well, few people will have heard of him, but during the past week his work has been in the spotlight, with a legion of fans protesting for him.

What makes this remarkable is that Fritz died several years ago, yet few would have known that he was the arranger and composer behind Radio 4's The UK Theme, which has been played at 5.30 in the morning for the past 30 years.

The tune features a medley of songs from across the British Isles, including Danny Boy and Rule Britannia. Thousands of people have protested to the BBC over plans to scrap the music he arranged. Even Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman has expressed his shock and hinted that if it's scrapped from Radio 4 it may well be used on Newsnight instead.

All of which makes Austrian born Spiegl one of the most played composers you've never heard of and the recent scrapping plans by the BBC can only make his legacy live on.

So what do we know about him? Well Spiegl, who would have been 80 this year, came to the UK in 1939 on the eve of World War II his parents fled to South America while he and his sister ended up in Northamptonshire. A proficient self-taught musician, he had a great grasp of the flute.

He had a love affair with the city of Liverpool, where he was principal flautist with the city's Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

Among his other compositions was the theme to the 60s police drama Z Cars. As a publisher, his titles included How To Talk Proper In Liverpool (Lern Yerself Scouse).

In 1960 he also devised a music instrument called a loophonium, a cross between a lavatory and a tuba, which is now on display in Liverpool's Walker Art Gallery.

For more information on saving the theme: www.savetheradio4theme.co.uk

 
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