A continuing island theme paradise is certainly evoked in this beautiful piece composed by Ronald Binge in 1963, and forever associated BBC Radio 4’s late night shipping forecast broadcast each night at the precise time of 00.48 hours. Evoking the lapping of waves, it is irresistibly relaxing for those trying to slip into unconsciousness, and in form, is slow orchestral waltz, with a repetitive ABABC structure and features a distinctive rising and falling woodwind arpeggio.
Derby-born Binge (1910–1979) came from a working-class background, became a chorister, and a cinema organist and served in the RAF where among other things he put on plenty of camp entertainment. Sailing By, which was released as a single by the BBC in 1973 and played by the John Fox Orchestra, is his most played work, but his most celebrated is another piece of light classical, Elizabethan Serenade, first played by the Mantovani orchestra in 1951. It was used for Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, and won an Ivor Novello Award, and was later covered in a reggae version in 1970 by Boris Gardiner & the Love People.
Sailing By, meanwhile, will for many be associated with Viking, Forties, Dogger, Fisher, Sole and Bailey, Cromarty, Forth, Tyne, Humber, Thames Shannon, Wight, Lundy, Fair Isle, Faeroes, Portland, Hebrides, German Bite and more, it is also fondly remembered with another Radio 4 institution, the long-running series Desert Island Discs, on which thousands of celebrated guests have chosen eight discs that would keep them company in theoretical isolation. It’s a question all music lovers have asked themselves at some point, and Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker chose Binge’s classic on his personal musical voyage.
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