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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Bell Telephone Hour Encores

The Bell Telephone Hour, aka The Telephone Hour, was a long-run concert series which began April 29, 1940 on NBC radio and was heard on NBC until June 30, 1958. Sponsored by Bell Telephone, it showcased the best in classical and Broadway music, reaching eight to nine million listeners each week. It continued on television from 1959 to 1968. Throughout the program's run on both radio and television, the studio orchestra on the program was conducted by Donald Voorhees. Each 30-minute program generally features a guest singer or instrumentalist, with the Bell Telephone Hour Orchestra, conducted by Donald Voorhees, and the Bell Telephone Hour Chorus.

After early shows featuring James Melton and Francia White as soloists, producer Wallace Magill restructured the format on April 27, 1942 into the "Great Artists Series" of concert and opera performers, beginning with Jascha Heifetz. The list of talents heard over the years included Marian Anderson, Bing Crosby, Benny Goodman, Nelson Eddy, José Iturbi, Oscar Levant, Lily Pons, Gladys Swarthout and Helen Traubel.

The series returned to radio in 1968-69 as Bell Telephone Hour Encores, aka Encores from the Bell Telephone Hour, featuring highlights and interviews from the original series.

Here is a commentary from NPR Morning Edition, February 2, 2007 that you can listen to about Jascha Heifetz, who began the "Great Artists Series" on Bell Telephone Hour in 1942.

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References: Old Time Radio Researchers Group, Wikipedia, Frank Passage & Others OTR Logs, Archive.org, Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio by John Dunning, Australian Old Time Radio Group

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