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Letters: Shipping Forecast-Inspired Music And Nostalgia

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Audie Cornish and Melissa Block read emails from listeners about Philip Reeves' report about the BBC's Shipping Forecast, a maritime weather forecast treasured by sea-farers and land lubbers alike.


And as Philip reported yesterday, the strangely soothing tones of the Shipping Forecast are a big deal in Britain.

ARLENE FLEMING: Dogger, Fisher, German Bight, Humber, Thames, Dover, north or northwest backing southwest five to seven, occasionally gale eight at first, decreasing four for a time.

BLOCK: Well, it turns out the forecast is a hit with lots of Americans, too. Listener Bruce Hansen(ph) of Augusta, Maine, wrote in to tell us he was immediately entranced when he stumbled across the forecast during a vacation to the UK. Hansen adds, it was nearly 20 years later that I discovered the internet broadcast of BBC Radio 4 and the forecast now with a woman's voice. And I don't listen to it every day, he writes, but once in a while when I'm feeling nostalgic, I'll dial up the latest forecast and listen to that cadenced, hypnotic, mysterious and comforting voice.

That voice, it so happens, has also inspired musicians. Philip Reeves told us yesterday about this song from the English band Blur.


BLOCK: Well, listener Noah Montina(ph) of Syracuse, New York, adds another song to the list. He writes, I was surprised not to hear mention of "Pharoahs" by Tears for Fears. It's a singularly lovely instrumental piece notable for both its power and delicacy and features an interwoven sample of a reading of the forecast itself.


BLOCK: The shipping forecast has also apparently inspired choir music.


BLOCK: Cecilia McDowall composed this piece called "The Shipping Forecast" to mark the 40th anniversary of the Portsmouth Choir. And then, there's this comedic take by the 1960s British vocal group The Master Singers.


BLOCK: But we end on the song probably best associated with the shipping forecast, "Sailing By."


BLOCK: The BBC plays that every night right before the forecast's late broadcast. James Myall(ph) of Topsham, Maine, wrote in to tell us that after hearing our story, he played this song for his one-year-old daughter. And he writes this, like me, she was soon humming along to the strains of "Sailing By" before I put her to bed. I guess there must be a genetic attachment there.

It was a nice reminder that while some things change, some traditions remain constant. We hope your letters remain constant. You can write to us by going to our website, Just click on Contact at the very bottom of the page.



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