The concerts that helped win the Battle of Britain are the basis of Patricia Routledge and Piers Lane’s hit show.

In the midst of the World War II, just when it seemed that for the safety of the concert-going public, live classical music must be put on hold, one woman came up with a bright idea to lighten the musical darkness. That woman was British pianist Myra Hess, awarded a DBE in 1941 in recognition of her contribution to the war effort. Her grand scheme was the National Gallery Concerts, a program of over 1,600 musical events that boosted the morale of 750,000 ordinary Londoners over a period of six and a half years. Indeed the concerts lasted well beyond the end of hostilities, until ended ironically in 1946 by artistic barbarians from the gallery itself who feared that music was proving an unnecessary distraction from the paintings.

The concerts which defied the Luftwaffe looked set to pass into musical folk memory until, in 2007, the National Gallery decided to hold their first Myra Hess Day and invited Australian pianist Piers Lane to take part. “A friend of mine was in the audience and he got the fright...

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