I had joined the BBC as a clerk in the Gramophone Library after I left school, and after five years had worked my way up to one of the assistant Librarians. One of my main programmes was the all time favourite ‘Desert Island Discs’. I had to collect all the records required for the programme from the library, and test them in the studio for transmission quality.
One particular track of the ‘Castaway’s’ choice was ‘Questa o quella’ from Rigoletto. It sounded awful, and I thought it was the quality of the vinyl disc, so, I went back to the library and procured a ‘brand new copy’…..This one was just the same. With the arrogance of youth, I thought that I could sing it better. I played the disc ten to twelve times, learned the tune and a couple of the words and went into the studio equipped with head phones. I should never have touched the studio equipment but on this occasion broke the sacred BBC law. I set the tape recorder in motion, started the disc and over dubbed the track.
I was just removing the headphones when a BUZZ came through them. I heard a voice say “Mr Rendall, I think it is time we had a chat”. Because I had broken the rules I thought that I was going to be sacked. I entered the control room and was confronted by the programme producer Ronnie Cook, the presenter, Roy Plomley and the studio manager Larry Parker.
The first question from the producer was, “Have you enjoyed yourself today?” What was I to do? Should I lie, or tell the truth? I chose the latter and said that it was my best day in six years of working at the BBC. The next question was, “Have you had your voice trained?” I said “No” because I didn’t think that when I was 10 it was relevant. There was a pause, and the producer said ……..“We think you should!”.
They invited me to dinner after the recording and then went to the producers flat where I was taught my first Schubert song, ‘Wohin?’ from Die Schöne Müllerin. Roy Plomley and Ronnie Cook took it upon themselves to write to two London music colleges, and, within two weeks, auditions were arranged.