The wrong VE Day

I’ve really enjoyed reading James Naughtie’s The Making of Music: A journey with notes. It’s a history of Western music by an enthusiast, setting the development of musical styles and fashions within their cultural, political and social contexts. The author’s breadth of knowledge and sympathy is such that you want to hurry away and listen to all the music he enthuses about, even (or especially) by the composers you think you don’t like.

But then you come across this at the start of chapter 16, when he arrives at the years after World War Two:

As so often on this journey, a chapter in the story of music seems to cling to one particular date. The seventh of June 1945 was a date to remember at Sadler’s Wells Theatre. The war was almost over. Next day had been called VE Day, to celebrate Victory in Europe, and battered London was happy. On the eve of the celebration, however, the opera audience was taken to a darker place.

The “darker place” turns out to be Benjamin Britten’s opera Peter Grimes.

It’s a charming conceit, but the problem is Naughtie has got his dates wrong. VE Day was not June 8th, but May 8th.

It’s just one of those little facts that you remember. And it’s such a surprise to find this particular writer getting it wrong, that it shakes your confidence. How many other “facts” in the book are wrong? Heck, it shakes your confidence not only in this book, but in the whole of Radio 4.