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|Running time||30 minutes|
|Home station||BBC Radio 4|
|Starring||Ned Sherrin (1986-2006)
Edward Seckerson (2007)
Paul Gambaccini (2008–2013, 2014-)
Russell Davies (2013-2014)
|Air dates||since 1986|
|Opening theme||Bach: Partita in E Major|
Counterpoint is a BBC Radio 4 quiz. Described in the show's introduction as "The general knowledge music quiz", the questions are about music, from classical, jazz, pop, musicals, and all other forms of music. It was originally hosted by Ned Sherrin (1986–2006). In the chair for the 2007 series was Edward Seckerson with Paul Gambaccini taking over from 2008 until 2013, following the death of Ned Sherrin in 2007. Russell Davies took over in 2013 following allegations made against Gambaccini. Gambaccini is due to return to the show in November 2014 after being cleared of allegations.
The quiz is played by three contestants over three rounds, or "movements" as they are known in the show.
In the first, each contestant is asked five questions, two of which are illustrated by short musical pieces. Two points are awarded for a correct answer, or one point for a partially correct response. If the given answer is incorrect, or partially incorrect, the other two contestants may buzz in for one point. If there is a tie at the end of the first round, a further buzzer question is asked to determine the contestants' order for the next round.
The middle round is a solo round, similar to the 'specialist subject' format of Mastermind, with the difference that the contestants have neither chosen nor been given warning of the subject. Five categories of questions are offered, some of which are very specific e.g. "Beethoven's Piano Sonatas", while others are more general, for instance "sunshine and rain". The contestant with the most points after round one chooses from the five categories, the runner-up chooses from the four remaining, and the contestant in last place chooses from the three that are left. Each round consists of eight questions, including three musical cues. Again two points are given for a correct answer, but, in this round, questions answered incorrectly are not offered to the other contestants.
The final round consists of a variable number of questions, usually no more than twenty. Any contestant can answer these questions, provided they buzz in first. A correct answer will add one point to a contestant's score. If an incorrect answer is given, a contestant is deducted one point.
The contestant with the highest score at the end of each regular show wins the right to appear again, later in the series, to compete against other winners from the current series. The series is completed in 13 weeks, the last show being the final, at the end of which the series' winner is decided.
The show has been broadcast in BBC Radio 4's Monday afternoon quiz slot since 1998. Three main question-setters have been used by the programme: Ian Gillies, often referred to as Mycroft by Robert Robinson in Brain of Britain (1986–2000); David Kenrick, the 1986 champion (1987– ); and Stephen Follows, a former Mastermind and University Challenge champion, who also holds the programme's individual scoring records (2001– ). Counterpoint has been produced since 2001 by Paul Bajoria. At 8/9/2014 all pictures of Paul Gambaccini on the BBCs web pages for this programme seem to have been mysteriously replaced by photographs of Russell Davies. The first episode of the 2014 series was broadcast on 22/9/2014 chaired by Russell Davies.
The current Counterpoint theme is Bach's "Partita in E major", arranged and performed by Jacques Loussier. The original theme tune for the programme, when it began in 1986, was the Arrival of the Queen of Sheba by Georg Friedrich Handel. For one series it was opened by a specially commissioned piece entitled "Counterpoint", by musician Ray Davies.