Soanes in 2014
24 June 1976
Lowestoft, Suffolk, England
|Occupation||Journalist, Presenter, Newsreader|
|Notable credit(s)||BBC Radio 4
Zebedee Soanes (born 24 June 1976), is a newsreader for BBC Radio 4, most notably of the Six O’Clock News. Previously he was a continuity announcer for Radio 4, read the Shipping Forecast, and was a presenter for BBC Radio 4 Extra. More recently he has collaborated in a number of concert performances, particularly with the vocal ensemble Opus Anglicanum.
Early life and education
Soanes was born in Lowestoft in Suffolk, the son of a Methodist minister. He is named after the Biblical fisherman Zebedee, who was the father of two of Jesus' disciples. Soanes has two sisters, Anna and Rebecca.
Soanes was educated at Northfield St Nicholas Infants School and then Harris Middle School in Lowestoft and then at Denes High School, a state comprehensive school in the town, followed by the University of East Anglia, where he read Drama and Creative Writing. He then taught drama and toured Britain as an actor.
Life and career
Early career and Shipping Forecast
Near the end of his degree course Soanes appeared on a BBC Local Radio station, promoting a charity improvised comedy show in which he was taking part. He was spotted by one of the presenters and a few days later Soanes was called in to do some improvisation live on air.
Soanes was a presentation announcer for the television channels BBC One and BBC Two. His was the first voice of BBC Four when the digital channel launched in March 2002 and was the channel's sole announcer for the first ten months.
In 2001, he began reading the Shipping Forecast, a weather report for the seas around the British Isles, which is broadcast four times a day on BBC Radio 4. For the 2008 Beijing Olympics he was asked to read the shipping forecast to a worldwide audience of over a billion. Describing the forecast in 2012, Soanes said: "To the non-nautical, [it] is a nightly litany of the sea... It reinforces a sense of being islanders with a proud seafaring past. Whilst the listener is safely tucked-up in their bed, they can imagine small fishing-boats bobbing about at Plymouth or 170ft waves crashing against Rockall."
Later radio career
Soanes has been a newsreader for Radio 4's Today, PM and the Six O’Clock News. He has also appeared on The News Quiz with Sandi Toksvig and in 2013 accompanied the programme on its first visit to the Edinburgh Festival.
He acted with Toby Jones in the radio drama Beautiful Dreamers and has reported for BBC Radio's long-running series From Our Own Correspondent. He has also presented BBC Radio 3’s Saturday Classics, the first edition of which consisted of three hours of favourite sea-inspired music. In December 2010, Radio Times magazine placed Soanes in the list of the seven most recognisable voices in Britain. He voiced a series of documentaries for the Doctor Who 50th anniversary, the launch of Sherlock in the US and is in Mayday, a short film with Juliet Stevenson.
In September 2012, at a dress rehearsal for his new show, comedian Julian Clary "married" Soanes at the end of the show. Author Francesca Simon, creator of Horrid Henry, featured Soanes as the newsreader in The Lost Gods, her 2013 book for older children.
In November 2014 he appeared again on BBC Radio 4's The News Quiz with Sandi Toksvig.
In a July 2015 poll of favourite radio voices in The Sunday Times, Soanes was voted as the favourite male voice. His voice was described, by the paper's radio critic Paul Donovan, as smoother than that of the favourite female Jane Garvey and as "evoking an earlier, more formal BBC". In September 2015, he played a vintage radio announcer in the BBC Radio 4 drama Dead Girls Tell No Tales.
In April 2016 Soanes played Derek Nimmo in the radio drama All Mouth and Trousers, by Mark Burgess, the story behind the making of the television comedy series All Gas and Gaiters. The reviews for the programme were generally positive with The Sunday Times' Paul Donovan saying "Zeb Soanes is terrific as its star, Derek Nimmo" and Gillian Reynolds of The Sunday Telegraph commenting "Zeb Soanes makes an ace Derek Nimmo."
The Proms and concert performances
Soanes returned to BBC Four television in August 2006 as a presenter for the BBC Proms. In 2017 he presented a television tribute to The Proms on the occasion of the First Night of The Proms, in sepia tone in the style of a vintage programme. The sequence included photographs, radio and TV footage from the history of the concerts, with Soanes partly presenting in Received Pronunciation, fitting the style of early BBC programmes.
In November 2014 he participated in a concert by the vocal ensemble Opus Anglicanum at Wells Cathedral, featuring the poetry of George Herbert and has appeared in numerous productions with them since. The ensemble is currently touring an entire reading of Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, set to music by Lynne Plowman, and a CD/download recording is to be released in due course.
In 2016 Soanes was narrator for The Snowman by the Brandenburg Sinfonia at St Martin-in-the-Fields, with Andrew Earis conductor, and was narrator for Peter and the Wolf and Little Red Riding Hood at the Wimbledon International Music Festival, with Leo Geyer conductor.
In March 2017 Soanes appeared, alongside Carole Boyd, in a new recording of Facade by William Walton and Edith Sitwell, produced by Andrew Keener. Christine Labroche, of concertoNet.com said of the recording: "These two celebrated voices chant the strange poems of Edith Sitwell with an infallible rhythm and a perfect, stretched or swift diction. The originality of this new version comes from the judicious way in which Boyd and Soanes distributed not only the twenty-one poems but sometimes the verses within each. Boyd and Soanes allow the listener to constantly grasp striking fleeting images and revel in not only the associations of words but their sonority. The charm, the off-the-wall bravery and the apparent carefreeness of this new version deserve much attention."
The Soanes family’s presence in Lowestoft dates back to the 1700s. Interviewed in 2011, Soanes said, "I’m the only one of my immediate family who’s left the area, gone to university, and come to London."
Soanes lives in Islington, North London and returns to Suffolk whenever he can. Formerly a resident of Highgate, he was made a Freeman of Highgate, by means of the ancient Swearing on the Horns ceremony, on 25 February 2015, at the Duke’s Head public house.
- "For those in peril on the sea". East Anglian Daily Times. 16 December 2008. Retrieved 10 July 2014.
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- Hudson, Alex (17 February 2012). "BBC News - The lull of the Shipping Forecast". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 23 July 2014.
- "Heard but not Seen: Seven Recognisable Voices". Zebsoanes.com. 7 December 2010. Retrieved 23 July 2014.
- "Celebrity Big Brother 2012: Julian Clary premieres his new show tonight and Strictly Come Dancing fans want him as presenter". Unreality TV. 14 September 2012. Retrieved 8 July 2014.
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- "3. The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield Volume 03: The Unbound Universe - Doctor Who - The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield - Big Finish". bigfinish.com. Retrieved 3 April 2017.
- "BBC Proms - First Night of the Proms: the morning after the night before - BBC Radio 3". BBC. Retrieved 15 July 2017.
- "Noye’s Fludde - Britten Centenary". Zebsoanes.com. 24 November 2013. Retrieved 7 July 2014.
- "Welcome to Opus Anglicanum". opus-anglicanum.com. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
- "Past Events". zebsoanes.com. Retrieved 4 April 2017.
- Keener, Andrew (31 March 2017). "The special challenges of recording Walton's Façade". gramophone.co.uk. Retrieved 1 April 2017.
- "ConcertoNet.com - The Classical Music Network" (in French). concertonet.com. Retrieved 3 April 2017.
- Dan Moe & Ruyman Rodriguez. "Awards for Young Musicians | Giving talent a chance | Zeb Soanes". A-y-m.org. Retrieved 10 July 2014.
- "British Association of Performing Arts Medicine | Zeb Soanes". bapam.org.uk. Retrieved 29 September 2014.
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