Zeb Soanes is a distinguished newsreader and reassuring voice of the Shipping Forecast to millions of listeners on BBC Radio 4. He has announced some of the biggest events in recent years from the final result of the Brexit referendum and the election of Donald Trump to the unfolding of the Coronavirus pandemic. Sunday Times readers voted him their favourite male voice on UK radio. He is a regular on The News Quiz, has reported for From Our Own Correspondent, read for Poetry Please and presented Saturday Classics on BBC Radio 3. His long association with The Shipping Forecast has led him to read it from the top of a lighthouse, at the closing ceremony of the Beijing Olympics and to open London Fashion Week.
On television he launched BBC Four, where he presented the BBC Proms.
He has hosted major live music events to audiences of over 8,000 in Trafalgar Square for the Royal Opera House (relayed to screens around the UK) and presented concerts at London’s Southbank Centre and Royal Albert Hall. At literary festivals including Hay and Edinburgh he chairs discussions with best-selling authors including Francesca Simon, Patrick Gale and David Walliams.
He has earned a reputation as ‘the go-to person for music narration’ (Daily Telegraph) with the UK’s leading orchestras, performing favourite works for children including Babar the Elephant, Paddington’s First Concert and Peter and the Wolf. He was the Voice of God in the Aldeburgh Festival production of Noye’s Fludde to conclude the 2013 Benjamin Britten Centenary with Dame Felicity Palmer and Andrew Shore and is a frequent reciter of Walton’s Façade, including a critically acclaimed recording conducted by John Wilson. He presented the world premieres of Ben Palmer’s Eggs or Anarchy based on William Sitwell’s award-winning book about the wartime Minister for Food, Lord Woolton; Beethoven, Wordsworth and the French Revolution with the pianist David Owen Norris (for the 250th anniversary of the composer’s birth) and gave the first live performance in over 30 years of Banana Blush, John Betjeman’s verse set to music by Jim Parker in a gala at St Martin in the Fields. During the coronavirus pandemic he recorded Knee Play 2 from Philip Glass’ opera Einstein on the Beach with the violinist Vicky Sayles for Classic FM and made a guest appearance with The King’s Singers. He is the narrator for the choral ensemble Opus Anglicanum, recording commissions by Sally Beamish, Alexander Campkin, Gordon Crosse and Lynn Plowman and in 2020 was appointed patron of the Thaxted Festival.
He has written for The Observer, Country Life and The Literary Review. His best-selling first book for children, Gaspard the Fox, illustrated by James Mayhew, began a series of stories inspired by his remarkable encounters with a real urban fox for which The Mammal Society made him their first patron. His third book, Gaspard’s Foxtrot, has been adapted as a major new narrated orchestral work by the composer Jonathan Dove.
The go-to person for musical narration, specialising in children's concerts.Daily Telegraph
The voice we trust!Daily Telegraph
One of Radio 4’s most reassuring voicesMail on Sunday
A familiar and well-loved voice to all who listen to BBC RadioStephen Fry
A BBC radio presenter whose voice sounds like a massage feelsVogue
The vocal skills and power to deliver serious news seriouslyNicholas de Jongh, Theatre Critic
Zeb Soanes, owner of one of the most recognisable voices in Britain and a warmly reassuring presence on BBC Radio 4BBC Wildlife Magazine
One of the loveliest, most characterful voices on British radio.Gramophone Magazine
I, like many others, occasionally go to sleep or wake up to the smooth tones of Zeb Soanes reading the shipping forecast. He hovers, in other words, around my subconscious.Elizabeth David, BBC Music Magazine
On narrating with Opus Anglicanum: Zeb Soanes was a beguiling story-teller. There was a relaxed naturalness about his perfectly enunciated delivery of the texts, an ease which belied the thorough preparation which is necessary to ensure such a fluent and captivating presentation. Soanes’ recounting of Sally Beamish’s Sea Psalm was particularly noteworthy. Embodying the voice of the sole surviving officer of a World War II naval accident, Soanes brought tension and drama to his account of the dramatic splitting of a ship into two halves, with great loss of life, but he was never melodramatic, always measured. His timing of the narrative episodes in this complexly structured work was flawless.Claire Seymour, Seen and Heard
Every item is a distinctive delight, beautifully sung, and interspersed are readings, perfectly judged by Zeb Soanes.Dame Emma Kirkby