Thursday, August 02, 2007

Desert Island Disks

Dateline: Seattle. Tallis Scholars Summer School
We've had an informative lecture each afternoon from one of our tutors. Today was something different. Andrew Carwood and Janet Coxwell did a live version of the venerable BBC 4 Radio programme, Desert Island Disks. The format of the program is simple - the interviewer (played by Jan) asked the guest (played by Andrew) to imagine that they are going to be left on a desert island. The guest plays excerpts from the ten recordings he must have with him, as well as naming the book he would take (in addition to the Bible and complete works of Shakespeare, which are already magically on the island!), and a single inanimate, totally useless item.

We learned a lot about Andrew and his journey to where he is today, and the end was quite bittersweet, as he is leaving the group to take the post at St. Paul's.

Andrew Carwood addresses the group. (Photo by Bill Pannill)
The exercise got me thinking about my own choices. My ten disks would be:

1. Monserrat Caballé 's recording of Puccini's Tosca, so that I'd have the heartbreaking aria "Visi D'arte."

2. The Fauré Requiem. The imploring lines of "In Paradisum" are so powerful. Can't sing it without crying.

3. Traffic’s 1972 album John Barleycorn Must Die so that I can dance to “Glad.”

4. The Who: The Ultimate Collection so that I can sing “Who Are You?” when I want to get my circulation going.

5. Benjamin Britten The Ceremony of Carols. I love the mix of Medieval and Contemporary in this cycle.

6. Mendelssohn Elijah. What great drama in this oratorio! And, I love to sing the a cappella SSA trio “Lift Thine Eyes.” Guess I'll have to do one part at a time on the desert island.

7. Stravinsky Oedipus Rex. I know this isn’t his most brilliant work, but what a dark, moody, brooding choral piece. Love it.

8. Chopin Nocturnes, as recorded by Artur Rubenstein. Sometimes you just need to weep, and this will do it.

9. Leonard Bernstein’s Chicester Psalms. For me, Bernstein is the quintessential American sound (and will endure better than Aaron Copland, whom I also love, on my desert island).

10. The Theme from Peter Gunn, by Henri Mancini. Absolutely killer. One of my favorite pieces of music to drive by. This masterpiece was our inspiration for the theme song of The Upside Down Show, a preschool television series that just won the Emmy for best title sequence.

My Book: Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson. This remarkable book has been described a transcendent novel about fathers and sons, loneliness and love, faith and family. I see it as an exploration of what it means to be in a state of grace. Every word is chosen with care – worth reading and re-reading.

An inanimate, absolutely useless object: A tiny Miraculous Medal, given to me by my grandmother. The edges are beveled in alternating directions so that the metal glints in the light. When I was little, I thought the Blessed Virgin was surrounded by jewels.

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