The Playlist Series

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James Joyce's Playlist2012060920121228

James Joyce had a fine singing voice and earned money singing professionally as a young man. All his life he sang for friends; he sang to his desperately sick young brother, dying of typhoid; he sang to his mother on her deathbed. He sang to Nora, and she sang to him - their songs becoming a part of their courtship and marriage. He wrote songs, and set them to music; and certain special songs are repeated again and again through his fiction.

In this programme, recorded in James Joyce's Martello Tower near Dublin, we discover and recreate James Joyce's favourite songs. We also find, and hear, Joyce's own guitar. At one point in his life he had a plan to make a living travelling round Ireland playing it, as a wandering minstrel.

The songs include sentimental classics like 'Love's Old Sweet Song', which appears seven times in 'Ulysses'; the bawdy music hall ballad 'Those Seaside Girls', one of Joyce's favourites (his most erotic scenes are set by the sea); and a hauntingly sad farewell he wrote to his wife Nora, 'Bid Adieu'. We end with the rollicking 'Finnegan's Wake', an Irish song about a drunken wake which gave its name to the novel.

The contributors are Declan Kiberd, eminent Irish scholar and author of 'Ulysses and Us: the Art of Everyday Living'; actor Barry McGovern; and Katherine O'Callaghan, who has spent several years researching Joyce's music.

The presenter is David Owen Norris, pianist and music Professor, who has also arranged the songs which are sung by Thomas Guthrie and Gwyneth Herbert.

The setting is the Martello Tower near Dublin where Joyce lived as a young man, and which becomes the setting for the opening scenes of 'Ulysses'.

Producer: Elizabeth Burke

A Loftus Production for BBC Radio 4.

John Clare's Playlist20131214

The ploughboy-poet John Clare recorded an entire musical culture - the songs and tunes he heard around him in the early 19th century countryside.

Everybody sang all the time - the milkmaids, the agricultural labourers, men in the pub at night - and John Clare wrote down and collected their songs. Some were sentimental, some bawdy, some nonsensical. His collection, written out on tiny scraps of paper, has become our only record of a rich musical culture which has now disappeared as noisy machinery and the rise of music halls put paid to that singing.

The songs Clare knew were also the key to his phenomenal success â€" they were how he managed to transform himself from a ploughboy to a poet. Ballad-writing was his apprenticeship.

Clare's status has risen recently, so that he is now regarded by many as England's finest nature poet. But his songs are still almost unknown.

In this programme, musician David Owen Norris unearths Clare's music from the Northamptonshire Archives and sets it for singers Gwyneth Herbert and Thomas Guthrie to perform. He then plays it on location in Clare's cottage in the village of Helpstun to three Clare experts - poet Paul Farley who has edited an edition of Clare, scholar Sara Lodge and folksong expert Derek Scott. We hear a haunting song of abandonment which Clare's mother taught him, a smutty song The Cuckoo's Nest ("give me a girl with a wriggle and a twist"), a song of Clare's which became a hit on the West End stage, and a haunting song which Clare wrote at the end of his life in the Northamptonshire Asylum.

David Owen Norris is a pianist and composer and Professor of Music at Southampton University.

Producer: Elizabeth Burke.

A Loftus production for BBC Radio 4.

Nell Gwyn's Playlist20131228

Nell Gwyn's Playlist2013122820150825 (R4)

David Owen Norris recreates the musical world of the first female star of the English stage.

Nell Gwyn was a celebrity in the modern sense - and nobody could get enough of her. Just four years after women were first allowed on stage, "pretty witty Nell" was one of the sights of London - the equivalent of a modern stand-up comedian or rapper, improvising lines and comedy. And women on stage could deliver all sorts of subversive messages they were not allowed to express in real life, where they were expected to be chaste and obedient.

This programme is recorded on location in the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, Nell's theatre. Musician David Owen Norris discovers and records some of Nell's famous songs in her mocking, sexy and provocative voice. He then plays them to a trio of Nell Gwyn experts - actor and theatre historian Ian Kelly, scholar Judith Hawley, and early music expert Lucie Skeaping.

The songs are brought to life by jazz singer Gwyneth Herbert and classical singer Thomas Guthrie. They include a satirical account of being pinned to the ground by a fat greasy lover; a camp dialogue between Nell and her rival for the King's affections, the French Catholic Louise; and a message from Nell's sexy ghost.

David Owen Norris is a pianist and composer and Professor of Music at Southampton University.

Producer: Elizabeth Burke

A Loftus production for BBC Radio 4.

Nell Gwyn's Playlist2013122820150825 (R4)

David Owen Norris recreates the musical world of the first female star of the English stage.

Nell Gwyn was a celebrity in the modern sense - and nobody could get enough of her. Just four years after women were first allowed on stage, "pretty witty Nell" was one of the sights of London - the equivalent of a modern stand-up comedian or rapper, improvising lines and comedy. And women on stage could deliver all sorts of subversive messages they were not allowed to express in real life, where they were expected to be chaste and obedient.

This programme is recorded on location in the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, Nell's theatre. Musician David Owen Norris discovers and records some of Nell's famous songs in her mocking, sexy and provocative voice. He then plays them to a trio of Nell Gwyn experts - actor and theatre historian Ian Kelly, scholar Judith Hawley, and early music expert Lucie Skeaping.

The songs are brought to life by jazz singer Gwyneth Herbert and classical singer Thomas Guthrie. They include a satirical account of being pinned to the ground by a fat greasy lover; a camp dialogue between Nell and her rival for the King's affections, the French Catholic Louise; and a message from Nell's sexy ghost.

David Owen Norris is a pianist and composer and Professor of Music at Southampton University.

Producer: Elizabeth Burke

A Loftus production for BBC Radio 4.

Nell Gwyn's Playlist20131228

David Owen Norris recreates the musical world of the first female star of the English stage.

Nell Gwyn was a celebrity in the modern sense - and nobody could get enough of her. Just four years after women were first allowed on stage, "pretty witty Nell" was one of the sights of London - the equivalent of a modern stand-up comedian or rapper, improvising lines and comedy. And women on stage could deliver all sorts of subversive messages they were not allowed to express in real life, where they were expected to be chaste and obedient.

This programme is recorded on location in the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, Nell's theatre. Musician David Owen Norris discovers and records some of Nell's famous songs in her mocking, sexy and provocative voice. He then plays them to a trio of Nell Gwyn experts - actor and theatre historian Ian Kelly, scholar Judith Hawley, and early music expert Lucie Skeaping.

The songs are brought to life by jazz singer Gwyneth Herbert and classical singer Thomas Guthrie. They include a satirical account of being pinned to the ground by a fat greasy lover; a camp dialogue between Nell and her rival for the King's affections, the French Catholic Louise; and a message from Nell's sexy ghost.

David Owen Norris is a pianist and composer and Professor of Music at Southampton University.

Producer: Elizabeth Burke

A Loftus production for BBC Radio 4.

Queen Victoria's Ipod2011111920121225

In Buckingham Palace, David Owen Norris and guests hear Queen Victoria's favourite songs.

In Buckingham Palace, David Owen Norris and guests listen to Queen Victoria's favourite songs. We have been given access to Victoria's own gold piano, on which we'll hear music written specially by Mendelssohn for her to play in a duet with Albert. We also hear an amorous serenade written for her by Prince Albert and a song which was sung in the streets after their first child was born, Queen Victoria's Baby.

David Owen Norris has discovered a startling popular song of the period about the Great Exhibition - the excitement of setting off to see the Queen as a gold statue, and the reality of fleas, dirt, crowds, and dubious dark alleys where it was all too easy to lose one's virtue and return pregnant!

Listening to the music are Royal biographer Kate Williams, cultural critic Matthew Sweet, and expert on Victorian music Professor Jeremy Dibble. They'll be discussing what Queen Victoria's favourite songs reveal about a very musical monarch.

Presenter David Owen Norris is a broadcaster, composer and concert pianist. He has arranged the songs, which are performed by Thomas Guthrie and jazz singer Gwyneth Herbert.

Producer: Elizabeth Burke.

A Loftus production for BBC Radio 4.

Robert Burns's Ipod2011112620121227

David Owen Norris and guests listen to Robert Burns' favourite songs in his drinking club in Tarbolton, near Glasgow. With National Poet of Scotland Liz Lochhead (writer of a play about Burns), Dr Kirsteen McCue and Professor Nigel Leask - and featuring Burns' own fiddle.

We hear the songs with the tunes he wanted - not always the ones which have become famous. For instance, 'My Love is like a Red Red Rose' was changed by his publisher against Burns' wishes. Kirsteen McCue is the world expert on Burns' songs and she reveals the original versions. We also hear a naughty song called 'Nine Inch will Please a Lady'.

Robert Burns' playlist reflects his political vision and also his complex love life. Burns was writing for the high-class Edinburgh ladies who took him up in his 30s, but he was also composing songs in broader Scots about their maids. Songs were a crucial part of his seduction technique - and they seem to have worked for him. He left 15 illegitimate children. Even on his death-bed, Burns was writing songs - for the pretty blonde teenager who was nursing him. That song, 'Oh Wert Thou in the Cold Blast', is one of his most beautiful and almost unbearably moving. Burns was destitute, he was dying at the age of only 37, and yet he sang to his nurse: "Oh wert thou in the cold blast, I'd shelter thee, I'd shelter thee".

Presenter David Owen Norris is a broadcaster, composer and concert pianist. He has arranged the songs, which are performed by Thomas Guthrie and jazz singer Gwyneth Herbert.

Producer: Elizabeth Burke.

A Loftus production for BBC Radio 4.

Samuel Pepys' Playlist2014070620140928 (BBC7)
20140929 (BBC7)

Samuel Pepys - diarist, politician and womaniser - as revealed in his favourite songs.

Samuel Pepys, the famous diarist, loved music. It outlasted all his other passions- even his passion for women. He left hundreds of his favourite songs, some covered in wine stains, relics of drunken musical evenings.

David Owen Norris explores the songs in the Pepys Library in Cambridge with historians Richard Luckett, Jenny Uglow and Basie Gitlin, and recreates the music he loved best. With singers Gwyneth Herbert, Thomas Guthrie and Laura Crowther.

Producer: Elizabeth Burke

A Loftus production for BBC Radio 4.

The Duke Of Wellington's Playlist20131221

The Duke Of Wellington's Playlist20131221
The Duke Of Wellington's Playlist2013122120150818 (R4)

The Duke of Wellington's military achievements, including his victory over Napoleon, are well-known. Much less well-known is the Duke of Wellington, the musician.

His father was a composer and music was the only consolation of a lonely, unloved childhood - the only thing he was good at was playing the violin. But as a young man, in a theatrical gesture of renunciation, he burnt his violin and vowed to give up music altogether as too much of a distraction from his military career. But despite the grand gesture, the Duke had a passion for music all his life. And music played an important role in warfare too, with military bands marching into battle and vying for supremacy.

This programme discovers and records the Duke's music, including long-forgotten songs about the Battle of Waterloo. Musician David Owen Norris gives old songs a new twist and sets them for jazz singer Gwyneth Herbert and classical singer Thomas Guthrie. He then plays them to a trio of Wellington experts - Royal historian Kate Williams, military historian Tim Clayton, and the Duke of Douro (the Duke's direct descendent).

The programme is recorded on location in Apsley House on Hyde Park Corner and includes performances on the Duke's own Grand Piano.

David Owen Norris is a pianist and composer and Professor of Music at Southampton University.

Producer: Elizabeth Burke

A Loftus production for BBC Radio 4.

The Duke Of Wellington's Playlist20131221

The Duke of Wellington's military achievements, including his victory over Napoleon, are well-known. Much less well-known is the Duke of Wellington, the musician.

His father was a composer and music was the only consolation of a lonely, unloved childhood - the only thing he was good at was playing the violin. But as a young man, in a theatrical gesture of renunciation, he burnt his violin and vowed to give up music altogether as too much of a distraction from his military career. But despite the grand gesture, the Duke had a passion for music all his life. And music played an important role in warfare too, with military bands marching into battle and vying for supremacy.

This programme discovers and records the Duke's music, including long-forgotten songs about the Battle of Waterloo. Musician David Owen Norris gives old songs a new twist and sets them for jazz singer Gwyneth Herbert and classical singer Thomas Guthrie. He then plays them to a trio of Wellington experts - Royal historian Kate Williams, military historian Tim Clayton, and the Duke of Douro (the Duke's direct descendent).

The programme is recorded on location in Apsley House on Hyde Park Corner and includes performances on the Duke's own Grand Piano.

David Owen Norris is a pianist and composer and Professor of Music at Southampton University.

Producer: Elizabeth Burke

A Loftus production for BBC Radio 4.

William Shakespeare's Playlist2012042120121226

David Owen Norris and guests listen to Shakespeare's favourite songs in the Swan Theatre.