The Playlist Series

Episodes

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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.

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.

William Shakespeare's Playlist2012042120121226

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