December 2020 - Alice Bingham
Bogoroditse Devo - Sergei Rachmaninov
I first heard this when I was in my early teens, and it’s been on every playlist I’ve had ever since. It was around the same time that I got really into singing with choirs- this piece is responsible for a lifelong love of singing, especially a cappella, liturgical music. I’m a bit of a Russophile (especially for music and the very characteristic timbre of singing!) and this piece gives me the same skin-tingly sensation that I got during a visit to Russia, where I was fortunate enough to experience the music of Russian Orthodox Easter services and the chanting- if only you could bottle a moment!
Herr, unser Herrscher - JS Bach (St. John Passion)
In my opinion, one of the most incredible oratorios ever written. I love music with passion and intensity, so I’m not ashamed of this pun of picking Bach’s opening to his St John Passion ‘Herr, unser Herrscher’ (Lord, our Ruler). Every time I hear this opening movement I get chills and have to then listen to the remaining hour and a half of the work because I’m just captivated by it and I don’t want to turn it off! I particularly love the dissonance in the opening of the phrases of two Baroque oboe parts in this, along with the clever storytelling in the fiendish recitative movements. I would love to sing the soprano arias one day.
Earth Song - Frank Ticheli
It’s no new idea that music is there for us unconditionally, no matter how we are feeling or what is happening in the world. Within a week or two of going into lockdown, I came across this beautiful recording, and if there were ever any words that matched a time so closely, it’s this! It made me feel more positive and optimistic that music would be the saving grace of any difficult situation and it will continue to be a source of comfort and joy for years to come. ‘Through the darkness, pain and strife, I’ll sing, I'll be, I’ll live, see peace’.
Miserere Mei, Deus - Gregorio Allegri
This piece intrigues me more than anything- Mozart is rumoured to have been able to transcribe the whole thing after hearing it at the Sistine Chapel just once (with one other visit for corrections), and having been composed at a time where transcribing the music was banned, and this piece only being allowed to be performed in the Sistine Chapel- I like to think that the rumours are true. There is a lot of mystery around how this piece actually sounded when it was composed, but as we make do with what we’ve got, this is a rather satisfying copy! I feel very much in a different time and place when I listen to this- which might be welcome on a desert island.
Afterlife, Ingrid Michaelson
Although choral and ‘classical’ (read: anything from medieval period onwards!) will always be my first loves, I’d also want to have a little bit of variety on my island- my ears have a bit of a soft spot for Ingrid Michaelson. Her songwriting is so clever and uplifting, and Afterlife makes me want to dance like nobody’s watching (which is probably the only time I would ever dance anyway).
Desert Island Discs is a radio show first broadcast first broadcast on the BBC Forces Programme on 29 January 1942. It's now broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and hosted by Lauren Laverne. You can find more information here.