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The Midst of Life

30 minutes
First broadcast:
Sunday 30 January 2011

In the modern western world, we often imagine life as linear, with 'middle age' as the slightly boring long bit that comes between the more dynamic beginning and end.

Classicist and Anglican minister Teresa Morgan explores alternative ways of considering the midst of life. She cites ancient Roman and traditional Hindu approaches that break life up into several stages that give a sense of progress through those middle years and she draws upon the writings of those for whom mid-life has taken on a different significance, through a change of circumstance or sudden illness.

And she relates the thoughts of Albert Scweitzer, Monica Furlong, Alan Coren and others to the perception of Heaven as eternal life without beginning or end... suggesting that middle age is perhaps a foretaste!

With music by John Tavener, Don Henley, Sophie Tucker and Olivier Messiaen.

Producer: Alan Hall
A Falling Tree Production for BBC Radio 4.

  • Music

    Music 1: ‘The Last Sleep of the Virgin’ composed by John Tavener. Performed by Chilingirian Quartet/Iain Simcock (handbells). From the CD: Tavener – Last Sleep of the Virgin. Virgin VC545 023 2. Pub. Chester Music

    Music 2: ‘Sonata for violin & piano in A, KV 305 – 1st mvt’ composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Performed by Itzhak Perlman (vln)/Daniel Barenboim (piano). From the CD: Mozart – Violinsonaten. DG 415 102 2

    Music 3: Mrs Robinson composed by Paul Simon. Performed by Simon & Garfunkel. From the CD: Simon and Garfunkel: Greatest Hits

    Music 4: Shristi composed by Sandeep Das. Performed by Yo-Yo Ma (cello) & the Silk Road Ensemble. From the CD: New Impossibilities. Sony 88697 10319

    Music 5: Volts created by Tom Blackwell Music available at: http://www.openprocessing.org/visuals/?visualID=6458

    Music 6: ‘Music for Funeral of Queen Mary– In the Midst of Life’ composed by Purcell. Performed by Monteverdi Choir & Orchestra, cond. John Eliot Gardiner. From the CD: Purcell - Music for Queen Mary. Apex 0927 48693-2

    Music 7: ‘Life Begins at Forty’ composed by Yellen/Shapiro. Performed by Sophie Tucker with orchestra/Ted Shapiro (piano). From the CD: Saucy Songs.
    BBC CD 728. Pub. Copyright Control.

    Music 8: Quartet for the End of Time composed by Olivier Messiaen. ‘V. Louange a l’Eternite de Jesus’. Performed by Olli Mustonen (piano)/Joshua Bell (violin)/Steven Isserlis (cello) & Michael Collins (clarinet). From the CD: Messiaen – Quatour. Decca 452 899 2

  • Readings

    Reading 1: Excerpt from A Bit on the Side by Alan Coren. (1998) Pub. Robson Books. ISBN-10: 1861051271.

    Reading 2: Excerpt from Out of My Life and Thought by Albert Schweitzer. Trans. CT Campion. (1961) Pub. Mentor.

    Reading 3: Excerpt from Touching the Rock: An Experience of Blindness by John Hull. (1990) Pub. SPCK. ISBN-10: 0281044449.

    Reading 4: Excerpt from the Bhagavad Gita. Trans. Juan Mascaro. (2003) Pub. Penguin Classics. ISBN-10: 0140449183.

    Reading 5: Excerpt from Travelling In by Monica Furlong. (1994) Pub. Cowley Publications. ISBN-10: 0936384204.

    Reading 6: Excerpt from Rowing Without Oars by Ulla-Carin Lundquist Trans. Margaret Myers. (2005) Pub. John Murray. ISBN-10: 071956686X

    Reading 7: Excerpt from Mrs Miniver by Jan Struther. (1989) Pub. Virago. ISBN-10: 1853810908.


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