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Helen Dunmore

1 hour
First broadcast:
Sunday 17 July 2011

Michael Berkeley's guest this week is novelist and poet Helen Dunmore, who won the first Orange Prize for Fiction in 1996 with 'A Spell of Winter'. Her seventh novel, 'The Siege' (2001) was shortlisted for the Whitbread and Orange Prizes, and deals with the 880-day siege of Leningrad by German forces during World War II. She returned to Leningrad in the final year of Stalin's tyrannical reign for the setting of her tenth novel, 'The Betrayal', longlisted for the 2010 Man Booker Prize.

Helen Dunmore also writes poetry, short stories, and childrens' books. Her poem 'The Malarkey' won the National Poetry Competition in March 2010, and a month later she published her first picture book for children, 'The Ferry Birds', illustrated by Rebecca Cobb.

Singing is particularly important to Helen. Her musical choices begin with a song by Stephen Foster, which reminds her of her father, who loved music-hall songs. She first heard Kathleen Ferrier as a young child, and has chosen Ferrier's classic recording of 'What is Life' from Gluck's 'Orfeo ed Euridice'. She herself sang at school, and particularly loved the traditional songs she heard on BBC Singing Together programmes, especially sea shanties such as 'Bound for Australia'. Her husband loves Gregorian chant, and the Salve Regina from the Feast of the Blessed VIrgin holds a particular personal significance for her.
She also finds Mozart's Requiem intensely moving for its mysterious darkness Her other vocal choices include Country Joe and the Fish, which reminds her of the first rock festival she attended.
Her instrumental favourites are the glorious second movement of Schubert's String Quintet, and the Intermezzo from Sibelius's Karelia Suite, which conveys an amazing sense of landscape.

Music Played

9 items
Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes
  • Image for Stephen Foster

    Stephen Foster Ah! May the Red Rose Live Always

    Performers: Thomas Hampson (baritone), Armen Guzelimian (piano), Kenneth Sillito (violin obbligato)

    Thomas Hampson – An Old Song…, EMI CDC7540512

  • Image for Christoph Willibald Gluck

    Christoph Willibald Gluck 'What is Life' from 'Orfeo ed Euridice' Act III

    Performers: Kathleen Ferrier (contralto), London Symphony Orchestra/Sir Malcolm Sargent

    Kathleen Ferrier, DECCA 4334702

  • Image for Trad

    Trad Bound for South Australia

    Performers: Fisherman’s Friends

    Port Isaac’s Fisherman’s Friends, Island 2766794

  • Image for Country Joe and the Fish

    Country Joe and the Fish The Fish Cheer & I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die Rag

    The First Three EPS, VANGUARD VMD792662

  • Image for Franz Peter Schubert

    Franz Peter Schubert 2nd mvt from String Quintet in C major D956 (EXCERPT)

    Performers: Melos Quartet/Mstislav Rostropovich (cello)

    DG 4153732

  • Image for Gregorian Chant

    Gregorian Chant Salve Regina – Ton Solennel I – Salut, ô Reine from Fêtes de la très Sainte Vierge

    Performers: Choeur des Moines de Saint-Benoît-du-Lac/ Dom André Saint-Cyr

    Plainchant Gregorian Calendar, FORLANE 3005102

  • Image for Jean Sibelius

    Jean Sibelius 'Intermezzo' from Karelia Suite Op 11

    Performers: Paavo Berglund/Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra

    Kullervo; etc, EMI CZS5742002

  • Image for Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

    Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Confutatis & Lacrimosa from Requiem KV 626

    Performers: English Baroque Soloists/Monteverdi Choir/ John Eliot Gardiner

    PHILIPS 4201972

  • Image for Vampire Weekend

    Vampire Weekend Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa

    XL VAMP1



  1. Image for Private Passions

    Private Passions

    Guests from all walks of life discuss the music they love with Michael Berkeley.

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