Music Played40 items
Ryu Hankil Poet
Performer: Ryu Hankil (clockworks)
Breakfast Machine, reader Felicity Kendal
Jean-Philippe Rameau Fanfarinette
Performer: Calefax Reed Quintet
The Warden (extract), reader Gerard Murphy
I allow myself, reader Felicity Kendal
E.C. Ball The early bird always gets the worm
Performer: Michael Hurley
Bleak House, reader Gerard Murphy
The Last Breakfast, reader Felicity Kendal
Gesualdo Tenebrae responsories for Maundy Thursday [excerpt]
Performer: The King’s Singers
For Queen Victoria's Birthday, reader Felicity Kendal
Gustav Mahler Fruhlingsmorgen
Performer: Christian Gerhaher, Gerold Huber
Hunter S Thompson
The Great Shark Hunt (Strange Tales from a Strange Time) [extract], reader Gerard Murphy
Frank Zappa St Alphonso's Pancake Breakfast
Performer: Frank Zappa
ZAPPA CDZAP 18
Breakfast, reader Gerard Murphy
Edvard Grieg Little Bird (Lyric Pieces III, op.43)
Performer: Mie Miki (accordion)
Francis Darwin Cornford
A Montreux Hotel, reader Felicity Kendal
I promise when I lift your egg, reader Gerard Murphy
Dusty Springfield Breakfast in Bed
It was you Athis who said, reader Felicity Kendal
George Frideric Handel Welcome as the day of dawn (Solomon, HWV 67)
Performer: Sarah Connolly, Rosemary Joshua
From Russia with Love [extract], reader Felicity Kendal
Bernard Herrmann Citizen Kane (Breakfast montage)
Performer: RKO Orchestra
Dependency on oats, reader Felicity Kendal
Pete Seeger (voice and banjo) Beans, Bacon and Gravy
Smithsonian Folkways SFW40058
Breakfast Song in Time of Diet, reader Gerard Murphy
Cole Porter Sunday Morning Breakfast Time
Performer: Cole Porter
Breakfast, reader Gerard Murphy
Franz Schubert Piano Quintet in A major, D667 "The Trout" (Fourth movement)
Performer: Bronfman / Zukerman / Marks / Forsyth / Quarrington
The book of Household Management (1861), reader Felicity Kendal
Morning at the Window, reader Gerard Murphy
Benny Goodman Breakfast Feud
Performer: Benny Goodman Sextet
William Wilfred Gibson
Breakfast, reader Gerard Murphy
George Butterworth VI. Is my team ploughing (Six songs from A Shropshire Lad)
Performer: Christopher Maltman (baritone), Roger Vignoles (piano)
Melancholy Breakfast, reader Gerard Murphy
Breakfast, reader Felicity Kendal
Troublesome Houses Bonnie Prince Billy & The Cairo Gang
Breakfast in Bed
Hugo Williams, reader Gerard Murphy
Julie London Nice Girls Don't Stay for Breakfast
Liberty Records LRP-3493
Meditation on a Grapefruit, reader Gerard Murphy
Max de Wardener Kettle Song
Static Caravan Van 154
Act II of Cole Porter’s 1935 musical ‘Jubilee’ opens with platitudes bestowed upon coffee, eggs and bacon, porridge even, but in the midst of his cheer, Porter ponders “… Sunday morning breakfast time, the time all men adore, why don’t the poets go into rhyme and rave about it more?…” Breakfast though has caught the imagination of more than a few writers, because it is not just about morning nourishment, although there are plenty of wonderful descriptions of favourite repasts, but Breakfast is a window on all of life. There is love, there are fights, there is death, but all at the Breakfast table.
Anyone who has sat in a breakfast canteen will surely recognise the eggy shrieks of Helen Ivory’s mechanical chicken, rendered so hauntingly by Felicity Kendal, that begins the programme. A sense of grand arrival that is mirrored in French baroque composer Jean-Phillipe Rameau’s La Triomphante. Grandeur was certainly the hallmark of the late 19th Century breakfast too, and Anthony Trollope’s florid description of the breakfast parlour at Plumstead Episcopi, a table heaving with breads, meats and fishes sizzling in little dishes is about as grand as they come.
From the Episcopi to the sacred, American poet Dorothea Grossman, in the guise of some ancient warmongering goddess perhaps, disregards the rest of the breakfast on offer, for her, it is the coffee that is “sacramental”. Charles Dickens’ Mr Skimpole, eschews legs of beef and mutton as “mere animal satisfaction” and craves foods that “remind me of the sun.”, whilst for Gwendoline McEwen her “kanadian breakfast” becomes a perverse Eucharistic event, as her food “refuses to be sanctified”, and in consuming her meal she reconnects with our primal forebears. It is with these sentiments, of the sacred and carnal intertwined, that I connect the music of 16th Century composer, and murderer, Carlo Gesualdo.
Walt Whitman’s short ‘For Queen Victoria's Birthday’, depicts a simple, beautiful gesture of birthday morning present giving, with the morning excitement amplified by Gustav Mahler’s song ‘Fruhlingsmorgen’, “Get up! Get up!, Why do you lie dreaming?, The sun is overhead!, Get up! Get up!”. Simple it is not, but it is hard to challenge the ambition of Hunter S. Thompson’s ideal feast, not least the “…slice of key lime pie, 2 margaritas and 6 lines of the best cocaine…” he likes to end his morning with. I’m sure though Thompson would have fitted in at Frank Zappa’s technicolour ‘St Alphonso’s Pancake Breakfast’, without anyone raising an eyebrow.
Mary Lamb’s 19th Century ode to breakfast captures its daily life giving properties - the meal as signifier of our ongoing battle against mortality “Ever giving cheerful notice we are living another day, refreshed by sleep when its festival we keep”. You can quite imagine the Little Bird of Edvard Grieg’s ‘Lyric Pieces’ chirping at Mary Lamb’s kitchen window too. For Francis Darwin Cornford and Jack Underwood, breakfast brings a vision, and the promise of love remade. In Dusty Springfield’s 1969 hit, ‘Breakfast in Bed’, it is a complicated lover she welcomes back to bed, “What’s your hurry, please don’t eat and run, you can let her wait my darling, it’s been so long”. Breakfast with lovers crops up in the writing of Ancient Greek poet Sappho too, as she remembers the affections of Atthis, who roused her from slumber to parade around Mytilene. A sentiment echoed in the duet between Solomon and his Queen, ‘Welcome as the Dawn of Day’ from Handel’s 1749 oratorio ‘Solomon’.
If Trollope suggests a grand breakfast, and Thompson an orgiastic one, Ian Fleming’s James Bond, fastidious in all things, “maintained that there was such a thing as a perfect boiled egg” in ‘From Russia with Love’. A prime example of a breakfast fetishist. In Orson Welles 1941 drama ‘Citizen Kane’ it is at the carefully laid breakfast table that we watch Kane’s marriage to Emily disintegrate, as Bernard Hermann’s score soundtracks Welles’ artfully cut montage, in swirls of increasing bleakness.
Heather Phillipson’s love letter to porridge ‘Dependency on Oats’ borders on the obsessive, but speaks of a reassuring consistency of breakfast, which not an attribute celebrated by Pete Seeger in his version of the great depression ballad ‘Beans, Bacon and Gravy’. From the other end of the scale Stoddard King is trying to avoid “bacon which produces weight” as he sings his ‘Breakfast Song in Time of Diet’. One of the greats of all Breakfast song, is Cole Porter’s aforementioned ‘Sunday morning breakfast time’, which is followed here by the capers of “Dean Cope, the Emminent Divine” staging the epic food fight that “scandalized the local sheep”, in Harry Graham’s comic poem, ‘Breakfast’. The twists and turns of which seem perfectly mirrored in the theme and variations of Schubert’s Trout Quintet.
Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1861) codifies a life of servitude for those downstairs, and it is those same housemaids with their “damp souls” that T.S. Eliot writes of in ‘Morning at the Window’. Benny Goodman may have written his ‘Breakfast Feud’ before a different war to the one Eliot’s housemaids were facing, but you can imagine them letting their hair down to it when they finally got there. It is with war too that I found one of the most moving accounts of breakfast. The two young men in the trench, in Hexham poet Wilfrid Wilson Gibson’s 1914 poem, eat their breakfast lying on their backs “Because the shells were screeching overhead”, and as in Butterworth’s poignant setting of AE Housman’s ‘Is my team ploughing’, by the end of the poem one of them is alive, the other dead.
Swamped by despair Frank O’Hara’s short ‘Melancholy Breakfast’ will probably be recognisable to those who are resolutely not morning people. In Jacques Prevert’s poem, ‘Breakfast’, the tension is palpable as a couple sit in thorny silence, coffee drunk and cigarettes smoked, but not a word said. Perhaps he is the flawed gentleman of Bonnie Prince Billy's song ‘Troublesome Houses. Breakfast in Bed’ returns as a theme in Hugo Williams’ cynical account of his one night stand, which pairs beautifully with the seductive raised eyebrow of Julie London’s 1967 ‘Nice Girls Don't Stay for Breakfast’. To round off the sequence I turned to Craig Arnold’s ‘Meditation on a Grapefruit’, which captures a sense of the half awake ponderous nature of the meal, followed by the whistling kettle meditation of Max de Wardener’s ‘Kettle Song’.
Frivolous, inconsequential, funny; but also moving, and at times the heartbreaking morning stage upon which all human life is acted out, I hope you find Breakfast makes for fascinating, if hungry listening.
Peter Meanwell (Producer)