Are You Sleeping, Brother John

"Frère Jacques" is among the most widely-known songs on earth - existing in a huge variety of languages, from Finnish ("Jaako Kulta") to Mandarin ("Liang Zhi Lao Hu"). Its origins, meaning and influence on global musical culture belie its childish simplicity; it's been used as a political protest song, an emblem of "la bonne France" after the Second World War, and is parodied today by schoolchildren in playgrounds across France. Even Gustav Mahler famously referenced the rhyme in his First Symphony, transforming it into a minor-key funeral march, and warping the song's flavour of innocence and childhood.

Peggy Reynolds takes us on a journey through the lavish lifestyle of snoozy Dominican friars at Matins, the blood and gore of the surgeon's table, and the religious persecutions and migrations of the 17th century.

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20 minutes

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Thu 23 May 2013 20:15