Entertainment & Arts

Celebrity castaways attend Desert Island Discs Prom

Kirsty Young and Sir David Attenborough at the Desert Island Discs Prom. © BBC/Chris Christodoulou
Image caption Sir David Attenborough (right) has been a guest on Desert Island Discs four times

Naturalist Sir David Attenborough and dancer Darcey Bussell were among the stars at a BBC Prom marking the 70th anniversary of Desert Island Discs.

They were joined by other ex-castaways at a concert hosted by Kirsty Young, the Radio 4 show's current presenter.

Sue Lawley and Sir Michael Parkinson, two of Young's predecessors, also took to the stage of the Royal Albert Hall.

Bach, Beethoven and the Beatles formed part of an eclectic programme based on music chosen by the show's many guests.

Almost 3,000 people have appeared on Desert Island Discs since its debut edition was recorded at the BBC's Maida Vale studios in 1942.

Between them they have chosen more than 23,000 tracks, not to mention books and "luxuries" they would like to have with them were they to be stranded on an imaginary island.

Lawley, who presented the show from 1988 to 2006, described its enduring format as "a biographical interview with musical illustration".

"The music gives the interview a new dimension," agreed Sir Michael, who, as the late Roy Plomley's immediate successor, hosted nearly 100 editions between 1986 and 1988.

Image caption Baritone Bryn Terfel (right) filled in for an indisposed Sir Willard White (left)

Monday's concert kicked off, perhaps inevitably, with By the Sleepy Lagoon, the Eric Coates waltz that has been the Desert Island Discs theme tune since its inaugural broadcast.

Played by the BBC Concert Orchestra on a stage adorned by a small palm tree, the tune ended with the traditional sound of breaking waves and squawking seagulls.

That was followed by one of Darcey Bussell's selections, the Dance of the Knights march from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet - also known as the theme tune to BBC One's The Apprentice.

The acclaimed organist Wayne Marshall then appeared to perform Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor on the Albert Hall's grand pipe organ.

The Oldham-born musician preceded his recital with a tribute to the late organist Carlo Curley, who died earlier this month at the age of 59.

Other performers on Monday included the award-winning concert pianist Peter Donohoe, the Irish soprano Ailish Tynan and singer Anna-Jane Casey, seen last week in a BBC Prom celebrating "The Broadway Sound".

Sir Willard White had also been due to appear. Due to illness, however, his role was taken by Welsh bass-baritone Bryn Terfel.

The latter entertained the audience at one point with an impersonation of Louis Armstrong during his performance of What a Wonderful World.

Image caption Peter Donohoe performed the 1st movement of Beethoven's 'Emperor' piano concerto

The song formed part of a "Desert Island Hits" medley featuring eight of the songs that have been most requested over the BBC show's seven decades on the air.

The Match of the Day theme, Handel's Messiah and a "Beatles suite" comprising a quartet of Fab Four favourites also featured in a concert than ran 30 minutes longer than scheduled.

The evening concluded with another Eric Coates composition - the stirring march he created for 1954 film The Dam Busters.

The concert, which also featured appearances from actress Patricia Routledge and Falklands War veteran Simon Weston, was broadcast live on BBC Radio 3.

This year's Proms season, which is part of the London 2012 Festival, concludes on Saturday with the traditional Last Night at the Proms concert, to be shown live in 3D in selected cinemas.

Sir David Attenborough made his fourth appearance on Desert Island Discs when the show turned 70 in January.

The programme returns to Radio 4 on 23 September.

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