Main content
Sorry, this episode is not currently available

Jackie Kay

Prize-winning Scottish novelist and poet Jackie Kay talks to Michael Berkeley about her favourite music from Bach and Schubert to Janacek, Richard Strauss and Nina Simone.

Michael Berkeley's guest is the Scottish novelist and poet Jackie Kay MBE, whose work has won many awards including the Guardian Fiction Prize (for Trumpet, 1998), and the 2008 CLPE Poetry Award (for Red, Cherry Red). A mixed-race child, she was adopted at birth by a white couple and brought up in Glasgow, going on to read English at Stirling University. Her first collection of poetry, The Adoption Papers (1991), was inspired by a her own experiences, and many of her poetry collections and novels (including the latest, Red Dust Road, 2010), explore key themes of cultural identity. Several of her works have been inspired by musicians, including Bessie Smith and jazz trumpeter Billy Tipton.

Jackie Kay's personal musical favourites begin with one of Janacek's Lachian Dances, (two of her stories were influenced by works by Janacek), and then dive into the Baroque era with an extract from Pergolesi's Stabat Mater and a movement from a Bach cello suite played by Pablo Casals - she says that the cello is one of her favourite instruments and she loves Bach's emotional literacy. Then comes Nina Simone singing Four Women, which Jackie Kay says has a haunting and arresting quality, followed by Jessye Norman singing September from Strauss's Four Last Songs. Her next choice is Heygana by Ali Farka Toure, which fuses African, blues and jazz, followed by the black American tenor Roland Hayes singing Schubert's Nacht und Traume. Her Scottish roots are represented by the voice of Jean Redpath singing the poignant song of exile, Leaving the Land, while her final choice, Cole Porter's Brush Up Your Shakespeare from Kiss Me Kate has always been a favourite of her father's.

1 hour

Last on

Sun 28 Aug 2011 12:00

Music Played

  • Leos Janáček

    'Pozehany' (Blessed) from Lachian Dances JW VI/17

    Performers: Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra/Ondrej Lenárd

    • NAXOS 8550411.
  • Giovanni Battista Pergolesi

    'O Quam tristis et afflicta' from Stabat Mater

    Performers: Emma Kirkby (soprano), James Bowman (countertenor), The Academy of Ancient Music/Christopher Hogwood

    • Oiseau Lyre 4256922.
  • Johann Sebastian Bach

    Prelude from Cello Suite no 6 in D major BWV 1012

    Performer: Pablo Casals (cello)

    • EMI CHS7610272.
  • Nina Simone

    Four Women

    Performer: Nina Simone

    • PHILIPS 8228462.
  • Richard Strauss

    September' from 'Four Last Songs

    Performers: Jessye Norman (soprano) Gewandhaus Orchester/Kurt Masur

    • PHILIPS 411052-2.
  • Ali Farka Touré


    Performer: Ali Farka Toure

    • World Circuit WCD017.
  • Franz Schubert

    Nacht und Traume

    Performers: Roland Hayes (tenor), Reginald Boardman (piano)

    • PREISER 93462.
  • Jean Redpath

    Leaving the Land

    Performer: Jean Redpath

    • Greentrax CDTRAX039.
  • Cole Porter

    Brush Up Your Shakespeare' from 'Kiss Me Kate

    Performers: Lee Wilkof & Michael Mulheren from The New Broadway Cast Recording

    • DRG1298.


11 things we learned from Harry Enfield’s Private Passions

11 things we learned from Harry Enfield’s Private Passions

Harry doesn't usually give interviews – but he couldn't say no to Michael Berkeley.

Six mind-expanding music podcasts to download in 2019

Six mind-expanding music podcasts to download in 2019

Love music? Looking for new ear-fodder for your commute? We've got you covered.

Archive Unlocked: Two Decades of Private Passions

Archive Unlocked: Two Decades of Private Passions

Michael Berkeley introduces memorable interviews from Private Passions' archives.