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Texts and music celebrating London, with readings by Eileen Atkins and David Jason. Includes Defoe, Dickens, Orwell, Eliot and Keats, plus Handel, Haydn, Walton, Britten and Elgar.

Words and Music: London

Words and Music celebrates the great capital city with music and texts read by two distinguished London-born actors, Dame Eileen Atkins and Sir David Jason.

In many ways a city of contradictions, Words and Music celebrates the Thames, the church bells, the parks and the architecture, along with the less salubrious side of the city - the overcrowding, the noise and the stench which Londoners have complained about for centuries. We view London through the eyes of its chroniclers such as Daniel Defoe and John Evelyn, along with eminent visitors to the city such as Handel and Haydn. There are also references to key events in London's history - the Fire, the Plague, the Blitz, and the terror of Jack the Ripper. Above all, there is a sense of the love of the city from the writings of authors and poets who lived there, including Charles Dickens, George Orwell, T.S. Eliot and John Keats.

London has inspired many composers, and the readings are accompanied by music by Vaughan Williams, Walton, Britten, Haydn and Elgar.

Producer: Ellie Mant.

1 hour, 15 minutes

Last on

Sun 16 Nov 2014 17:30

Music Played

Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes

  • 00:00

    John Ireland

    The Island Spell (extract)

    • CAMPION CAMEO 2044.
  • William Wordsworth

    William Wordsworth - Lines written near Richmond, upon the Thames, read by Eileen Atkins

  • 00:01

    William Walton

    Glide Gently (Lord Mayor's Table)

    • COLLINS 14932.
  • Charles Dickens

    Charles Dickens - Bleak House, read by David Jason

  • 00:05

    Ralph Vaughan Williams

    London Symphony: Scherzo (extract)

    • EMI CDM7640172.
  • Edith Matilda Thomas

    Edith Matilda Thomas - Breath of Hampstead Heath, read by Eileen Atkins

  • 00:09

    John Ireland

    Ballade of London Nights (extract)

    • NAXOS 8.570461.
  • John Keats

    John Keats - Lines on the Mermaid Tavern, read by David Jason

  • 00:13

    Anon.

    Anon. - London's Ordinary (extract)

  • E.M. Forster

    : E.M. Forster - Howard’s End, read by Eileen Atkins

  • 00:15

    Ludwig van Beethoven

    Symphony no.5: Andante (extract)

    • EMI 557165 2.
  • William Blake

    William Blake - London, read by David Jason

  • 00:17

    Benjamin Britten

    Blake Songs – London

    • HYPERION CDA67778.
  • 00:19

    Henry Purcell

    Pavan in A minor, Z.749 (extract)

    • CHANDOS CHAN 05723.
  • Daniel Defoe

    Daniel Defoe - A Journal of the Plague Year, read by Eileen Atkins

  • Tobias Smollett

    Tobias Smollett - The Expedition of Humphry Clinker, read by David Jason

  • 00:22

    George Frideric Handel

    Water Music: Alla Hornpipe

    • VIRGIN VC5452652.
  • 00:26

    Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky

    Swan Lake: Scene finale (extract)

    • DECCA 4177002.
  • Arnold Bennett

    Arnold Bennett - Journals, read by Eileen Atkins

  • Joseph Haydn

    Joseph Haydn - Letter to Maria Anna von Grenzinger, 8 Jan 1791, read by David Jason

  • 00:28

    Joseph Haydn

    Symphony no.104, 1st movt (extract)

    • NIMBUS NI 5200/4.
  • 00:32

    Eric Coates

    Westminster (London Suite)

    • ASV CD QS 6123.
  • T. S. Eliot

    T. S. Eliot - The Waste Land, read by Eileen Atkins

  • V.S. Pritchett

    V.S. Pritchett - A Cab at the Door, read by David Jason

  • 00:39

    Edward Elgar

    Cockaigne Overture (extract)

    Performer: London Philharmonic Orchestra; Daniel Barenboim (conductor).
    • SONY SMK 46682.
    • Tr 1.
  • George Orwell

    George Orwell - 1984, read by Eileen Atkins

  • 00:45

    Steve Martland

    Oranges and Lemons (extract)

    • RCA 09026631752.
  • Tom Cullen

    Tom Cullen - Autumn of Terror, read by David Jason

  • 00:49

    Stanley Black

    Jack the Ripper: Movement 1

    • CHANDOS CHAN10306.
  • Iris Murdoch

    Iris Murdoch - A Word Child, read by Eileen Atkins

  • 00:53

    Carmel

    Circle Line (extract)

    • EASTWEST 4509900442.
  • John Evelyn

    John Evelyn - Diary, read by David Jason

  • 00:57

    Gustav Holst

    St Paul's Suite: Intermezzo

    • NIMBUS NIM5032.
  • Robert Leighton

    Robert Leighton - Poets’ Corner, read by Eileen Atkins

  • 01:03

    Michael Berkeley

    The Wakeful Poet (Music from Chaucer)

    • MERIDIAN CDE 84462.
  • Anthony Powell

    Anthony Powell - The Military Philosophers, read by David Jason

  • 01:09

    Sir George Dyson

    Sweet Thames run Softly (extract)

    • UNICORN UKCD2013.

Producer Note

This evening Words and Music celebrates our great capital city with music and texts read by two distinguished London-born actors, Dame Eileen Atkins and Sir David Jason.

In many ways a city of contradictions, the programme celebrates the Thames, the church bells, the parks and the architecture, along with the less salubrious side of the city – the overcrowding, the noise and the stench which Londoners have complained about for centuries. We view London through the eyes of its chroniclers such as Daniel Defoe and John Evelyn, along with eminent visitors to the City such as Handel and Haydn. There are also references to key events in London’s history – the Fire, the Plague, the Blitz, and the terror of Jack the Ripper.  Above all, there is a sense of the love of the city from the writings of authors and poets who lived there, including Charles Dickens, George Orwell, T.S. Eliot and John Keats.

London has inspired many composers, and the readings are accompanied by music by Vaughan Williams, Walton, Britten, Haydn and Elgar.

The programme begins with the Thames, the life-blood of the city, described in a poem by Wordsworth, and set to music by Walton. No programme on London would be complete without the writings of Charles Dickens, who did so much to expose the real London, complete with its mud and ‘black drizzle’. This is followed by Vaughan Williams’s equally vivid musical description in his London Symphony. The city’s parks and pubs are captured in poetry, along with the architecture of the Queen’s Hall, gazed at by E.M. Forster’s characters during a concert. William Blake’s famous poem about London is followed by Britten’s setting of the text, and Daniel Defoe’s description of London during the plague is accompanied with music by Purcell. Handel and Haydn were both embraced by Londoners during their visits to the City, with Haydn writing several ‘London Symphonies’. T.S Eliot describes the crowds flowing over London Bridge in The Waste Land, while V.S Pritchett was more interested in the Cockney world of the East End, alluded to by Elgar in his Cockaigne Overture. For George Orwell’s Winston, the sounds of the famous city church bells are a distant memory, and the bells were also inspiration for Steve Martland, in his unusual setting of the Oranges and Lemons song. Victorian London was terrorised by the threat of Jack the Ripper, immortalised in film with a dramatic soundtrack by Stanley Black. Iris Murdoch writes a vivid description of the characters riding the Circle Line on the underground, while John Evelyn, one of the great London diarists gives his account of the devastation of St Paul’s Cathedral after the Fire of London.  London’s poets are celebrated in death by Robert Leighton’s humorous poem Poets’ Corner, and the programme ends back where it began with the Thames, this time from the view-point of the characters in Anthony Powell’s The Military Philosophers, powerless to stop the destruction during the Blitz. They refer to Spencer’s poem Sweet Thames run softly, a text which was used so effectively by George Dyson in his beautiful setting of the same title.  

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