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Tucked up by Mum and Dad

Texts and music about parents, with readings by Harriet Walter and James Garnon. Including Larkin, Anna Laetitia Barbauld and Michael Rosen, plus Ligeti, Bach and Tom Lehrer.

Parents of all sorts feature in this edition of Words and Music, from their own and their children's perspective. So we hear about dysfunctional families from ancient Greece and Philip Larkin; the joys of parenthood from Anna Laetitia Barbauld and a dewy-eyed Coleridge - and its dark side from Abraham and Rachel Cusk. Michael Rosen grieves for his son, while Alan Bennett and Elizabeth Jennings describe relationships with elderly parents. Plus (in case you're confused) parenting advice from Erasmus and Dr Benjamin Spock. Readings by Harriet Walter and James Garnon and music from Ligeti, Bach and Tom Lehrer, among others.

Contains some strong language.

David Papp (producer).

1 hour, 15 minutes

Last on

Tue 23 Dec 2014 16:30

Music Played

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

  • 00:00

    Domenico Scarlatti

    Sonata in E major, K. 531

    Performer: Wendy Carlos Moog Synthesiser

    • ESD 81612.
  • Dr Benjamin Spock

    Baby & Child Care, reader James Garnon

  • Anna Laetitia Barbauld

    To a Little Invisible Being who is Expected Soon to Become Visible, reader Harriet Walter

  • 00:02

    Johann Sebastian Bach

    Andante (from Keyboard Concerto No. 7 in G minor, BWV 1058)

    Performer: Murray Perahia (piano)

    • Sony SK 89690.
  • Samuel Taylor Coleridge

    Sonnet to a Friend Who Asked How I Felt When the Nurse First Presented My Infant to Me, reader James Garnon

  • Sylvia Plath

    Child, reader Harriet Walter

  • 00:09

    György Ligeti


    Performer: Pierre Charial (barrel organ)

    • Sony SK 62310.
  • Rachel Cusk

    A Life’s Work, reader Harriet Walter

  • 00:12

    Engelbert Humperdinck

    Evening Prayer & Dream Pantomime (from Hänsel und Gretel)

    Performer: Ann-Sofie von Otter Performer: Barbara Bonney Performer: Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra/Jeffrey Tate

    • EMI CDS7540222 CD 1.
  • Adrian Mitchell

    This be the Worst, reader Harriet Walter

  • William Blake

    The Land of Dreams, reader James Garnon

  • 00:20

    Adrien Leroy

    Bransle de Champaigne

    Performer: Eric de Bellocq (lute)

    • Harmonia Mundi HMC 901729.
  • Erasmus (trans. Robert Whittington)

    On the Manners of Children, reader James Garnon

  • 00:22

    Nicolas Gombert

    La chasse au lievre

    Performer: Ensemble Clément Janequin/Dominique Visse

    • Harmonia Mundi HMC 901729.
  • 00:23

    Adrien Le Roy

    Allemande du pied du cheval

    Performer: Eric de Bellocq (lute)

    • Harmonia Mundi HMC 901729.
  • 00:24


    O Maria, stella maris

    Performer: Trio Mediaeval

    • ECM 476 3021.
  • Kahil Gibran

    On Children (from The Prophet), reader Harriet Walter

  • 00:28

    Arvo Pärt

    Silentium (from Tabula rasa)

    Performer: Adele Anthony & Gil Shaham (violins) Performer: Erik Risberg (prepared piano) Performer: Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra/Neeme Järvi

    • Deutsche Grammophon 457 647 2.
  • Michael Rosen

    Carrying the Elephant, reader James Garnon

  • Robert Louis Stevenson

    To Any Reader, reader Harriet Walter

  • 00:38

    Samuel Scheidt

    Canzona super cantionem gallicam 'Est-ce Mars?'

    Performer: His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts

    • Helios CDH55344.
  • Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (trans. John Florio)

    Essays: Of the institution and education of children, reader James Garnon

  • 00:43

    Arthur Sullivan

    Onward Christian Soldiers

    Performer: Musical box

    • Saydisc CD-SDL 331.
  • Edmund Gosse

    Father and Son, reader James Garnon

  • 00:45

    Arthur Sullivan

    Onward Christian Soldiers

    Performer: Musical box

    • Saydisc CD-SDL 331.
  • Roald Dahl

    Matilda, reader Harriet Walter

  • 00:48

    Tim Minchin

    Telly (from Matilda)

    Performer: Original Cast recording Paul Kaye (Mr Wormwood)

    • RSC RSCE 002.
  • Stevie Smith

    N’est-ce pas assez de ne me point hair, reader Harriet Walter

  • 00:51

    John Cage

    First Interlude (from Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano)

    Performer: Boris Berman (prepared piano)

    • Naxos 8.554345.
  • Philip Larkin

    This be the Verse, reader James Garnon

  • X. J. Kennedy

    Blues for Oedipus, reader James Garnon

  • 00:55

    Tom Lehrer

    Oedipus Rex

    Performer: Tom Lehrer (voice and piano)

    • Reprise 61992.
  • 00:56

    Jonathan Harvey

    mortuos plango, vivos voco

    • Sargasso SCD28023.
  • The Bible, Genesis 1 -18

    Abraham & Isaac, reader Harriet Walter

  • Elizabeth Jennings

    To My Mother at 73, reader Harriet Walter

  • 01:01

    Frédéric Chopin

    Prelude in C sharp minor, op. 45

    Performer: Alexei Lubimov (piano)

    • ECM 461 812 2.
  • Alan Bennett

    Untold Stories, reader James Garnon

  • 01:08

    George Frideric Handel

    As with rosy steps the morn (from Theodora)

    Performer: Lorraine Hunt Lieberson (mezzo) Performer: Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Harry Bicket

    • Avie AV 0030.

Producer Note

In this edition of Words and Music, parents and children mete out misery and joy.

In ‘This be the Verse’ Philip Larkin squarely lays the blame for being messed-up with  mum and dad. But as Alan Bennett has pointed out, writers who are messed-up by their parents are ‘fine because then you’ve got something to write about’. 

Edmund Gosse certainly proved the point in his autobiographical ‘Father and Son’ which describes a Victorian upbringing at the hands of a religious fundamentalist father.  Oedipus could reasonably claim to have been more messed up than most by his parents but then he certainly paid it back to them in spades: all neatly summed-up here by XJ Kennedy and Tom Lehrer.  Then there’s the Old Testament’s Abraham, willing to sacrifice his son if God tells him to. Roald Dahl’s Matilda and Stevie Smith both need to escape their oppressive parents.

Of course, children have an impact on their parents. A pregnant Anna Laetitia Barbauld can’t wait for the joy and love she thinks her child will bring; Coleridge’s newborn son provokes a similar ecstatic response.  But the realities of coping with young children take Sylvia Plath and Rachel Cusk beyond the brink of sanity. The Land of Dreams is ‘better far’ than the real world for the little boy in Blake’s poem – a pitiful exchange between a recently widowed father and his motherless son.

Kahil Gibran’s ‘On Children’ exhorts parents to let go of their offspring and to acknowledge their separateness and individuality; Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘To Any Reader’ is also about parental letting-go.  Forced to let go is Michael Rosen, broken by grief after the death from meningitis of his teenage son.

Elderly parents feature in two texts: Elizabeth Jennings’ mother leaves her with pent up tears of frustration, and Alan Bennett is witness to a poignant exchange.

There are happy parents and children here, too! In a witty parody of Larkin, the parents in Adrian Mitchell’s ‘This be the Worst’ ‘tuck you up’ in boundless love and security. And in his ‘Essays’ Montaigne has nothing but praise both for his father’s educational methods and his way of waking him up in the morning.

Every parent will be aware of countless books on bringing up children. One of the first, from 1430 and full of good advice, was Erasmus’s bestselling ‘On the Education of Children’.  Here is advice on that perennial parental headache: table manners. Dr Benjamin Spock’s 1946 ‘Baby & Childcare’ begins the programme. With its exhortation to parents to trust their instincts and common sense it, too, became a bestseller (at over forty-five million copies, and still counting). Many of us will have experienced it in one way or the other.

I have chosen music which seems to fit the feeling of the texts, rather than for any more overt significance to the programme’s theme. (Although as father to twenty children, Bach surely merits inclusion on that score alone and Jonathan Harvey’s great electroacoustic ‘mortuos plango, vivos voco’ features the recorded voice of his son, Dominic.)

David Papp (producer)


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