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I Need a Holiday

Texts and music about holidays, with readings by Scott Handy and Jemima Rooper. Including Betjeman and Larkin, plus Liszt, Gershwin, Vaughan Williams, Whitlock and Solomon Burke.

Words and Music goes on holiday with readers Scott Handy and Jemima Rooper, taking in the Italian sights, the South of France, the great outdoors and the breezy British seaside. They struggle with the journey, the swarms of tourists, the rucksacks, the weather forecast and the age-old problems of expectation exceeding reality but are determined to have a good time. There is also archive recording of John Betjeman and Philip Larkin reading their own work. The soundtrack to the getaway is provided by Liszt and Gershwin, Vaughan Williams and Whitlock, and Suggs and Solomon Burke, to name a few.

1 hour, 15 minutes

Last on

Sun 3 Jul 2016 17:30

Music Played

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

  • 00:00

    Percy Whitlock

    Holiday Suite : Spade and Bucket Polka

    Performer: RTE Concert Orchestra, Gavin Sutherland.
    • Marco Polo 8.225162.
    • Tr13.
  • Harry Graham

    Holidays, read by Jemima Rooper

  • 00:02

    Anthony Holborne

    Heigh ho holiday - galliard for 5 instruments [1599 no.65]

    Performer: Canadian Brass.
    • CBS MK 45792.
    • Tr4.
  • Geoffrey Chaucer

    The Canterbury Tales (opening), read by Scott Handy

  • 00:05

    E.J. Moeran

    Bank holiday for piano

    Performer: Eric Parkin (piano).
    • Lyrita SRCD 266.
    • Tr27.
  • John Betjeman

    Beside the Seaside (opening), read by John Betjeman

  • Michel Rosen

    The Car Journey, read by Jemima Rooper

  • 00:08

    Michael Barson / Graham McPherson

    Off on Holiday

    Performer: Suggs.
    • The Lone Ranger WEA – 0630 12478-2.
    • Tr8.
  • Robert Louis Stevenson

    From a Railway Carriage, read by Scott Handy

  • 00:10

    Charles Williams

    Rhythm on Rails

    Performer: Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Barry Wordsworth.
    • Warner 2564 61438-2.
    • Tr10.
  • Mark Haddon

    The Red House (extract), read by Scott Handy

  • 00:13

    George Butterworth

    The Banks of green willow - idyll for orchestra

    Performer: Halle Orchestra, Mark Elder.
    • Halle CD HLL 7503.
    • Tr4.
  • 00:19

    James Hook

    Concerto in D major Op.1`5 for piano and orchestra: 3rd mvt; Rondo

    Performer: Paul Nicholson (fortepiano), The Parley of Instruments.
    • Helios CDH 55341.
    • Tr20.
  • Jane Austen

    Pride and Prejudice (extract), read by Jemima Rooper

  • William Wordsworth

    The Prelude. Fourth Book. Summer Vacation (extract), read by Jemima Rooper

  • 00:25

    Ralph Vaughan Williams

    Songs of Travel: The Vagabond

    Performer: Bryn Terfel (baritone), Malcolm Martineau (piano).
    • DG 445 9462.
    • Tr1.
  • Bill Bryson

    A Walk in the Woods (extract), read by Scott Handy

  • 00:30

    Solomon Burke and the Blind Boys of Alabama

    I need a holiday

    Performer: Solomon Burke and the Blind Boys of Alabama.
    • None of Us Are Free, Fat Possom Records 1090-2.
    • Tr3.
  • Thomas Hardy

    Expectation and Experience, read by Jemima Rooper

  • 00:34


    July Wakes

    Performer: Mike Harding.
    • Leader LER 2039.
    • Tr10.
  • 00:37

    Franz Liszt

    Annees de pelerinage - 2me annee, Italie S.161

    Performer: Louis Lortie (piano).
    • CHAN 10662 (2).
    • Tr3.
  • E. M. Forster

    A Room with a View (extract), read by Jemima Rooper

  • E. E. Cummings

    Memorabilia, read by Scott Handy

  • 00:42

    Renato Carosone

    Tu Vuo'’ Fa’ l’'Americano

    Performer: Quadro Nuevo.
    • Putamayo P328.
    • Tr10.
  • 00:46

    George Gershwin

    An American in Paris (excerpt) arr. Villard for clarinet and orchestra

    Performer: Michel Lethiec (clarinet), Sinfonia Finlandia Jyväskylä, Patrock Gallois.
    • Naxos 8. 570939.
    • Tr8.
  • 00:52

    John Foulds

    Holiday Sketches (op.16), no.3; Evening in the Odenwald (Lento calmo assai)

    Performer: BBC Concert Orchestra, Katharine Wood (cello), Ronald Corp.
    • Epoch CDLX 7252.
    • Tr9.
  • P.K. Page

    The Permanent Tourists, read by Jemima Rooper

  • 00:54

    Lukas Foss

    3 Pieces for violin and piano, no.3; Composer's holiday

    Performer: Itzhak Perlman (violin), Boston Symphony Orchestra, Seiji Ozawa.
    • EMI 5 55360 2.
    • Tr8.
  • 00:57

    Percy Whitlock

    Holiday suite for orchestra: Waltz: In the ballroom

    Performer: RTE Concert Orchestra, Gavin Sutherland.
    • Marco Polo 8. 225162.
    • Tr12.
  • Jerome K. Jerome

    Three Men in a Boat (extract), read by Scott Handy

  • 01:02

    John A. Glover-Kind

    Oh I do like to be beside the seaside

    Performer: Reginald Dixon (organ).
    • Readers Digest RAD 230.
    • Tr8.
  • Philip Larkin

    To the sea, read by Philip Larkin

  • E. M. Delafield

    Diary of a Provincial Lady (extract), read by Jemima Rooper

  • 01:08


    La Mer

    Performer: Charles Trenet.
    • Pegusus “La Vie Parisienne” PPCD78149.
    • Tr5.
  • 01:11


    La Mer arr. J Altman

    Performer: Simon Chamberlain.
    • Funny Bones: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, Touchstone Records -– TST 9906.2.
    • Tr1.
  • Elizabeth Daryush

    After Bank Holiday, read by Scott Handy

Producer Note

“How strange this yearning for being elsewhere doing nothing”, says Mark Haddon in The Red House,  “holidays without the holy, pilgrimage become mere travel, the destination handed to us on a plate…” However Article 24 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay. “ So off on our holidays we go.

Even in the Middle Ages the arrival of some decent weather triggered the desire to get away, although in those days it was pilgrimage rather than package tour. But the actual going is sometimes the best bit – and the worst. There’s the typical family journey by car, with John Betjeman (reading the opening of his poem Beside the Seaside) , Michael Rosen and his squabbling children, and Suggs echoing the same sentiments as he travels happily to his rotten little beach hut by the sea. There’s the train, with Robert Louis Stevenson and Mark Haddon, both looking out of their respective carriage windows but with rather different feelings about the passing scene. And perhaps most uncomfortably, you could go by coach and horse, with Elizabeth Bennet and the Gardiners as they set off to Derbyshire. 

Wordsworth, the great walker, sets out with a light heart and apparently limitless energy as he covers the miles through the Lake District, and Stevenson’s Vagabond (set by Vaughan Williams) shares that love of endlessly tramping the byways of the countryside.  But Bill Bryson is honest enough to share what for many of us is the reality of hiking – the over-optimistic schedule, the ridiculously heavy rucksack, the sheer distance and unattainability of your chosen mountain peak…

Hardy’s unnamed would-be holiday maker is unimpressed with the reality of her experience as well, but the traditional  song “July Wakes” tells of two weavers looking forward  all year to climbing Pendle Hill, whatever the weather, on the annual mill holiday -  “we’ll be weaving 51 weeks of bread and just  one of life – To ‘ell wi’ looms…”

And so to travel abroad,  accompanied by Liszt’s Annees de pelerinage - 2me annee, Italie. Most people like to think of themselves as travellers, whereas the locals downgrade them to tourists…Lucy Honeychurch is under no illusions as to her status in Italy in “A Room with a View”, but e e cummings paints a vivid picture of the coming of the tourists,  “armed with large legs rancid voices Baedekers Mothers and kodaks”.  (The music Tu vuò fà l'americano"  is an instrumental version of a song  satirising the effect of American culture on Italians in the 50s, followed by an arrangement of  part of “An American in Paris”)   The Canadian poet P.K.Page is also scathing about the swarms, but manages to find some redeeming beauty in their hunger to see the sights.

And so back to the seaside, where we were heading with John Betjeman earlier. Jerome K. Jerome recalls a holiday ruined by actually taking notice of the weather forecast, and Philip Larkin reads his poem To the Sea, talking of the surprising dignity and ritual of the annual seaside trip. The programme closes with E.M. Delafield’s Provincial Lady, a prototype Bridget Jones, on holiday in the South of France, struggling to emulate the elegance and swimming abilities of her eminent companions, and finally Elizabeth Daryush’s atmospheric description of the holiday scene once everyone has departed, set  to the ghost of “La Mer”…

Producer: Elizabeth Funning


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