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Star Light, Star Bright

Texts and music on the theme of stars, with readings by Lorelei King and John Paul Connolly. Includes Keats and Whitman, plus Cage, Vaughan Williams, Kraftwerk and Britten.

Lorelei King and John Paul Connolly are looking heavenwards, with poetry and music on the beauty, science and influence of the stars.

Includes poetry by Keats, Whitman, Katherine Mansfield and Gerard Manley Hopkins, plus wise words from theoretical physicist Richard Feynman, and music from John Cage, Vaughan Williams, Kraftwerk and Britten, to name only a few.

Producer Note
This edition of Words and Music celebrates the ancient pastime, art and science of star-gazing, beginning and ending with whatever secret wish upon a star you need to make...
The sheer vastness of the starry height is described for us by Katherine Mansfield and Gerard Manley Hopkins, accompanied by silvery starlit music from Eriks Esenvalds and a violin concerto by Oliver Davis that takes as its inspiration the NASA Voyager probe, speeding through the galaxies. And Jerry Goldsmith's expansive Star Trek theme morphs into Holst's "Venus" - we know now it's a planet, but it was known to ancient civilisations as both the morning and the evening star...
Poetry from Louise Gluck and prose from Thomas Hardy express the feeling of human insignificance when set against the rolling night sky, as Jennifer Higdon's piano quintet "Scenes from the Poet's Dreams" races through stars, and as Robert Frost, underdog, leaps and barks with the great overdog - Canis Major.
Walt Whitman's poetic impatience with the learned astronomer's facts and figures is understandable perhaps, but those astronomers of old, the Magi, embraced both science and theology in their quest for the Star of Bethlehem. And staying with the theology for a while, Mary was commonly known as Our Lady, Star of the Sea in medieval times - a symbol of hope and guidance.
But back to the science - Philip Glass wrote his piece "Orion" as an evening-long piece for the 2004 Athens Olympics, as the constellation is visible from both hemispheres. We hear part of "Australia", complete with didgeridoo, accompanying Sir Patrick Moore with a brief excerpt from "The Sky at Night" in which he runs through part of his own "Caldwell Catalogue" of star clusters, nebulae and galaxies. Theoretical physicist Richard Feynman has no objection, as you might expect, to speaking of the wondrous science of astronomy, and we have an ... unexpected contribution from Professor Stephen Hawking as well. The words in the electro-pop offering from Kraftwerk tell us that "From the deeps of space radio stars are transmitting pulsars and quasars". Christine Paice's poem "A star against the eye" was written for National Science Week 2010 - "Science Made Marvellous".
A change of pace next with music by William Herschel, who not only was a composer of numerous symphonies, sonatas and concertos but was also Court Astronomer to George III and the discoverer of the planet Uranus. I have also included part of "Atlas eclipticalis" by John Cage, a piece of music that is made by superimposing musical staves over star charts, He writes that the piece is "a heavenly illustration of nirvana," and a performance "should be like looking into the sky on a clear night and seeing the stars."
We can't ignore the effects of stars on lovers, courtesy of Shakespeare, Keats and Puccini's aria from Tosca, whereas the hope or perhaps fear that the movements of the stars affects human fate is expressed by Siegfried Sassoon, Peter Grimes in Britten's opera, and in a catalogue of the stars in the zodiac in Vaughan Williams "Sons of Light".
The programme draws towards a close with hymns to the stars of evening, and finally, against a backdrop of Terry Riley's quirky "Sunrise of the Planetary Dream Collector", Louis MacNeice wrestles with the mind-blowing concept that the light from the stars began its journey millennia before we were born, and that we will never see the light that is setting out on that journey right now. Easier perhaps, to wish upon a star than to comprehend one...

1 hour, 15 minutes

Music Played

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

  • 00:00

    Leigh Harline

    When You Wish Upon A Star

    Performer: The Dave Brubeck Quartet.
    • CBS 21060.
  • Anon

    Star Light Star Bright, read by John Paul Connolly

  • Katherine Mansfield

    Stars, read by Lorelei King

  • 00:01

    Eriks Esenvalds

    Stars

    Performer: Voces 8.
    • Decca 478 8053.
  • 00:04

    Oliver Davis

    Voyager – Concerto for violin, piano and strings, Movt V

    Performer: Kerenza Peacock (violin), Huw Watkins (piano), LSO, Paul Ateman (conductor).
    • SIGCD411.
  • Gerard Manley Hopkins

    The Starlight Night, read by John Paul Connolly

  • 00:07

    Jerry Goldsmith

    Ilia's theme from Star Trek

    Performer: Studio orchestra conducted by Jerry Goldsmith.
    • Columbia 9833812.
    • 00:03:00.
  • 00:10

    Gustav Holst

    Holst

    Performer: London Philharmonic Orchestra, Vladimir Jurowski (conductor).

    The Planets (suite op.32), Venus, The Bringer of Peace

    • LPO0047.
  • Louise Gluck

    Telescope, read by Lorelei King

  • Thomas Hardy

    Far from the Madding Crowd, ready by John Paul Connolly

  • 00:17

    Jennifer Higdon

    Scenes from the Poet's Dreams; 1. Racing Through Stars

    Performer: Gary Graffman (piano), The Lark Quartet.
    • Bridge 9379.
  • Robert Frost

    Canis Major, read by John Paul Connolly

  • Walt Whitman

    When I heard the learn’d astronomer, read by Lorelei King

  • 00:19

    Peter Cornelius

    The Three Kings arr. Atkins for bar. & chorus [orig. no.3 of 'Weihnachtslieder']

    Performer: Stephen Alder (bass), Choir of Westminster Abbey, James O’Donnell (director).
    • Hyperion CDA66668.
  • 00:22

    Giovanni Felice Sances

    Ave, maris stella

    Performer: The Gonzaga Band.
    • CHAN0782.
  • 00:25

    Philip Glass

    Orion – Australia

    Performer: Mark Atkins – didgeridoo, The Philip Glass Ensemble.
    • Orange Mountain OMM0021.
  • Patrick Moore

    Caldwell Catalogue from The Sky at Night. BBC TV (Excerpt)

  • Richard Feynmann

    Lecture – The Relation of Physics to Other Sciences. Astronomy, read by John Paul Connolly

  • Christine Paice

    A Glass Against the Eye, read by Lorelei King

  • 00:32

    Kraftwerk

    Radio Stars

    Performer: Kraftwerk.
    • Capitol ST-11457.
  • 00:00

    Eric Idle and John Du Prez

    The Galaxy Song

    Performer: Stephen Hawking.
    • Virgin 0602547204417.
  • 00:38

    William Herschel

    Symphony no. 8 in C minor: 1st movement; Allegro assai

    Performer: The London Mozart Players, Matthias Bamert (conductor).
    • Chandos CHSA 5005.
  • 00:42

    Michael East

    Hence stars, too dim of light

    Performer: The King’s Singers.
    • SIGCD0.
  • William Shakespeare

    Not from the stars do I my judgment pluck (Sonnet 14), read by Lorelei King

  • John Keats

    Bright Star, read by John Paul Connolly

  • 00:45

    Giacomo Puccini

    E lucevan le stelle (And the stars were shining…), from Tosca

    Performer: Joseph Calleja (tenor), Suisse Romande Orchestra, Marco Armiliato (conductor).
    • Decca 4782720.
    • 00:03:06.
  • 00:48

    Reynaldo Hahn

    Les Etoiles

    Performer: Alice Coote (mezzo), Graham Johnson (piano).
    • Hyperion CDA67962.
  • 00:51

    John Cage

    Atlas eclipticalis

    Performer: Chicago Symphony Orchestra, James Levine.
    • DG 4316982.
  • Siegfried Sassoon

    Befriending Star, read by John Paul Connolly

  • 00:00

    Benjamin Britten

    Peter Grimes: Act I, Scene II Now the Great Bear and Pleiades

    Performer: Alan Oke (tenor), Britten-Pears Orchestra, Steuart Bedford (conductor).
    • SIGCD348.
  • 00:56

    Ralph Vaughan Williams

    The Songs of Light – extract “Each month is marked with a starry sign”

    Performer: Bach Choir, RCM Chorus, London Symphony Orchestra, David Atherton (conductor).
    • Lyrita SRCD 270.
  • 00:58

    Maurice Ravel

    Mother Goose - suite

  • 00:59

    Edwin Roxburgh

    4 Wordsworth miniatures for clarinet, no. 2; Waters on a starry night

    Performer: John Bradbury (clarinet).
    • Naxos 8570539.
  • Rainer Maria Rilke (trans Albert Ernest Flemming)

    Falling Stars, read by John Paul Connolly

  • 01:00

    David Lang

    Light Moving

    Performer: Hilary Hahn (violin), Cory Smythe (piano).
    • DG 4791725.
  • Edgar Allen Poe

    Evening Star, read by Lorelei King

  • George Sterling

    Aldebaran at dusk, read by John Paul Connolly

  • William Blake

    To the Evening Star, read by Lorelei King

  • 01:04

    Alec Roth

    A Time to Dance; "The Evening Star" from Part 3: An Autumn Evening

    Performer: Matthew Venner (alto), Ex Cathedra, Jeffrey Skidmore (director).
    • Hyperion CDA68144.
  • Sara Teasdale

    Arcturus in Autumn, read by Lorelei King

  • 01:08

    Terry Riley

    Sunrise of the Planetary Dream Collector

    Performer: Ragazze Quartet, Kapok.
    • Channel Classics CCS 37816.
  • Louis MacNeice

    Star Gazer, read by John Paul Connolly

  • 01:11

    Sammy Fain

    The Second Star to the Right

    Performer: The Jud Conlon Chorus.
    • Walt Disney Records ?– 7 393834 767045.
  • Anon

    Star Light, Star Bright, read by Lorelei King

Producer's Note

This edition of Words and Music celebrates the ancient pastime, art and science of star-gazing, beginning and ending with whatever secret wish upon a star you need to make…

The sheer vastness of the starry height is described for us by Katherine Mansfield and Gerard Manley Hopkins, accompanied by silvery starlit music from Eric Esenvalds and a violin concerto by Oliver Davis that takes as its inspiration the NASA Voyager probe, speeding through the galaxies. And Jerry Goldsmith’s expansive Star Trek theme morphs into Holst’s “Venus” – we know now it’s a planet, but it was known to ancient civilisations as both the morning and the evening star…

Poetry from Louise Gluck and prose from Thomas Hardy express the feeling of human insignificance when set against the rolling night sky, as Jennifer Higdon’s piano quintet “Scenes from the Poet’s Dreams” races through stars, and as Robert Frost, underdog, leaps and barks with the great overdog – Canis Major.

Walt Whitman’s poetic impatience with the learned astronomer’s facts and figures is understandable perhaps, but those astronomers of old, the Magi, embraced both science and theology in their quest for the Star of Bethlehem.  And staying with the theology for a while, Mary was commonly known as Our Lady, Star of the Sea in medieval times – a symbol of hope and guidance.

But back to the science - Philip Glass wrote his piece “Orion” as an evening-long piece for the 2004 Athens Olympics, as the constellation is visible from both hemispheres. We hear part of “Australia”, complete with didgeridoo, accompanying Sir Patrick Moore with a brief excerpt from “The Sky at Night” in which he runs through part of his own “Caldwell Catalogue” of star clusters, nebulae and galaxies.  Theoretical physicist Richard Feynman has no objection, as you might expect, to speaking of the wondrous science of astronomy, and we have an … unexpected contribution from Professor Stephen Hawking as well.  The words in the electro-pop offering from Kraftwerk tell us that “From the deeps of space radio stars are transmitting pulsars and quasars”. Christine Paice’s poem “A star against the eye” was written for National Science Week 2010 – “Science Made Marvellous”.

A change of pace next with music by William Herschel, who not only was a composer of numerous symphonies, sonatas and concertos but was also Court Astronomer to George III and the discoverer of the planet Uranus.

We can’t ignore the effects of stars on lovers, courtesy of Shakespeare, Keats and Puccini’s great aria from Tosca, “When the stars were brightly shining”...

After an ecstatic vision of the heavens resplendent with stars, “Les etoiles”, set by Reynaldo Hahn, I have included part of “Atlas eclipticalis” by John Cage, a piece of music that is made by superimposing musical staves over star charts, He writes that the piece is “a heavenly illustration of nirvana," and a performance "should be like looking into the sky on a clear night and seeing the stars." This leads into the hope or perhaps fear that the movements of the stars affects human fate, expressed in a poem by Siegfried Sassoon, and by Peter Grimes in Britten’s opera, and in a catalogue of the stars of the zodiac in Vaughan Williams “Sons of Light”.

The programme draws towards a close with hymns to the stars of evening, and finally, against a backdrop of Terry Riley’s quirky “Sunrise of the Planetary Dream Collector”, Louis MacNeice wrestles with the mind-blowing concept that the light from the stars began its journey millennia before we were born, and that we will never see the light that is setting out on that journey right now. Easier perhaps, to wish upon a star than to comprehend one…

 

Producer: Elizabeth Funning

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