Main content
Sorry, this episode is not currently available

Pilgrimage

Robert Powell and Josette Simon with an anthology of words with music reflecting the spirit and idea of pilgrimage through the ages, from Canterbury to Graceland.

Robert Powell and Josette Simon with an anthology of words with music reflecting the spirit and idea of pilgrimage through the ages, from Canterbury to Graceland.

We begin in Kent, encountering some of Chaucer's famous travellers and music by George Dyson, a contemporary of Vaughan-Williams, whose "Canterbury Pilgrims" is his undoubted masterpiece. Music by Handel suggests the crusades matched with a marvellously researched French novel by Zoe Oldenbourg,

The story of Christian pilgrimage changes with the Reformation. Josette Simon reads an anonymous mediæval lament to the shrine at Walsingham, which also inspired recusant and keyboard composer William Byrd. Arguably the greatest of all English pilgrimage texts is that by John Bunyan, which inspired multiple pieces by Ralph Vaughan Williams. We hear his opera, A Pilgrim's Progress but you could say each of his musical settings of this text form a king of pilgrimage.

We also hear Joseph Conrad's powerful account of Muslims crossing terrible seas on the Hajj in Lord Jim and in contrast, the almost calming account of a visit to shrines by the 17th-century poet Matsuo Bashō - Japanese master of the haiku

Not all pilgrimages are religious and for the 19th-century Romantics, a journey to the "land where lemons grow" was de rigueur so I have chosen Lord Byron's Childe Harold, mirrored by the music of Berlioz and Liszt. And then there is the "temple" on the little hill at Bayreuth and Saint Wagner - as Mark Twain described the composer.

Our journey ends beside the grave of Oscar Wilde in Paris, now surrounded by plate glass to protect the Epstein monument from the pilgrims who come to kiss the stone with lipstick.

Producer: Chris Wines.

1 hour, 15 minutes

Last on

Sun 21 Apr 2019 17:30

Music Played

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

  • 00:00

    Sir George Dyson

    The Canterbury Pilgrims – 1. Prologue

    Orchestra: London Symphony Orchestra. Conductor: Richard Hickox.
    • CHANDOS CHAN 9531.
    • CD1 Tr2.
  • Julia Cartwright

    - "(The Pilgrims' Way) First sight of Canterbury" read by Josette Simon

  • 00:01

    Anon

    Llibre Vermell de Montserrat - I)Procession des Pelerins II) Cucti Simus Concanentes

    Choir: Chœur de Chambre de Namur & Millenarium & Psallentes. Choir: Les Pastoureaux. Performer: Christophe Deslignes.
    • RICECAR RIC260.
  • Geoffrey Chaucer (translated by Neville Coghill)

    The Canterbury Tales - The Knight’s Prologue read by Robert Powell

  • 00:03

    George Frideric Handel

    Rinaldo - Act 1: "Combatti da forte"

    Performer: Cecilia Bartoli. Orchestra: Academy of Ancient Music. Director: Christopher Hogwood.
    • DECCA 4670872.
    • 5.
  • Zoe Oldenbourg (translated by Anne Laurel Carter)

    Heirs to the Kingdom read by Josette Simon

  • 00:06

    Anon

    Llibre Vermell de Montserrat - Bal Redon

    Choir: Chœur de Chambre de Namur & Millenarium & Psallentes. Choir: Les Pastoureaux. Performer: Christophe Deslignes.
    • RICECAR RIC260.
  • 00:07

    Franz Schubert

    Der Pilgrim D794

    Performer: Christoph Prégardien. Performer: Andreas Staier.
    • DHM.
    • G010001413250.
  • 00:12

    Sir George Dyson

    The Canterbury Pilgrims – 6. Wife of Bath

    Performer: Yvonne Kenny. Orchestra: London Symphony Orchestra. Conductor: Richard Hickox.
    • CHANDOS CHAN 9531.
    • CD1 Tr2.
  • Geoffrey Chaucer (translated by Neville Coghill)

    The Canterbury Tales - The Wife of Bath’s Prologue read by Josette Simon

  • 00:15

    Guillaume Dufay

    O gemma, lux et speculum

    Ensemble: Huelgas Ensemble. Director: Paul Van Nevel. Conductor: Richard Hickox.
    • HARMONIA MUNDI HMC901700.
    • 3.
  • Geoffrey Chaucer (translated by Neville Coghill)

    The Canterbury Tales - The Summoner’s Prologue read by Robert Powell

  • Geoffrey Chaucer (translated by Neville Coghill)

    The Canterbury Tales - The Pardoner’s Prologue read by Robert Powell

  • Geoffrey Chaucer (translated by Neville Coghill)

    The Canterbury Tales - The Pardoner’s Prologue read by Josette Simon

  • Geoffrey Chaucer (translated by Neville Coghill)

    The Canterbury Tales - The Pardoner’s Prologue read by Robert Powell

  • 00:16

    Oliver Knussen

    Variations on Sumer Is Icumen In - Theme

    Orchestra: BBC Symphony Orchestra. Conductor: Jac van Steen.
    • NMC NMCD062.
    • 14.
  • Geoffrey Chaucer (translated by Neville Coghill)

    The Canterbury Tales - The Parson’s Prologue read by Josette Simon

  • Geoffrey Chaucer (translated by Neville Coghill)

    The Canterbury Tales - The Plowman’s Prologue read by Robert Powell

  • William Langland (translated by JF William Goodridge)

    Piers The Plowman read by Robert Powell

  • 00:18

    Robin Holloway

    Variations on Sumer Is Icumen In – Variation 2

    Orchestra: BBC Symphony Orchestra. Conductor: Jac van Steen.
    • NMC NMCD062.
    • 16.
  • 00:20

    Trad

    Walsingham

    Performer: Emily Van Evera.
    • Harmonia MUNDI HMC905192.
    • 11.
  • 00:20

    William Corkine

    Walsingham

    Performer: Latitude 37.
    • ABC Classics ABC4812100.
    • 20.
  • Anon

    "A Lament for Our Lady's Shrine at Walsingham" read by Josette Simon

  • 00:22

    William Byrd

    Walsingham (MB8)

    Performer: Mahan Esfahani.
    • WIGMORE HALL LIVE WHLIVE0066.
    • 14.
  • 00:26

    Ralph Vaughan Williams

    Pilgrim's Progress – Prologue

    Performer: Peter Coleman-Wright. Orchestra: Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Conductor: Richard Hickox.
    • CHANDOS CHAN 9625.
  • 00:30

    Arne Sandström

    The Voyage of the Mayflower 1620

    Performer: Alex Wennerlund.
    • SPINNUP Download.
  • Joseph Conrad

    Lord Jim read by Robert Powell

  • 00:35

    Harry Gregson‐Williams

    The Kingdom of Heaven (OST) – “Saladin”

    Orchestra: Studio Orchestra. Conductor: Harry Gregson‐Williams.
    • Sony Classical – SK 94419.
    • 17.
  • 00:37

    James Ashley Franklin

    Peace Bell

    Performer: James Ashley Franklin.
    • Celestial Harmonies 13177.
    • 5.
  • Basho

    Narrow Road To The Deep North read by Josette Simon

  • Basho

    Narrow Road To The Deep North read by Robert Powell

  • 00:42

    André Previn

    3 Dickinson Songs - 2. "Will there really be a morning?"

    Performer: Renée Fleming. Performer: André Previn.
    • DG 4710282.
    • 9.
  • 00:43

    Richard Wagner

    Tannhauser – Act 2. Entry of the Guest

    Choir: Chorus of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Orchestra: Philharmonia Orchestra. Conductor: Giuseppe Sinopoli.
    • DG 429 789-2.
    • 6.
  • Mark Twain

    At The Shrine of St Wagner read by Robert Powell

  • 00:46

    Richard Wagner

    Tannhauser – Act 3. Pilgrim’s Chorus

    Choir: Chor der Wiener Staatsoper. Orchestra: Vienna Philharmonic. Conductor: Georg Solti.
    • DECCA.
    • 470 810-2.
    • CD3 Tr3.
  • 00:49

    Franz Liszt

    Annees de pelerinage, 2nd year, Italy - No 4 "Sonetto 47 del Petrarca"

    Performer: Bertrand Chamayou.
    • NAÏVE.
    • N1 5260.
    • CD2 Tr4.
  • 00:54

    Hector Berlioz

    Harold in Italy – 1. “Harold In The Mountains”

    Orchestra: Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique. Conductor: Sir John Eliot Gardiner.
    • PHILIPS 446 676-2.
    • 1.
  • Lord Byron

    Childe Harold read by Robert Powell

  • 00:59

    Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

    Souvenir de Florence op70 – 1st mvt

    Orchestra: Det Norske Kammerorkester. Conductor: Iona Brown.
    • CHANDOS CHAN9708.
    • 1.
  • EM Forster

    A Room With A View read by Josette Simon

  • 01:02

    Francis Poulenc

    Improvisation No 15 in C minor - "Homage a Piaf".

    Performer: Pascal Rogé.
    • DECCA 4174382.
    • 28.
  • Carol Ann Duffy

    Père Lachaise read by Robert Powell

  • 01:05

    Paul Simon

    Graceland

    Performer: Paul Simon.
    • WARNER 7599254472.
    • 2.
  • Erika Doss

    Shrines and Pilgrimage in the Modern World: New Itineraries Into the Sacred read by Josette Simon

  • 01:10

    Mickey Newbury

    American Trilogy

    Performer: Elvis Presley.
    • SONY BMG Music Entertainment 8869703614-2.
    • 15.
  • 01:12

    Trad (arr Martin Simpson)

    To Be A Pilgrim

    Performer: Martin Simpson.
    • Fledg'ling Records – FLE 1007.
    • 14.
  • Charles Dickens

    Little Dorrit read by Robert Powell

Producer's Note

The idea of pilgrimage is something found in all cultures, throughout history (there are accounts of it among the records of the Ancient Egyptians). It is not a surprise then to discover a wealth of references within the world of literature and music. So where to start a programme on pilgrimage? 

My aim has been to take the listener on a journey - a sort of pilgrimage in itself - taking in the familiar and perhaps less familiar, paying respect to different faiths and cultures; passing through time; journeying from the sacred to the secular - from Canterbury to Graceland.

We begin in Kent, on the Pilgrims Way, with an early 20th Century account of the famous pilgrim trail from London to Canterbury. Here we encounter some of Chaucer's famous travellers and music by George Dyson, a contemporary of Vaughan-Williams, whose "Canterbury Pilgrims" is his undoubted masterpiece. Chaucer's Knight tells of campaigns abroad. Music by Handel suggests the crusades. The spoken text here is taken from a marvellously researched French novel, in which the author, Zoe Oldenbourg, sought to evoke the life of the mediæval poor as they set out on pilgrimage during the First Crusade.

For all their pious intent, the early Christian pilgrims were not without their detractors, as Chaucer himself was apt to convey.  William Langland in Piers the Plowman suggests a better path to godliness. The story of Christian pilgrimage changes with the Reformation. Josette Simon reads beautifully an anonymous mediæval lament to the shrine at Walsingham, which is juxtaposed with one of the remarkable keyboard pieces by the recusant William Byrd, inspired by the same place.

Arguably the greatest of all English pilgrimage texts is that by John Bunyan. It makes a presence here, not with a reading, but with the opening of Ralph Vaughan Williams's opera, A Pilgrim's Progress. Vaughan Williams returned to the Bunyan text again and again in his life, and in many ways each of his musical settings is like a pilgrimage.

And to other faiths. It is not possible to be encyclopaedic, so I have decided on accounts which capture a telling moment concerning pilgrimage. Joseph Conrad's powerful account of Muslims crossing terrible seas on the Hajj in Lord Jim - atmospherically conveyed by Robert Powell - and in complete contrast the almost calming account of pilgrimage by the 17th Century poet Matsuo Bashō - Japanese master of the haiku - on a visit to remote shrines along the Narrow Road to the Deep North.

Not all pilgrimages are religious. For the 19th century Romantics, a journey to the "land where lemons grow" was de rigueur. There 'pilgrims' communed with the relics of the ancients and the foundations of Western culture. Lord Byron encapsulates this spirit of pilgrimage in his hugely influential poem Childe Harold, and the sentiment is mirrored in the music of Berlioz and Liszt. And then there is the cult of Wagner, whose "temple" on the little hill at Bayreuth has been the focus of cultural pilgrimage since its inception. Saint Wagner is how Mark Twain described the composer on a visit there.

The modern pilgrim pursues both the secular and sacred - but our journey's end brings us beside the resting places of the famous. The grave of Oscar Wilde at Père Lachaise in Paris for instance, which is now surrounded with plate glass to protect the Epstein monument from the tradition that pilgrims have had of kissing the stone with lipstick, and leaving their mark.

Pilgrimage provides a potent source of words and music.  It encompasses many forms; an outward manifestation of an inner voyage.

 

Producer - Chris Wines

Broadcasts

Books website

Books website

Get closer to books with in-depth articles, quizzes and our picks from radio & TV.