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Walks in Two Worlds

Alexandra Gilbreath and Neil Pearson explore different worlds with readings of texts by Burnside, Coleridge and Vahni Capildeo and music by Chopin, MacMillan, Mussorgsky and Satie.

Theseus went into the maze, Orpheus into the dark of Hades. Heroes that they were, both emerged again to the light of the day. Alexandra Gilbreath and Neil Pearson are our guides to worlds galore, of magic and myth, and of love... for two people may share the same space but their thoughts? Who knows? How many worlds do we each inhabit as memory bends time back on itself?
So the familiar becomes the strange, with poetry from an Anglo-Saxon riddle, John Burnside, Vahni Capildeo, Ciaron Carson, Cecil Day-Lewis, Robert Devereux Earl of Essex, Thom Gunn, W S Graham, Selima Hill, Mervyn Peake, Warsan Shire, and prose from Paul Kingsnorth and Michael Ondaatje; with the music of Satie and Mussorgsky walking us through from one world to the next, plus Birtwistle, Britten, Chopin, Klami, George Lewis, James MacMillan and Jean Redpath.

Producer: Jacqueline Smith.

1 hour, 14 minutes

Last on

Fri 28 Dec 2018 17:00

Music Played

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

  • 00:00

    Frédéric Chopin

    Prélude, Op. 28 No.11 In B

    Performer: Nikolai Lugansky.
    • Erato 0927-42836-2.
    • Tr15.
  • Selima Hill

    Dragon Fly, read by Alexandra Gilbreath

  • 00:00

    Modest Mussorgsky

    Il vecchio castello

    Performer: Dénes Várjon.
    • Capriccio 71047.
    • Tr4.
  • Les Murray

    The Meaning of Existence, read by Neil Pearson

  • 00:02

    Baka Forest People

    Call of the Forest

    Performer: Baka Forest People; Martin Cradick.
    • March Hare Music MAHACD 20.
    • Tr10.
  • W. S. Graham

    Imagine a forest (extract), read by Alexandra Gilbreath

  • 00:04

    Richard Wagner

    Parsifal, Transformation Scene

    Orchestrator: Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Conductor: Herbert von Karajan.
    • Deutsche Grammophon 289 459 141-2.
    • CD2 Tr5.
  • John Burnside

    A Stolen Child (extract), read by Neil Pearson

  • 00:07

    Uuno Klami

    Kalevala Suite, Op. 23 - IV Cradle Song for Lemminkäinen

    Orchestra: Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra. Conductor: Jorma Panula.
    • FINLANDIA 577072.
    • Tr11.
  • John Burnside

    Parousia (extract), read by Neil Pearson

  • Louis MacNeice

    Collected Poems, Canto XXIV (extract), read by Neil Pearson

  • Samuel Taylor Coleridge

    The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, read by Alexandra Gilbreath

  • 00:12

    Robert Johnson

    Cross Road Blues

    Performer: Robert Johnson.
    • CBS 4672462.
    • CD1 Tr18.
  • 00:15

    Modest Mussorgsky


    Performer: Dénes Várjon.
    • Capriccio 71047.
    • Tr3.
  • Owen Sheers

    Winter Swans, read by Neil Pearson

  • 00:17

    Nigel Hess


    Performer: Joshua Bell. Orchestra: Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Conductor: Nigel Hess.
    • Tr11.
  • Anglo-Saxon riddle, translated by Richard Hamer

    Swan, read by Alexandra Gilbreath

  • 00:18

    Erik Satie

    Gymnopédie No. 2

    Performer: Yoshiko Okada.
    • ONGAKU 024106.
    • Tr12.
  • Thom Gunn

    Touch read by Neil Pearson

  • James K. Baxter

    Moss on Plum Branches, read by Alexandra Gilbreath

  • 00:21

    Joni Mitchell

    Cactus Tree

    Performer: Judy Collins.
    • Wildflower Records WFL-1336.
    • Tr2.
  • Vahni Capildeo

    Investigation of Past Shoes (extract), read by Alexandra Gilbreath

  • 00:27

    Modest Mussorgsky

    Promenade: Tuileries

    Performer: Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra, Gilbert Levine (Conductor).
    • Capriccio 71047.
    • Tr19.
  • 00:27


    The Grey Silkie

    Performer: Jean Redpath.
    • PHILO PH 2015.
    • Tr9.
  • Robin Robertson

    At Roane Head, read by Alexandra Gilbreath and Neil Pearson

  • 00:34

    James Macmillan


    Performer: Buddug Verona James (Mezzo Soprano), Andrew Wilson-Dickson (piano).
    • FFLACH CD295H.
    • Tr14.
  • 00:37


    Just a Closer Walk

    Performer: George Lewis.
    • Frémeaux & Associés FA 5135.
    • CD2 Tr20.
  • Mervyn Peake

    It Makes a Change, read by Alexandra Gilbreath

  • Warsan Shire

    Backwards, read by Alexandra Gilbreath

  • Warsan Shire

    Backwards, read by Alexandra Gilbreath

  • 00:40

    Jules Massenet

    Méditations from Thaïs

    Orchestra: Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Conductor: Nigel Hess.
    • Tr5.
  • Cecil Day-Lewis

    Walking Away, read by Neil Pearson

  • 00:47

    Roy Harper

    When An Old Cricketer Leaves the Crease extract

    Performer: Roy Harper.
    • CD1 Tr13.
  • Charles Kingsley

    The Water Babies (extract), read by Alexandra Gilbreath

  • 00:50

    Benjamin Britten

    Variations On A Theme Of Frank Bridge: Funeral March

    Performer: Kreisler String Orchestra.
    • Factory Facd226.
    • Tr14.
  • E. E. Cummings

    What if a much of a which of a wind (excerpt), read by Neil Pearson

  • Edward Thomas

    The Combe, read by Alexandra Gilbreath

  • Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex

    Verses Made By the Earl of Essex in His Trouble (excerpt), read by Neil Pearson

  • 00:54

    Harrison Birtwistle

    Theseus Game (for large ensemble with two conductors)

    Orchestra: Ensemble Modern Orchestra. Conductor: Martyn Brabbins. Conductor: Pierre-André Valade.
    • Tr1.
  • 00:58

    Benjamin Britten

    Serenade For Tenor, Horn & Strings Op 31: 01 Prologue

    Performer: Barry Tuckwell. Orchestrator: Scottish Chamber Orchestra. Conductor: Steuart Bedford.
    • HMV 5 68334 2.
    • Tr2.
  • 01:00

    Christoph Willibald Gluck

    Orpheo – Second Act –Scene I – Ballo. Presto – Coro: "Chi mai Dell'Erebo"

    Singer: Franco Fagioli. Choir: Accentus. Orchestra: Insula Orchestra. Conductor: Laurence Equilbey.
    • ARCHIV 4795315.
    • CD1 Tr9.
  • 01:01

    Christoph Willibald Gluck

    Orpheo – Second Act –Scene I – Aria con coro: "Deh, placatevi con me"

    Performer: Franco Fagioli (Countertenor), Accentus Chorus, Insula Orchestra, Laurence Equilbey (Conductor).
    • ARCHIV 4795315.
    • CD1 Tr10.
  • Ciaran Carson

    The Fetch, read by Neil Pearson

  • 01:05

    Erik Satie

    Gymnopédie No. 3

    Performer: Yoshiko Okada.
    • ONGAKU 024106.
    • Tr13.
  • Michael Ondaatje

    The English Patient (excerpt), read by Alexandra Gilbreath

  • 01:08

    Benjamin Britten

    Variations On A Theme Of Frank Bridge: Moto Perpetuo

    Performer: Kreisler String Orchestra.
    • Factory Facd226.
    • Tr13.
  • Paul Kingsnorth

    Beast (excerpt), read by Neil Pearson

  • 01:09


    Just a Closer Walk With Thee

    Performer: Allen Toussaint.
    • Nonesuch STCD 400083.
    • Tr8.
  • Selima Hill

    Man With A Grasshopper on His Nose, read by Alexandra Gilbreath

Producer's Notes:

Jung, Frazer and Campbell mapped out the mono-myth that stories our lives and underpins our  sense of existence – the hero’s journey, leaving the safety of home, plunging into the world of the uncanny, facing down challenges... coming back changed.  Using poetry and music and beauty as a form of spell and invocation, Walks in Two Worlds is a wander up and down the highways and by-ways of The Other – felt worlds, imagined, feared, exhilarating, funny – lived in and experienced as intensely as the quotidian.  Mussorgsky’s Pictures from an Exhibition and Erik Satie’s Gymnopédies will be our guides, lighting our way through a succession of adventures, shifting our moods up and down and round and round… not least because they have accompanied me on many a journey to the interior.    

Les Murray, W. S. Graham, and John Burnside tell their tales of magic forests, fey children and dangerous journeys, all transformative as Wagner’s hero Parsifal discovered.  There will be other chancy places, where all is not as it seems and where the rules of the human world do not apply. 

Then there is Love.  Can two people really be one?  Or, however close their hands and their hearts, how can one know where the other’s spirit is treading?  The Welsh poet Owen Sheers, an Anglo-Saxon riddle-maker, Thom Gunn and the New Zealand poet, James K. Baxter stir our senses. Further on and further in, we come across sex between human and fairy… sad but very beautiful.  Just listen to Jean Redpath singing The Grey Silkie or Robin Robertson’s devastating At Roane Head and Buddug Verona James’ with James Macmillan’s ballad-setting of a William Souter poem. 

Or can we walk out of one world into another through sheer strength of will?  Who in the depth of grief or suffering has said to themselves, let this not be so, let it be different.   Warsan Shire’s heart-breaking poem ‘Backwards’ says it all while the excerpt from Vahni Capildeo’s beautiful Investigation of Past Shoes shows how time bends back on itself and joy once felt can be transmitted down the years and Cecil Day-Lewis’ Walking Away shows how our worlds overlap in time, causing pain, producing wisdom.

In the otherworld of the ancients, Birtwistle, Britten and Gluck will show us two old heroes; Theseus who went into the maze and Orpheus who went down into hell; both return but they are changed.  

This is not the whole journey, there will be surprises and twists, moments of laughter, but Walks in Two Worlds is not a map, just a dream, just go with it and don’t worry about what it means.  We don’t know and most of the time that’s fine.

Producer: Jacqueline Smith


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