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The Chessboard

Readings from Adjoa Andoh and Henry Goodman. Music from Shostakovich to The Rolling Stones. Authors include Han Kang, Shakespeare, Philip Larkin and Omar Khayyam.

Readings from Adjoa Andoh and Henry Goodman. Music from Shostakovich to The Rolling Stones via Chopin, Louis Armstrong and Rokia Traore. Authors include Han Kang, Shakespeare, Philip Larkin and Omar Khayyam in a programme that zig zags like a knight, soars like a bishop and plods like a pawn taking in music played only on white notes, race in America and the bright white magic of an anchovy shoal glimpsed in the pitch dark - a journey from white to black and back ...for further illumination consult the producer note below!

Producer: Zahid Warley.

1 hour, 15 minutes

Last on

Sun 17 Jun 2018 17:30

Music Played

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

  • Lewis Carroll

    From Alice Through the Looking Glass, read by Adjoa Andoh

  • 00:00

    Dmitry Shostakovich

    Fugue No.1 in C Major

    Performer: Vladimir Ashkenazy (piano).
    • Decca 4660662.
    • Tr2.
  • Lewis Carroll

    From Alice Through the Looking Glass, read by Adjoa Andoh

  • 00:03

    Frédéric Chopin

    Etude in G Flat major, Op.10, No.5 (“Black Key”)

    Performer: Vladimir Horowitz.
    • Naxos Historical 8110606.
    • Tr11.
  • The Bible, King James Version

    From Genesis, 1, read by Henry Goodman

  • 00:05

    Morten Lauridsen

    Agnus Dei-Lux Aeterna

    Performer: Polyphony with Britten Sinfonia, Stephen Layton (Conductor).
    • Hyperion A67449.
    • Tr5.
  • Junichiro Tanizaki

    From In Praise of Shadows, read by Adjoa Andoh

  • 00:17

    Hans Abrahamsen

    Canon 4A (minore)

    Performer: Ensemble Recherche.
    • Winter&Winter 9101592.
    • Tr9.
  • Richard Wilbur

    First Snow in Alsace, read by Henry Goodman

  • 00:22

    Hans Abrahamsen

    Canon 4B (maggiore)

    Performer: Ensemble Recherche.
    • Winter&Winter 9101592.
    • Tr10.
  • Philip Larkin

    Sympathy in White Major, read by Adjoa Andoh

  • 00:25


    (What did I do to be so) Black and Blue?

    Performer: Louis Armstrong & His Orchestra.
    • JSP CD315.
    • Tr4.
  • Ralph Ellison

    From the Prologue to Invisible Man, read by Henry Goodman

  • 00:32

    Gil Scott‐Heron

    The Revolution will not be Televised

    Performer: Gil Scott‐Heron.
    • BGPD 306.
    • Tr1.
  • Carol Ann Duffy

    War Photographer, read by Adjoa Andoh

  • 00:36

    Michel Legrand

    Le Cinema

    Performer: Claude Nougaro.
    • Philips 0631500.
    • Tr1.
  • Shakespeare

    Othello’s soliloquy before he murders Desdemona, read by Adjoa Andoh

  • 00:41

    Rokia Traoré


    Performer: Rokia Traoré.
    • Indigo 2594.
    • Tr1.
  • Han Kang

    From The White Book, read by Henry Goodman

  • 00:48

    William Grant Still

    Moderato Assai

    Performer: Fort Smith Symphony.
    • Naxos 8559174.
    • Tr5.
  • Herman Melville

    From Moby Dick, the whiteness of the Whale, read by Henry Goodman

  • 01:00


    Paint it Black

    Performer: The Rolling Stones.
    • ABKCO – ROLCD 1.
    • Tr6.
  • Ted Hughes

    Crow Falls, read by Adjoa Andoh

  • 01:05


    Amazing Grace

    Performer: Soweto Gospel Choir.
    • Shanachie 66036.
    • Tr8.
  • Omar Khayyam

    A couple from The Rubaiyat translated by Robert Fitzgerald, read by Adjoa Andoh and Henry Goodman

Producer's Notes: 'The Chessboard'

Chess is believed to have originated in India or China more than a thousand years ago. It reached Europe with the Moorish conquest of Spain and the pieces were standardized in the 19th century. There are thirty two pieces – 16 black and 16 white and the game is played on a board with sixty four spaces arranged as a square.  You probably knew that.  But then there’s a reason for telling you this at the outset.  

What you’ve just read is my offer – a technical chess term related to another technical chess term – the gambit. In fact I’m wondering whether this isn’t a gambit but I think I can leave this up to you to decide. The point of the offer – as with any offer – is – do you want to accept it?  Do you want to play?  If you do, you could be letting yourself in for seventy five minutes of pleasure and intellectual stimulation – at least that’s what I’m hoping.

Just to be clear - You won’t be castling, pushing forward a pawn or sending a knight on a zig zag leap – but you will be stepping through a kind of looking glass into a kind of wonderland. The first voice you’ll hear is Lewis Carroll’s Alice and then things will become curiouser and curiouser as you career through time and space with Philip Larkin, Shakespeare, Carol Ann Duffy, Shostakovich, Louis Armstrong and Claude Nougaro amongst others.  It’s a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party so there’s no knowing who else might appear.  All you really need to hang onto if you want to keep your head is the fact that you’re going to be moving from white to black, from the shade into the light – just as if you were on a chessboard.  It may be a bit dizzying at times because you’ll be skating across music composed only of white notes, poetry about playing the white man, prose about being black in white America, a crow’s black heart and the whiteness of Melville’s whale, Moby Dick. Never fear – all pets win prizes and you’ll bump back safely to earth at the end.

Producer: Zahid Warley


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