Hey, Little Hen
From the prose of PG Wodehouse's Love among the Chickens and Clarice Lispector's Hen to the poetry of John Clare and Elizabeth Bishop. Music by Nielsen, Lassus and Willie Dixon.
Sophie Thompson and Alex Waldmann are the readers as we peck and scrape our way around the curious world of man's old friend the chicken. Lockdown has seen a rise in people taking up chicken keeping but our readings begin much further back in time with Geoffrey Chaucer and Robert Herrick. We'll hear about the hen who escapes being cooked for Sunday lunch, by laying an egg in Clarice Lispector's short story and the chickens coming home to roost in Kay Ryan's poem - whilst in Love Among the Chickens, P.G. Wodehouse writes of the difficulties of a relationship set against an ill-feted get-rich-quick-scheme on a Dorset farm. Musical settings range from Rameau, Mussorgsky, Saint-Saens and Lassus to performances by the folk performer Peter Seeger, blues performer Willie Dixon; and Louis Jordan, the American singer and sax player known as "The King of the Jukebox" in the 40s and early 50s.
Producer: Lindsey Kemp
Gary Whitehead - A Glossary of Chickens
John Clare - Hen's Nest
Edward Lear - Oh Brother Chicken! Sister Chick!
Christina Rossetti - A White Hen Sitting
Clarice Lispector - The Hen
PG Wodehouse - Love Among the Chickens
Ted Hughes - The Hen
Herman Melville - Cock-a-doodle doo! or the Crowing of the Noble Cock Beneventano
John Gay - Before the Barn-Door Crowing
Chaucer translated by Neville Coghill - The Nun's Priest's Tale
Katharine Tynan Hinkson - Chanticleer
Elizabeth Bishop - Roosters
Jack Mapanje - The Last of the Sweet Bananas
Edwin Brock - Song of the Battery Hen
Robert Herrick - Cock-crow
Henry Vaughan - Cock-crowing
Kay Ryan - Home to Roost
Mark Roper - The Hen Ark
Heinrich Heine, translated by Charles Godfrey Leland - The Homecoming
Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes
A Glossary of Chickens00:00
La poule (The Hen)Performer: Alexandre Tharaud (piano).
- Harmonia Mundi 901754.
Poules et Coqs (Hens and Cocks) from Le Carnaval des animaux (Carnival of the Animals)Performer: Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Neeme Järvi.
- Chandos CHAN CHSA5162.
O Brother Chicken! Sister Chick!00:00
Hey Little HenPerformer: Bunny Doyle.
- D Sharp DSHCD 7012.
A white hen sitting00:00
Maritati insieme la Gallina, e il Cucco (The Marriage of the chicken and the cuckoo)Performer: Rheinisches Bach-Collegium.
- CPO 9990832.
Clarice Lispector, translated by Elizabeth Bishop
The Hen (excerpt)00:00
Chick Chick Chicken
- Gramopone LIB4.
Love among the chickens (excerpt)00:00
Ballad of the Unhatched Chicks (Pictures at an Exhibition)Performer: Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Mariss Jansons.
- BR Klassik 900141.
Symphony No. 83: The Hen (1st movement)Performer: Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, directed by Sigiswald Kuijken.
- Virgin Classics VC790793 2.
Cock-a-doodle doo!, or the Crowing of the Noble Cock Beneventano00:00
Preludio al gallo mañanero (Prelude to the Dawn Cockerel)Performer: Artur Pizzaro (piano).
- Naxos 8557923.
Before the barn door crowing00:00
Little Red RoosterPerformer: The Rolling Stones.
- ABKCO 9818864.
- Track 1.
Chaucer, translated by Nevill Coghill
The Nuns Priests Tale (excerpt)00:00
Chi chilichi?Performer: Ensemble Clément Janequin.
- Harmonia Mundi HMC 9011391.
Katharine Tynan Hinkson
The Cockerels' Dance (Maskarade)Performer: Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Neeme Järvi).
- Deutsche Grammophon 4477572.
Il est bel et bonPerformer: The King’s Singers. Performer: The Consort of Musicke.
- EMI CDM 7698372.
The Last of the Sweet Bananas: New & Selected Poems00:00
The Old HenPerformer: Pete Seeger.
- Smithsonian Folkways SFCD45039.
Song of the Battery Hen00:00
Kramer & Whitney
Ain't nobody here but us chickensPerformer: Louis Jordan.
- Mercury 8382192.
Sonata No. 108: Del GalloPerformer: Bob van Asperen.
- Astree E8771.
Home to Roost00:01
Hønens død (The Death of the Hen)Performer: Einar Steen-Nøklberg (piano).
- Naxos 8554300.
The Hen Ark00:01
Eggs of your chickensPerformer: The Flatlanders.
- New West NW6049.
Heinrich Heine, translated by Charles Godfrey Leland
Hey Little Hen - Producer Note
Anyone who has ever kept chickens knows there are few things better in life than watching a hen. When the world’s troubles are getting you down, when the pressures of work seem heavy to bear, release comes when you stop what you are doing, find a hen, and watch it. Maybe you think there isn’t much to see. It may not even occur to you at first that you are doing it. But the little things it does – the struts, leg-lifts, feather-fluffs, comb-wobbles and jerking, sharp-eyed inspections of the ground – and the little noises it makes, from clucks and squawks to gentle, low-voiced murmurs, will nevertheless warm you and reassure you.
It turns out that the chicken is not hard to mimic in music, and in today’s programme many of these little movements are noted in pieces by Rameau, Uccellini, Saint-Saëns and Mussorgsky, as well as in Gary Whitehead’s poem A Glossary of Chickens and an extract from Clarice Lispector’s The Hen.
We also recognise mankind’s long relationship with these strange birds for the things they do for us – however unwittingly – from giving us their flesh and eggs to eat to waking us up in the morning. Chickens as food-source occur in Edwin Brock’s Song of the Battery Hen, Pete Seeger’s version of a traditional American lyric, and in the lighthearted songs Hey Little Hen and Chick Chick Chicken. And the raucous cockerel as herald of the dawn makes himself heard in extracts from Herman Melville, John Gay, Katharine Tynan Hinkson and Elizabeth Bishop, and music by Lassus and Rodrigo. That his puffed-up pride may lead to a fall – as it can for all of us – is the thrust of Chaucer’s Nun’s Priest’s Tale, and his sexual appetite is darkly suggested in The Rolling Stones’ famous version of Little Red Rooster.
- Sun 8 Jul 2018 17:30
- Mon 28 Dec 2020 18:15