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Beginnings and Endings

Readings by Julie Hesmondhalgh and Joan Iyiola from origin myths to the apocalypse, writing by a 15-year-old refugee, Mary Shelley and Dickens. Music includes Sibelius and Haydn.

One of the most fundamental questions we can ask is ‘where do I come from?’ And poets, philosophers, religions and scientists down the ages and across cultures have fashioned theories and stories to try and answer that question. We can hear their work in Norse mythology, Cherokee creation beliefs and Darwin’s theory of evolution. But what came before the beginning? One theory was chaos and Rebel offers us glimpses of that in musical form. There are also creative beginnings - a 14-year-old Aretha Franklin recorded in her father’s church and Prince rehearsing a new song (Purple Rain) alone at night in his studio. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein stands as a warning of the risks of scientific experimentation while the orphan Pip, from Dickens’ Great Expectations, is forced to create his own origin story from the tiniest of clues. Birth is the theme of Gerald Finzi’s cantata, Dies Natalis, which sets to music the poetry of Thomas Traherne - about being unborn, emerging into the world and what it is to be human.

This edition of Words and Music complements a week of Free Thinking programmes to tie in with the Being Human Festival – which showcases humanities research around the UK. This year the festival takes Origins and Endings as its theme.

Endings come in the shape of Haydn’s false endings, Caryl Churchill’s apocalyptic visions and the final words from Samuel Beckett’s The Unnamable “I can’t go on, I’ll go on.” There are lost loves and lost countries - Amineh Abou Kerech – a 15-year-old Syrian migrant – writes a poetic lament for her homeland accompanied by 19-year-old Palestinian composer Nay Barghothi.

The readers are Julie Hesmondhalgh and Joan Iyiola

Producer: Debbie Kilbride

1 hour, 14 minutes

Last on

Sun 18 Nov 2018 17:30

Music Played

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

  • 00:01

    Jean‐Féry Rebel

    Les Eléments 1. Le Cahos

    Performer: The Academy of Ancient Music, Christopher Hogwood (Conductor).
    • Oiseau Lyre 4216562.
    • Tr1.
  • Cherokee Myth retold by Terry L. Norton

    The Three Worlds, read by Julie Hesmondhlagh

  • Lao Tzu, translated by Lin Yutang

    The Tao Te Ching (extract), read by Joan Iyiola

  • 00:05

    Joseph Haydn

    The Creation (Part one, Representation of Chaos)

    Performer: City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Simon Rattle (Conductor).
    • EMI 7541592.
    • CD1 Tr1.
  • Snorri Sturluson, translated by Henry Adams Bellows

    The Poetic Edda, Vol 1 (extract), read by Julie Hesmondhalgh

  • 00:08

    Michael Jackson

    Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'

    Performer: Michael Jackson.
    • Epic 517743 3314639-1.
    • CD2 Tr1.
  • John Milton

    Paradise Lost (extract), read by Joan Iyiola

  • 00:11


    Purple Rain

    Performer: Prince.
    • Warner Bros. Records R1 567737.
    • Tr2.
  • 00:13

    Ralph Vaughan Williams

    The Lark Ascending

    Performer: The English Chamber Orchestra, José-Luis Garcia (violin), Sir Yehudi Menuhin (Conductor).
    • Arabesque Recordings Z6568.
    • Tr3.
  • Charles Darwin

    On the Origin of Species (extract), read by Julie Hesmondhalgh

  • Margaret Cavendish

    Of Many Worlds in This World, read by Joan Iyiola

  • 00:17

    Darius Milhaud

    La Creation du Monde, Op. 81a

    Performer: Orchestra National de Lille-Région North/Pas de Calais, Jean-Claude Casadesus (Conductor).
    • Naxos 8557287.
    • Tr1.
  • Mary Shelley

    Frankenstein (extract), read by Julie Hesmondhalgh

  • 00:19

    Antony P. Hegarty


    Performer: Antony and the Johnsons.
    • Rough Trade RTRADS 229.
    • Tr2.
  • Dr Who from BBC One, episode 1 – writer: Chris Chibnall

    Jodie Whittaker as Dr Who (from BBC One, episode 1)

  • Charles Dickens

    Great Expectations (extract), read by Joan Iyiola

  • 00:26

    Kieran Hebden


    Performer: Four Tet.
    • Domino RUG155P.
    • Tr2.
  • James Joyce

    Ecce Puer, read by Julie Hesmondhalgh

  • 00:27

    Gerald Finzi

    Dies Natalis Op 8 V. The Salutation (Aria)

    Performer: John Mark Ainsley (tenor), Croydon Singers, Croydon Orchestra, Matthew Best (Conductor).
    • Hyperion CDA 66876.
    • Tr5.
  • Walt Whitman

    A child said, What is the grass?, read by Joan Iyiola

  • 00:35

    John C. Moore

    Never Grow Old

    Performer: Aretha Franklin.
    • HMV 544610-2.
    • CD2 Tr17.
  • Brendan Behan

    A Jackeen Laments the Blaskets, read by Julie Hesmondhalgh

  • 00:38

    Shirley J. Thompson

    War Zone

    Performer: Shirley J. Thompson and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
    • Royal Philharmonic Collection, B0002X4UDS.
    • Tr3.
  • James Berry

    'Beginning in a City, 1948', read by Joan Iyiola

  • 00:44


    London Is The Place For Me

    Performer: Lord Kitchener.
    • Honest Jon's Records HJRCD 2.
    • Tr1.
  • 00:46

    Nay Barghothi

    Qana and Taqaseem

    Performer: Nay Barghothi.
  • Amineh Abou Kerech

    Lament for Syria, read by Julie Hesmondhalgh

  • 00:49

    Joseph Haydn

    Symphony No.90 in C, Finale

    Performer: City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Simon Rattle (Conductor).
    • EMI CDC 7542972.
    • Tr14.
  • John Millington Synge

    A Question read by Joan Iyiola

  • 00:55

    Joseph Haydn

    Symphony No.45 in F Sharp Minor “Farewell” – Finale: Presto - Adagio

    Performer: Capella Istropolitana, Barry Wordsworth (Conductor).
    • Naxos 8. 550382.
    • Tr4.
  • Sappho

    He is More Than a Hero, read by Julie Hesmondhalgh

  • 00:59

    Claude Ely

    Ain't No Grave

    Performer: Johnny Cash.
    • American Recordings 0602527331492.
    • Tr1.
  • George Gordon, Lord Byron

    When We Two Parted, read by Joan Iyiola

  • 01:03

    Sylvia Dee, Arthur Kent

    The End Of The World

    Performer: Skeeter Davis.
    • BMG 74321 446852.
    • Tr10.
  • Jackie Kay

    Extinction, read by Julie Hesmondhalgh

  • 01:07

    Anatoly Konstantinovich Lyadov

    From the Apocalypse, Op. 66

    Performer: BBC Philharmonic, Vassily Sinaisky (Conductor).
    • Chandos CHAN 9911.
    • Tr2.
  • Caryl Churchill

    Escaped Alone (extract), read by Julie Hesmondhalgh

  • Samuel Beckett

    The Unnamable (extract), read by Joan Iyiola


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