Main content

Sad songs say so much

In times of trouble, is sad music what we need?

In 1649, a month after the execution of King Charles I, the distraught composer Thomas Tomkins wrote a piece of music called "A sad pavan for these distracted times".
And in our own confusing times, is sad music what we need - or not? Tom Service looks at music's power to heal, to build community and to redefine historical events. With Associate Professor at University College London, Dr Daisy Fancourt, and author of "Singing in the Age of Anxiety", Laura Tunbridge.

Available now

30 minutes

Last on

Fri 14 Feb 2020 16:30

Music Played

  • Thomas Tomkins

    A Sad pavan for these distracted times MB.5.53 for keyboard

    Performer: Andrew Nethsingha.
    • Chandos.
    • 0804.
  • Arvo Pärt

    Cantus in memoriam Benjamin Britten for string orchestra and bell

    Conductor: Paavo Järvi. Orchestra: Estonian National Symphony Orchestra.
    • ERATO.
    • 5455012.
  • Richard Strauss

    Metamorphosen AV.142 for 23 solo strings

    Conductor: Emmanuel Leducq‐Barôme. Performer: Baltic Chamber Orchestra.
    • Rubicon.
    • RCD1009.
  • George Butterworth

    6 Songs from 'A Shropshire lad' for voice and piano

    Performer: Iain Burnside. Performer: Roderick Williams.
    • Naxos.
    • 8572426.
  • Samuel Barber

    Adagio for string orchestra, arr. from 2nd mvt of String Quartet

    Conductor: Thomas Schippers. Performer: New York Philharmonic.
    • SONY.
    • MHK 62837.
  • Elton John

    Candle In The Wind

    • DJM Records.
    • 821-747-2.
  • Adele

    Someone Like You

    Composer: Daniel Wilson. Performer: Adele.
    • XL Recordings.
    • XLCD-520.
  • Doreen Carwithen

    Concerto for piano and strings

    Conductor: Richard Hickox. Performer: Howard Shelley. Performer: London Symphony Orchestra.
    • CHANDOS.
    • CHAN-9524.
  • Original Dixieland Jazz Band

    Livery Stable Blues

    • AVID Entertainment.
    • 34062040534.
  • Glenn Miller Orchestra

    In the Mood

    • Tring.
    • OFRO-14.
  • Joe Strummer

    English Civil War

    Composer: Mick Jones. Composer: Traditional. Performer: The Clash.
    • Columbia.
    • 510998-2.
  • Edward Elgar

    ('Enigma') Variations Op.36 for orchestra

    Conductor: Nicholas Childs. Performer: Black Dyke Band.
    • Doyen.
    • CD168.
  • George Butterworth

    A Shropshire lad - rhapsody for orchestra [1912]

    Conductor: Sir Mark Elder. Performer: Hallé.
    • Halle.
    • CD HLL7503.
  • Samuel Barber & William Orbit

    Barber's Adagio For Strings

    • Warner Music UK Limited.
    • GBAHT9903305 4209870n.
  • Samuel Barber

    Adagio for Strings

    Performer: Tiësto.
    • Warner.
    • 0000547474.
  • Johann Sebastian Bach

    Goldberg variations BWV.988

    Music Arranger: Dmitry Sitkovetsky. Performer: Luigi Piovano. Performer: Yuri Zhislin.
    • Nimbus.
    • NI6199.
  • Pierre Boulez

    12 Notations for piano

    Performer: Alexander Soares.
    • Rubicon.
    • DRC1016.
  • Joe Liggins

    The Honey Dripper

    • Ace.
    • CDCHD-307.
  • Adjei, Irving Ampofo, Joseph Olaitan Adenuga / Nyandoro Kelly

    Back to Basics

    Performer: Headie One Featuring Skepta.
    • relentless records.
    • 19075996931.
  • Giuseppe Ottaviani

    Follow the White Rabbit

    Performer: Giuseppe Ottaviani.
    • Black Hole.
    • 950.
  • Unsuk Chin

    Choros chordon for orchestra

    Conductor: Sir Simon Rattle. Performer: Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.
    • Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.
    • BPHR180224.
  • Max Richter

    She Remembers (from "The Leftovers")

    Performer: Deutsches Filmorchester Babelsberg. Performer: Lorenz Dangel. Performer: Max Richter.
    • 2014 Water Tower Music.
    • N/A.
  • Richard Wagner

    Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg - opera in 3 acts

    Conductor: Adrian Boult. Performer: New Philharmonia Orchestra.
    • EMI.
    • CDM63121 2.
  • Elton John

    Sad Songs (Say So Much)

    • Mercury.
    • 063 449-2.


  • Sun 9 Feb 2020 17:00
  • Fri 14 Feb 2020 16:30

Why do we call it 'classical' music?

Why do we call it 'classical' music?

Tom Service poses a very simple question (with a not-so-simple answer).

Six of the world's most extreme voices

Six of the world's most extreme voices

From babies to Mongolian throat singers: whose voice is the most extreme of all?

How did the number 12 revolutionise music?

How did the number 12 revolutionise music?

How Schoenberg opened a new cosmos for composers and listeners to explore.

Why are we all addicted to bass?

Why are we all addicted to bass?

Bass is everywhere, but why do we enjoy it? Join Tom Service on a journey of discovery.

Watch the animations

Watch the animations

Join Tom Service on a musical journey through beginnings, repetition and bass lines.

When does noise become music?

When does noise become music?

We like to think we can separate “noise” from “music”, but is it that simple?