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Words and Music - Birds

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BBC Radio 3, 21 December 2008
 
This sequence of poems, read by Hugh Bonneville and Claire Skinner, interspersed with music from a variety of historical periods, offered different interpretations of birds. Wordsworth's eulogy to the cuckoo witnessed the poet listening to the bird's song and as he did so, recalling his childhood - a long-forgotten world of inocence. This mood was sustained by an extract from Saint-Saens' "Carnival of the Animals." The blackbird, as celebrated by Tennyson and R.S,Thomas, was both a thing of beauty and a symbol of freshness providing much-needed joy on a cold morning. The lark was associated with both love and separation, bringing happiness yet sadness. Hoagy Carmichael's "Skylark" saw the singer trying to associate the ups and downs of his love-affair with the daily life of a bird; both searched for that "wonderful music/ Faint as a will o'the wisp, crazy as a loon/ Sad as a gypsy serenade in the moon." Other poems concentrated on the owl singing through the winter, or migrating swans signalling the coming of autumnm and the darkening thrush heard by Thomas Hardy as his death approached.
 
Words and Music is a modest programme broadcast late on Sunday evenings. Its chief virtue lies in the way producers juxtapose familiar poems with interesting musical extracts (Rameau, traditional folk songs and Britten in this particular edition). The producer was Lindsay Kemp.