MusiCB3 is currently sitting under a palm tree

Awaiting visitors…(or rescue)

Or at least that is what I would like to believe. As lockdown eases, the British weather, with its customary sense of humour, has decided to break. Now that we can holiday, we would probably prefer to stay indoors.

I was thinking about this, and about the BBC. It was coincidental that these thoughts crossed as I was musing on the non-Proms of this year. Do keep an eye on the Music Collections social media pages from next week (@MusiCB3t on Twitter, and Music Collections at Pendlebury and University Library on Facebook), where we’ll be browsing through some old Proms programmes. The BBC will also be looking back at some classic recordings during what should have been Proms season, so it’s a great opportunity to revisit artists of times past.

The Proms have been an integral part of BBC scheduling for many years, ever since the organization took over control of the concert season in 1926. Alongside the Proms the BBC has a number of long running music radio programmes, one of the most popular being Desert Island Discs. First broadcast in 1942, it’s a simple format – a celebrity stranded on a desert island, allowed to take just 8 records along with them (a gramophone with an inexhaustible supply of needles was also promised – presumably today it would have to be an ipod), a luxury, and a favourite book alongside the complete works of Shakespeare and the Bible.

So combining thoughts of weather and the BBC, I wondered how the staff of MusiCB3 would cope, if, en route to the holiday destination of their choice, they were marooned. What would they take with them? I was harsh and restrained them to a single record, book, and luxury each. Here are the responses.


Disc: Haydn String Quartet Op. 76 No. 4 “The Sunrise”. The opening never fails to send shivers down my spine and the slow movement is  – probably – Haydn’s finest ever, deeply contemplative and almost spiritual in essence.

Luxury item: a piano and the complete Beethoven sonatas to play on it.

Favourite book: absolutely impossible, but Winnie the Pooh has always meant a great deal to me as it can be read on so many levels and my father was absolutely brilliant at “doing” the various voices. So fond memories there.


My favourite song is Billy Joel’s Scenes from an Italian Restaurant – great storytelling in this epic song.  Saw him perform it live at Wembley Stadium about 4 years ago with all the family for my son’s 21st!

My luxury item would be a portable wind-up radio, and favourite book would be Anne Frank’s Diary.


My favorite disc would be We are all made of stars by Moby.  The book I would like would be Annelies : a novel of Anne Frank by David R. Gillham, and luxury item – rose scented soap.


My choice of just the one Desert Island Disc has to be totally random and is influenced by the timing of being asked as much as by the music itself. Today I would be happy to go for any good performance of Brahms’s Ein deutsches Requiem.  I would listen to it lying on my luxury item – a lavender pillow (hoping I can heat it up somewhere). Perhaps I should consider taking Márquez’s El amor en los tiempos del cólera and have a go at attempting to read it in Spanish – a language that’s been on my to learn list for too long.


My Desert Island Disc would be Heal the World by Michael Jackson

There’s a place in your heart, and I know that it is love, make a little space, make it a better place.”

I bought this single in 1991 on cassette when it first came out; I still have it. It is also on the Dangerous album and whenever I hear it, I have to listen to it at least three times!

The luxury item I would take with me would have to be solar powered radio so that I could continue listening to music.

My favourite book of all time is The Loop by Nicholas Evans. This was the second book he wrote after the Horse Whisperer. My best friend bought me The Loop when it was first published.


Music: The trooper by Iron Maiden.

Book: Lies of Locke Lamora / Scott Lynch.

Luxury: A fridge with an infinite supply of G&Ts.

An endless supply of G&Ts (fridge and glassware also included)


My top Desert island disc must be the ancient recording of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas with Kirsten Flagstad as Dido. It was the first record I bought (for 12/6!) in about 1954 (Alas long lost). I actually saw her in the role when done in the Royal Exchange in the city of London in September 1953. She sang Remember me and I have never forgotten. Hers is the greatest voice that has ever sung the role – Janet Baker is wonderful, but is pale beside her.

The vulnerability of Flagstad


Narrowing down both my book and music choices is horribly difficult. The piece of music I listen to more than any other is the Bach Double Violin Concerto played by David and Igor Oistrakh, but if I could only have one piece… might actually be the 1930’s song, No, No, a thousand times No! It’s the first piece of music I can remember hearing, played on my grandfather’s ancient gramophone.

Bamp (Valleys’ colloquialism for Grandad) was a big fan of music hall songs, and would twirl his imaginary moustache while enthusiastically singing the villain’s part. When I was a small child, I always asked to listen to it on birthdays and other special occasions. Even today it makes me smile to hear it. (And I would love to have the opportunity to call someone a buzzard!)

Books are also horribly difficult to decide on a favourite, but I think a chunky read (in case I’m on the island for a long time) that makes me laugh would be just the thing – Don Quixote by Cervantes.

Luxury item – like Susi, a piano please, along with the complete keyboard works of Bach – I can at least “imaginary play” the pedal parts of the organ works, though some of the manual parts of the trio sonatas will be “interesting”.


Music: Cesar Franck – Chorale no. 2 in B Minor. A favourite since I bought the record in Ely Cathedral in the early ’70s. There are some nice quiet passages in it.

Franck Chorale at 3 minutes, 5 seconds.

Luxury item: A harmonium.

Book: When the Spirit comes by Colin Urquhart.


Am I allowed to have all of Mozart’s horn concertos? [Editor: NO!] If so then I’ll go with those as I think they would help to cheer me up.

If not then Saint-Saëns’ Organ Symphony please – maybe if I play this loud enough someone might hear and come to my rescue… 

The Finale of Saint-Saens’ Organ Symphony, arranged by Jonathan Scott for organ solo

For my luxury, I would like a toolbox full of lots of useful things please [NO again, but keep trying!]. If this is too practical a thing to ask for, then I think I’ll go for an inexhaustible supply of paper and pens, with which I shall write my memoirs and design my escape raft.

For my book I’ll take Kensuke’s Kingdom by Michael Morpurgo, which was a favourite of mine when I was younger. It’s about a boy who gets washed up on a desert island, so as well as enjoying re-reading it, it might be helpful for survival ideas. 

There will be a guest post on MusiCB3 next week to celebrate Bastille Day, as Kate hones her survival ideas to get us off the island. Now, where did I put that coconut?….

MJ and the staff of the Music Collections at the Pendlebury and the UL

About mj263

Music Collections Supervisor at Cambridge University Library. Wide musical interests. Often to be found stuck in a composer's archive, or enthusing about antiquarian music.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to MusiCB3 is currently sitting under a palm tree

  1. elaineul says:

    Some great choices here, nothing I wouldn’t listen to. Especially like to be on the island with Margaret, Justin and Catherine’s musical choices. My own choice would be Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis as recorded in the early 1960s in a London Church by night


  2. Thank you all. What a great idea. You have got me thinking. Thank you for introducing me to some new music and books and sharing your insights.


    • mj263 says:

      Glad you enjoyed it. Original idea was, of course, courtesy of wonderful Roy Plomley; who set it up and hosted it for over 40 years. He even appeared as a guest, though I have no idea how he interviewed himself. Perhaps a passing albatross assisted?


  3. Pingback: My favourite music | MusiCB3 Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.