My (Sort of) Desert Island Discs

Desert Island Discs is a weekly BBC Radio 4 programme, which has been running for 75 years. Devised and originally presented by Roy Plomley and now presented by Kirsty Young, it is just one of those programmes that transports you to another place.  It is an escape, just like music can be, enabling the ‘castaway’ of the week to imagine they are stuck on a desert island with nothing else but eight of their favourite pieces of music, one book and a luxury to sustain them. Above is a link to one of the latest episodes. I don’t think the Castaway here will need any introduction.

So, here are five of what would be my ‘Desert Island Discs’ …

For personal reasons, the first piece I’ve chosen was a commission that came from someone, who I am pleased to call a friend, as well a talented composer, Joseph Alen Shaw, who is featured elsewhere in this edition of the BeZine. He asked me a year ago to write a brief lyric, in the form of a haiku triplet. He wanted it to be on the theme of Autumn, his favourite season. Alongside Spring, it is also my favourite season, in equal measure. He had also, for some time, wanted to write a piece specifically for his and Emily’s close friend, Soprano Jenny Whittaker. They all started their musical journeys, together at the Sheffield Music Academy. This is the result.


” Rainbow hues turning
chill air low sun (but) warm hearts
beauteous day-long dawn

pink light (on) timeless trees
yield a golden fleece and warmth
(for) aching Mother Earth

sleeping beauties wake
from enduring frozen night
in Spring refreshing ”


My second choice, which the chamber choir, Fox Valley Voices, in which I sing bass, also has in their repertoire, is the stunning piece of music, which is both atonal and without time signature! It was written by the late Sir John Tavener to the words of William Blake’s poem of the same name. A few years ago, I also wrote a devotional haiku triplet, based on my own emotional response to his music. Hence it is very special to me …

The Lamb

” Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?
Gave thee life, and bid thee feed,
By the stream and o’er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing, woolly, bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice?
Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?

Little Lamb, I’ll tell thee,
Little Lamb, I’ll tell thee.
He is called by thy name,
For He calls Himself a Lamb.
He is meek, and He is mild;
He became a little child.
I a child, and thou a lamb,
We are called by His name.
Little Lamb, God bless thee!
Little Lamb, God bless thee! ”

William Blake


The third piece I’ve chosen, which Fox Valley Voices is newly adding to its repertoire, and one which we shall sing at our Autumn Concert on 3rd November. It has qualities, to which I have referred in the introduction to this month’s The BeZine, which are visceral to its core. The words, written by Mary E Coleridge (great grand niece of the famous poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge) are themselves poetic and full of imagery; the music, by Charles Villiers Stanford is gloriously, movingly beautiful. The combination of lyrics and music transport me to a place that cannot be accessed by rational thought alone …

The Blue Bird

“ The lake lay blue, below the hill
The lake lay blue, below the hill, below the hill
As I looked, there flew across the waters cold and still
A bird whose wings were palest blue

The sky above was blue at last
The sky beneath me blue in blue, was blue in blue
A moment ere the bird had passed
It called, as if in a trance he flew

The lake lay blue below the hill “


My fourth choice, another piece of self indulgence, but one that I Can’t leave out, because this group of singers has had such a powerful influence on my singing and on the elevation of my spirit and simply the joy of singing together. It is of course one of the UK’s top Barbershop choruses, who, as 2014 UK Gold Medal Champions, came to Pittsburgh for the BHS International Chorus Contest to represent the UK. Here’s one of the songs we sang …


My final choice, for now at least, is a song that first struck me, way back in 1976, when I bought a classic album, Stevie Wonder’s “Songs in The Key of Life”, and it has stuck with me ever since. It is the opening track, the words of which speak for themselves. I think they also speak to the core purpose of this publication, The BeZine

Love’s In Need of Love Today – Steven Wonder

Good morn or evening friends
Here’s your friendly announcer
I have serious news to pass on to every-body
What I’m about to say
Could mean the world’s disaster
Could change your joy and laughter to tears and pain

It’s that
Love’s in need of love today
Don’t delay
Send yours in right away
Hate’s goin’ round
Breaking many hearts
Stop it please
Before it’s gone too far

The force of evil plans
To make you its possession
And it will if we let it
Destroy ev-er-y-body
We all must take
Precautionary measures
If love and peace you treasure
Then you’ll hear me when I say

Oh that
Love’s in need of love today
love’s in need of love today
Don’t delay
don’t delay
Send yours in right away
right a-way
Hate’s goin’ round
hate’s goin’ round
Breaking many hearts
break-ing hearts
Stop it please
stop it please
Before it’s gone too far
gone too far …

… Well, please stop it
Um L-O-V-E love Oh, L-O-V-E lo———ve
love’s in need
of love today
don’t delay
right away
Just give the world LOVE.

I‘ve missed out a significant chunk of, albeit mostly repeated, lyrics in its middle, but the essence is here. A great song, not only because of the lyrics and their sentiment, but also because of the way Stevie Wonder delivers it. His performance is magnificent, carrying us on a wave of pleading for a World that is so riddled with hate and is so in need of love.

© 2017, John Anstie; song lyrics copyright their authors or author estates


The focus of "The BeZine," a publication of The Bardo Group Beguines, is on sacred space (common ground) as it is expressed through the arts. Our work covers a range of topics: spirituality, life, death, personal experience, culture, current events, history, art, and photography and film. We share work here that is representative of universal human values however differently they might be expressed in our varied religions and cultures. We feel that our art and our Internet-facilitated social connection offer a means to see one another in our simple humanity, as brothers and sisters, and not as “other.” This is a space where we hope you’ll delight in learning how much you have in common with “other” peoples. We hope that your visits here will help you to love (respect) not fear. For more see our Info/Mission Statement Page.

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