In a recent warm-up at choir, we asked our singers, in small groups, to come up with a Desert Island Disc they could all agree on. Emily & I also took part and - in spite of knowing each other incredibly well, being friends for years and having shared tastes and memories in music - found it really hard! We ended up choosing the 'Prologue' from West Side Story, thinking we'd enjoy dancing it out every day as castaways on our desert island...
Anyway, all this got us thinking about our individual Desert Island playlist so, just like the Radio 4 programme, I decided to pick eight tracks, a book and a luxury item I would take with me to a desert island, and tell you why!
Listen to the playlist here!
'Home Again', Carole King
When I was a teenager my Dad bought me Carole King's Tapestry album. I remember thinking, 'Who?!' and he explained that, given my love of contemporary female singer/songwriters, I should broaden my knowledge to some of the greats. I was hooked. The simple chords of ‘Home Again’ made for an easy but effective sound for my self-taught juvenile piano hands and, if I'm on this desert island for some time, I'd want to think about being 'Home Again' to get me through.
'A Boy Like That/I Have a Love', West Side Story (Leonard Bernstein / Stephen Sondheim)
As a kid I used to make up dances to 'Gee, Officer Krupke' in my sitting room which, on the Leonard Bernstein conducts version of West Side Story, runs straight on to 'A Boy Like That/I Have A Love'. My Mum would always come into the sitting room to sing the song with me - her as Anita, me as Maria - before putting the record back to the start of ‘Gee, Officer Krupke’ so I didn't scratch it! I adore the arc of the song, the orchestrations, the fight and passion, and that it oozes character. But most of all, it's the song I still love to belt out with my Ma.
'Lever du jour' from Daphnis et Chloé (Maurice Ravel)
As an impressionable student I read that one of Sondheim's musical influences was Ravel. Being impressionable (and a Sondheim fan), I decided that Ravel would also become a love of mine and became hooked on sections of his ballet Daphnis et Chloé. I particularly love ‘Lever du jour’ (Daybreak) and its journey as a piece of music. But the whole ballet sounds like some sort of musical paradise to me, which I hope would make the perfect accompaniment to my desert island.
'For Good', from Wicked (Stephen Schwartz)
Emily and I sang this song at Starling Arts' launch in 2010 and again this year at our High Five celebrations and on our recent album. It's a song about friendship and those who have shaped us and made us who we are today. I share this song with all my best girls; the ones who have made me who I am and who I couldn't function without. It may be greedy, but if I could take our version with me I would…!
'Oh, By Jingo', (Albert Von Tilzer / Lew Brown)
My Dad and our friend Andy used to perform this as part of their regular gig set, which was otherwise filled with a good dose of The Beatles. It was one of many Tin Pan Alley songs that I took a shine to growing up and I think it stuck out to me because of its theatricality and playfulness, and I've loved it ever since. And it makes me think of my Dad with nothing but a big grin on my face.
'Sunday', from Sunday in the Park with George (Stephen Sondheim)
This song calms, soothes and revives me. Its rise and fall and that final brassy call send me to a place of stillness. The whole score for Sunday in the Park with George sums up life and art so beautifully, and this song captures it all.
'The Nearness of You', Norah Jones
This has been one of my favourite songs since the 'Come Away With Me' album was released. I was in the sixth form and would fall asleep listening to Norah Jones's dulcet tones most nights to relax after days of study and A-level revision. It's also a beautiful piano arrangement and one I love to play. Much of my piano style comes from by me trying to imitate Norah and, as a teenager, it was hugely inspiring to see a young woman at the piano and singing who was as popular with my friends as she was the easy-listening generation!
'I Wish I May' from The Witches of Eastwick (Dana P. Rowe and John Dempsey)
In our student house share, Emily and I used to sing songs from the shows around my piano; it's one of the things that inspired the idea to set up Starling Arts. She introduced me to The Witches of Eastwick and there is a chord in this song (a Bbmaj7 for the geeks like me) on the words ‘feel the joy’ that sums up why we run Starling. (FUNFACT: if we could have called the company Bbmaj7, we would have…) When Starling Arts had the opportunity to perform in the West End as part of a show choir concert, we performed this song together with Jennie Jacobs. Feeling the joy of all your childhood dreams come true is pretty special, so this song had to make the cut.
Pride & Prejudice. All my family adore Jane Austen and I adore this book. Oh, and if I could sneak a copy of the BBC adaptation to my island too, I would be very happy.
A piano. Then I could play all the songs I couldn't include above, and write the ones I've yet to discover.