Desert Island Discs – Eric Hartley

The fourth castaway on SCCS island.  One of the oldest members of SCCS, Eric has been in SCCS for many years, singing in the tenor section.  Eric maintains the archive of  SCCS songs and concerts since the choir began in 1952.

You can listen to Eric’s discs here if you have registered with Spotify


My life has been bound up by music. My father, who I never knew, sang as a baritone in a local choral society in Sheffield. My mother was an accomplished piano player who earned her living by playing the latest songs in Woolworths to encourage the sales of the sheet music.

After my father’s early death she earned our living by teaching the piano at home every evening. She was a wonderful, very intelligent woman and introduced me to orchestral concerts, opera, operettas, musicals, oratorio, theatre and cricket (which she loved). We listened to music on the radio whenever we could and played 78s on the wind-up gramophone. Obviously she played the piano and we also had a two manual organ in the same room. She gave me an introduction to the emotion created by music but not the confidence to play an instrument or her ability to grasp all the nuances of a wide range of music.

I joined SCCS from Thames Vale Singers in 1966 (emulating my father) and, through Gwyn, have experienced a range of music I could never have anticipated. I served on the Committee as a member, as Secretary and as Chairman in the early days when we didn’t have many funds to worry about and very unusual staging for our concerts!

Without music I would find life much less enjoyable. I listen as much as I can and enjoy some music practically every day – however my musical ‘taste’ is quite limited. I find so much emotion and enjoyment in the music I prefer that I don’t often give time or space for other forms.

I would love all my eight discs to be choral – the combination of a group of singers (all four voices) an orchestra, a story and any associated acting (as in opera) completes my love.

1. My first disc would have to be a piano work, so in memory of my Mum I would take a Chopin Etude played by Pollini.

2 and 3. We have sung many great choral works and since the timescale for repeating them is very long (15-20 years) there are two I would have to take with me since I am unlikely to sing them ever again.

The first would be the Bach B minor Mass (which we sang in 1989) – a wonderful choral experience, as is my next choice.

Beethoven is my favourite composer and I would like to take Fidelio, his 4th piano concerto and his violin concerto but will content myself with the Missa Solemnis (which we sang in 1981); I can listen to the magical violin in the Benedictus.

4. A slight quirk – I have always wanted to have the confidence to sing the tenor part in the Pearlfishers’ duet ‘Au fond du temple saint’ so Bizet – I could do this without let or harm on the desert island. The opera unusually has a happy ending!

5. There must be a little bit of fun and so I will include Shostakovich and The Gadfly and then I can dance round the campfire.

6. In memory of a good friend who introduced me to Mahler’s works (although as a young boy I might have listened to Barbirolli and the Hallé playing his symphonies in Sheffield City Hall – even in the 1940s?). I am torn between the 1st  and 4th (which were my introductions to recordings of the symphonies) and the ones with a choral contribution (different memories) but will choose the 4th.

7. Betty will tell you that I love listening to organ recitals (the Iron Voice was a favourite Radio 3 programme on Monday nights before choir). I remember the enjoyment of listening to a splendid recital in Notre Dame many years ago – hence this choice.

8. I have to have at least one work by Verdi and although I have enjoyed singing his Requiem and could choose any of his operas I will take Macbeth – I can then listen to it and try to link Verdi‘s interpretation with Shakespeare’s words.

Oh dear, no Berlioz, Brahms, Bruckner, Elgar, Field, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Rachmaninov, Schubert,  Strauss or so many others. So much omitted, so much still to hear and even to sing.

Book – like Jane and Liz I would have to have a comprehensive English dictionary, I can then start at A and try to understand the meaning and derivation of every word therein.

My luxury – if at all possible it would be to have a young yellow Labrador bitch  (I know that Jane intended to take Ella) – if we are not rescued I would try to ensure that I outlived the dog.


To listen to all of Eric’s discs click here:


To hear Desert Island Discs from previous castaways:

David Cottam

Jane Arch

Liz Harrison

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