Desert Island Discs – Michèle Whitehead


Michèle has been a member of South Chiltern Choral Society for 37 years (a neophyte compared to Alan and Jane), served on the committee as ‘ticket lady’ for 9 years and is now in charge of the Social Committee.

Michèle has selected specific recordings she would like to take to the desert island.  As these recordings are not available on Spotify, I have selected alternatives, but you will hear the pieces she has chosen, but beware, the Beatles song you can play here is not even sung by the Beatles – it is a tribute band – sorry Michèle!

When I was asked if I would like to be a castaway on SCCS island, and choose 8 tracks of my favourite music, I hesitated, agreed and then panicked. Choosing means leaving out so much music I love!

So I tried to imagine what it would be like to have only a few tracks to keep one sane on a desert island and my choice is based on samples of different types of music I can’t imagine living without: Choral, piano, symphonic, opera, jazz, pop, dancing and soothing music. That gives us a convenient 8 categories! But it does not quite work that way. For example, my first choice is both choral and symphonic.

1.Beethoven’s Symphony No.9, “Ode to joy” West-Eastern Divan Orchestra and Berlin State Opera conducted by Daniel Barenboim

I was brought up listening to classical music. My father adored Beethoven and for the first 7 years of my life I did not hear much else. Beethoven still remains my favourite composer, the one whose familiarity of tones I can always relate to. I could take anything by Beethoven but I chose the Choral Symphony for the grandeur of it, its affirmation of life and dream of brotherhood of man. Ode to joy is the first little tune my eldest grand-daughter learnt on the piano, for my 60th birthday.

2.Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody No.2 played by Georgy Gziffra

My second choice also relates to my childhood. Franz Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies played by Georgy Gziffra, is one of the first “records” I was given as a birthday present. It came with me when we left Algeria in a panic. If Gziffra is difficult to find these days I would go for Lang Lang playing it. It would remind me what  one can do with a piano!

3.Schubert String Quintet in C major by The Amadeus Quartet

Schubert comes  a close second in my composers’ hall of fame. I chose The Adagio of the String Quintet  played by The Amadeus Quartet because it never fails to sooth me and transport me on some beautiful cloud. This is also true of my next choice.

4.Bruckner Motets by the Corydon Singers

I had trouble choosing between Rackmaninov’s Vespers  and Bruckner’s Motets. But in the end I chose Bruckner’s motets simply because they are easier to sing and I would hope to sing on my desert island! If I can only take one it would be Locus iste

5. Ray Charles : I can’t stop loving you

I entered the world of jazz with Ray Charles in the 1960s and he remains a favourite. Not perhaps as great as some other great jazz musicians but straight to the heart.

6. The Beatles : Twist and shout (from the Album Please please me)

As I was growing up rock and roll music began appearing and I got hooked.  I first heard the Beatles  in 1963 when I first came to England. I was bowled over. The following year I met my husband and the very first conversation we had was about the Beatles. We bought all their albums as they were produced. We still have them, and I still love rock and roll too!

7.Richard Strauss Salome “Ah! Ich Habe Deinen Mund Gekusst” Herbert Von Karajan and Wiener Philarmoniker

Then there is opera which I discovered with my grand-mother in my teens. Paul, my husband, and I (and often our son as well) have spent many happy hours in the dark of opera houses being transported into unimaginable worlds,  engulfed in amazing music. There the choice would be between Mozart, Wagner and Richard Strauss.  But sometimes just a few bars of Strauss’s Salome are enough.

8.Offenbach’s Gaîté parisienne, the overture  Berliner Philarmoniker Herbert Von Karajan

This one is for my eldest daughter who choreographed it at some point. It gives me such a “feel good factor”

My book : Rimbaud’s Poetry to remind me what a beautiful language French can be.

My luxury item: writing material

Many thanks for sharing your favourite discs with us Michèle. To listen to Desert Island Discs from previous castaways, click on the link below:

David Cottam

Jane Arch

Liz Harrison

Eric Hartley

Alan Chubb

Print Friendly, PDF & Email