Desert Island Discs – Jane Arch


Jane Arch is our second castaway.   In 1989 Jane wrote this article for the SCCS newsletter, in which she chose the eight records she would take to the desert island.  She still loves all the pieces, although her choice may be slightly different now.

You can listen to some of the specific recordings she has chosen if you are registered with Spotify.  Three of Jane’s choices are from her own CD and record collection. These have been transferred onto YouTube for your pleasure.  (For the younger members of the choir, perhaps I could explain what a ‘record’ is.  It is a disc, generally 12 “ in diameter, made of black vinyl, with an inscribed groove.  A stylus (or needle) traces the groove and vibrates to reproduce the recorded sound waves!)

Just as in the Radio 4 version of Desert Island Discs, Jane has available to her the Bible (as deposited by the Gideon Society) and the Complete Works of Shakespeare, in addition to her chosen book and a luxury item.  Over to Jane…

For some years I have been threatening to decide on eight records for my Desert Island.  I’ve also thought (and also told Gwyn) that it would be a good idea as a regular feature for our Newsletter.  At last he called my bluff – “Don’t just talk about it, do it!” he said.  So here goes!  Maybe the idea will catch on.   (It took 23 years before David Cottam took up the challenge!)   Whatever else it does, it brings back many memories of the past.

It was very tempting to choose mostly choral music, because that is the area of music I have been involved in, but the more I thought about it – and I have done so at length – in the bath, in bed, walking with Ella, my beautiful yellow Labrador, and in many other reflective moments, the more I felt that my choice should be a cameo of my life.  The records to me are not necessarily my favourites, but are very evocative and personal, and some may make little sense to others.  They will, however, probably tell you something of my life!  The greatest, almost impossible, task was to keep the choice down to eight.

1   Asleep in the Deep.  This is a Victorian song (1897) and I have happy and very vivid memories of playing the piano for my father to sing.  (He had a rich, deep bass voice).  This was in the privacy of our lounge, which is where most of my piano playing was, (and certainly is now), carried out.  I must have been about 10 years old.  The recording doesn’t sound much like my father – he had a good voice, but it’s very evocative to me.

2   My Love Dwelt in a Northern Land.  This again spans my life.  My parents (mother alto and father bass) used to sing in the local Glee Party (a small choral group) and this was one of their songs.  When we performed it in the summer concert in 1974 and again in the Chamber Choir more recently, it brought back memories of listening to them singing at home and in the choir.  I suppose having grown up with harmony around me (in more ways than one) it is natural that I should sing alto now and I find myself harmonising many of the songs we sing in my own way.  Mildred Derry who sits next to me does the same, but although our notes ‘fit’, they don’t always coincide!

3   My next choice is the Elgar cello concerto played by Jacqueline du Pre.  I sit crying, listening and watching the TV film of her playing it.  What a talent!  Apart from the sheer beauty of the piece and of the way she plays it, I have memories of Jonathan (our younger son) playing some of it,  – not as well as Jacqueline, but then he has become a geologist!  It does, however, bring back the many hours of happy music-making that occurred in our house when the boys were growing up.

4 Oscar Peterson is the jazz pianist I have chosen to take and in particular his record of Night Train.  Jazz piano has always featured strongly in our house, but the particular record of Night Train was always special fun – a family joke and one that wouldn’t mean anything to anyone else.  Perhaps if I could persuade David to play it for me to tape, I could take that instead of Oscar!

5 Gwyn’s choirs, other than ours, have always been a central part of our life, from the Bulmershe Girls to the Reading Male Voice Choir.  Perhaps I could be permitted to cheat and take a compendium of both choirs.  There are many songs I’d like, but I’ll choose one of each.  The Men – The Lord’s Prayer by Malotte.  When the choir reaches the climax my hair stands up on end – a beautiful piece.  The Girls – a difficult choice but it would probably be one of the Verdi Four Sacred Pieces – Laudi Alla Virgine Maria.

You can hear these recordings on YouTube:

The Lord’s Prayer

 Laudi Alla Virgine Maria

6 If I could indulge myself for the next record – I’m sure you’ll understand that it was quite special for me in the SCCS 1988 Christmas Concert to sing Gwyn’s arrangements accompanied by David – I never thought I’d do that.  I’d like to take Sister Mary, a beautiful piece, and relive that moment.

Sister Mary

7 When I first wrote this I had included Handel’s Messiah but having just sung Bach’s B Minor Mass I have to take that record.  I first sang it with London University Music Society on 1952 with Joy Morgan. That was one of the coincidences of my life as I didn’t know Joy until 1971 when we met again in our choir.  Perhaps I could take the score of the Messiah.  I know the work so well that I can hear it all without the record (well, most of it anyway).

8 I’ve kept myself down to two choral works but the second choice was almost impossible: whether to have Mozart Requiem or Verdi Requiem.  I’ve decided on the latter and in particular Lachrymosa – that really does make me cry – but hopefully I’ll be allowed to take the whole work.

I’ve missed out such a lot – no Beethoven symphonies, Monteverdi, Frank Sinatra, etc., but then I can’t really imagine a life without music all the time (just as well!).

If I’m only allowed to take one record then I think it would have to be the Verdi Requiem.  My luxury would be Ella, my Labrador……..My book is the Concise English Dictionary. I could spend my time when not reading the Bible and Shakespeare increasing my vocabulary so that when I return to civilisation I will be more articulate!


Thank you Jane for sharing your special moments with us.


To see Desert Island Discs from previous castaways:

David Cottam

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