Listen of the week – words to stitch along to

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I love to listen to live radio and to Podcasts whilst I sew/quilt/muck about in my studio pretending to work. And I know that there are lots of you who like to do the same (or binge on Netflix of course..!), so I’ve decided to do a regular series on my unmissable listens.

Listen of the week podcasts for crafting along to

I’ll be sharing some of my favourite Podcast episodes and TED talks every Tuesday – hopefully inspiring you to check them out too.

I warn you (but maybe that should be a promise!) that it’s going to be an eclectic mix – but I am sure that’s a good thing, because my readers are a varied bunch, and everyone will find something to like. The topics I tend to search out for are creativity, craft, mental health, spirituality, philosophy, but I also love wonderful stories of all kinds – so if you have your own recommendations for me, please leave a comment.

First up is my all-time favourite episode (so far, although there is close competition) of probably one of the best-known Podcasts out there, This American Life: One Last Thing Before I Go

The Wind Phone in Otsuchi, Japan, subject of the first act of One Last Thing Before I Go (photo from The National Post).

It’s probably crazy to start with such an excellent piece of radio, because it might all be downhill from here, but I really want to give you the Podcast bug, so best to start big, I thought!

I’m a bit stuck though, because I don’t want to say too much about it (Spoilers) – but I can say this: both stories within the episode are deeply moving, thought-provoking and incredibly well-told. They speak (in VERY different ways, and that the contrast is part of the success of the episode) of the human struggle to communicate, to express our feelings, our inadequacy, our bravery, our weakness and our resilience in the face of loss and death.

If you’ve never listened to a Podcast before, you can just listen to it on your browser, or download it for later, or use a Podcast app.

Hope you enjoy it – I’d love to hear what you think.

Spotify Christmas Carols

This time last year, we were in the throes of a pre-Yule tidy up, but jotted down a Christmas carol playlist during a break. This year, we’ve been painting the hall – and here are some more carols!

For us, Spotify has been just about the best way of discovering new music and re-discovering old music this year. If you don’t know it yet, it’s an online music jukebox with a bewildering amount of music available. You can sign up for a free version, or two paid for versions. The free one is punctuated by often irritating adverts – the ‘Unlimited’ one is an absolute bargain, we think, at £5 a month.

Here’s the link to our playlist for this year:

Very Berry Carol Collection 2010

And here are the carols:

Methinks I see an heav’nly host
Taverner Choir, Andrew Parrott
A rousing one to start, an American tune by William Billings sung by the Taverner Choir, who’ve put out some brilliant Christmas records.

Hail Mary Full of Grace
The Sixteen, Harry Christophers
From one of our favourite records, a collection of early English Christmas music, including this which is found in a fifteenth-century manuscript.

While Shepherds Watched / Serburne
Boston Camerata, Joel Cohen
The real traditional carol of England – one of the only ones that survived through the centuries in church, rather than as a folk song. Loads of different tunes – here’s one of the less familiar.

The Cherry Tree Carol
Anonymous 4
A carol from medieval England that persisted in the folk tradition, crossed the Atlantic and is sung her bewitchingly in an American version from the early twentieth century.

Gabriel’s Message
Cardiff Polyphonic Choir, Richard Elfyn Jones
A traditional Basque carol with English words, ‘The Angel Gabriel from Heaven Came’. Lovely intimate performance, this one.

This is the Truth
Choir of New College Oxford, Edward Higginbottom
A folk carol which Vaughan Williams chose to open his beautiful ‘Fantasia on Christmas Carols’. Lilting tune and stern theology, a winning combination.

The Holly and the Ivy
Anonymous 4
Almost needs no introduction. The ivy plays second fiddle to the holly’s medieval allegory of the story of salvation.

In Bethlehem City
City of London Choir, Hilary Davan Wetton
Another folk carol, arranged by Ralph Vaughan Williams for a cantata; another lovely tune.

Angels from the Realms of Glory
The Sixteen, Harry Christophers
One of those we remember singing in cold halls and churches when we were little. You can’t really go wrong with The Sixteen at Christmas.

Sussex Carol
Ex Cathedra Choir, Jeffrey Skidmore
Another folk carol collected in the early twentieth century, which opens ‘On Christmas night all Christians sing…’

This Have I Done for my True Love
Christchurch Cathedral Choir, Simon Lawford
Tomorrow shall be my dancing day’, another old text (probably), this time arranged by Gustav Holst. The carol that is sung at the end of Lucy Boston’s ‘Children of Green Knowe’ as past & present collapse together.

Past Three A Clock
The Sixteen, Harry Christophers
‘Past Three A Clock and a cold, frosty morning’ certainly sums up our pre-Christmas weather this year. The Christmas messenger imagine as a London watchman.

Balulalow
Dame Janet Baker, Philip Ledger
One of Peter Warlock’s haunting carol arrangements. Serene beauty at odds with the hellraising that accompanied its writing..

Stille Nacht
King’s College Choir, Philip Ledger
A very familiar carol. We sometimes find the English version a bit too sugary, but it’s a good tune when sung well.

Remember, O Thou Man
Pro Arte Singers, Paul Hillier
More stern warnings amidst the festivities. Put down that cracker and remember Adam’s fall.

The Gloucester Wassail
The Waverley Consort
Not really a carol, but a rousing song to be belted out while visiting your neighbours to beg a drink or two.

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
Winchester Cathedral Choir, David Hill
A good old tub-thumper to finish with.

And here’s last year’s playlist: Very Berry Carol Collection 2009

We also have a folk music one! A Folktastic Xmas