Episodes

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03Claron McFadden20180417

Amsterdam-based American soprano Claron McFadden on the life she has shared with her voice

Musicians talk about their life and work.

Growing up in upstate New York, it wasn't a surprise that Claron McFadden wanted to be a singer - she was immersed in gospel music at church, soul and pop at home. That she aspired to be a classical soprano was, as she describes it, no choice at all. Her voice led her there.

Having lived in Amsterdam for over thirty years - a place she instantly recognised as home - she now inhabits a space somewhere between America and Europe, just as her voice is at home in music across stylistic boundaries and eras.

With hard-edged modern music by Brian Ferneyhough, an elegant aria by Rameau, Gershwin's Summertime, a jazz arrangement of Bach and even a visceral performance of Erwin Schulhoff's Sonata Erotica, Claron talks with Alan Hall about the life she's shared with her voice.

Produced by Alan Hall
A Falling Tree production for BBC Radio 4.

03Hannah Peel2018041020180414 (R4)

An intimate portrait of singer, composer and multi-instrumentalist Hannah Peel.

Musicians talk about their life and work.

An intimate portrait of singer, composer and multi-instrumentalist Hannah Peel.

Hannah Peel inhabits many different worlds. She can, blithely, be described as a singer-songwriter, known for stripped back renditions of 80s pop songs, accompanying herself with a hand-turned music box. But then she's also composed an epic concept album for brass band and electronics and provided the music for a theatrical re-imagining of Graham Greene's Brighton Rock, as well as being a session musician as a singer, violinist, trombonist, keyboard player and arranger.

Her personal life - like her professional activities - traverses different worlds, too. Her childhood was divided between Northern Ireland, where she was born and to which she returns often, and Yorkshire, where she grew up in the brass band tradition.

Now, she's a synthesiser convert and calls her studio The Lab. Yet, in all her music-making, her voice carries the legacy of a family steeped in the culture of singing.

Presented and produced by Alan Hall
A Falling Tree production for BBC Radio 4
(Photo credit: Adam Patterson).

03Hannah Peel20180410

An intimate portrait of singer, composer and multi-instrumentalist Hannah Peel.

Musicians talk about their life and work.

An intimate portrait of singer, composer and multi-instrumentalist Hannah Peel.

Hannah Peel inhabits many different worlds. She can, blithely, be described as a singer-songwriter, known for stripped back renditions of 80s pop songs, accompanying herself with a hand-turned music box. But then she's also composed an epic concept album for brass band and electronics and provided the music for a theatrical re-imagining of Graham Greene's Brighton Rock, as well as being a session musician as a singer, violinist, trombonist, keyboard player and arranger.

Her personal life - like her professional activities - traverses different worlds, too. Her childhood was divided between Northern Ireland, where she was born and to which she returns often, and Yorkshire, where she grew up in the brass band tradition.

Now, she's a synthesiser convert and calls her studio The Lab. Yet, in all her music-making, her voice carries the legacy of a family steeped in the culture of singing.

Presented and produced by Alan Hall
A Falling Tree production for BBC Radio 4
(Photo credit: Adam Patterson).

03Rachel and Becky Unthank2018042420180428 (R4)

Sisters Rachel and Becky reflect on each other's voice and the music of The Unthanks.

Musicians talk about their life and work.

During the last ten years, The Unthanks have redefined what might be expected of English folk music. Their sequence of albums has reimagined traditional material in vivid new arrangements and reached into surprising new sources - for example, the songs of Molly Drake. But at the core of the group are the voices of Rachel and Becky, sisters born seven years apart.

Rachel and Becky share their sense of belonging to the landscape of the north-east, their inevitable attraction to melancholy and the qualities that allow each other's voice to blend so effortlessly.

And, in their studio in a Northumbrian farm-yard, they sing their signature melodies and a duet that most typically sounds for the two of them.

Produced by Alan Hall
A Falling Tree production for BBC Radio 4.

03Sharon Van Etten20180403

An intimate portrait of American singer-songwriter and actor Sharon Van Etten.

Musicians talk about their life and work.

Sharon Van Etten has been described as having an elegant voice "wrapped in enough rasp and sorrow to keep from sounding too pure or confident". It can suggest folk traditions and Americana with layered harmonies, as well as an edgier, more confrontational sound rooted in urban drones reminiscent of John Cale or PJ Harvey.

After a decade or more of songwriting and recording - on albums such as Because I Was In Love, epic, Tramp and Are We There - she's now migrated into acting via a surprising detour.

The interviews for this intimate portrait were recorded in Los Angeles, where she's working on a new album of songs between calls for her role in the Netflix drama, The OA.

Presented and Produced by Alan Hall
A Falling Tree production for BBC Radio 4
(Photo credit: Ryan Pfluger).