Elizabeth le Sueur's Desert Island Discs
Updated: Jul 16
A Life to Fine Music
Picture: Elizabeth le Sueur in Cape Town on her 81st birthday / Credit: Jacques le Sueur
London to Cape Town, June 2020
Jacques le Sueur: As some of you know, Mom was a classical and jazz presenter on Fine Music Radio for over 15 years...
For her 80th birthday today, my friend in London Baron Armah-Kwantreng invited her onto his online radio show and she got to share a handful of her favourite and most meaningful songs. Haven't seen her glow like this in a long time. Forever indebted my brother.
Recording of the show below. Enjoy. ❤️
The Hub: The interview was recorded on 12 June, 2020 from a stool (hence the creaking on the audio!) in The Hub's hallway near London from a mobile call to Jacques le Sueur's Cape Town home. Thank you for sharing your life and love of fine music on your 80th birthday Elizabeth.
One year on, eleven days after your 81st birthday, here is a longer account of our conversation. Belated Happy Birthday!
A Simon's Town Girl
Picture: Simon's Town, a naval base town near Cape Town, South Africa
Elizabeth le Sueur was born at the start of the Second World War in Simon's Town, a naval base town under British control until 1957, near Cape Town, South Africa. Elizabeth's father was involved in local air sea rescue services during the war and her mother was, "a Simon's Town girl."
Elizabeth spent a large part of her childhood in Simon's Town, affectionately known as Snookies because of the local fishing industry. She studied languages early at Cape Town University (UCT), then taught English, Afrikaans and German. As an Afrikaans speaker, German came naturally to her and she found it to be a great help in later life.
From there Elizabeth went into public relations, working at BP for several years. She went back to teaching after marriage and since then has been involved with UCT.
A Life Long Appreciation of Music
Picture: Chris McGregor the "Duke Ellington" of South African jazz music / Credit: Cuneiform Records
Throughout the conversation Elizabeth's love and appreciation of music is evident as is her association of some of her favourite music with the people close to her life.
Elizabeth explains: "I enjoyed music from a very young age and I was fortunate to have a very close friend who later became a famous jazz musician, Chris McGregor. He taught me a great deal.
I learned a great deal more about music since presenting on Fine Music Radio, here in Cape Town. My appreciation of classical music has definitely grown through the fifteen years of presenting both classics and jazz and learning about music.
To this day I really do appreciate music greatly. I know how much of it comes from the soul of the presenter, of the composer and of the performer."
The Hub presents Elizabeth le Sueur's Desert Island Discs choices: A Life to Fine Music.
What a Wonderful World
YouTube video: Louis Armstrong - What A Wonderful World
The first song, Louis Armstrong's What A Wonderful World, was a particular favourite of Elizabeth's mother and is intended as a timely pick-me-up for all.
Elizabeth says: "I especially chose this music because we need some inspiration in these difficult times. We have become so gloomy, so pessimistic, and we need reminding that we really do live in a beautiful world."
Elizabeth's teacher background shines through as she carefully explains the Mondegreen in the second verse of the song. This mishearing of a phrase in literature or music to give it new meaning was coined by Sylvia Wright, an American writer.
Recalling her mother reading the Scottish ballad The Bonny Earl of Murray, Wright misheard the fourth line lyric "layd him on the green" as "Lady Mondegreen".
In What a Wonderful World, "some people think he (Louis Armstrong) says "The dog says goodnight", but in fact he says, "The dark sacred night".
I see skies of blue
And clouds of white
The bright blessed day
The dark sacred night
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world
You Are My Hearts Delight
Picture: Austrian tenor and film actor Richard Tauber / Credit: imdb.com
From early childhood, Elizabeth remembers how her parents would croon to each other. A song they often sang was You Are My Hearts Delight, composed in 1928 by Franz Lehár and sung by Richard Tauber, an Austrian tenor they both loved.
"I'd love to hear it again," said Elizabeth. After listening to the song, she described it as: "Almost the ultimate love song! What more could one want from a partner?"
A Kind of Magic
Picture: Magician Jacques le Sueur / Credit: magicianswithoutborders.com
Elizabeth is rightly proud of her son Jacques le Sueur "a tremendous magician" who has performed worldwide through well over 50 countries, on cruise ships, celebrity events and at Presidential dinners.
Elizabeth recalls Jacques from the age of six sticking a hand around the shower curtain and saying: "Pick a card!" Since then over the last thirty six years she has watched her son blossom into a well-travelled, international magician.
To Elizabeth, Freddie Mercury was one of the ultimate performers and she was saddened at his death in 1991. So for the combination of Jacques' magic and Freddie Mercury's magic, Queen's A Kind of Magic is, "a wonderful choice for this programme."
Since the interview was recorded, Jacques has also become a successful fine artist via his Fine Art in Ink website.
Alexander's Ragtime Band
YouTube video: The Andrews Sisters - Alexander's Ragtime Band
The next most important people in Elizabeth's life are her three grandsons. The eldest Alexander is the namesake for the choice of The Andrews Sisters' rendition of wartime song - Alexander's Ragtime Band.
Elizabeth said: "I have always loved this music. Irving Berlin wrote it and it was performed by Johnny Mercer at a time when music started to shrink. I look forward to hearing war time ladies The Andrews Sisters singing one of my favourite songs from this time. Thank you!"
After hearing The Andrews Sisters' version for the first time, Elizabeth said: "That was lovely, the words were so nice and clear. You don't often hear it sung. The Johnny Mercer version was crystal and it was so nice to hear a song that was quite iconic at the time."
Smetana - Vtala (The Moldau)
YouTube video: Smetana - Vltava (The Moldau)
The next piece of music was always intended to be dedicated to Elizabeth's sister Christine. It is Vtala (The Moldau) by Bedřich Smetana, the father of Czech symphonic poetry. This was Christine's favourite music. Elizabeth says her sister was a great traveller who loved Europe. Christine's passing the Friday before the interview gave the choice and dedication an extra, sad significance.
The river Moldau passing through the Czech Republic characterises so much of what Christine loved about the area. So this music is a tribute to her, for Christine and her travels and for everybody who loved her.
On hearing the music, Elizabeth said: "Thank you very much, that melody will stay with me all my life I think. She loved that piece of music and it was lovely to hear it again now at the time that we are celebrating her life."
My Baby Just Cares for Me
YouTube video: Nina Simone - My Baby Just Cares For Me
Elizabeth declares enigmatically: "If I could be anybody else , I would be Nina Simone! I have a tremendous admiration for people who can play a musical instrument, especially the piano and sing at the same time. People like Diana Krall and Billy Joel, and of course Nina Simone, an amazing performer.
She was born Eunice Kathleen Waymon then she discovered she could actually sing and play the piano. She started off as a pianist and was asked to sing as well at one of the clubs she was performing in. She proved to be so popular that became her trademark.
I just love this piece of music because of her piano technique and I dedicate this to the middle grandson Jamie and to his mom Sonia. My Baby Just Cares For Me!"
Born in a Taxi
YouTube video: Blk Sonshine - Born in a Taxi (432Hz)
The next song, Born in a Taxi by South African band Blk Sonshine is dedicated to Elizabeth's youngest grandson Jamie and to his mother Tanja. The song celebrates Jamie's birth, yes you've guessed it, literally in a taxi!
Jamie was nearly one year old at the time of the interview and thankfully mother and child arrived hale and hearty at the hospital.
Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture
YouTube video: Tchaikovsky - 1812 OVERTURE (full with Cannons, Fireworks and Bell Tower)
Elizabeth says she has always had a tremendous love for Tchaikovsky's music. "Everything he wrote was very dramatic, very soulful and of great meaning to me in my life."
The 1812 Overture was written to commemorate the Russian's defeating Napoleon by abandoning Moscow and destroying everything before they left, leaving Napoleon's army to freeze in the snow. The victory bells rang out to commemorate the escape.
Elizabeth says: "It is always really dramatic when they have cannon fire during the performance and bells ringing to celebrate this wonderful victory. I would like us to go into this next year celebrating the victory over whatever comes our way."
Lullabye (Goodnight My Angel)
YouTube video: Billy Joel - Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel) (Official Video)
Traditionally, there are only eight choices of music to a Desert Island Discs collection. But as it was Elizabeth's birthday The Hub could hardly refuse her request for a bonus track.
With her son Jacques sitting beside her Elizabeth revealed Billy Joel's Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel) was the music she listened to whenever Jacques went off on his magical travels across Africa and beyond, hoping he would return safely.
"So if you would play Billy Joel's Lullabye I would really appreciate it."
Reflecting on her appearance on The Hub, Elizabeth said: "Thank you very much for the opportunity. It's been wonderful to share my music with an appreciative audience."
Thank you Elizabeth!
You can listen to the podcast by clicking on Elizabeth le Sueur: A Life to Fine Music.
You can listen to Elizabeth's Desert Island Discs playlist by clicking on the link below.