The Culture Club (20 May 2023)

Welcome to The Rhythm Section! The aim of this blog is to celebrate how music has shaped people’s lives over the years. Or, in the case of the Culture Club slot. centuries! How do you like a bit of classical?

Each week, I’ll present a tiny snippet from the enormous world of classical music. Usually, classical has a soothing, chilled effect, but beware: I may throw some curve balls at you! So, under that broad description of “classical”, expect anything!

The common thread, I hope, is your enjoyment.

Another one from Giuseppe Verdi (1813 – 1901), from his opera Nabucco, published in 1842. This chorus is called Va, pensiero, but we anglophiles probably know it better as the March of the Hebrew Slaves.

Now, a simple question for you. Post if you wish, but a simple comment will suffice.

Hebrew Slaves? Has a big biblical air, doesn’t it? Not surprising. The English form of the word Nabucco is Nebuchadnezzar, which I’m sure you recognise, and the whole opera is centred around a couple of books in the Old Testament.

So tell me, many people live their lives devoted to the bible (or they claim to, anyway). Are there any books that you found to be stand-out? Any book, or maybe an author, not necessarily religious.

For example, around the age of twenty I read voraciously. Both Dostoyevsky and Orwell have stayed with me ever since, though I must admit I preferred their non-fiction writing such as The House of the Dead, Homage to Catalonia or The Road to Wigan Pier. To tell the truth, I always tended to read nonfiction over fiction – I used to love biographies, for example. It’s only much later that I started reading fiction – I quite liked Tom Clamcy but his books were a bit samey, and Dumas is thrilling.

But, how about you? What do you like to read?


  1. I read pretty much anything, but the one I really remember is the biography of Errol Flynn. My favourite band at the time Australian Crawl, had a big hit with the song Errol, so I wondered how accurate it was. From my reading it seems they nailed it

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  2. This is such a glorious piece by Verdi, one we don’t hear as often as the others. Thanks for posting this today, Pete!

    These days I’m knee deep in books like Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty so when I have a chance to read something a bit more grown up, I jump at it.

    I prefer nonfiction and am enjoying a book about a woman eating and drinking her way through Sicily. It’s great fun to read about the people and traditions while picking up a few recipes and wine recommendations!

    Over the years I’ve read all of Agatha Christie’s books and many of Roald Dahl’s. My favorite book so far is “The Color of Water” by James McBride. Like Deb, I also love to read biographies; if she’s talking about the same Errol Flynn bio I read, it’s called “My Wicked, Wicked Ways”; he was quite the naughty boy.

    Up next: “I Me Mine” by George Harrison.

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    1. Must admit I always shied away from any “celeb” biographies because the notion of celeb has always turned me off. Right place, right time, s’all. Same with sports people.


    2. for example I remember reading the autobiography of Haing Ngor, I might have the spelling wrong, who was the guy who played Dith Pran in the Killing Fields movie, and who himself had survived the Killing Fields. That was the kind of story turned me on.

      I should imagine the early part of Harrison’s story would be interesting, because I know the poverty he grew up in. As in, my mum grew up in the same poverty. Literally, she lived in the same street as him and they played out together. But after he became famous it’d just be another privileged guy buying his was through life. I wonder if he remembered my mum?

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  3. I loved your choice, Pete.
    It transported me 20 years ago , listening to Va Pensiero with my recently departed friend and mentor Andrew Karajan.

    Thank you for this gift.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Verdi is such a genius (I think present tense is appropriate because his music lives on), and this piece is splendid. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to it again. I’ve started reading Hemingway again, and I’m struck by his ability to create a vivid story within a scene.

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