On-Air Highlights

Desert Island Discs Returns for 12 Week Tribute

Written by Cary Burkett, Arts & Culture Desk and WITF Host | Aug 24, 2015 10:47 AM


Ellen DID.jpg
Sunday Evenings at 7, starting September 13.


Ellen Hughes was a longtime host on WITF, appearing both on radio and television in various roles. 

She lost her battle with cancer on June 9, 2015.

She was a mainstay of WITF's classical music programs for years, and a passionate champion of the arts in Central Pennsylvania. Her rich, contralto voice was well known to the community.

She co-hosted a program called New Releases, sampling new classical recordings every week and debating their merits with co-host Cary Burkett.

She was also Director of WITF's Next Generation Festival, organizing free chamber music concerts presented to the community each summer for several years.

But the role for which she is probably best remembered is as the host of the weekly radio program, Desert Island Discs. For eighteen years, she produced and hosted the program, borrowing a format from the BBC.  

Sitting at a table decorated with a paper palm tree, Ellen would ask her castaway guests to list eight recordings they would choose to have with them if they were stranded on a desert island. The castaways were also allowed to have one luxury item and one book. (The guests were to choose something other than the Bible or the works of Shakespeare, since these were considered to be on the island already.)

Ellen interviewed more than 800 people of regional and national reputation in the course of the program. As a tribute to her memory, WITF is rebroadcasting a series of the programs over a 12 week period.

These are not necessarily "the best" of Desert Island Discs, but a representative sample of authors, composers, politicians, journalists and musicians of the type you might find any week when tuning in to hear Desert Island Discs.

WITF thanks  Ellen's husband, Nick Hughes, and to her family for making these programs available to us from their own collection.

Below is the list of guests scheduled for this tribute series.  

Sept. 13     Morning Edition host Bob Edwards

Sept. 20      Flutist James Galway

Sept. 27      Journalist David Dunkle 

Oct 4           Adventures in Good Music host Karl Haas

Oct 11         PA Governor Dick Thornburgh

Oct  18        Conductor Stuart Malina

Oct  25        Author Bill Bryson

Nov 1          Composer Lalo Schifrin  

Nov 8          Fresh Air host, Terry Gross

Nov 15         Cellist Zuill Bailey

Nov 22         Actor Clark Nicholson

Nov 29         Composer Peter Schickele 

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  • zeon img 2015-08-28 17:56

    I'll always remember Desert Island Discs for the intro music and Ellen's soothing voice. This program is a great tribute to her, and I look forward to learning listening.

    On a related note, I find it ironic to have Cary BurKerr introducing this as I recall him being openly rude to her on air during the program the cohosted many years ago.

    Perhaps Mr. Burkett will set his ego aside for a moment and apologize on-air for that.