Cousin Jack (sung by Fisherman’s Friends)
My Cornish roots are really important to me – I was born in Redruth Miners and General Hospital and my mother in the house in Trebetherick up on the north coast next to the one she and my father left to my sisters and me in 1999. It’s such a poignant song about the Cornish diaspora and its plaintive notes express some of my own ambivalence to Cornwall: much as it’s part of me, I don’t want to live there (yet, maybe one day..) as I love the bright lights, culture and vibrancy of Bristol. Fisherman’s Friends perform on the beach (tide permitting) in Port Isaac every Friday in the summer – life doesn’t much better than listening to them (if you can tolerate their unreconstructed banter), watching the sun set over the sea beyond the harbour with a pint of Rattler in a plastic glass from the Golden Lion in your hand.
The Blue Bird - C.V. Stanford
I absolutely loved my time at Durham University and singing in its chamber choir, the one which was lucky enough to get the Music on the River gig, at dusk on the last night of the summer term. Most of the university would gather on the river banks of the peninsular, where the river Wear winds its way past the castle and cathedral high above it to hear the choir, squashed as we were into 4 punts and pulled by the 1st eights from various colleges. We sang madrigals and, memorably, this which floated over the water into the twilight. It is a right bit of slush, but has such special memories for me and several friends whom I still hold dear, 40 years on.
Beatus Vir - Claudio Monteverdi
My time with the Chamber Choir has been extremely happy and has exposed me to many of the glories of choral music, made me some very dear friends and has, on occasion, had my liver waving a white flag of surrender. One such time was a choir trip to Denmark in 2000, when we found out just how many Danish venues we could sing at in about 5 days and how much Tuborg and Gameldansk we could put away (spoiler: a lot in all cases). A highlight was this item in a lunchtime concert in Odense Cathedral where a couple of old dears and a cat were about our only audience, but it was a thrill to sing a small solo in that magnificent setting.
Os Justi - Anton Bruckner
I love the Bruckner motets but this is my favourite – the most beautiful exhilarating and high soprano line which explodes out of the texture at certain points but then is restrained by the deliciously scrunchy harmonies of the penultimate section before the alleluia.
When the going gets tough, the tough get going - Billy Ocean
I’m going to be so so rubbish on this desert island – it’s a toss-up as to whether sunstroke, dehydration, starvation or the sharks will get me before help arrives, so I’ll need something to raise me from despair and to stir me into building a boudoir out of palm fronds. Oh, and dancing: perfecting (or maybe binning) those moves my daughter recently described as Palaeolithic. This version has brilliant backing singers, if you look closely: Kathleen Turner – I’m comin’ for ya!