In my schooldays in the 1960s, there was still, every day, morning assembly. We sang hymns and said prayers daily – in fact, at Tunbridge Wells Grammar School we sang, throughout the term, seven different settings (if I recall rightly) of the Lord’s Prayer –
my favourite being Crimond. The accumulated experience of singing and listening together lodged in my consciousness a rich resource of beautiful old tunes that has stayed with me,
enduringly, through all the ups and downs of life since, and contributed, in often subliminal ways, to the meaning of that life. When I am walking along in the beauty of a Kent morning before I start work, looking at the oaks, beeches, ancient hedgerows, at the crows wheeling over their high roosts, at the familiar procession of seasonal growth and decay, I find myself spontaneously bursting into song, or a happy whistle – and the song is nearly always one of my old childhood favourites - Morning Has Broken, There is a Green Hill, He Who Would Valiant Be, and, most often of all, How Great Thou Art – which surely expresses my personal and deeply felt gratitude for ‘the love that will not let me go’, and all
the evidence before me of that love.
I was lucky enough as a growing child to be exposed to other forms of human music-making, as well as the birdsong I’ve always loved so much. My mother bought me records at Christmas and on birthdays – I recall Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty, Saint-Saens’ Carnival of
the Animals, and the Beatles’ White Album (11th birthday present!) among others, and at
grammar school there was Miss Mortimer ‘s Friday lunchtime music club, when several rows of girls and teachers sat listening to classical music on the record-player. My older siblings’ pop-music tastes were wide-ranging, from Cliff Richard, Stevie Wonder and the Beatles, through the 1960s and early 1970s, to Otis, Dylan, Marvin Gaye, the Incredible String Band, The Doors, Cream and Joni Mitchell.
When I first got together with my future husband, he came home one evening for dinner. Dad was staying – over from Spain to do a voice-over for Kipling Cakes – and we put on a record of Welsh Male Voice Choir singing. As soon as they broke into their first harmony,
my father burst into tears, amazing my husband, who had never until that date actually seen a man cry. I seem to have inherited this trait from my old Dad, and when I first saw the following You-Tube upload of members of the Copenhagen Philharmonic playing Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite on the metro there, it certainly struck that chord! I hope you’ll enjoy watching this as much as I did.