Singing was my thing, despite having certificates which denote more than competence in both piano and clarinet. I had lessons in all three at school, won prizes in local and national music competitions, sang in the choir and played in the orchestra. Music was the joy in my childhood, alongside English literature and sunshine.
Making music with others is perhaps the best fun of all, piano duets, two-piano duets (genius), singing in harmony, finding your place in the orchestra. Mostly, at amateur level, it is gorgeous to take part in, slightly less fun for my friends and family to be forced, yet again, to watch and listen to me, however glamorous the venues and I have played at all the big ones.
There comes a point in amateur music when you have to either commit to more and better, in order to produce a higher quality of finished live performance, or settle for second best. I’m not much of a settler so I dropped out of choir singing a while back; too many tedious and small-minded arguments about logistics, uniforms, scores, funding and washing up, too much politics and too many opinions.
This is a bit of a shame. I have flirted with certain smaller choirs once, one a capella group based at Jacksons Lane Community Centre in Highgate a memorable highlight. In such a small group, there’s no place to hide, your bit counts and you can always count on me to do my bit. I just can’t do your bit for you, much though I might want to.
In anticipation of being on Desert Island Discs, I have endlessly debated with myself the different ways you could do this because, of course, only eight tracks is far too few and they only play snippets. People tell me it’s not about the music. Perhaps. But I think for me it would be. So perhaps I would pick eight memorable moments when I was either encouraged to participate in live music-making or when I was actually doing so. Live is always the stuff you remember.
Or the first song I ever remember, the song which encouraged me to take up the clarinet, the most goose-bumpy moment at a rock concert, at the Royal Albert Hall, my best piano music played live and the one I can play myself, my best film score and the music I want at my funeral. That’s eight again, but not the same eight.
Music is like a sweet shop, too much choice. I remember once asking a man I knew who liked music as much as me and in approximately the same way, even though I didn’t know him very well yet “What music do you like?” and he said “good music”. He meant irrespective of genre. What a good answer!
My own taste is very broad, I flirt with most genres, pop, rock, classical, opera, country & western, vocal, orchestra, instrumental, listening and taking part. Tears roll down my face and the hairs on the back of my neck rise and some just has to be played loud. And often repeated. Especially in the car. And cars for a whole new genre, road music.
My next door neighbour rather annoys me in that the merest hint of warm weather obliges him to throw open all his doors and windows, light the barbie and invite us to listen to his music whether we like it or not. Happily, often I do, as he pretty much always starts us off with a little Jackson Browne. I forget his favourite track now, it will come to me.
Bestest ever musical moment of my life? I honestly couldn’t tell you; so many. What’s yours? What do your neighbours like to listen to or are they so far away or so discreet that you don’t know?