Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Northampton


I drove to Northampton today, up the M1, through early morning mists which made Bedfordshire look like a glorious Turner painting. The sun burnt through just as the new anthemic single by Mumford and Sons came on the radio. I felt like I was flying.

I was in Northampton to speak to the local BBC Radio station about the Requiem. I was interviewed by the lovely Bernie, who was one of the big supporters of the Watford Gap musical I made for BBC Radio Northampton in 2008. We had a lovely chat, and by the end of the interview, I felt as though I’d said everything I needed to say. Bernie played all of the Agnus Dei and part of the Pie Jesu. He said he’d listened to the album on enormous speakers the night before and been blown away by the experience. Someone brought a copy in Wootton Village, obviously as a direct response to listening in.

I went from the BBC to my old music school and chatted to the women in the office there about its new status as a charitable trust. It lost its public funding at the beginning of the year. Fortunately, as part of the divorce process, the county council very generously donated the building and all its contents to the Music School. Obviously the place still needs to be kept in good order, but it’s certainly a very good start. The women told me that they’re still finding their feet, but that early signs are good. I am relieved, and of course offered to do anything that I could to help. If that place goes down the pan, I shall rush through the streets of Northampton weeping. I wish, with every fibre of my being, that I had some spare money to donate to the place.  The Northamptonshire music school is responsible for perhaps my happiest ever memories, and without it, I would never have become a composer. It’s as simple as that. As a teenager, because of the music school’s outreach work, I got to meet and learn from luminaries like James MacMillan and Malcolm Arnold. Arnold was brought into my school to listen to my (dreadful) ‘cello concerto. He sat, very patiently, listening to every last bar on a terrible tape machine, and incredibly generously said afterwards, “my dear boy, one day you will be a great deal more well-respected than I am...” Or words to that affect.

Nathan went to the funeral of his friend Matt today, which was apparently an incredibly moving occasion. Matt was a performer and his coffin was applauded out of the church; a sort of final curtain call. He came home and we watched the Great British Bake Off , a plate of chips on our laps, wondering if a pair of days could have been more turbulent.

350 years ago Pepys and his clerk Will Hewer took a pair of horses and rode the Great North Road to Puckeridge in East Hertfordshire. The roads and lanes were muddy and dark. In those days, travelling was a deeply sociable experience. A traveller would meet fellow travellers at various inns along the route, swap gossip and decide to travel the next leg together. On this particular journey, Pepys and Hewer made a new friend called Mr Brian; “with whom I supped, and was very good company, and a scholar. He tells me, that it is believed the Queen is with child, for that the coaches are ordered to ride very easily through the streets...”

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