Desert Island Discs – Chris Guy

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I feel a bit of an interloper here as I have only been a member of the SCCS for six years, and have never held any elected office, but please indulge me!

I was born and brought up in Evesham, a small town in Worcestershire. I was the fourth of six children. Music was not a major part of my early childhood as neither my father nor my mother had any particular interest. My memory is that we didn’t even own a record player until I was about 10. Some of my brothers and sisters learnt instruments but I didn’t. However, for reasons I cannot now remember, I joined the choir when I got to secondary school and stayed in it until I was 18. Our choirmaster was a traditionalist so we sang proper music, like the Messiah and the Creation, as well as the usual Christmas music for a carol concert. As was to be expected, my voice gradually descended, and I sang in the altos, then the tenors and ended up in the basses. How much lower can you go! We lived close to the school and my brother and I were persuaded to help with the local music society concerts, which were always staged there, so we put out the seats, collected the tickets, sold programmes etc, in return for free tickets. The concerts were usually chamber music or piano recitals and the standard was quite high, with internationally known names appearing, but nothing particular has stuck in my mind.

I studied Engineering at Durham University and my exposure to music was confined to endlessly listening to the same albums (mostly bands like the Eagles, Bad Company and Fleetwood Mac), whilst drinking bad coffee. I helped with the lighting at student’s union gigs so got to hear quite a few well-known bands of the 70’s. I think that the most respect I have ever got from my children was when I told them I had acted as a roadie for Whitesnake – a fairly mediocre heavy metal band for those of you not familiar with the genre!

I worked as a graduate engineer for several years before drifting into becoming an academic, firstly back in Durham and then in London, before settling in Reading. I got married in 1982 and my wife was always interested in all kinds of music, so my exposure to different genres grew and grew. We have two sons and both of them are very musical. One is a professional bass player, who has played with us – he was in the orchestra for the Creation last year. The other is currently a student, partly financed by working as a DJ, and a member of a very unusual band, which played at Glastonbury last year.

When both my sons left home, I needed something to fill the time and I did two things, I joined a choir and I started an evening class in History of Art. This led on to a part-time degree and I am now a proud graduate in this subject. I have no idea if this is unique but there can’t be many Professors of Electronic Engineering with a degree in History of Art!

Anyway, on to the music.

It would be hard for someone of my generation, growing up in the 1960s, not to have a Beatles track with them on the desert island. The only question is ‘which one?’ Finally, after much agonising, I have plumped for Help, which will enable me to dance about like a maniac, safe in the knowledge that no one can see me!

My second choice is from the same era and is just one of personal preference. It doesn’t hold any particular memories or have any particular significance. – I just like it. It is Van Morrison, Bright Side Of The Road.

Next is the perfect pop song (great tune, catchy chorus, great lyrics), which does have memories. Every year when the children were growing up, our summer holiday would be two weeks in a Gite somewhere near the coast in France, usually Brittany. We always had Kirsty McColl’s greatest hits album in the car and, as soon as I hear this track, I am transported back to a time, driving back from the beach after a long sunny day, looking forward to a cold beer and a barbie. The track is Kirsty McColl, There’s A Guy Works Down The Chip Shop.

One genre of music that latterly has played a big part in my life is Klezmer, perhaps surprisingly as I am not Jewish. It all stems from an idle conversation my wife had with a colleague many years ago. She is a clarinettist and he plays the accordion and he suggested they got together to play some Klezmer. Another colleague (a fiddle player) overheard this and asked if she could join in. They duly met up for a jam session at our house. My son, David, who had just taken up the double bass, was playing football with his mates but, when he heard the music, he came inside and joined in. So started a band called the Red Hot Bagels, who played at various parties and weddings and occasionally in public at places like the Global Cafe in Reading. Although that band came to a natural end (David went off to College and the fiddle player started having babies) the Klezmer carried on. David joined a band called the Klezmer Kollective and I would like to include a track from their album ‘Live At The Green Note’ – partly because I was in the audience when it was recorded. I have chosen Golden Wedding. You can watch videos of them on YouTube if you want more.

As I mentioned, my wife plays the clarinet and she is in two local orchestras, the Crowthorne Symphony Orchestra and the Beenham Wind Orchestra. Although I can’t choose a recording by either of these (as none exists), I would like a memory of some of the many excellent concerts I have attended. I have chosen one that Crowthorne did quite recently: Dvorak’s Cello Concerto which was played on that occasion by a young soloist, Joe Davies, of whom I am sure more will be heard.

Although I don’t have an ounce of religion in me, I have always enjoyed singing hymns, probably another legacy of schooldays, and I have chosen Eternal Father Strong To Save from the many possibilities.

Of course, I must include some choral music and I have plumped for The Heavens Are Telling from The Creation, which we performed so memorably in the Concert Hall last year.

For my last choice I would like to include my other son’s band but the only recordings of them are from some time ago when he wasn’t a member. However, there are YouTube videos if any of you are interested – search for the Carnival Collective, from Brighton. They are a big outfit – with up to 35 members, mostly brass and percussion. He plays the keyboard, so all that nagging him to practise the piano whilst he was growing up has at least had some reward.

In the absence of that, I have gone for a safe choice – Elvis Presley singing You Were Always On My Mind. This was another favourite track from albums we had in the car whilst the children were small, and all sang along to.

I am going to go along with some of the previous castaways in choosing the Oxford English Dictionary as my book. I do the Times crossword every day and then read a blog about that day’s solution. The variation in people’s vocabulary never ceases to amaze me. Words that I regard as commonplace are flagged up as unknown to some, whilst others that seem to be known to everyone else are quite new to me. Maybe if I were rescued I would know more words and be able to finish quicker.

My luxury would be as many bottles of red wine as I am allowed. I promise not to drink it all at once!

To listen to Desert Island Discs from previous castaways, click on the links below:

David Cottam

Jane Arch

Liz Harrison

Eric Hartley

Alan Chubb

Michèle Whitehead

David Butler

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