BBC Music Magazine

Music that Changed Me

Carole Boyd

- Interview by Oliver Condy

Carole Boyd is known to millions of

BBC Radio 4 listeners as The Archers’ Lynda Snell, Ambridge’s arch-cajoler, do-gooder and Christmas panto director. This Christmas, Snell is staging her own adaptation of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales which you can hear in full on 29 Dec and 5 Jan on Radio 4, and afterwards on BBC Sounds. Away from The Archers, Boyd has recorded more than 300 audiobooks from George Eliot’s Middlemarc­h to Ian Mcewan’s Atonement, has played every female character in Cbeebies’ Postman Pat and performs concerts of words and music with the Bibby Piano Duo.

There was a lot of music in the house when I was young – my mother played the piano in a sort of thumpy way because she never had many lessons. And I remember listening to Children’s Hour on the ★ome Service. It featured some wonderful dramatised classics with incidental music that was always very pertinentl­y chosen for its atmosphere. There was a serial called the Eagle of the Ninth about the Romans in Britain. The music they used was so incredible – so right for the series, and it captured the mood brilliantl­y. I got my mother to phone the BBC and ask what it was, and it was WALTON’S Symphony No. 1. You can imagine how that spare, strange sound must have seemed to a ten year old! That was the first time I’d heard Walton – it took me into another realm and opened my ears to the fact that music can take you to places in your head.

When I was in my mid-teens, a school friend and I would get on the No. 29 bus from Wood Green every Saturday and travel an hour to Leicester Square to spend an afternoon at a matinee. One day we saw West Side Story which had just come out. I was totally struck by the opening sequence where the camera pans over the Manhattan rooftops and, of course, by

BERNSTEIN’S amazing music. It started me on a path to discoverin­g Samuel Barber and Aaron Copland along with the whole canon of 20th-century American music.

I had the opportunit­y to go to PUCCINI’S house in 2006 – it was very turn-of-the-century and slightly dilapidate­d. I remember his music salon. La bohème was playing on the tannoy and the room was full of everything Puccini – the walls were covered in paintings, playbills and opera programmes and every surface was littered with scores and other memorabili­a. The piano lid was open and the score to La bohème was on the stand. At the right-hand end of the piano was an ashtray full of cigarette butts, and it was as though Puccini had decided simply to pop up the road to get more cigarettes and return any minute. I felt like I’d stepped into 1896 – I could just smell it. It was like time travel. Now, if Puccini’s on offer, I’m there – whether it’s Tosca, La bohème or Madam Butterfly. I go to Covent Garden a lot but I always go on my own; I don’t want anyone with me as the experience is just so personal.

In the early 2000s, when we used to record The Archers at Birmingham’s Pebble Mill, ★umphrey Carpenter was at one point presenting Radio 3’s Listeners’ Choice in the next studio. ★e recognised me as

I’d recorded his Shakespear­e Without the Boring Bits as audiobooks, and he invited me onto his programme. A few weeks previously he’d played a listener’s request – SCHUBERT’S ‘Du bist die Ruh’ performed by Dietrich Fischer-dieskau and Gerald Moore. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. It was exquisite perfection honed down to just a few chords and notes. So that was my choice. The song introduced me to Lieder and I started exploring – it was the link to so many other things.

Not long ago I was introduced to MORTEN LAURIDSEN’S O Magnum Mysterium by our church choir’s former director Johnny Kilhams. There’s a performanc­e of it on Youtube by the Nordic Chamber Choir which is mindblowin­gly beautiful. I often turn to Bach for comfort, but go to Morten Lauridsen for spirituali­sation. O Magnum Mysterium fills me with emotions that I don’t know how to express and allows me identify feelings that so often in life we have to hold in.

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