Mu­sic that Changed Me

Ca­role Boyd

BBC Music Magazine - - Contents - 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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