Lockdown Blog 22: Music that moulded me

Morning/Afternoon/Evening everyone.

Hope you’re all happy wherever you are in the world.

Yesterday Pat very kindly challenged me to put together a c.1hr Spotify playlist of music that had “changed my life”. I thought I’d give you a brief bit of written waffle as to why I chose this pick-and-mix, schizophrenic, and frankly Frankenstein-like selection of music.

DISCLAIMER: just so you’re warned, it’s not going to just be a “settle back, relax, soak in the tub” kind of playlist. There’ll be dancing, angst, sheer celestial beauty, and some quite ridiculous harmonies.


When starting to think of music that has affected one’s life, the tracklist quickly becomes indefinitely long. “Oh, how about that one?”… “ah, but I’ve GOT to include that one”… “well I could put ALL of those on, which one should I choose?!?!”… “Aaaaaargh” etc. etc. One thing’s for certain though; a flood of memories come back, sometimes just at the sight of a song title in iTunes.

People often say that smells evoke strong memories to the past; Grandma’s cooking, holidays in generic sunny European country, old socks, and so on. For me music has that really strong memory link. I won’t bore you with all the details of every track, and why I selected it, but here’s a bit of a run down…


1. Misty – Ella Fitzgerald

What a voice! I loved singing jazz standards at school, and this is one of the best.


2. Ballade no.1 – Chopin

I first listened to this as I was taking my first ever flight, aged 17, listening on my portable CD player(!) as we were taking off. At 5’14” just when this glorious tune appears we burst through the clouds, and I saw that breath-taking vast expanse of blue and white for the first time.


3. My Love is like a Red, Red Rose – The King’s Singers

I had the honour of singing this solo at the wedding of some good friends last year. It was hard to keep myself together, especially seeing the joy and love in their eyes.


4. Paranoid Android – Radiohead

Any Radiohead song could have gone on this list, but I remember as a 12yr old chorister, cycling back from evensong in Oxford, LOUDLY singing along as I listened on my cassette player(!!!). I was also reading a lot of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy at the time too, so I loved the link to Marvin (the paranoid android).


5. Goldberg Variations: Aria da capo – JS Bach

I witnessed a spellbinding live performance of this by Joanna MacGregor at Dartington International Summer School. This last movement was played so softly, as if it was the echo of the first movement, played some 40mins before.


6. Partita for 8 Singers – Caroline Shaw

For me this piece pushed open the boundaries of what a cappella music could be.


7. Magnificent (She Says) – Elbow

This tune always brings a tear to my eye. Something in its effervescent positivity, and it’s warmly optimistic lyrics.


8. A Quiet Place – Take 6

I was first introduced to a CD of these guys by my school music teacher. The harmonies here are just nuts.


9. Thing of Gold – Snarky Puppy

This group is just great. Once you get past the intro section, you’ll be dancing and singing along full belt. The funkiest of funky flourishes is at 3’02”. Hear it and grin.


10. Close Your Eyes – Doris Day

What a beautiful and cheeky melody. My sisters and me sung this at my Uncle’s funeral recently. The cheekiness was just what was needed!


11. Symphony No. 5: IV Allegro non troppo

Strap yourself in for this one. 9 minutes of fire, rage against the Soviet machine, and a spectacular, blazingly triumphant ending. Memorable performances of playing this in my youth orchestra, me scraping away at the back of the Violins.


12. Libera Nos I & II – Sheppard

The perfectly interwoven, beautifully balanced parts in this I think is as close to the music of a celestial choir as we’ll get! The cadence at 3’15” onwards. Ooooooo!!!!


13. Interstellar Soundtrack: First Step – Hans Zimmer

I’m a big film fan, and a BIG fan of this film. I was blown away by this soundtrack. The organ writing and playing is just spine-tingling.


14. That’s Alright – Laura Mvula

I love all her songs. I think she’s one of the greatest songwriters around today. Fun fact: I once performed with her AND Hans Zimmer, under the direction of everyone’s favourite musical Viking God, Eric Whitacre. Enough name dropping now.


15. Quartet for the End of Time: V – Messiaen

This finally is my “slip into a bathtub” moment. The space, poise, and sense of calm is perfectly choreographed. Ahhhhh.


There was obviously so many more things I could have added, but this does give you a good insight (if you’ve ever wondered) as to what happens when I put my iTunes on shuffle for an afternoon.

Keep healthy, and keep singing!

Nick x


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