I have lived here for 19 years and it was a change in work from being a GP in Merseyside to hospice medicine that brought me here. I retrained in London for 16 months and Sue and I always imagined that we would return to the North, but the job of Medical Director for Joseph Weld Hospice in Dorchester was advertised and Sue suggested coming to have a look. We were captivated by West Dorset and the rest is history.
As a boy soprano in our Primary School Choir, myself and another boy sang the solos - until one concert when we both forgot the words!
I taught myself the guitar and sang in a folk group at grammar school but then there was a gap in my musical participation until I was about 30. At this time Sue went to a singing evening class in Liverpool and suggested that we both a choir together. The secretary of the Liverpool Welsh Choral Union sounded very friendly over the phone and invited us to sit in on a rehearsal. Although Sue and I had met in Swansea and could put on a passable Welsh accent, you didn't have to be Welsh to join. I'll never forget the experience of being in the middle of a big choir for the first time and what an amazing sound it was. We then had to have an audition and sight read an unknown piece. Having gone to piano lessons when I was young, I could just about manage. Sue had never had any musical training but passed without any problems! "How did you do that?", I asked her. "Well, if you listen to the chords of the piano accompaniment and harmonise with them, you're usually not far wrong." I'm sure her natural charm helped too. Concerts were in the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall which was a great thrill. William Mathias was the choir's Patron and he came to conduct us once in one of his compositions. He also took an obvious shine to Sue's natural charm in the bar afterwards.
In London we sang in the Carshalton Choral Society and this was an introduction to madrigals as well as new choral works. Our claim to fame is singing on the stage of the London Palladium to a full house as the accompaniment to Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody. The occasion was an annual charity concert organised by an impresario. We rehearsed for 6 weeks before the dress rehearsal on the afternoon of the performance which was when we were first introduced to the excellent band and the bloke playing Freddie Mercury - leotard and all. Not only was he genuinely tone deaf, but he had no sense of timing! We were distraught that all our effort was to naught because of this idiot, but the stage manager said "Just concentrate on the band, don't let yourselves be distracted by Freddie and it will be fine." He was right and the spoof brought the house down!
When people ask me what I do it tends to be a conversation stopper. But it's far from all doom and gloom. Compared to general practice, I feel there is more time to get to know patients and their families and, hopefully, make a difference at an important stage in their collective lives. I'm not a religious person, but I never cease to be amazed at the courage and contentedness with which the majority of patients come to accept what is happening to them. It's often much more difficult for the loved ones they leave behind but knowing that you've helped to make things easier than they might have been is where the professional satisfaction comes from.
Our most recent work, Israel In Egypt by Handel, is an amazing piece, incredibly demanding and the choir really pulled together to learn it. A shame that we only got to perform it once!
Yes - a role which I had aspired to for a long time. Sadly, it hasn't turned out as I expected, with hardly any vice to contend with at all!
For me it's the twinning with the Bayeux and Lubbecke choirs; the whole concept of both hosting and being the hosts of foreign choirs in France and Germany, living in their communities and sharing their culture, cuisine and hospitality is a very special experience. Even if we don't share the same mother tongue, the music is the common language and it forges friendships that last over the years.