In the second installment, Dan Keeler talks to Rod London, a Clarion bass singer, who joined us in 2017.
1. What was your earliest musical memory?
My earliest musical memory is probably singing in church. But I think I was influenced most by two older brothers who introduced me to classical music and 1970s folk. Then I discovered the Beatles on my own and they’ve remained a lifelong love.
I particularly like those songs (mostly by McCartney, I think) which tell a story – they had a knack of capturing the essence of a life and making some social commentary which I always find moving.
2. What brought you to join Birmingham Clarion Singers and what do you think sets it apart from other choirs?
I wanted a community-oriented choir, and I knew from seeing them previously that Clarion’s political purpose was the same as mine. I come from a family with strong pacifist views, so joining felt like a way of continuing this tradition too.
I know that I, and I think my brothers too, have experienced mixed responses from others about this stance which was influenced by my father’s role in WW2 as a conscientious objector. I have always felt some discomfort, and alienation, from the Remembrance Day occasions because they don’t pay sufficient attention to the suffering, nor to the avoidable causes of war.
3. Do you have any funny stories about your time in Clarion or moments that stand out?
No funny stories so far … Unexpectedly I’ve got the most pleasure from rehearsals, not the performances. There’s something spine-tingling and moving in learning something new and gradually finding how your part harmonises with the others. I could sing Song of Peace all day long and never tire of it; The Message is a powerful song and includes words that resonate with my family history. And I was delighted to discover that one of our songs (I believe it was Song of Hiroshima) was first performed in the UK at an anti-nuclear gathering that my father would have attended in the early 1950s.
4. What would you say is a unique fact about you which might surprise other choir members?
For a couple of years, after leaving school, I was a window cleaner. But owing to not having any ladders, I specialised in bungalows! Oh, and I was once related to Elvis Presley – honest! But you’ll have to ask me about that in person…