This is a reflective mash-up of the famous Bach Prelude No 1 in C major from Das Wohltemperirte Klavier together with a song which became especially resonant for many as the COVID pandemic took hold and we went into the first lockdown: You’ll Never Walk Alone (by Rodgers & Hammerstein, originally from 'Carousel').
I opened up the front of my trusty Yamaha piano to record this, so that the inner workings of it could be seen. I also used the ‘practice’ pedal throughout. This lowers a piece of felt between the hammers and strings so that the sound created has a heavily muffled quality. It also means you can hear the physical action of the piano mechanics far more clearly.
The Bach prelude also has a resonance of its own. In late October 1971, the UK House of Commons voted to approve the proposed membership of the European Economic Community. On returning to Downing Street afterwards that evening, the then PM Edward Heath played this Bach prelude on his clavichord to family and close friends; a poignant acknowledgement of our shared cultural heritage.
On Jan 31 2020 the UK left the European Union. At the end of the year, the transition period during which EU law still applied ended. At that point the recently struck Free Trade Agreement began to apply, but so much of what we benefited from as members was lost. The first few months of 2021 have seen continuing antagonism, with a row over vaccine supplies and the UK again threatening to break international law over the NI Protocol. The trade problems being outside the Single Market and Customs Union are becoming all too apparent.
I have made no secret of my opposition to Brexit, and the deal just struck - while clearly better than nothing at all and a framework that can be built on - paves the way for years of wrangling and renegotiation by successive governments. It will not close down the issue because politics is largely about economic and moral choices, and Brexit is a huge failing on both these counts. In time I hope we will come to undo some of the damage, but the UK may yet break up under the strain as Scotland and NI rightly consider their options. English Nationalism has made what it values clear enough.
So the past year has been one of immense stress and sadness in many ways, but I feel the message of both the pieces I've brought together here to be one of shared endeavour, friendship and understanding. May we cherish and stand up for these valuable things in the years ahead, however difficult it may be.