Lesley Garrett - My Story, My Music Songs of Praise


Lesley Garrett - My Story, My Music

Aled Jones talks to the soprano Lesley Garrett about her life. She leads the congregation at St Edmund's, Leeds, singing her favourite hymns.


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Lesley Garrett is one of Britain's most popular singers.

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She's sung major roles in opera, performed in musicals

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and starred in her own television series.

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Today, she tells me about her life and the importance of her faith

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and chooses her favourite Songs of Praise.

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Lesley grew up in a musical family here in Thorne, near Doncaster,

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and was drawn to the world of entertainment.

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"I just knew," she said, "that I had to sing." And she did.

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Here's a sample of her vocal talents.

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MUSIC: "O Soave Fanciulla" from La Boheme by Giacomo Puccini

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# He fills my heart with very special things

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# With angels' songs

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# With wild imaginings... #

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# Oh, how my heart will dance

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# When you caress me. #

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Welcome to St Edmund's Church in Leeds, where we have our

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musicians and congregation, and most important of all, our special guest.

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Ladies and gentlemen, Lesley Garrett.

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Lesley...

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-Lesley, I've got to say, you look absolutely stunning.

-Aw, thank you.

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-Well, not so bad yourself.

-Thank you very much! Especially on home turf?

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-Yes, it's lovely to be back in Yorkshire.

-Well, listen, we can't wait to hear that voice.

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You're going to lead us in our first hymn. What is it?

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Well, it's a hymn that's about praising the Lord

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and experiencing the love of Christ through the medium of song,

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which is what we're all here to do.

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-So it's My Song Is Love Unknown.

-Fantastic.

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Well, I tell you what, it's been a few years since we sang together.

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A couple? I think it was a chapel in Cardiff, was it?

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-It's always chapels or churches.

-That's all right by me.

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When little Lesley was growing up, was there a lot of music in the family?

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Oh, are you kidding? We were the von Trapps of South Yorkshire!

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There was always music. It's all we had, really.

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We weren't a well-off family, it wasn't a well-off area. South Yorkshire. Coal industry.

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Most of my family were miners or welders or...

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My parents actually both worked for the railways.

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My dad was a signalman, my mum worked in the ticket office.

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But what we all had that bound us together and still does was music.

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Because when we didn't have a telly or a record player, we always had a piano.

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It was a fabulous childhood, actually. Full of music.

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-And both grandfathers were involved in music, weren't they?

-Yes.

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When I say it was a fabulous childhood, we didn't have a lot.

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We didn't have a flush toilet, for instance.

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We had ash middens in the back garden. Yeah, it was that impoverished.

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But we just didn't know we were that impoverished.

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But my grandfathers were a huge influence.

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My Grandad Garrett, my dad's dad, had a dance band

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-called Arthur Garrett and the Blackout Boys.

-Sounds great!

-It was. He formed it in the war.

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It went on forever. But I think my mum's father, my Grandad Wall,

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was my bigger influence.

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He was too weak to go down the pits with his brothers,

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so he was "put to the piano", as we say in Yorkshire.

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And in the early part of the 20th century it was the second

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-most reliable form of earning a living after mining.

-Right.

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-Can you imagine a world where music is that popular?

-Amazing.

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And he learned to play the piano and played for silent movies

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and he was a terrific influence.

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Well, we're going to hear you sing again now, I'm delighted to say.

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And another hymn. Lesley's chosen that lovely Irish tune, Slane.

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It's Lord Of All Hopefulness.

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# It's not far... #

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Lesley's stayed close to her Yorkshire roots.

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And recently she joined with a brass band

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and two South Yorkshire choirs for a concert at Sheffield City Hall.

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It's an enormous responsibility, singing to a big audience, as I think we're going to have tonight.

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I think there's getting on for 2,000 people coming to the City Hall.

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And, when people come to a concert,

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they expect to be changed by what they hear.

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I think that's my job -

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to make people cry if they need to cry or laugh if they need to laugh.

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# Who can explain it?

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# Who can tell you why? Fools... #

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'For me, this kind of music making within the community is

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'the foundation stone of all the great musical traditions of this country.

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'This is where it starts, this is where I began.'

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# Some enchanted evening... #

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I've got a very special lady here tonight,

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Vivien Pike, who was my very first singing teacher

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when I was at school, 16, 17 and 18, and it was through her fantastic

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teaching that I got into the Royal Academy Of Music when I was 18.

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Of course, I'm incredibly nervous about her being here

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because it is probably 30 years since she taught me!

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And I don't want her to think I've deteriorated.

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I'm very excited about singing Climb Ev'ry Mountain,

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though it's a huge song. People misjudge it at their peril.

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It's a really difficult song to sing because it literally climbs a mountain.

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And you've got to save and save and save,

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so you've got plenty for the end when you're on the top of that pinnacle.

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# ..dream. #

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Let's take you back to the Royal Academy Of Music in London.

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-You're only 18. Were you out of your depth?

-Oh, totally. Totally.

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Music and singing for me had always been a joyous hobby.

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And when I got to the Royal Academy, I found people who had been

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through choir school and had fantastic musical educations.

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But also, you know, coming from Yorkshire to London,

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-that must have been quite scary as well?

-Oh, it was terrifying.

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I really didn't do very well to start with and my dear mum

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sent this letter, and I opened the letter,

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and a load of stones fell out on my feet.

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I though, "What's she doing, sending me rubble?"

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And I read the letter and it said...

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"I thought you might need some Yorkshire grit, so I've sent you some."

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And how did the rest of your family take to you wanting to go to London and be a professional singer?

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Oh, well, my grandad had quite an interesting take on it -

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Grandad Wall, who taught me to play the piano, who knew quite a lot of opera.

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When I told him I was going to the Royal Academy Of Music

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and I was going to become an opera singer, all being well,

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he said, "Eh, lass, that's grand. I'm that proud of you."

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He said, "I love opera.

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"Except for t'singing."

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So I had a bit of an uphill battle there, but I think I won!

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Tell me why you love Bless This House.

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Will, Bless This House is a song I've known since I was a child.

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And I used to think it was a lovely song about God blessing our house.

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And it meant such a lot to me for that reason.

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I felt just very safe in that knowledge.

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But since I've become older,

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I've realised that in actual fact we're talking about God's house.

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And that made it even more special.

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Well, I can't wait to hear it. Go and get yourself ready.

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Ladies and gentlemen, it's Lesley Garrett.

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# Bless this house, oh, Lord we pray

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# Make it safe by night and day

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# Bless these walls so firm and stout

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# Keeping want and trouble out

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# Bless the roof and chimneys tall

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# Let thy peace lie over all

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# Bless this door that it may prove

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# Ever open to joy and love

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# Bless these windows shining bright

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# Letting in God's heavenly light

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# Bless the hearth, a-blazing there

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# With smoke ascending like a prayer

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# Bless the people here within

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# Keep them safe and free from sin

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# Bless us all that we may be

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# Fit, oh Lord, to dwell with thee

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# Bless us all that we, one day

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# May dwell

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# Oh, Lord

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# With thee. #

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-OK, next, next. Hello.

-Hello.

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Lesley made her television debut

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in the Bruce Forsyth Christmas Special back in 1989.

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And the following year sang at the Last Night Of The Proms.

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Since then, she's starred in her own series,

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Lesley Garrett Tonight and The Lesley Garrett Show.

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She's performed leading roles in numerous operas,

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sung duets with some of the biggest names in entertainment,

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starred in The Sound Of Music at the London Palladium

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and appeared in the first series of Strictly Come Dancing.

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She did a little better than me.

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She came third with her partner Anton du Beke.

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So, you made that move from opera to musical theatre as well.

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Some purists say, you know, true opera singers shouldn't that.

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I know, I got into bother for that with the purists, but, for me,

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good music is just good music,

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whether it's a hymn or an aria or a wonderful show tune

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or a piece of folk music.

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If it touches me, if it moves me...

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And how could The Sound Of Music not move all of us?

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And I had the wonderful honour of playing the Mother Abbess,

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and it was a fantastic spiritual experience

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every night, when I put the habit on.

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And people laughed about the idea of Lesley being a nun. It was fabulous.

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I just loved the simplicity of it,

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the peace that I felt when I put this habit on.

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It's a very special and very spiritual role.

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I think it's time for another hymn. Now, this is a great hymn.

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I think this hymn is really about

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anyone who gives service to the community,

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who loves their nation, loves this great country of ours.

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-It's I Vow To Thee, My Country.

-And you're going to lead for us.

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If you want to make your way to the microphone. Let's all stand,

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ladies and gentlemen, and sing this inspirational hymn.

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This is a beautiful, peaceful spot. Is this where you feel at home?

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Oh, yes. This is very, very special to me.

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There's a tranquillity, a spirituality here

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that I don't find anywhere else.

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I think it's probably very special because of its history.

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St Andrew's, our church here in Epworth...

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because it's been at the heart of the community here for 800 years.

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It's where Samuel Wesley was the rector and his sons then, John and Charles, developed Methodism.

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And you know when you're there on a Sunday morning, do you find that

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everyone's listening out for Lesley Garrett's voice?

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Yeah, they do turn round a bit. "The noisy one's in!

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-"We might get a descant!"

-They don't know how lucky they are!

-Exactly!

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No, what I love about coming here is that I'm just an ordinary

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member of the community. And that's, of course, what I am.

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And nobody treats me as anything special.

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They're all ever so friendly and want to know what I'm up to,

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but I just can be myself.

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You know, I can pop to the shop with my curlers in and it doesn't matter.

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Surely not!

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Most of Lesley's family

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have continued to live in the area where she grew up.

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And she's a patron of a South Yorkshire-based charity

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that's very close to her heart.

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It's a very special charity.

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I got involved with them when my Auntie Joan developed dementia.

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And the purpose of Lost Chord is twofold.

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We employ young singers and musicians

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to come in to Alzheimer and dementia care homes

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such as the one we're in today...

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MUSIC: "In the Mood" by Glenn Miller

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..and perform for the residents.

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And then the second part is obviously what those patients

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derive from the music. And it is extraordinary

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when a person can't remember their own child's name,

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that you'll sing a song from their childhood or from years ago

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and they will immediately be transported back to that time

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and they will know every single word of that song.

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And they'll sing along with you and their faces will smile

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and be full of energy in a way that they normally never are.

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Music has this unbelievable effect on Alzheimer and dementia patients.

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And, of course, the musicians who are performing for them

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derive an enormous benefit from holding the attention of such an audience

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because you can be confident after you've done a gig like that that you can hold an audience anywhere.

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And also they derive enormous satisfaction from seeing the pleasure they give.

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So it's a fantastic charity and I'm very proud to be its patron.

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# But you'll look sweet upon the seat

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# Of a bicycle made for two. #

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# Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace

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# According to thy word

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# For mine eyes have seen thy salvation

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# Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people

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# To be a light to lighten the Gentiles

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# And to be the glory of thy people Israel

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# Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost

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# As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be

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# World without end

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# Amen. #

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-That piece means a lot to you, doesn't it?

-Yes. Yes.

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It's a very special prayer. It means a great deal.

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-Last year, it's fair to say you had a very tough year personally.

-Yes.

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2013 was the hardest year of my life.

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I...

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lost both my parents and my oldest friend in a nine-month period.

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And...

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nothing like that's ever happened to me before. It was...

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It was really hard. Really hard.

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-Was your faith tested at all?

-No.

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It was reinforced, I think.

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I don't know, I just sort of thought what my mum would say.

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She used to say to me, "When I go, it's because I've had my turn."

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And that was what it was, I suppose. They just had both had their turn.

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Where do you think they are?

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They're here. They're in my heart.

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They're with me every day.

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And they're with my children.

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When I look at them, when I look at my kids,

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I remember again what my mum used to say when I had my babies.

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She said...

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"Now I know I'm immortal.

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"Because they're going to go on and have children of their own.

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"And those children that you will see

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"will have a little piece of me inside them."

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And they'll have music inside them because she inspires me,

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and my father, because they both had wonderful voices

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and were completely committed to singing in the community.

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And...they're in every song I sing.

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And they always will be.

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They had music inside them.

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And thanks to you we've had wonderful music inside us as well.

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Thank you so much for just being you.

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Ladies and gentlemen, Lesley Garrett.

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Well, unfortunately, we've come to our final hymn.

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Don't worry, it's still your choice. What would you like to lead us in?

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Well, I wanted us to finish today with a hymn that I've known all my life

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that my mum cherished, and we had it at her funeral.

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Even though it's a hymn about the end of life,

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for me it's a hymn that's full of great joy and great love and great optimism.

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-It's The Day Though Gavest Lord Is Ended.

-Oh, lovely.

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My huge thanks to Lesley for her company.

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Let's all stand, shall we, and sing our final wonderful hymn.

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From all of us here in Leeds, goodbye.

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Do join me next week as I look forward to the Football World Cup.

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Meet the footballer whose career-threatening injury

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was miraculously healed.

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Plus a Catholic Mass with a Brazilian flavour

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and favourite hymns from around the country.

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One of Britain's best-loved singers, Lesley Garrett, talks to Aled Jones about her life and faith, and leads the congregation at St Edmund's Church, Leeds, in singing her favourite hymns.


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