‘It is the most sumptuous piece of heart-aching music, and I fully intend to have it sung at my funeral’
Comedian Alexander Armstrong (Trinity 1989), presenter of the BBC gameshow Pointless, shares the sounds which shaped his student days at Cambridge.
Jesu, Meine Freude
I had sort of landed as first bass in Trinity Chapel Choir and spent a lot of my first term mouthing and miming. But then in my second year, I found my voice and it all unfurled and became glorious. Of all the Bach motets, I think this is the longest and toughest. The ‘Gute Nacht, O Wesen’ movement is the most sumptuous and beautiful piece of heart-aching music, and I fully intend to have it sung at my funeral
I went to a performance of this at Durham Cathedral as a school boy. It was the first time I’d ever been to a concert that felt like a devotional experience. When I sat down to write part one of my dissertation on Siegfried Sassoon, the Requiem was my transporter. In its absolute austerity there is a triumph of the human spirit, and there is something so humane and tender within it. I think that’s the point.
David Byrne and Talking Heads were kind of an idée fixe at Trinity in the late 80s and early 90s. It’s this wonderful immersion in the deep bossa novas and textures of Latin American music, with huge samba band sounds and virtuoso wind playing. It is so capacious in terms of its landscape and ambition you can store a huge amount of memory and texture in it.
Trinity used to have an exchange programme with Rice University, Texas. My friend George Langworthy (Trinity 1989) was one of those students and we bonded over Tom Waits in my first year. I can still hear the Trinity bell chiming two in the morning as we sat and banged on about Tom Waits. And I remember a backgammon board and cigarette ash. Very Tom Waits.