One for the Walkman
Sir Harry Secombe
I have a little cassette player, and when I go abroad I always take it with me so I can play "Greensleeves" - the Vaughan Williams arrangement - because it is such a wonderful evocation of what England is all about. In the heat of Australia, or wherever, when I get a bit homesick I play this and it makes me more homesick - but it is soothing as well.
I know all the words. I sang it on Highway once. I can't remember when I first heard it, but I think it was as a kid in school in Swansea. "Alas my love you do me wrong to cast me off discourteously . . ." Things you learn in childhood you remember always.
I have several versions, but the orchestral one conducted by Sir John Barbirolli is my favourite. It's beautiful. I love the strings, the surge when it goes diddle, diddle, diddle de da . . . it's great. I have a cassette of it in my home in Majorca and I bung it on when I'm there. Apart from making me feel very British, "Greensleeves" has a calming effect. It also makes me feel a bit sad. It's poignant because it is evocative. For me it represents lawns and Hampton Court.
Mostly I play it when I am in reflective mood, if I'm lying around scratching myself. I enjoy listening to it on my own. I think I prefer to listen to music alone. I play cassettes in the car sometimes when I'm being driven and lie back and listen.
As a choir boy from the age of seven I have always liked church music and I've sung my way through Hymns Ancient and Modern about three times. "Greensleeves" has a churchy feel to it. It's a very settling piece of music.