Good on Charlotte Church

YOU have to admire Charlotte Church. Not that it’s obligatory or anything, but the woman does have something about her.

The singer and mother of two has already been mocked in certain quarters for joining an anti-austerity march following the election. Her appearance at the protest saw her dunked in a rancid pool of right-wing complaint.

Among those who joined the attack was the Welsh Tory leader, a man called Andrew RT Davis. Who even knew there were Tories in Wales or that they were led by a man with initials for a middle name? Davis accused Church of being a champagne socialist, one of the dreariest slights in the political slang book. She responded wittily by saying that she was more of a “prosecco girl”.

Of course it is easy to mock Charlotte Church as a wealthy woman feigning sympathy with the less fortunate – which is why unimaginative people such as Davis weighed in with their cut-and-paste insults.

The singer was aware that her presence at the rally in Cardiff would attract hostile media attention. As she said afterwards in a piece for the Guardian: “I’m sure that you’ll be shocked to hear that I didn’t do it for some self-aggrandising purpose… I have no wish to be trolled and abused. It would be much easier for me not to engage. I’m not promoting a record or a TV show. My only motivation for attending was to try to make a difference; to further political discourse in my community; to draw attention to a cause that is more than valid, it is vital.”

Now I don’t know about you, but from where I am sitting on my precipitous ledge, that sounds like good sense. Charlotte could isolate herself in her life; she could shrug and think it’s not her problem; but instead she is prepared to stick her neck out, prepared to make a stand. And good on her for that.

Charlotte Church isn’t calling it quits either. On Wednesday she will join a Greenpeace protest outside Shell headquarters in London as its oil exploration vessels prepare to restart drilling for oil in the Arctic.

She will sing This Bitter Earth, a song made famous in the Sixties by the blues singer Dinah Washington, which she describes as “one of the most poignant, heartfelt and heart-breaking songs I’ve ever heard”. And how right she is about that song. Please do seek out Washington’s version: I am listening to it now as I write and it’s remarkable, with her sad, soaring voice backed by plaintive strings and scorching lyrics including the line: “What good am I, heaven only knows.”

Church will sing the song while others perform a requiem as part of Greenpeace’s month-long protest against Shell’s billion-dollar desecration beneath the ice cap. Well, Shell says there isn’t a problem but if ravaging one of Earth’s last frozen wildernesses in the hope of sucking out more oil isn’t desecration, then Charlotte Church and me don’t know what is. She describes the venture as “unbelievably dumb” and “exploitative and nonsensical” – and aside from a Shell-suited executive, who could argue with that?

As part of the protest, the same four-piece requiem will be played by different groups, from brass bands to bagpipes. Without wishing to be unkind, perhaps if they stuck to the bagpipes Shell might cave in after a week.

As to requiems, well you can’t beat a good bit of remembrance. As something of a musical magpie, I have alongside all the rock, jazz, folk and so on a mini collection comprising requiems by Mozart, Verdi, Fauré and Durufle. Gloomy, beautiful and uplifting they are too – a little like that song Charlotte Church will be singing on Wednesday.


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