Desert Island Discs - James Boyle

  • Posted on: 8 June 2022
  • By: huw

Tenor James Boyle shares music that brings back vivid memories at different stages of his life.


As a boy I sang in the local parish church choir and with a boys group of about 20 called the Elysians. We performed on stage across the county singing. The one I chose is Sisters by the Beverley Sisters which I performed wearing a dress. The audience loved it. I smile thinking about it. My voice broke and I took up chess and rugby instead.


In my teens I was into soul and later two tone, but this memory was different – from Kate Bush’s Lionheart album, Symphony in Blue. It made me read the lyrics for the first time, “the light in the dark with the neon arms“. I also saw her live at the London Palladium, hugely talented.

University changed my life as a working-class boy from a working-class town. I was the first person any of us knew to go. I also was a bit of a rebel and this is a bit risqué. Whilst sitting on a stool in the York University student bar drinking beer and listening to records on an original American juke box - Ian Dury - Wake up and make love to me (album - New boots and panties). Not for the faint hearted. I was young.


I have been to Africa on Safari a number of times. The first was in the late 80s to Zimbabwe on my own and went to some very remote locations. I was in a hut by the side of a lake and I played this on my ipod with headphones. It complemented the tranquility, beauty and peace. I often now play the album when travelling. Chris Rea - On the beach.


This song was “our song” when I met George, my wife. We also played it at our wedding for the first dance. Neil Diamond - Hello Again. Young love.


Our twin boys went through many musical phases, including their own band, and then introduced us to Gregory Porter - Liquid Spirit. We all went to the folk festival at Brighton and were at the front of the stage, he was amazing. Great to all enjoy something together with teenagers.

My wife and I enjoy West End musicals and have been to many. Les Misérables is a favorite including seeing Alfie Boe singing Bring him home. I loved it as there are few songs about the love of a father for his sons. Seeing this also was one of the reasons I wanted to sing again. If only it was like Alfie!

I am now in St Mary's Choir in Ashwell and the Royston Choral Society, singing tenor. I did not know how to read music and basically had only done it by ear before. It’s been a huge learning curve. Recently I sang with Royston choir, Dream of Gerontius by Elgar, with a full orchestra and in black tie. It has made me appreciate the amount of hard work that goes into these productions. My favourite part to sing is the Demons' chorus. The poem by John Henry Newman that it is based on is worth a read.

Luxury item - bicycle

I am a keen road cyclist and have ridden for 20 years. I would deeply miss this. Assuming the island was big enough I would take a bicycle. It would properly have to be a mountain bike and I would clear a trail to ride it. Cycling gives you a sense of freedom and of being part of the landscape around you. It clears both the mind and the body whilst travelling at a speed you can look at things. Love it. It is also when I had a significant religious experience, but you will have to find me in person if you want to know about that.

Book – New Scientist

Whilst not strictly a book, I love reading the New Scientist. I am fascinated by the nature of the world around us and the human condition. The more you learn, the less we know. I love nothing more than to discuss the meaning of life, the universe and everything, over a pint. The answer is 42 by the way.