I was born in a stable (but that’s another story) in Preston, in the County Palatine of Lancashire in England.
Only six weeks earlier Princess Elizabeth, on holiday in Africa, had learned of her father’s death and of her accession to the throne. I went to school in Preston, studied both banking and law at the university there, and lived for over 50 years, in 10 different houses, all within a 10 mile radius of Preston city centre. I then moved to and settled in Melbourne in 2009 having visited Australia a few times previously.
Preston sits on the River Ribble, half-way between London and Glasgow on the West Coast main railway line. It has been the administrative heart of the County of Lancashire for well over 1000 years, which until 1974 also included Manchester and Liverpool. It was a major settlement for the Anglo Saxons, the Romans, and two of the knights following William the Conqueror. It was a refuge for Bonny Prince Charlie, and a catholic and royalist stronghold which held out for years against and repelled the onslaughts of Cromwell and the Roundhead armies. Preston was the major seagoing port on the west coast after Bristol until the development of the port of Liverpool in the late 1800s, and has the largest dock in the country.
The Preston Guild is a city-wide celebration lasting for one week which takes place every 20 years. The Guild celebrations first came about in 1179 after King Henry II awarded Preston with its first royal charter along with the right to have a Guild Merchant. I have been personally present at four Preston Guilds, and I hope to see at least one more in due course. This event has given rise to the common expression in the UK, “Once every Preston Guild” which means “rarely”.
It was also the birthplace of Arkwright’s Spinning Jenny, and the T’Total (Temperance) movement. As well as Richard Arkwright, it is also the home of many famous names including Sir Robert Peel (twice Prime Minister), Andrew (Freddie) Flintoff, (England Cricket Captain), and Nick Park, (the creator of Wallace and Gromit and Shaun the Sheep). (co-incidentally Nick’s mother and mine were good friends and used to sit together in church on Sundays).
My formal involvement with music began through school and church choirs when I was seven years old. I later took up the violin in Grammar School but after 2 years conceded that my fingers were too big and switched to the double bass. Throughout school I sang lead roles in the choir and played the double bass in the school orchestra. After leaving school, I became a member of several Musical and Choral Societies. I was a member of the Royal School of Church Music (RSCM). I progressed with the double bass to the Lancashire Youth Orchestra and also played with the Preston Symphony Orchestra for several years.
My musical involvement all but stopped for about 15 years. Four young children will do that! There was also the pressure of a developing career in banking, industrial relations and the law. I did stay in touch with church choirs and at one point sang with all four children in same church choir.
In the early 1990s I was invited to take a role in a local Gilbert and Sullivan production, Pirates of Penzance. This re-launched my involvement with singing. I became an active member of two Gilbert and Sullivan Societies and the Musical Comedy Society. I also decided that, after a number of year’s relative inactivity, I needed to polish up my vocal skills, and so received professional operatic training for several years. This enabled me to take a more prominent part in a range of operettas and stage musicals.
During this period I was an officer of the English Law Society, and I also produced the music for the annual Law Society Pantomime in London. For 10 years I wrote songs for and performed in these shows which highlighted the major ‘goings-on’ and issues of the legal and political year. I enjoyed taking principle baritone solo roles (and dressing up – especially as a pantomime Dame).
Professional links with the media created opportunities to get involved with co-hosting music and discussion programmes on BBC Regional Radio. This extended to presenting regular radio programmes on local independent and community radio stations.
My activity in radio and musical variety shows led to an opportunity to produce and stage a musical fund-raising event. This fund-raising work continued, and over fifteen years, raised many thousands of pounds in support of a number of charities. One such event was as the host for an annual wedding-dress fashion show, where pre-loved dresses were sold to raise funds in support of the St Catherine’s Hospice.
The River (Ribble) Dance
Such activities launched my side-line career as a DJ and entertainer. This began with the spontaneous request at one event to provide music for a 50th birthday party. This resulted immediately in further bookings, and soon I was employed nearly every weekend to sing at weddings and then provide the dance music for the receptions. So much so that, even after moving to Melbourne, I still had to travel back to England to fulfil bookings made several years in advance.
Since my move to Melbourne I have continued to sing, including a number of years with the Gilbert and Sullivan Society and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra Chorus, where I had the pleasure of singing the soundtrack from The Lord of the Rings, and perform alongside the Cybermen and the Daleks in a concert of music from Dr Who.
I have presented a number of Soul music programmes for PBS Radio, and additionally, I have provided music as a DJ and Singer for a range of different events. I’m currently a member of PPCA, Music Victoria, PBS Radio (as a performer member), Victorian Jazz Club and I provide music services under the registered ABN business name, “Soul DJ”.
In 2019 I started the French in Songs course at U3A. In June the same year, I unexpectedly “inherited” the U3A choir on the retirement of the previous long standing choir leader, Serena Carmel. I also became a member of the U3A Jazz Group. 2020 has brought some challenges but the year began well with the French Songs class and the Choir enjoying growing numbers. The Jazz Band was also in full swing. Since mid-March, none of these groups has been able to meet in the flesh, but members have continued to get together via the internet using video conferencing. Term 2, for these singing classes, kicks off (online) on Wednesday 15th April, and hopefully we’ll all be back in real contact and in full voice before long.
Some links to David’s many music passions:-
The Melbourne International Comedy Festival Gala Eddie Perfect, Tripod & The MSO Chorus https://youtu.be/dR893TUM73A
Melbourne Symphony & Chorus Dr Who Spectacular https://youtu.be/ZqfF5FZytBw
David Sharples recordings and Radio programs https://www.mixcloud.com/DKSoulDJ/
DK Soul DJ website http://www.souldj.com.au