Classic FM presenter Alex James to celebrate rich classical music history of Bournemouth on radio show

Bournemouth Echo: Blur bassist Alex James on his affection for Bournemouth, classical music and his love of the BSO Blur bassist Alex James on his affection for Bournemouth, classical music and his love of the BSO

“What’s happening with the Noddy train in Hengistbury Head?”

Blur bassist Alex James is not your average pop star. Nor is he is your average radio presenter. For that matter, he isn’t your average cheese maker either.

A member of an era defining band once embroiled in the most famous rivalry since pop charts began, Alex has been on an undeniably unique journey.

However, he has not forgotten where it all started. His first words to me about the soon-to-be axed train, which he loved as a child, are etched with sincerity and genuine concern.

It is perhaps no surprise then that now a presenter on Classic FM, Alex is using his position to indulge us in a show all about the delights of the area where he grew up.

Specifically - the town’s music and its place in classical history.

For Alex it all started at his first school in Pokesdown.

“I remember being at St James Primary,” he says.

“A few of us were taken out of lessons and invited to watch a BSO rehearsal. They played Khachaturian’s Sabre Dance. I look back at it now and realise that that was a formative moment for me.”

He goes onto recount the magic of singing in a choir aged 11 at the Winter Gardens during a Christmas concert, going onto Bournemouth School and learning to play bass while performing with a series of bands as a teenager.

What followed after school and university was sustained success as part of an iconic Britpop group.

The meteoric rise, popularity and intense media scrutiny has sent many a lesser man on a troubling trajectory.

Alex though, found himself on a farm producing cheese, married and with five children.

He speaks in misty-eyed tones about his life in Dorset, but there is no doubting he is happy in the Cotswolds. It is there that classical music took its unlikeliest of grips - on a man who once played bass as his colleagues sang about park life.

“I wasn’t really that interested in classical music when I was younger. It is something that happened to me when I moved to the country and met my wife.”

Now he admits the beauty of some classical music moves him to tears and has become an important part of him.

At the same time he does not dismiss the place of pop music and admitted his own children have their own varying tastes.

He proudly declares that his five-year-old daughter loves Tchaikovsky.

“But then she does love Rizzle Kicks too,” he adds wryly.

For his show on Bournemouth though, he is keen to highlight the rich classical music history of the town.

Sir Hubert Harry - most famous for composing Jerusalem - was born in Bournemouth, and the nation’s favourite conductor Gareth Malone attended Bournemouth school, just like Alex.

It is the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra though that Alex heaps most praise on. He goes to Meyrick Park every year to watch them and they can be sure to get more than a passing mention during his broadcast.

Speaking with pride about his roots, the musician also cites others as examples of Bournemouth’s role in the history of culture in this country.

“So many great poets and authors lived and worked in Bournemouth,” he says.

“Oscar Wilde, Verlaine, R.L. Stevenson and Shelley. Even Tolkien retired there for the sun the sea and the sand.”

On Saturday night at 7pm on Classic FM though, it will all be about the music, and Alex wants to share his passion for what sounds good to the ear. For to him, that is everything.

“A great tune is a great tune,” he philosophises.

“Don’t be put off just because its hundreds of years old and all in Italian.”

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