It's a dwindling band; old-fashioned and of a certain age, you can pick us out at funerals and memorial services because we can sing the hymns without the book.
Alan Bennett writes: In 2001 the Medici Quartet commissioned the composer George Fenton to write them a piece commemorating their thirtieth anniversary. George Fenton appeared in my play Forty Years On and has written music for many of my plays since, and he asked me to collaborate on the commission. Hymn was the result. First performed at the Harrogate Festival in August 2001, it's a series of memoirs with music. Besides purely instrumental passages for the quartet, many of the speeches are under-scored, incorporating some of the hymns and music I remember from my childhood and youth. The text includes both words and music.
Hymn is coupled with Cocktail Sticks, an oratorio without music that revisits some of the themes and conversations of Alan Bennett's memoir A Life Like Other People's. A son talks to his dead father as his mother yearns for a different life. It's funny, tender and sad.
The pinnacle of my social life is a scrutty bit of lettuce and tomato and some tinned salmon. Mind you, I read in Ideal Home that if you mix tinned salmon with this soft cheese you can make it into one of those moussy things. Shove a bit of lemon on it and it looks really classy.
ALAN BENNETT has been one of our leading dramatists since the success of Beyond the Fringe in the 1960s. His television series Talking Heads has become a modern-day classic, as have many of his works for stage including Forty Years On, The Lady in the Van, A Question of Attribution, The Madness of George III (together with the Oscar-nominated screenplay The Madness of King George), and an adaptation of Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows. At the National Theatre, London, The History Boys won numerous awards including Evening Standard and Critics' Circle awards for Best Play, an Olivier for Best New Play and the South Bank Award. On Broadway, The History Boys won five New York Drama Desk Awards, four Outer Critcs' Circle Awards, a New York Drama Critics' Award, a New York Drama League Award and six Tonys. The Habit of Art opened at the National in 2009. His collection of prose Untold Stories won the PEN/Ackerley Prize for autobiography, 2006. Recent works of fiction are The Uncommon Reader and Smut: Two Unseemly Stories.