Why I chose to pen a song based on the UK’s departure from the EU

Terence Blacker with fellow musicians from the EU. Photograph: Terence Blacker.

Terence Blacker with fellow musicians from the EU. Photograph: Terence Blacker. - Credit: Archant

TERENCE BLACKER has recorded a heartfelt musical farewell to the European Union alongside Italian and German musicians. Here he explains why.

It was when I was sitting in a recording studio in southern Italy that the Brexit blues really struck.

Like many of us, I have experienced many shades of blue since 23 June 2016, but this was on a different scale - a lurching, pit-of-the-stomach sense of gloom, embarrassment and despair.

I blame the European musicians with whom I had spent the day recording songs. They had been magnificent. Two days previously, I had known only one of them, the German accordionist Hartmut Saam, who had suggested I record my new CD Playing For Time with Italian musicians near his home in Cilento, two hours south of Naples.

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Now the six of us were fast friends. It was quickly clear that the four Italians and German, helped by an accomplished studio engineer, had brought something different - a touch of European swing and style - to my songs. It had been hard work, but fun. We all spoke different languages and brought with us our own national background and sensibilities, but the result had been an easy, enjoyable co-operation. At that moment, that felt like a small, personal microcosm of how friendship and professional co-operation can work across those famous frictionless borders.

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So why the blues? During a break, I decided to look at my phone and catch up on the news back home. That was a mistake.

The House of Commons was caught up in one of the many grim European debates of the past three years. Middle-aged men and women were bellowing, red-faced, across the chamber. The new Prime Minister was in the thick of it, adding to the division and bile. It was one of those moments - yet another of those moments - when Brexiter politicians, keening for isolation, represented all that that is worst in a certain kind of English character: the deluded post-imperial arrogance, the intolerance, the nastiness, the general distrust of foreigners.

So the Brexit blues hit. The sudden contrast between the cheerful international co-operation in our studio in Cilento and the new, dominant voice in British public life felt unbearably sad and painful.

It was out of that spirit that my song 'Europa, Mein Amour' emerged. I wanted to mark, in as non-political way as possible, my sadness at leaving a union which has changed us all, often invisibly and always for the better, over the last 40 or so years. As a nation, we have become more open to outside influence, less uptight and hidebound, more curious about others, warmer. No referendum can undo that. As the song puts it:

'Some people claim I'm not quite the same

Since I became European,

That I've started to stray from the true English way

And I find myself agreein'.'

We recorded the song in Italy, and it was completed and mastered back in the UK. One of the musicians, the guitarist Giovanni Rago, accompanied me in a few gigs here at the end of 2019. We played the song as part of the show and it was clear that others shared our the feelings of gratitude and regret expressed in the song. When the executive vice-president of the EU Frans Timmermans published his 'Love letter to Britain' in late December, it felt right to release the song as a sort of reply.

As the day of departure approaches, the best way for me to keep the Brexit blues at bay is to sing my heartfelt farewell song with as much hope in my voice as I can muster. Maybe I should put it forward as the UK's entry for the 2020 Eurovision Song Contest.

'Europa, Mein Amour' can be downloaded from CD Baby and Bandcamp. Terence Blacker's CD Playing For Time will be released on 27th March.

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