Today our lock down tracks are selected by Chaplain of Sunderland AFC, Parish Priest of St Mary’s and star of the first series of Sunderland Til I Die, Marc Lyden-Smith.
Did you grow up in a musical house?
No, not especially. We had a record player and my Mam and Dad would enjoy the latest music, I remember Queen and Michael Jackson records, but it wasn’t especially musical. My first strong musical memory actually links back to my first trip to Roker Park.
Do you remember who we were playing?
Well, it’s not the ‘we’ you’re thinking of. It was England B v Czech Republic B. My uncle took me and I absolutely loved it. I wanted to go back every week after that to watch Sunderland. On the way home, my uncle only had one tape in his car which was Simon and Garfunkel, and the track was Only Living Boy in New York. We played it over and over on the drive from Roker to Hebburn. I still listen to Simon and Garfunkel quite often and that song takes me back to that car journey.
And what would you be up to as a child?
Playing football! We used to finish at St Joseph’s School and then straight home, do my paper round and my homework and then it was football until it was dark. We’d play around the doors as late as we could, looking out over the shipyards as the sun went down.
Do you remember the first music you bought yourself?
Yes, I bought a cassette of Heal the World by Michael Jackson. I had a little tape player in my room and so bought cassettes rather than vinyl as a teenager.
And did you always have the priesthood in mind?
No, I wasn’t especially religious as a boy. We went to mass at Christmas and Easter but that was about it. When I was 15 we started to go as a family each week and I became more involved in the Community and the Parish. We used to go on Saturday evenings and, I liked that because I was still out early enough to go and play football afterwards. But gradually I started to take it more seriously.
But your Saturdays still feature football!
Yes, I still enjoy going to the match, I often listen to The Bleachers on my way. They’ve a song called Rollercoaster which seems very appropriate for supporting Sunderland. I walk from the church and, usually I’ll have a ticket for someone who wouldn’t otherwise get to a match, so I normally meet them outside the ground and then we head in together.
You must have sat with quite a few people watching their first matches?
Yes, it’s a great thing to watch as they sit on the edge of their seat, absolutely loving it.
Does it take you back to your first game?
Yes, it does. The beauty of Sunderland is that, let’s be honest, they’ve mainly seen defeats in their first games, but they’ve been part of the experience, the passion of the fans, the feeling of the fortress that the Stadium can be.
And do you do any Chaplaincy work on a match day?
Sometimes. I might go into the players’ lounge to talk to the players’ families or I might be invited to share a meal in the Montgomery suite before the game or just walking to the different rooms in the ground and catching up with people, you’re never lonely, there’s always someone to talk to.
And how about a night out? What song would get you on the dance floor?
It doesn’t take a lot for me to get on the dance floor but, if I were to pick one song it would have to be something by Fleetwood Mac, I think they’re a great band to dance to. Maybe The Chain.
And if we could let you out for one day from lockdown, where would you go?
I was meant to be having a holiday in May with a couple of friends in California to celebrate 25 years in the priesthood for one of them. It’s a shame we weren’t able to do it. If I could get out for one day, I’d like to do that for him.
Will you be able to rearrange it?
Hopefully. Clergy diaries are not easy things to manage at the best of times, but I hope so.
Do you get to many concerts?
Yes! A lot! But many of them are community concerts so maybe not what you were thinking of! I saw Bob Dylan in 2003. That was an incredible concert. He finished with Like a Rolling Stone, that was a beautiful performance. The last concert I went to was at the Arena last year. I went to see Mumford and Sons. It’s always a pleasure spending time with people passionate about a particular group.
And then community concerts are performed by people passionate about the music.
That’s right. I get to watch the Sunderland Orchestra performances each year which are amazing. People who don’t know each other, local people, combining from all backgrounds to perform together. They’re always fantastic. To see people pulling together like that. And, of course, at Christmas I get to see a lot of performances by children and adults of all ages. There is a beautiful innocence in those concerts and nativities that are what Christmas is all about. It’s obviously a very busy time and I might be dashing through the church for something or other and I hear the girls from St Anthony’s preparing for their concert and it makes you stop what you’re doing and take a moment. The power of music to bring us together and the strength of community to really make you think.
And in a very different example of music bringing us together, what do you think the best walk out music is at any ground you’ve been to?
I really like Right Here, Right Now by Fat Boy Slim which they play at Cardiff. It’s a great track to get everyone focussed and thinking about what’s to come.
And, again, it’s a community coming together.
Yes. A community working together to achieve something. At the moment, it’s not a football match but communities are working hard to deal with what we face, helping others in the community where they can and doing what needs to be done.
Right here and right now?
Thank you Father Marc and thank you for everything you are doing in the Sunderland community to help people at this time.