Lord Stirrup, former chief of the defence staff, talks to Michael Berkeley about his passion for music from Renaissance motets to 21st-century opera.
Lord Stirrup, former Chief of the Defence Staff, talks to Michael Berkeley about his passion for music from Renaissance motets to twenty-first-century opera.
Jock Stirrup was lucky to survive when a bird hit one of the engines of his Jaguar jet in 1983. With the cockpit glass obscured and one engine on fire, he chose not to eject from the plane, but to try to land it to save the life of his student pilot. For this he was awarded the Air Force Cross.
This calm under pressure served him well as he rose through the ranks of the RAF, commanding forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and becoming Chief of the Defence Staff – the head of all the UK’s armed forces – until his retirement in 2011.
A member of the Order of the Garter, he now sits as a cross-bencher in the House of Lords and has spoken critically about the regime in Russia and equipment shortages for troops in Iraq. He talks to Michael about the pressures of commanding forces, dealing with casualties, and speaking out on behalf of the men and women in the armed forces.
Less well known is Jock Stirrup’s lifelong love of classical music. Now he’s retired he spends as much time as he can listening to music live, and he’s chosen pieces that span five centuries and many genres – a motet by Josquin Des Prez, music by Bach and by Mendelssohn, part of George Benjamin’s 2012 opera Written on Skin, and music from Die Walküre, illustrating the passion he’s had for Wagner from his schooldays.
Producer: Jane Greenwood
A Loftus production for BBC Radio 3