Lanarkshire man releases charity single for Dad with MND

London-based Scottish musician Chris McConville reflects on how his family are using music to cope with his father's MND diagnosis.

Lanarkshire man releases charity single for Dad with MND

Posted : 12/06/2017

A London-based Lanarkshire musician, Chris McConville (39), is preparing to release a charity single for his Dad on Monday 12th June following his father’s diagnosis of Motor Neurone Disease (MND).

Chris’s father John McConville (66) is originally from Netherton, near Lanark, South Lanarkshire and was diagnosed with MND in December 2015.

MND is a rapidly progressing terminal illness which stops signals from the brain reaching the muscles. This may cause someone to lose the ability to walk, talk, eat, drink and breathe unaided.

The single, titled ‘Try Another Day’ has been produced by Chris, with the lyrics and melody composed by John himself.

Chris grew up in Forth, Lanarkshire and went to Carluke High School. He said: “My Dad was a folk musician and singer back in his youth and worked at places like Butlins Bognor Regis, as an entertainer around the time of 1970. He also wrote his own songs too.

He’s been living with MND for a couple of years now and on his last visit to London, he told me he had written a song and I said we should record it the next time I visit them in Carluke. So I took my little mobile recorder the next time I went up, I learned the chords and then I recorded him singing it. “

Chris, and his brother Justin (41) are working musicians and both live in London. After his father recorded the vocals for the single, Chris took the recordings to London where he produced the track in his own home studio.

While recording his father’s vocals in Carluke, Chris’ highly sensitive microphones picked up even the faintest background noises. Chris had to politely tell his mother Janis (63) and wife Noelle (48), who were chatting downstairs, to stay quiet while John was singing. Despite having to record three versions of his Dad singing the track, in retrospect Chris is glad that he was given an opportunity to capture normal family life.

“Listening back to the raw recordings it was great to capture him in his home environment and funny to be able to hear it all around in the background.

The idea of recording his new song was initially a fun activity to do together, but on a deeper personal level for myself and for our family, to have something unique to remember him by in years to come, to capture him while we still can and have our Dad and his two musician sons on his song together.”

In his later life, John became a television engineer and it wasn’t until he visited Chris and Justin in London that he began to show early symptoms with shin pains. Shortly after, John was signed off from work with post-traumatic stress following a break-in to his van at work. It was on his time off, where John took greater notice of his symptoms developing. As a result of his progression of MND, John never returned to work.

Speaking of his condition John said: “It’s mainly my limbs. My arms and legs can’t do much; I get around in a wheelchair. I do manage quite well on a daily basis, with daily living. The most challenging thing is my mobility; moving about, walking.

When I was going through the tests, everything was a bit vague. I didn’t get the final diagnosis until December 2015, so everything was vague until I got that.”

John praises the NHS nurses who continue to provide assistance to John and the family.

“Laura Cunningham has been a great help as well as the other people in the network who deal with providing support to people with all kinds of disabilities. I was surprised with how much support there is.”

Despite his deteriorating condition, John remains passionate about music. He recounts the events that led up to the project with Chris, from his own perspective.

“I was in the bathroom or the shower singing away and you sing melodies, ‘that’s not a bad tune’ I said. I got the guitar out and started playing the song that was in my head. I got the chord sheet out - I would do that when I was writing a song in the past.

The words came after. I wouldn’t say I was particularly badly disabled when the title came around. I don’t know if it was my subconscious, but it wasn’t really anything to do with my illness, the lyrics just came to fit the melody.

I wrote it down in a notebook so I wouldn’t forget it. I spoke to Chris on the phone and was telling him all about it. It was nearly a year later when Chris came up to visit and he brought his home studio machine, and said ‘let’s get this recorded’, and that’s how it all started.”

When John was growing up music seemed to run in the family. He recalls that several relatives played in bands, however John is reluctant to attribute his children’s love of music to his own influence.

“When they were young I played a lot of music in the house, but they were never particularly interested. It wasn’t until they were teenagers that they became a lot more interested in their own music, as teenagers are. I might have influenced that, but unexpectedly to me, they became professional musicians.”

Speaking about his father’s music, Chris estimates that his Dad has over 6 hours’ worth of material captured on reel-to-reel tape that his brother Justin has pledged to transfer on to CDs to preserve for the future.

Chris said: “Now that I'm finally finished the project of recording the song and really inspired by all the great work that Gordon Aikman did for MND Scotland, I thought, maybe we could do something like a charity single to help raise money for MND Scotland and for MND research.”

Chris plans to release Try Another Day on Monday 12th June and the song will be available on iTunes. Chris McConville has set up a JustGiving to raise cash for MND Scotland, which can be found at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/tryanotherday-charitysingle. All donations go directly to MND Scotland.

Iain McWhirter, MND Scotland’s Head of Fundraising said, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank John for sharing his story with us. Sharing personal experiences of MND is a great way to raise awareness of how this illness affects people’s lives, and shows the strength and courage people can have in the face of a devastating diagnosis.

I think its absolutely fantastic that Chris and Justin have produced this single for their Dad to raise money for MND Scotland, particularly during what must be a challenging time for the family.

John, Chris, Justin and the whole family can continue to count on our support and I hope you’ll all go online and download the single.”

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“Now that I'm finally finished the project of recording the song and really inspired by all the great work that Gordon Aikman did for MND Scotland, I thought, maybe we could do something like a charity single to help raise money for MND Scotland and for MND research.”

Chris McConville

Chris McConville