English Part Songs for Male Voices 1850 to 1950 (1986)

This recording was sold as a cassette tape but the master was an early digital recording which can be copied on to CD by special arrangement. The recording is divided into 2 distinct sections.

  • The first 9 tracks are essentially folk songs or ballads, in style if not strictly in origins. Some are four-part arrangements of traditional melodies, whilst others are traditional words set to the composer’s own music. In the early 20th century some of England’s foremost composers were influenced by, or actively collected and transcribed, folk songs from around the country, as it was perceived that this heritage was in danger of being lost. In the 1920s Ralph Vaughan-Williams set number of these as choral pieces. Examples recorded here are the old English air Down Among The Dead Men, and two songs from Cecil Sharp’s Somerset collection The Seeds of Love and High Germany. Gustav Holst’s Matthew, Mark, Luke and John (also of West Country origin) and Peter Warlock’s The Lady’s Birthday (dating back to the 18th century, as sung by a Mr. Platt at Sadler’s Wells) are also from this period. Four other tracks are original settings of traditional poetry. Vaughan-Williams’ The Vagabond is taken from Robert Louis Stevenson, Holst’s Drinking Song was translated from medieval Latin, Harold Noble’s toast to King Charles is by Robert Browning and Delius’ Wanderer’s Song (1908) is by Arthur Symons.
  • The remaining 7 tracks are more akin to Victorian or Edwardian parlour songs. The earliest two are Sir Arthur Sullivan’s The Long Day Closes and Barnby’s (1903) setting of Tennyson’s lullaby Sweet and Low. Elgar’s powerful Feasting I Watch (1903) is translated from a Greek anthology. In a Monastery Garden (1914) is one of a number of descriptive pieces for which Albert W. Ketèlbey gained fame between the wars. Arise O Sun, Smilin’ Through and Carry me Back to Green Pastures are three songs arranged by Doris Arnold who worked with the Kentucky Minstrels for the BBC around the time of World War II. Her arrangements have acquired a talismanic role in our repertoire.

The guest baritone soloist on this recording is Robert Dean.

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