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Songs of the People/ Caneuon y Werin – Folk songs arranged by classical composers
Franz Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)

Hob y Deri Dando [1:37]
Dafydd y Garreg Wen [3:12]
Codiad yr Ehedydd [1:48]
Ar Hyd y Nos [2:36]
Gorhoffedd Gwyr Harlech [2:37]
Pwyll ap SION (b.1968)

Y Fam a’i Baban [4:03]
Llanast [1:14]
C’weiriwch fy Nghwely [2:33]
Andrew WILSON-DICKSON (b.1946)

Mam yng nghyfraith t’wnt i’r Afon [2:33]
Sliabh na mBan [1:50]
Herbert HUGHES (1882-1937)

I Know Where I’m Goin’ [1:58]
Phyllis TATE (1911-1987)

The Lake of Coolfin [3:07]
O the Bonny Fisher Lad [2:02]
James MACMILLAN (b.1959)

Ballad [2:45]
Jonathan DOVE (1959)

Stan’ Still Jordan [3:25]
Buddug Verona James (mezzo); Andrew Wilson-Dickson (piano, forte piano), Simon Jones (violin), Kate Ayres (cello)
No recording details given
FFLACH CD295H [37:29]

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Buddug James is a fine, versatile mezzo. So versatile, indeed, that the entry page of her website ( describes her as an "Opera Singer, Actress and Butcher". The latter epithet refers to the time she spent working in the family butchery business before study in Rome and at the Guildhall, prior to making her way as a singer. She has extensive operatic experience, and has had considerable success with her one-woman shows such as A Knife at the Opera and, especially, Castradiva – of which she recently gave a performance at Handel House Museum in London, in connection with the fascinating exhibition Handel and the Castrati. With her brother and two sisters she also appears as part of ‘The James Family’, having recorded an album of gospels and performed ahead of a Wales-Ireland rugby international at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

In the summer of 2005 I wrote a short review (for the local paper) of a recital Buddug James and Andrew Wilson-Dickson gave as part of the Gower Festival, a recital which shared quite a lot of material with this new CD. I enjoyed the recital and I have also enjoyed the CD – though it has to be said that the playing time is decidedly short.

The programme begins with five of the folk-song settings which Haydn wrote to a commission from the Edinburgh publisher George Thomson in 1803/4. At the time, new English words were used. This recording returns to the original Welsh texts of the songs - English translation or summaries of these Welsh songs are provided in the CD booklet. That booklet, incidentally, is something of a nightmare in terms of design – red ink on darkly reproduced photographs does not make for easy reading. Nor are the notes as extensive as they might have been. With Andrew Graham-Dickson leading the accompanying trio at the forte piano, the Haydn songs are a delight – the instrumental introductions and other contributions every bit as rewarding as James’ own singing. Dafydd y Garreg Wen (‘David at the White Rock) is a fine piece of pre-romantic dramatic monologue and Codiad yr Ehedydd (‘The Rising of the Lark’) a charming celebration of natural energies. Ar Hyd y Nos is perhaps more familiar. Living as I do in Wales, I am often subjected to less than ideal performances of what most will know as ‘All Through the Night’; how nice to hear this setting by Haydn so sympathetically - and movingly - sung and performed. Gorhoffedd Gwyr Harlech (‘The March of the Men of Harlech’) comes up with a new freshness too, like a painting newly restored.

There are more Welsh folk-songs in arrangements by Pwyll ap Siôn, beginning with a tender version of Y Fam a’i Baban (‘A Mother and her Baby’), with the lower register of James’ voice heard to particularly good effect; a rumbustious account of a naughty childhood (Llanast, ‘Chaos’) is succeeded by a somewhat melodramatic version of C’weiriwch fy Nghwely (‘Tidy my Bed’). Andrew Wilson-Dickson – as well as being an excellent accompanist throughout – contributes two arrangements to the programme. The first is of the Welsh song Mam yng nghyfraith t’wnt i’r Afon (Mother-in-law beyond the River’), which has a particularly complex piano accompaniment; the second is a version of an Irish song, Sliabh na mBan (‘Mountain of the Women’) sung with elegiac tenderness by James.

The Irish composer Herbert Hughes – an avid collector of folk songs - is well represented by ‘I Know Where I’m Goin’’, an enjoyable but perhaps rather too decorous arrangement. Altogether more powerful is Phyllis Tate’s harrowing setting of ‘The Lake of Coolfin’, given a very fine performance here; so too is the very different ‘O the Bonny Fisher Lad’. It’s a shame that we seem to hear so little of Phyllis Tate’s music these days.

The programme ends with two more settings by contemporaries. James Macmillan’s ‘Ballad’ adds modern piano figurations to an authentic-sounding vocal line and gets a compelling performance from James. Jonathan Dove’s arrangement of the familiar spiritual Stan’ still Jordan was made with James in mind, and she sings it with dignity and conviction.

This recital offers vivacious singing with adroit and intelligent accompaniment, in an interesting programme of mostly unfamiliar songs. James characterises her material in a forceful, but unexaggerated manner and sings, throughout, with great, thoroughly musical, expressiveness.

A thoroughly agreeable programme, impressively interpreted by an accomplished singer. And how many other mezzos are there who have won an award for meat management skills, at the Royal Welsh Show (1978)?

Glyn Pursglove

This recital offers vivacious singing with adroit and intelligent accompaniment, in an interesting programme of mostly unfamiliar songs … see Full Review



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