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The Gallant Weaver - Choral settings of words by Robert Burns
The Immortal Memory

There was a lad was born in Kyle (John McIntosh) [2:24]
MacPherson’s Farewell (arr. David Toms) [3:10]
Scots Wha Hae (arr. Cedric Thorpe Davie) [1:39]
Ye Jacobites by Name (Peter Stephenson) [2:51]
O Kenmure’s on and Awa, Willie (arr. John Kitchen) [1:31]
Five Epigrams (Nicolas Maw):
On a noisy Polemic [1:30]
On the death of Robert Ruisseaux [1:04]
Epitaph on a henpecked squire [0:32]
On a lady famed for her Caprice [1:49]
Andrew Dunbar [1:18]
A Bank of Flowers (Ian Lawson) [3:38]
The Diel’s awa wi’th’ Exciseman (arr. John Kitchen) [1:15]
The Toast to the Lasses
A Rosebud by myt early walk (arr. Cedric Thorpe Davie) [2:26]
So Deep (arr. James MacMillan) [3:00]
A Red Red Rose (arr. Simon Carrington) [3:37]
The Birks of Aberfeldy (arr. John Kitchen) [1:55]
Ae Fond Kiss (arr. Robert Rhein) [2:10]
Ae Fond Kiss (arr. John Kitchen) [2:38]
The Lass o’Peaty’s Mill (arr. John Kitchen) [2:03]
Afton Water (arr. George McPhee) [3:12]
Poortith Cauld (arr. Sir Michael Tippett) [4:45]
The Rigs o’Barley (arr. George McPhee) [3:48] The Lasses Reply
The Gallant Weaver (James MacMillan) [5:56]
The Waterside (arr. Edgar Bainton) [2:16]
Ca’: the Yowes to the Knowes (arr. Vaughan Williams) [4:27]
O Bothwell Bank (arr. John Kitchen) [2:40]
Ye Banks and Braes (arr. Percy Grainger) [3:16]
John Anderson My Jo (arr. Stephen Wilkinson) [2:24]
Comin’ Through the Rye (arr. Robin Doveton)) [1:54]
Auld Lang Syne (arr. Cedric Thorpe Davie) [1:59]
The Mayfield Singers/Neil Price
rec. 29-30 September, 7 October 2007, Quoyloo Church, Sandwick, Orkney, by kind permission of the Kirk Session of the Church of Scotland congregation of Birsay, Harray and Sandwick. DDD
BIRNAM CD MSCD001 [77:07]


Experience Classicsonline

In the canon of the works of Robert Burns it is not difficult to find something new and original. For only a fragment of his verses and songs merit an airing each 25th February: immortal memories, lasses, Tam’s hair’s breadth escape from perdition, and the worthy pudden – all staple fare.

But here is something joyously different! From Orkney - “the seas between us” - and heralded by a fresh solo soprano – comes this exciting collection of unaccompanied choral settings of Burns. It’s far from the usual ‘hamely fare’ – elevating the sing-song element from the public house to the concert hall. In doing so it achieves a minor miracle of presenting ‘weel-kent’ melodies and lyrics in a rich variety of guises as a collected programme never done before.

There’s a harmonic subtlety about even the most straightforward arrangements, such as those by John Kitchen, Cedric Thorpe Davie and George McPhee. There are also several original compositions – few of which would be heard in the usual Burns’ Supper. These include the Five Epigrams (Epitaphs) of Nicholas Maw with many colourful expressions of Burns’ hatred of cant – the less familiar ‘Poortish Cauld’, in Tippett’s powerful setting, Peter Stephenson’s stark ‘Ye Jacobites by name’ and Percy Grainger’s eccentric whistle (Ye Banks and Braes).

There are also two striking arrangements by James MacMillan. First we hear the richly atmospheric ‘So Deep’ (a setting of ‘O my love’s like a red, red rose’). This opens with a solo line like the precentor’s call to which the choir, in a kind of organum, respond to the summons. The second ‘The Gallant Weaver’ gives the title to the collection and is a glorious harmonic tapestry through which is threaded the typical psalm-like tune in canonic phrases. It’s an effect both powerful and beautiful.

So many aspects of Burns’ life and character are illustrated in these settings. The subtlety of his lyrics and the tunes to which so often he fitted them capture equally a perceptive harmony and counterpoint.

This small chamber choir was founded by its director Neil Price in 1988 and has already established its reputation, not only locally but in wider Europe. It is essentially an amateur body of enthusiastic singers, existing, as Neil Price explains ’to provide recreation for the members’. But the Director’s enthusiasm - not to mention his handling of the forces in some very difficult music - is amply illustrated in this important venture into the black and white world of Burns with some ravishing colour.

It should also be mentioned that the recording is dedicated to the memory of one of their number, Susie Gilbertson, who died in March 2007.

The disc, decorated with some appropriate art-work by Matilda Tumim, is highly to be prized. Copies can be obtained from Neil Price at The Manse, North Bigging, Dounby, Orkney KW17 2HZ at £9.99 per disc.

Colin Scott-Sutherland



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