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CD: Haydn Wood Music

Haydn WOOD (1882-1959)
Songs and Ballads
A Breezy Ballad; The Little Ships; The Stars Looked Down; Khaki and Gold; Casey the Fiddler#; Think on These Things; I Bless the Dawn that Brought Me You; I Love Your Eyes of Grey; Roses of Picardy*; Memories of Yesterday; Bird of Love Divine#; Three Sea Songs: The Call; Ship o’Mine; The Sea Road; Fairy Waters; This is My Dream; Prayer in the Desert; A Rose Still Blooms in Picardy; Somebody’s in Love with You; Love’s Garden of Roses#; The Foray; The End of the World; Your Prayers Are Asked; This is the Song of Life.
Shae Apland (bass-baritone), Sharon Wishart (piano), Marissa Famiglietti (soprano)* and Marjorie Cullerne (violin)#.
No recording details given
No label or number [67:39]

CD: Peter Dempsey

Haydn WOOD (1882-1959)
Wonderful World of Romance
Love’s Garden of Roses; O Flower Divine; Wonderful World of Romance; Roses of Picardy; Silver Clouds*; Little Yvette; A Brown Bird Singing; A Song of Quietness; I look into your Garden; Thistledown*; Dearest, I love the Morning; Praise; I think of you, my Sweet; The Unforgotten Melody; Singing to you; An April Shower at Kew*; I shall be there; The Stars looked down; This is my Dream; Serenade at Sunset*; Think on these Things; A Thousand Beautiful Things; The Village that Nobody knows. *piano solos.
Peter Dempsey (tenor); Guy Rowland (piano)
No recording details given
No label or number [71:45]
Experience Classicsonline

In this fiftieth anniversary year of the death of Haydn Wood (1882-1959) I am pleased to welcome these two CDs devoted to his songs, a repertoire which, though once highly popular, has been sorely neglected in recent years.

As each team was working unbeknown to the other, it is not the result of collusion but a happy accident that these two discs have only five songs in common. The two offer a combined total of thirty-eight different songs and four piano solos, several of the items appearing on record for the first time. This, along with the fact that one of the principal singers is a bass-baritone and the other a tenor means that the two products are complementary rather than competitive. 

The songs on the Canadian CD span the forty years from 1910 to 1950. Those on the UK CD are gleaned from the shorter period of 1914 to 1946. As the accompanying notes testify, all the personnel involved have sound musical credentials, and both CDs afford music-making that is enthusiastic and inspired, evidently a labour of love. While the young Shae Apland here makes his recording debut, Peter Dempsey has recently released CDs devoted to the songs of Eric Coates and Albert Ketèlbey - similarly packaged and available at the same price. The Canadian CD has had an unusually long gestation: though not released until 2009, it was conceived in 2004 and recorded over several sessions, the last of which was in May 2006. It has probably benefited from this leisurely pace of production. There is no sense of discontinuity and the programme constitutes a diverse and attractive recital. The recording of the voice is close, but not unpleasantly so. The sound on the British CD is more open. 

The performing styles on the two discs are distinct but equally legitimate. Shae Apland adopts slightly brisker and stricter tempi than Peter Dempsey, though the former never sounds rushed nor the latter laboured. I suspect that Shae Apland is relatively new to this repertoire and might never have heard of Haydn Wood had he not been known to Marjorie Cullerne, Wood’s great niece and a co-producer of the CD along with Haydn Wood historian, Gilles Gouset. Peter Dempsey, on the other hand, has been performing this kind of music since his youth in the 1970s. He owns a large collection of old recordings and his thorough knowledge of the singing style of the music’s period informs his own performing practice.

In conformity with its title, his CD confines itself to the romantic but includes as a bonus four piano miniatures. The Canadian one includes songs of a much wider stylistic and emotional range, including songs of adventure, the sea and war. Two of them (The Little Ships - Dunkirk 1940 and A Soldier’s Prayer in the Desert) were obviously inspired by contemporary events and must have proved deeply poignant at the time. I find them moving even now. At least one song, The End of the World, is highly dramatic, its awesome gravity well suited to the darker tones of Shae Apland’s deeper voice. Somebody’s in Love With You (1921) is clearly influenced by American popular music of the time and therefore constitutes a departure from Wood’s characteristically English style. 

The phenomenally successful Roses of Picardy (1916) has clocked up more than 700 recordings and appears again on both these discs: on the Canadian one in the premier recording of the composer’s duet arrangement. Each disc includes a song derived from Roses of Picardy. Peter Dempsey sings Little Yvette (1920), written, I might say, to the same template, and a personal favourite of his. Shae Apland sings A Rose Still Blooms in Picardy (1941), a kind of sequel written during World War II and dedicated to those fighting in the French Resistance. 

Haydn Wood was undoubtedly blessed with a great talent for fluent and sensitive song-writing, matching his music to the words with consummate craftsmanship. As the lyrics of the final song on the Canadian disc proclaim: “Mine are the words and yours the melody. No song is sweet unless these two agree.” The Canadian booklet rightly observes: “The moods conjure up veiled romance, virility, strife, prayer, and love of country. The overriding themes … are enjoyment of nature and love of people, with a deep concern for the human condition.” I found myself particularly moved by Your Prayers Are Asked, written in the year of my birth, 1948. These once popular songs encapsulate humane and civilized values, and for many years they exerted a benign influence on the millions of ordinary people who heard and enjoyed them. It disturbs me profoundly that within my lifetime they have been displaced by a popular culture some of which is at best gross, and at worst degenerate and brutalising. 

Since Haydn Wood’s songs are otherwise not well represented in the catalogue, these new CDs are most welcome. Both contain a wealth of fine singing. They are attractively packaged with informative notes. Neither includes the texts of the songs; but as both singers enunciate the words with admirable clarity, this is not a serious omission. It is unfortunate that both CDs lie under the handicap of restricted distribution, being available only from their producers. I hope that prospective buyers will not be deterred by this or by the relatively high price of the Canadian one. My own copy, including postage, cost me a little over £17, which I do not begrudge. In an age when so much recorded music is available at super bargain prices this might seem a lot; but it is not excessive, given the trouble and expense that have evidently been bestowed on the disc’s production.

J. Martin Stafford 

Postal contact details
Breezy Ballad: Marjorie Cullerne, 714 Nanoose Avenue, Parksville BC, V9P 1E9 Canada; $29.70 to addresses outside North America; $25.90 to Canada; $28.20 to the USA. (All prices include postage and are in Canadian dollars.)

Wonderful world: Peter Dempsey, 44 Victoria Road, Bidford-on-Avon, Warwickshire, B50 4AR. £9.95 including postage.



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