Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

THE FIRST FOUR VOLUMES - Reviewed by Philip L Scowcroft

Gordon Pullin (tenor)
Roger Fisher (piano)


John Dowland - I saw my lady weep;
Henry Lawes - A New Year's Gift;
Henry Purcell - I'll sail upon the dog-star;
Edward Loder
- I heard a brooklet gushing;
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor - Elëanore;
Hubert Parry - The Maiden;
John Ireland - Spring Sorrow;
Peter Warlock - As ever I saw;
Frank Bridge - When you are old and gray;
Dorothy Howell - The Tortoiseshell Cat;
Ralph Vaughan Williams - The Water Mill;
Edward Bairstow - The Lonesome Girl;
Gerald Finzi - Ditty;
Roger Quilter - Wild Cherry;
Benjamin Britten - Nocturne;
Arnold Bax - The Market Girl;
Francis Jackson - The Owl;
arr. Britten - The Last Rose of Summer;
Roy Teed - The Solitary Reaper;
Gordon Dyson - Sally in our alley;
George Beckwith - So we'll go no more a-roving

Thomas Morley - Thyrsis and Milla;
John Blow - Sabina hath a thousand charms;
Thomas Arne -
The Plague of Love;
John Clarke-Whitfeld -
Here's the vow she falsely swore;
Charles Villiers Stanford -
Cyril Scott -
A Serenade;
Edward Elgar -
The Torch;
George Butterworth -
I fear thy kisses;
Cyril Rootham -
South Wind;
Herbert Howells -
King David;
Ivor Gurney -
The Idlers;
Heathcote Statham - The Find;
Lennox Berkeley -
How love came in;
William Walton -
Under the greenwood tree;
Stephen Wilkinson -
Come away, Death;
Humphrey Searle -
March Past;
Hubert Foss -
She walks in beauty;
Michael Head -
As I went down zig-zag;
John Jeffreys -
There is a lady sweet and kind;
Andrew Carter -
Pancake Tuesday;
Trevor Hold -
Philip Wilby -
Unholy Sonnet


Gordon Pullin (tenor)
With Karen Bainbridge (bassoon),
Harriet Bennett (cello), Neil Carlson (oboe)
and Beth Spendlove (violin)

John Jeffreys - With Words of Love, Four Songs for Tenor and Bassoon;
Gustav Holst - two songs from Four Songs for Voice and Violin;
Rebecca Clarke - The Tailor and the Mouse, from Three Old English Songs arranged for Voice and Violin;
Ralph Vaughan Williams - Ten Blake Songs for Voice and Oboe;
Philip Wilby - A Man of Character (a Hardy Soliloquy);
Richard Rodney Bennett - Tom O'Bedlam's Song for Tenor Voice and 'Cello;
Ralph Vaughan Williams - Along the Field, Eight Housman Songs for Voice and Violin

CD4: 'The Tradition Abroad'
Gordon Pullin (tenor)
Roger Fisher (piano)

Francis Hopkinson - Beneath a Weeping Willow's Shade;
Foster - I dream of Jeanie;
Ethelbert Nevin - Dark brown is the river;
Wilson G Smith - Entreaty;
Edward MacDowell
- Constancy;
Arthur Whiting - Yet ah, that spring should vanish;
Sidney Homer - Requiem;
Walter Morse Rummel - Ecstasy;
Marshall Kernochan - Smuggler's Song;
Roland Farley - The Night Wind;
John Duke - Loveliest of Trees;
William Schuman - Orpheus with his lute;

Charles Ives - Two Little Flowers;
arr. Aaron Copland - Long Time ago;
Aaron Copland - The Chariot;
Leo Sowerby - Pulse of Spring;
Ned Rorem - Early in the Morning;
Virgil Thomson - Sigh No More, Ladies;
Samuel Barber - In the Wilderness;
Lee Hoiby - The Lamb;
Percy Grainger - Willow, Willow;
Arthur Benjamin - Callers;
Malcolm Williamson - The Lamplighter;
Victor Hely-Hutchinson - The Owl and the Pussy-cat;
John Joubert - Oracle;
Vernon Griffiths - Wrong Not, Sweet Empress;
Walter Strong Edwards - Love's Philosophy;
arr. Craig Castle - Canadian Folk-song;
Wilfrid Mellers - A Ballad of Anyone

PRICE: £10.00 each, incl. p&p; British Music Society members £9.00.

This enterprise, scheduled to run eventually to seven discs, is a major undertaking; one that cannot be ignored by anyone who is at all interested in the marvellous heritage of English song, or, in this case, songs in English. Vol 4 is devoted mainly to American and Commonwealth composers.

Mr Pullin is a sensitive musician with wide interests and a wealth of experience of vocal music both as singer and as conductor. His light tenor voice is admirably clear in delivery and the diction is excellent; none of the CD booklets print the words of the songs (totalling about a hundred altogether across the first four volumes) which would probably have doubled the size of the booklets. However one may argue that the vocal clarity matched by the faithful, well balanced recording, makes them less necessary than they so often are.

The singer is fortunate in his piano accompanist. Roger Fisher, for 29 years Organist at Chester Cathedral, has long been admired by organ enthusiasts but particularly in more recent years, he has established a perhaps equally important career as a piano soloist and accompanist. Throughout the three discs in which he appears, his musicianly accompaniments highlight the argument and contribute enormously to it.

It is clearly impossible in this review to cover each individual song (I wish I could) but here are some random observations.

Vols 1 and 2 are self-contained historical surveys of English song from the Elizabethans to the present. Many - though not all - of the composers pick themselves, but an effort has been made, in most cases, to find a less-known example from a composer's output.

Looking at Vol 1 first, Henry Lawes A New Year's Gift, lyrical and clean in line, is the perfect bridge between Dowland's melancholy and Purcellian energy; Parry's The Maiden to words by Mary Coleridge, is a lovely imaginative setting, barely two minutes long; Ireland's Spring Sorrow reminds us that he was one of the few song composers to be attracted to Rupert Brooke's marvellous poetry; Frank Bridge's When You are Old and Gray is an perfect evocation of old age; and Quilter's Wild Cherry is rarely encountered, yet utterly typical. Thomas Hardy is represented by two of his less doom-laden poems by Finzi and Bax, two composers, the former especially, who did a lot for him. Britten's Nocturne makes a sombre interlude between them. Then there are many composers that are quite unfamiliar to us, at any rate as song writers: the two York Minster Organists Edward Bairstow and Francis Jackson, shapely imaginations both; Dorothy Howell whose The Tortoiseshell Cat is enchantingly light in touch; Roy Teed, who lives in Colchester and Gordon Dyson, a Huddersfield man - their songs contrast satisfyingly in mood and tempo. George Beckwith (1905-88) might be viewed as an indulgence as he taught Mr Pullin Maths and introduced him to English song, yet this eminently singable setting sheds fresh light on a fairly often set lyric. And what a pleasure to find here Loder's The Brooklet, based, if distantly, on the same lyric as Schubert's Wohin? And admired even by those who disparaged the song literature of Victorian times.

Volume 2 fills the more obvious gaps in vol 1, with songs by Morley, Blair, (in an edition by Roger Fisher), Arne, tuneful as ever, Stanford, fiercely dramatic, Elgar, characteristic if fussy, Cyril Scott, (a serenade and a real charmer), George Butterworth, for once not in Shropshire, Howells, by his best known and surely best, song, Gurney, a delightful unpublished item. Lennox Berkeley (a Peter Pears favourite), William Walton and Michael Head. As with Vol 1 there are surprises from all periods. John Clarke-Whitfield (1770-1836) shows the influence of Haydn, perhaps Mozart - a trifle long, this song, but enjoyable nevertheless. Two more organists/song composers appear, from East Anglia this time and both Cyril Rootham and Heathcote Statham show, in vastly different settings, excellent understanding of the tenor voice.. Stephen Wilkinson will be remembered as conductor for the BBC Northern Singers, Hubert Foss, if only just, for his writings. Now we can remember the one for his chromatic response to Shakespeare, the other for his almost ballad-like Byron, both fine songs. Humphrey Searle is not an obvious setter of Housman but this, with its insistent accompaniment, is surely a distinguished example. The last four tracks are all by very much active living composers and very varied they are. Jeffreys, a prolific songwriter, displays sensitive word settings of a familiar lyric, Carter's song is humorous, Hold's whimsical (the words are by Edmund Blunden, his second appearance on this CD) and the Wilby is declamatory and majestic, almost hymn like.

Volume 4 we may deal with more briefly as 20 tracks (out of 29) are by American composers but even here there are British connections as poetry by Robert Louis Stevenson, Kipling, Fitzgerald, Housman, (Duke's Loveliest of Trees is so different from, say, Butterworth but a gorgeous song nevertheless) Shakespeare (both Schuman and Thomson respond stimulatingly), William Blake and Robert Graves is set and usually memorably. Again the approach is historical (starting in the late 18th century; the whole conspectus is enjoyable and full of interest. Of the three Australian composers, all have, or had, English connections. Benjamin's and Williamson's songs being very light-hearted, as in that of South African-born Victor Hely-Hutchinson. Joubert's Emily Brontë setting is much starker. The 'overseas' connections of Vernon Griffiths, Walter Edwards and Wilfred Mellers are more tenuous (all are or were English born), but Mr Pullin puts a strong case for the work of all three; all flow nicely, the Mellers astringently so - Edwards' Love's Philosophy, is easier in pace than some other settings.

Vol 3 dispenses with Roger Fisher's services in favour of a variety of other instrumentalists', who all contribute splendidly. Philip Wilby's Hardy's soliloquy, is in fact unaccompanied, except for interjections from bell and gavel and two short messages of spoken commentary. It is based on four episodes from 'The Mayor of Casterbridge' and flags up the starker, darker side of the title character. John Jeffreys With Words Of Love is delightful, the bassoon (played by Karen Bainbridge) with its comic and lyrical alter egos, furnishing the ideal accompaniments. Richard Rodney Bennett's Tom O Bedlam's Song is powerfully dramatic and often dissonant, a big test for the singer and with some brilliant writing for the cello (Harriet Bennett), an equal partner throughout. So too is the oboe (Neil Carlson) in Vaughan Williams' Blake Songs (which, in my experience are rather better known than anything else on this disc), for all that the oboe is silent in three of the ten songs (it does perhaps need the rest!). Violinist, Beth Spendlove, a notably lyrical exponent, appears in three very different items, a charming folk setting by Rebecca Clarke; two of Holst's Four Songs based on medieval religious texts, and suitably modal, in their musical invention; and Vaughan Williams' Along the Field - Housman once again, an eight song cycle which give more opportunities for the violin and a sophisticated partner for the voice and painter of atmospheric colour than do Holst or Clarke.

I have had an enormous amount of pleasure listening to these discs, displaying a rich heritage, sensitively and affectionately realised by singer, pianist and the other instrumentalists in volume 3. There are riches waiting to be discovered (or rediscovered) as barely a quarter of the songs are at all well known and virtually none are hackneyed. It gives me further pleasure to welcome warmly these four CDs; I look forward keenly to the remaining three, which I understand will feature, respectively, parlour songs, another chronological review like vols 1 and 2 but featuring composers thus far 'left over' and English lyrics set by 'foreign' (i.e. non-English speaking) composers and sung in English translations.

Philip L Scowcroft.



Gordon Pullin has toured widely throughout the United Kingdom, on the Continent and also in the USA. He has had broadcast studio recitals on BBC Radio 3 which have included his performance of Vaughan Williams' other Housman cycle Along the Field as well as a feature on Coleridge-Taylor for which he wrote the script. He has also given English Song recitals on local radio. His interest in English Song began at school in Norwich, where his Maths master (a friend since schooldays of Gerald Moore) accompanied him singing Warlock and Purcell, as well as Schumann. When he was awarded a Choral Scholarship to St John's College, Cambridge, his choirmaster gave him his own bound collection of Parry's English Lyrics.

Apart from his wide knowledge of the standard tenor repertoire in all fields, he has given first performances by modern composers of opera, oratorio, songs and song-cycles. More recently he has devised programmes around such poets as Blake, Blunden, Clare, Graves, Hardy, Housman, Shakespeare, Edward Thomas and Tennyson. He has edited a book of settings of Hardy for Thames Publishing.

Do have a look at Gordon Pullin's website at



The CDs may also be obtained from

Gordon Pullin, Treakles, Kettlebaston, Suffolk, IP7 7QA


or from

Macdonald Music Services, 14 High Street, Steyning, West Sussex, BN

and from

Audiosonic (Gloucester) Ltd, 6 College Street, Gloucester, GL1 29E
Tel  +44(0)1452 302280 Fax +44 (0)1452 302202


FUTURE DISCS (to be issued)


VOLUME FIVE: 'The Parlour Tradition' see review

Gordon Pullin (tenor)
Roger Fisher (piano)



Charles Dibdin - Tom Bowling;
John Braham - The Death of Nelson;
Michael Balfe - Come into the Garden, Maud;
Claribel - You and I;
Arthur Sullivan - The Lost Chord;
Frederick Clay - I'll Sing Thee Songs of Araby;
Joseph Barnby - The Beggar Maid;
Stephen Adams - The Holy City;
Henry Leslie - Annabelle Lee;
Henry Lamb - The Volunteer Organist;
Dolores - The Brook;
Liza Lehmann - Ah, moon of my delight;
Florence Aylward - Song of the Bow;
Amy Woodforde-Finden - Kashmiri Song;
Charles Willeby - Crossing the Bar;
Maude Valérie White - Absent Yet Present;
Wilfred Sanderson - Until;
May H. Brahe - Bless This House;
A. Bazel Androzzo - If I can help somebody



Gordon Pullin (tenor)
Roger Fisher (piano)


will be available in the autumn of 2001 and will include songs by: Campion, Hook, Thomas Dunhill, Holst, Moeran, Graham Peel, Rubbra, Thomas Pitfield, Donald Swann, Malcolm Arnold and others



Gordon Pullin has also made two recordings in association with the pianist Charles Macdonald. Both consist of words and music.


'Hubert Foss and his friends'
was produced to celebrate the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Music Department of the Oxford University Press, of which Foss was the founding editor. On the disc his daughter, Diana, talks about her father, whose friends included some of the most famous English composers of the twentieth century. Foss himself was a composer of merit, and the music on the disc sets his songs alongside that of his better-known contemporaries:

Foss - She walks in beauty;
Warlock - As ever I saw;
Walton - Under the greenwood tree;
Foss - As I walked out;
Britten - The trees they grow so high;
Foss - The trees they grow so high;
- The Encounter;
Foss - The New Mistress;
Tippett - The Heart's Assurance;
Foss - Rioupéroux;
Vaughan Williams - Buonaparty;
Foss - The Sergeant's Song;
Gurney - Goodnight to the meadow;
Howells - King David;
Foss - If I had but two little wings;
- Auprès de ma blonde


'Time's Delights' or 'A Celebration of the Seasons'
is self-explanatory. On this disc Gordon Pullin is joined by Sue Mileham, soprano, and Susan Meek, reader. The poems are by Gerard Manley Hopkins, Browning, Laurie Lee, Auden, Edward Thomas, Alfred Noyes, Keats, Laurence Binyon, Bridges and Hardy. The songs are:

Arne - When daisies pied;
Peel* - Loveliest of trees;
- Slow Spring;
Rubbra - It was a lover and his lass;
Ireland*- Summer Sketches;
Dring - A Bay in Anglesey;
Richard Rodney Bennett - The Lark;
Peel* - In summertime on Bredon;
Bernard Steele - Weathers;
Porteous* - The Late Autumn;
Storace - The Curfew;
Finzi* - The Sigh;
Pinto - An Invocation to Nature;
Britten* - At Dayclose in November;
Foss* - Winter Chant;
Armstrong Gibbs - A Song of Shadows;
Fiske* - When daisies pied

*sung by Gordon Pullin

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