> Barrack Room Ballads of Rudyard Kipling [RB]: Classical CD Reviews- Nov 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Barrack Room Ballads of Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)
Gerard F COBB

To T.A; Gunga Din; Ford o'Kabul River; The Young British Soldier; Lichtenberg; Fuzzy Wuzzy; Belts; 'Oonts; Snarleyow

Boots; Route Marchin'; Cells;

Troopin'; The Widow's Party; Bill 'Awkins

The Widow at Windsor

Maurice BELL

Follow me 'ome


Danny Deever


On the Road to Mandalay




Soldier, Soldier

Michael Halliwell (bar)
David Miller (piano)
rec Nov 2000, Sydney Opera House Concert Hall, Australia. DDD
ARTWORKS AW028 [76.00]

These concert songs would now be regarded by many as belonging to another era. They set a poet almost as desperately unfashionable as Robert W Service. Kipling, of course, is much more than the Barrack Room Ballads but he will long be seen as the poet of the British Empire. What makes the words of the ballads memorable is that they are written from the perspective of the foot-soldier rather than the sun-blessed officer class.

Michael Halliwell is South African and was brought up on 78s by Peter Dawson. This accounts surely for his vivid and full-blooded characterisation of the songs. This he couples with a voice of outstanding quality comparable with Stephen Savidge's glorious tone. He strikes a neat balance between lyrical rounding and the gruff qualities of a stentor. David Miller partners with both sensitivity and flair and the recording balance between the two is pleasant and equitable. I rather wish the two of them would record a generous selection of the neglected baritone repertoire of British song including C.W. Orr's eccentrically neglected Housman settings with a sprinkling of Warlock, Foulds and Gurney.

The settings here are by nine composers with the largest number of songs given over to Gerard Cobb. Most of these belong to the 1890s and 1900s with a few from later; the McCalls are from 1930. While a song like Cobb's imaginative To T.A. has a quiet intimacy many of these call for and are given the sturdy, stentorian treatment as in the case of Boots. Cobb's songs are very much in this vein with Gunga Din rough-hewn and convincingly acted while Ford o' Kabul River is more mournful; hymn-like with a touch of Schumann. Some songs such as Ward-Higgs' Troopin' and McCall's Route Marchin' have a jaunty Ruritanian music hall character. Others are chancily ironic such as the almost disrespectful The Widow at Windsor in which the Queen is referred to as 'Vicky'. The Maurice Bell song is much more serious - wistful and subtle.

The words are printed in full although the font may be a little small for some eyes. Andrew McKeich's Australian company, Artworks, offer the full texts at their website (url below). The appearance of the disc and booklet is of very high standard. The admirable notes are by Michael Halliwell. My only gripe is that they say hardly anything about the composers nor are birth and death years given.

Rob Barnett

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