Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

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Golden Slumbers: Folk and Traditional Melodies from the British Isles
Fiddler Man; The Girl I left behind; O waly, waly; The British Grenadiers; Golden Slumbers; Dashing away with the Smoothing Iron; It was a lover and his lass composed or arranged by John RUTTER (b.1944); Charm me asleep by Henry LESLIE (1822-1896); Waters of Elle by Robert Lucas de PEARSALL (1795-1856); Sweet Nightingale arranged by Goff RICHARDS; The Oak and the Ash arranged by Gordon LANGFORD; Loch Lomond arranged by David OVERTON; Londonderry Air arranged by Peter Knight; Migildi Magildi arranged by Grayston IVES; Irish Lullaby arranged by Keith ABBS
Hannover Harmonists
THOROFON CTH 2485 [38.38]

This is, apparently, the third disc from the Hannover Harmonists, I have not come across the others. They are however ‘By the Way’ (1992) and ‘Strefzug’ (1998). I’m afraid that we are supplied with no further details but the group does have a web site.

They are, I suppose, the German equivalent of the ‘King’s Singers’ or the ‘Scholars’ and consist of six voices, two counter-tenors, two tenors, a baritone and a bass. With this CD they even sing the kind of light-hearted part-songs which the King’s Singers made something of their own.

Germany does not have the same kind of choral/cathedral/college tradition as in England. These men have emerged according to the booklet notes (which take the form of an interview with the choir members) from "the renowned Hanover Boy’s Choir in which they had performed for twenty years. On leaving they formed this present group in 1988 and have worked together on a deliberately wide repertoire for almost fifteen years and have made a name for itself, not only nationally but internationally". This CD is there special present to us.

It seems odd that they should choose English folk song as the subject of this amazingly short CD. They have, in many ways modelled themselves on English singers and they not only tackle the music with affection but also dust down various pieces which are little known. The interview tells us that "Many British folk and traditional songs have a typical melancholic sound without imparting the feeling of sorrow and sadness" and that is what particularly appeals to the group.

Some are actually arranged for S.A.T.B so that the counter-tenors have to disappear into the ozone layer in some places as for example in John Rutter’s ‘Swingle-Singers’ inspired ‘It was a lover and his lass’. There are two Victorian part-songs (a pity that there aren’t more) of which the one by Leslie to words by Herrick is simple and quite delightful. The ‘Waters of Elle’ reminds me again what a fine composer Robert Lucas de Pearsall was.

Of course the problem of pronunciation is bound to emerge and cause a slight titter. ‘Loch Lomond’ makes no attempt, quite wisely, at a Scots accent but some words come out a little oddly. Nevertheless, and I speak as a singer, if English singers manage German text as well as the Hannover Harmonists manage English then we are doing well especially when things go at some considerable speed as in the frantic arrangement of ‘Dashing away with the Smoothing Iron’.

As for the arrangements themselves, several work beautifully and retain the character of the original. Examples can be found in Peter Knight’s ideal reworking of the ‘Londonderry Air’ and in the fun and frolics of ‘Migildi Magildi’ captured by singers and arranger, a one-time King’s singer himself, Grayston Ives. I find the Rutter arrangements far too sweet and cloying, and I was glad when his name no longer featured under the titles in the booklet.

I have to add a sour note however that surely this music needs more passion and dynamic contrast. All the indications are that the singers have spent hours considering pronunciation and tuning, speed, articulation, ensemble and timbre. However they have not discovered the real earthy nature of English folk music which quite a number of these arrangements retain as for example in ‘The British Grenadiers’ and ‘The Girl I left behind’.

It’s particularly good to know who the publishers are for each arrangement the information being given on the back of the booklet. I wish that more companies would do this. It’s also interesting that the final item, Keith Abbs’ delightful arrangement of an ‘Irish Lullaby’, is published by King’s Singers Music Ltd.

All texts are given in English and not translated whereas the interview is translated into German and French which is somewhat inconsistent or do our European colleagues not need translations?

Gary Higginson


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