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John JEFFREYS (b. 1955)
The Far Country: 26 English Songs
Awake thee my Bessy; The Song of love; Under the leaves green; She is all so slight; Brown is my Love; Three Roses; Passing By; Horror follows Horror; Severn Meadows; From Omiecourt; The Falcon; I am the Gilly of Christ; Drop,drop slow tears; O my dere hert; Corpus Christi; Full Fathom Five; When that I was; O mistress mine; Black Stitchel; The Far Country; All night under the moon; The Salley Gardens; Little Trotty Wagtail; The Whin; She is ever for the new; Jillian of Berry.
James Gilchrist (tenor)
Anna Tilbrook (piano)
rec. 2005, Magdalen College Oxford.
DIVINE ART DDA25049 [69:28]

 


“What felicity it is to hear a tune again which has made me happy.”

(Jane Austen ‘Emma’)

It is, of course, fashionable at present to quote Jane Austen – but it is appropriate here; music was ‘an innocent diversion’ in her life and writings. Among her music books at Chawton names like Stephen Storace, Charles Dibdin, Arne, Shield, Linley and other songsters appear. It is not inconceivable that, had Jane inhabited a 20th century drawing room, the name of John Jeffreys would feature amongst the music. His is a gentle voice – reflective – flowing as serenely as the Severn on the covering booklet - although the occasional song in this collection might disturb the waters as does the bore.

This is the fifth disc of Jeffreys’ songs – most of which were resurrected from oblivion in the 1960s before which he destroyed almost all his work. And on this collection there are eight given a first performance. Jeffreys’ music like that of Warlock bridges the Elizabethan and the early 20th Century – setting such 17th century lyrics as ‘Passing By’ and ‘Jillian of Berry’ as well as Shakespeare, Gurney, Wilfrid Wilson Gibson and other ‘Georgians’ yet retaining a uniquely individual voice. So acute is his sensitivity to the poems, that he has set several twice, thrice and even four times.

This is music for a quiet evening – in contemplation of some of the less complex emotions aroused by things fine and beautiful – all beautifully sung by James Gilchrist with Anna Tilbrook accompanying.

Colin Scott-Sutherland

 


 


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