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CD: Crotchet

Blow The Wind Southerly -  Songs of Life and Longing from the north east  of England
Bobby Shaftoe – Trad. [1:30]
The Cliffs of Old Tynemouth  - Trad. Irish. Words by Dr. Leitch (1838-1881) [3:28]
Sweet Hesleyside  -  Trad.  Instrumental [1:42]
Buy Broom Buzzems – Trad. [1:15]
The Keel Row – Trad [1.42]
The Underhand -  James Hill (1811- 1853) Instrumental [1:00]
The Rose of The Tyne (Variations on The Keel Row)  Brinley Richards (1817 -1885) Piano Solo [5:57]
Bonny at Mom – Trad. [3:48]
The Cullercoats Fish Lass – Words by Ned Corvan (1829 – 1865) to the tune ‘Lillie’s a Lady’ [1:43]
The Water of Tyne – Trad. [2:48]
The Oak and the Ash – Trad. [2:49]
Derwentwater’s Farewell -  Trad. Instrumental [0:59]
The Cottager’s Lullaby – Charles John Vincent (1854-1934) [3:28]
The Steamboat – James Hill (1811- 1853) [1:01]
The Grace Darling Song – Anon [3.48]
Dance ti thy Daddy – Trad. [3.48]
The Gallowgate Lad  - Words by Joe Wilson (no dates) to the tune ‘Sally Grey’ [3:08]
‘Til the tide Comes in, Go to the Kye wi’ me  -  arr. Robert Topliff (1793 – 1868)  Instrumental [6:36]
Blow The Wind Southerly – Trad. [2:48]
My Bonny Lad – Trad. [1:47]
Concert Royal: Margarette Ashton (soprano) Peter Harrison (flute) Rachel Gray (cello) and John Treherne (piano)
rec. Whickham Parish Church, September 2006; Evesham Avenue, Whitley Bay, September 2008. DDD  
Experience Classicsonline

This is a somewhat unusual disc because Blow the Wind Southerly is the name of an educational project devised by the early music performers Concert Royal and supported by the UK Heritage Lottery Fund.  The project  aims to revive, record and promote the heritage of vocal music from the north east of England to local schoolchildren and is delivered on late 18th and early 19th century period instruments. The musical elements in the programme can also be  presented as a  genteel Victorian parlour pastime at which friends might perform familiar music for their own pleasure and entertainment. To  help the children become  aware of their cultural roots, a  programme of  ninety schools' workshops began in October 2008 and will involve more than 3000 children over a 3-year period. The children participate in workshops and collaborative presentations, learning about their heritage through music and dance. Although the focus is on song, materials and workshops will place the music firmly in its social and historical context. Teaching materials and workshops have been developed to enable children and teachers to celebrate and enjoy their musical and cultural heritage through practical activities.

The instruments used by Concert Royal are authentic. According to the excellent liner notes, the flute by Cahusac is a typical late eighteenth century instrument with 6 finger holes and a single silver key. It is turned from boxwood and has a natural pitch is A430, lowered by a corp de rechange to A415 to match the piano. Thomas Cahusac, who died in 1798, was apparently a music seller, publisher and musical instrument maker who traded from Two Flutes and Violin opposite St. Clement's Church in the Strand for many years.

The English 'cello dates from around 1790 and was probably made by one ‘Lockey’ Hill. Like many other 18th century instruments it was ‘modernised’ during the following two centuries to make a bigger, more penetrating sound for larger venues and to cope with the increasingly virtuosic ‘cello repertoire. More recently, it was converted back by lightening the internal construction and reducing the tension of the gut strings, allowing the instruments natural resonances to be drawn out with a modern copy of a period bow by Roger Doe.

The square piano used for the recording is by Broadwood and dates from the early 1840s. With a compass of over six octaves and a single sustaining pedal,  its light but sonorous tone makes it  ideal for accompanying the voice, flute and 'cello and also for performing the light textured solos beloved by the Victorians.

All of the music on the disc  has been carefully researched. The performing scores are all based on reliable sources including 'A Selection of the most popular Melodies of the Tyne and the Wear' collected by Robert Topliff around 1815, Bruce & Stokoe's 'Northumbrian Minstrelsy' (1882) and C. Ernest Catcheside-Warrington's extensive collection of Tyneside songs first published in 1911.

As music chosen for the project’s purposes or as a concert programme in suitable locations – Concert Royal often perform in National Trust properties for example - the selection deliberately  concentrates on lyrical and romantic pieces, and is wholly appropriate for its purposes. Margarette Ashton also chooses to  sing with only a slight north-eastern accent, an important presentational point  in this context because the authentic ‘Geordie’ dialect which features in most of the songs is essentially incomprehensible to people not brought up with it – which is sadly now the case even with north eastern children as recent local academic researches have shown.

The selection is full of fine and indeed memorable melody.  In addition to the eponymous ‘ Blow the wind southerly’ brought to vast audiences by Kathleen Ferrier’s unforgettable recordings, some lesser known gems are the lullaby ‘Bonny at Morn’ (Track 8) , the peddler’s song ‘Buy Broom Buzzems (Besoms) at Track 4 and ‘Maa Bonny Lad’ (Track 20)  but there are many others.

Margarette Ashton sings tunefully with a clear soprano voice, light on vibrato but with a very nice lilt to it and her instrumentalist colleagues provide elegant support for her as well as  some engaging solo  piano and instrumental interludes. My only slight question about this disc is about how much it will satisfy as a stand-alone programme for people not familiar with Concert Royal’s live performances. There is another side to north – eastern music of this period, a raft of music hall and comic song, which force majeur has had to be excluded..

Full details of the ‘Blow the wind southerly’ project are available at their website.  

Bill Kenny 


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