This is a somewhat unusual disc because Blow the
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
and early 19th
century period instruments.
The musical elements in the programme can also be
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.
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.
English 'cello dates from around 1790 and was probably
made by one ‘Lockey’ Hill. Like many other 18th
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
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.
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
collected by Robert Topliff around 1815,
Bruce & Stokoe's 'Northumbrian Minstrelsy'
and C. Ernest Catcheside-Warrington's extensive collection
of Tyneside songs first published in 1911.
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
had to be excluded..
details of the ‘Blow the wind southerly’
are available at their website