Come to the River - an Early American Gathering
Full contents listed at end of review
Apollo’s Fire (Sandra Simon, Abigail Haynes Lennox, Scott Mello, Paul Shipper (vocals), Tina Bergmann (hammered dulcimer), Rachel Jones (violin/fiddle), René Schiffer (cello), Gary Stewart (historical guitar and banjo), Kathie Stewart (wooden flutes and penny whistle), Jeannette Sorrell (harpsichord))
rec. June 2009 and June 2010, St Paul’s Episcopal Church, Cleveland Heights, Ohio.
full sung texts in booklet
AVIE AV2205 [65:56]
Jeannette Sorrell explains in the booklet that this disc is intended to provide “a kaleidoscope of the styles one might find on a journey through early 19th-century America”. Thus the first group ranges from traditional New England/Appalachian fiddle tunes, a Southern lullaby and a Kentucky spiritual to a song with Elizabethan words and Ravenscroft’s “Willie, prithee go to bed”. The other groups are as varied and one of the chief pleasures of the programme is that it rarely settles in succession to items from the same tradition. The scorings are similarly varied - it would have been good if the booklet had listed who is playing what in each - and above all there is a real feeling of the energy and variety of music in America at that time. Vocal and purely instrumental items are cunningly mixed to make this very much a programme to be listened to as a whole with pleasure. My only doubt is about the very long and dull version of “The Three Ravens”. This is well sung by Sandra Simon but does seem to last must longer than its actual eight and a half minutes.
Despite the references to period instruments and the careful listing of the origins of the various items I remain somewhat unclear as to whether Apollo’s Fire are seeking to recreate the performance practice of this music as it might have been played and sung in the early 19th century or whether they regard that as a starting point for a modern interpretation of the music. I suspect the latter, and certainly that seems to be the case for the final item, described as an Appalachian Barn Dance - Encore Version. In addition they explain that although “Wild Bill Jones” is a Traditional Appalachian/Kentucky ballad it is performed in the Bluegrass style of the 1940s. It is very convincing but does mean that their journey through early 19th century America has taken a very different turning at some point.
However once you accept the selection for what it is I am in no doubt that it is a very enjoyable disc which can be played as a whole - repeatedly - with great pleasure.
A very enjoyable disc which can be played as a whole - repeatedly - with great pleasure.
Appalachian Wagon Train -
Appalachian Barn Dance [2:23]
Nobody but the baby [2:00]
Hold on [2:28]
The fox went out on a chilly night [2:22]
Willie, prithee go to bed [2:20]
Ways of the world [2:58]
Love and Death -
The three ravens [8:33]
Lark in the morning medley [4:24]
Old Virginny [2:57]
The girl who broke my heart [2:24]
Wild Bill Jones [3:50]
Revival Meeting -
Wayfaring Stanger [3:49]
Glory in the meeting house [3:20]
Return again/Saviour visit thy plantation [3:02]
What wondrous love in this [4:29]
Dances from New England and Ireland [4:41]
Morning Trumpet/When shall I see Jesus [3:45]
Down in the river to pray [3:23]
Old Joe Clark [2:27]