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John R Williamson - Songs

Mark Rowlinson – baritone David Jones - piano

Dunelm Records – DRD 0265 2006 66 minutes

She walks in beauty;   When we two parted (Byron)
She is not fair (Coleridge)
The lads in their hundreds;   ‘Tis five years since;   Oh, is it the jar of nations;   On your midnight pallet lying;   Hughley steeple;   I lay me down and slumber;   Sinner's rue;   Parta Quies;   He looked at me with eyes;   Others, I am not the first;   Farewell to barn and stack;   When the lad for longing sighs;   I hoed and trenched;   Oh were he and I together;   The new mistress;   Oh, how thick the gold;   Easter hymn;   Revolution;   In valleys of springs of rivers;   March (Housman)
Before the Battle ;   I stood with the dead (Sassoon)

This anthology entitled “Lads of love and sorrow” is filled with pleasing, tranquil settings in the respected tradition of English song.   They are intelligently grouped by subject: love, war sorrow etc, leading the listener through a range of emotions.

J R Williamson is clearly drawn to the perpetual melancholy of A E Housman's style, and has chosen a number of his less familiar poems.    I particularly enjoyed Oh, is it the jar of nations with its persistent menacing drum beat in the piano part, and the fast moving The new mistress well spiced with irony.  

The group of songs in the section headed “Love”, drawing on the works of Byron and Coleridge are early works, but She walks with beauty already displays a clear appreciation of the marriage of words and music that makes a song more than the sum of these two elements.

The programme ends with two settings of two poems by Siegfried Sassoon, which are very fine indeed, with the reality of war laid open before us with stark truthfulness in I stood with the dead. Baritone Mark Rowlinson seems to lack the flexibility that some of these songs demand, but gives a generally good, if not very expressive account of them. The accompaniments are varied and skilful, and are played most sympathetically by David Jones.   Overall, an interesting and worthwhile recording, well presented with full texts and notes.

Serena Fenwick