Traditional melodies including The Bold Grenadier, Once I Had a Sweetheart, Blow the Wind Southerly, Suo Gan, The Raggle Taggle Gypsies, My Love Is Like a Red Red Rose, A North Country Lass, Dance to Your Daddy, Over the Hills and Far Away, and On Ilkley Moor Baht’ At
Lesley Garrett (soprano)
Troy Donockley (Northumbrian pipes), Terl Bryant (bodhran & washboard), Bradley Creswick (folk fiddle), Robert Jordan (bagpipes), Mikael Horsak (cimbalom), Martin Cech (bamboo flutes & recorders), Gareth Williams (cimbalom, koto, santur & shamisen), Petr Dreser (accordion) & David Miller (lute)
Crouch End Festival Chorus
The Black Dyke Band
The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra
Recorded at Smecky Music Studios, Prague; Angel Studios, Islington, London; Morley Town Hall, Leeds [dates not supplied]
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Versatility could be Lesley Garrett’s middle name. Apart from her appearances with English National Opera, Welsh National Opera, Glyndebourne and Opera North, where she has sung in a wide range of operas by Puccini, Strauss, Mozart, Rossini, Gilbert & Sullivan and Kurt Weill, the soprano has diversified into such as The Sound of Music and Carousel, had her own television series and appeared in innumerable concerts around the world. On her fourteen album recordings she has taken on all sorts of things, and now folk music. With her no-nonsense approach and winning personality she has achieved a broad appeal.
For A North Country Lass Garrett returns to her north-country, folk-music roots, with a collection of British and Irish songs, using not only some authentic instrumentation but also giving the material a contemporary sound. Using over a dozen different arrangers, the results cross a wide spectrum of styles, but without betraying the songs’ origins, about the longing for love, the finding of love, the expectations of love, the losing and regaining of love and the love of a mother for her child. In ‘A North Country Lass’, the girl is in London pining for her family, but looks forward to marrying a lad who will carry her back to her true home. Often there is a sting in the tail (or tale), such as in ‘The Bold Grenadier’. He is discovered “makin’ of hay” with a fair maid. When asked if he will wed, his reply is “O no, my sweet lady that can never be”, the reason being he is already married and to the Army as well.
In ‘All around my hat’ the singer bemoans that she has lost her true love although she doesn’t appear too worried as “he’s a false, deluded young man”, so she’s happy to “let him go, farewell he”. ‘Once I had a sweetheart’ sings another girl but “now I have none” for he’s gone and left her “in sorrow to mourn”. She dreams that she saw him “in sweet slumber”. The tears she sheds for her lost love will carry her on a watery main as she seeks him out again. In ‘Blow the wind southerly’ the lovelorn female is hoping that the wind will blow her true love safely back again. ‘He moved through the fair’ tells of a young man who promises to marry. “It will not be long love ‘til our wedding day” but he disappears, leaving his love to believe that he has returned, but it is only in her dream.
‘Suo Gan’ is a Welsh lullaby, a mother comforting her baby with promises of love and protection. ‘The Collier Lad’ tells of a girl who falls for the young man of the title much against the wishes of her mother who tries to tempt her instead with gold and silver and silks and satins, but the girl refuses to give in, particularly when he comes a-kissing her. Just for a change in ‘The Raggle Taggle Gypsies’ it is a young, recently married man seeking his lady who has gone off with the gypsies. She doesn’t care for his house or his land, his treasure or his goose-feathered bed, for she would rather “sleep in a cold open field / Along with the raggle taggle gypsies O”. There’s also no doubt about the protestations of love in Robert Burns’s song ‘My love is like a red red rose’ because the singer espouses that “I will love thee still my dear / Till all the seas gang dry.”
The remainder of the songs do not necessarily fit the love-pattern but are equally as charming. ‘Over the Hills and Far Away’ has lyrics by playwright George Farquhar for his play The Recruiting Officer, sung to a traditional melody. ‘Pastime with Good Company’ is by Henry VIII, urging everybody to enjoy themselves and each other. John Dowland’s ‘Fine Knacks for Ladies’ tells us not to judge a tinker by his trashy wares, for deep-down he may have a heart of gold. ‘The Cuckoo’ is a sweet piece extolling the bird for being open and honest and somewhat better than an inconstant lover. ‘Dance to Your Daddy’ has the advantage of a newly composed middle section, while ‘On Ilkley Moor Baht’ at’ allows Garrett to pull out all the stops in a fine arrangement by Paul Bateman, complete with a translation of the Yorkshire argot, with Black Dyke Band and Crouch End Festival Chorus adding enormous weight.
Lesley Garrett has a superb voice that soars up and in and around these songs, giving them an added beauty. Some of them may be trifles but Garrett imbues them with a passionate sense of meaning that is both attractive and very moving. It is brave of Garrett to take a piece such as ‘Blow the Wind Southerly’ which is so indelibly associated with Kathleen Ferrier. Garrett’s version is equally moving in a different way, enhanced by Paul Hart’s subtly sympathetic arrangement. If there is love, tragedy and emotion in these songs, there is also good fun at play too. On ‘The Collier Lad’ Garrett evokes the voice and manner of Gracie Fields. With an assortment of authentic instruments – accordion, bodhran, washboard, recorders, harp, bamboo flute, koto, santur, shamisen, lute, bagpipes and cimbalom – it is doubtful whether most of these songs have ever been better sung, arranged, presented and recorded than they are here.