Cat No: MR0071
Oxford Liedertafel www.liedertafel.org
Paradise on Earth
Stephen Burrows (countertenor),
James Bowman (countertenor) and Dorothy Linell (lute)
Colin Dexter (reader)
Leading countertenor James Bowman accompanied by lutenist Dorothy Linell and popular detective fiction author Colin Dexter (creator of Inspector Morse) join the Oxford Liedertafel for their debut recording of some of their favourite songs, familiar to those who have attended their regular concerts in Oxford.
Click below to hear samples.
Paradise on Earth features mostly secular music from the “Golden Age” of English music alongside relatively neglected music from Georgian, Edwardian and Victorian England.
The programme has been arranged, loosely, as a sequence starting in the morning. Through this journey there are some colourful distractions including the love of two snails across the English Channel, propitious fortune smiling on a credit crunch, and an army recruitment song “England be glad” for the 1517 Battle of the Spurs in France. The other piece from the Court of King Henry VIII, “Adieu my heartes lust” is by William Cornysh, a composer, playwright, actor and pageant master (and on occasion, provider of guttering, paving and even sanitary conveniences).
Paradise (from the Persian word pairi-deaza meaning walled garden) appears both earthly (Pearsall) and heavenly with its ever-blooming joys (Campian). Alongside beauty, love and nature there is the strumming of al oud (the lute) which is one of the oldest musical instruments known to man.
Ralph Vaughan Williams (RVW) was the first great composer since Purcell to create a distinctive English sound. “Bushes and Briars” (1903) was sung to him by a 70 year old labourer at a vicar's tea party. This crucial moment inspired for the first time RVW's passion for British folksong that went on to pervade much of his music. This arrangement, like many of his other folksong arrangements, retains that spirit of simplicity inherent in the melody. His first huge popular success was “Linden Lea” (1901), an original song in the style of a folksong. Although RVW's teachers Parry and Stanford took more of a compositional lead from Germany, especially Brahms, Stanford sent his Royal College of Music pupils to hear “Palestrina for twopence”, which was the bus fare from Prince Consort Road to Westminster Cathedral, where a major revival of sacred music from the 16th century was proceeding. However, Horsley and Pearsall, with their Elizabethan pastiche, show us that early music, in particular English madrigals, was influencing composers a century before RVW.
As for the heartache, war and the Georgian credit crunch, Laurie Lee has the last word;
"Asking no more of the day than that I should be reminded of my body by some brief and passing pain; and perhaps be allowed one twinge of regret at the thought of the other world I'd lived in, a sense of loss without which no Paradise is perfect". (From the essay “Paradise”).