'The completion of this record marks something of a watershed for me in a career not without incident and highlight. So why, you may ask, should a recording of what were once mostly popular songs be just as telling, if not more so, than the commitment to disc of the great works of Mozart, Wagner, Verdi, Berlioz and so many other heavyweight names? I can only say that nostalgia and sentiment are almost entirely responsible, plus a genuine love of the often simple but very beautiful melodies that lie within these songs. The majority of them did indeed enjoy popularity in their day, still do in some cases. Others never made their mark, and I feel should have done, but who can ponder the eternal riddle of why, with works of not dissimilar quality, some make it and others don't. There's no academia behind this recording, just my very simple need to recapture memories I have of amateur singers coming through our house in Seaham Harbour, to practice these songs and others with my father at a time when there seemed a need for reassurance, perhaps, following two world wars. Then, there was no embarrassment at the sentiment common to so many of them, as one might experience now. My father, I think, would have liked the record and I want it to be in his beloved memory ... Thomas Allen'.
Sir Thomas Allen makes the point in a note with Songs my Father Taught Me
, a delightful collection of 25 ballads that he rates it beside his many recordings of music heavyweights like Wagner and Verdi. There is no need to justify his enthusiasm, for it is clear from the outset that he treats the music with the sort of complete respect that has made him one of our most-loved singers. It is too easy to be dismissive of this repertoire, but when it is taken at its own value and sung and played with honesty, as here, the results are heart-warming. Allen recalls hearing the songs in the family home following the two world wars, "a time when there seemed a need for reassurance". Perhaps that time is with us again, and these performances really strike a chord. There are many old friends here, and perhaps some new discoveries. Who can resist the beautifully constructed "Love, Could I Only Tell Thee" or that old potboiler "The Lost Chord", especially when given with such warmth? A picture shows Allen and family in full vocal spate. Doing the honours at the piano is his father, to whose memory he dedicates the disc.--Keith Clarke