5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Folky English Christmas,
This review is from: An English Folk Christmas (Audio CD)
Other reviews have outlined the range of carols on this CD.
In particular it is hard to listen to a non-traditional carol such as "Silent Night" -- which was, relatively speaking, written so recently, and, according to the story of its origin, written for a church with a broken organ (hence a guitar accompaniment) -- and accept it as folkified, unless we imagine a country village band of late-19th century village carol singers who have added a "new" number to their otherwise traditional repertoire.
But at other times, carols that have become well-known as "pure" church-chorister performances, with classical organ accompaniments and choral descant parts (such as "Tomorrow shall be my dancing day", or "The seven joys of Mary") that are actually known to have traditional origins (and were transcribed by folk-song collectors around 1900, and later adapted and arranged by choral specialists such as Vaughan Williams, or David Willcocks), can be listened to as they MIGHT have been originally and traditionally performed!
Unfortunately, perhaps, all the voices are male. As other reviewers have noted, the album would be better if there were more variety of arrangement or singers.
Remarkably, most of the vocalists sound, to my Australian ear, as though they are singing with an Australian accent.
But none of them are Australian.
I can understand there may be an accidental link between English-rural accents of the 18th or 19th centuries, and the eventual Australian-colonial accent that survives in Australia. But I am unable to find any explanation of the chosen singing-accent here, or elsewhere. How do folk singers choose or develop their singing-accents?
The sleeve notes are very brief (!) and less than informative.
What, for example, is a melodien?
Where are the songs from? When from?
Who made the arrangements, and on what basis?
By contrast, the notes for a similar CD, "Glad Tidings: a West Gallery Christmas" by the Mellstock Band, has clear detailed notes explaining some of the origins of each carol, and the performers and instruments.
In particular, the notes on this other CD explain the "west gallery" style, as the blend of village singing and musical instruments used in country churches that had no organ or formal choir -- as described in novels by Thomas Hardy. This other CD also explains the style of pub carolling that survives in parts of South Yorkshire and Derbyshire as a living link with west gallery music.
For my taste, on oth CDs, this is better than American pop schmaltz, and easy to listen to.
But perhaps I have heard too much standard church repertoire with classic-BBC accents, and organs, and choral descants, to feel really comfortable -- until I pretend I am Ratty and Moley, in "Wind in the Willows" listening to the village carol singers, or I am hearing the wassail singers from a Thomas Hardy novel.
If I imagine the rural context, and push aside my standard church expectations, this "English Folk Christmas" (and "Glad Tidings: A West Gallery Christmas") is exactly, and very convincingly, just what it claims to be.
Why expect FOUR very capable folk singers to offer a lot of variety?
Am I right that Jon Boden's name is mis-spelled on the CD liner as "Bowden"?
Ian Giles and Giles Lewin perform on both CDs!
John Gough - Melbourne, Australia - email@example.com