Thursday 23 September 2021

The Art of British Song

Nathan Williamson & James Gilchrist
Nathan Williamson & James Gilchrist
Tenor James Gilchrist and pianist Nathan Williamson are in the middle of a three-volume project on SOMM Records, One Hundred Years of British Song, exploring the diverse wealth of British song (see my review of volume 2). This has now led to the creation of a larger project, The Art of British Song (TABS), artistic director Nathan Williamson, which aims to encourage the celebration of British song through creating education projects, commissioning recordings and developing collaborations with composers and poets. The intention is that The Art of British Song be dissociated from any specific artist, place, venue or event and the idea of British song can encompass any specific musical style or practice

Last night (22 September 2021) there was a launch event for the project which included a recital from James Gilchrist and Nathan Williamson, who performed songs from the first and third of their discs for SOMM. So we began with Gustav Holst, two songs which were completely unknown to me, A Vigil of Pentecost and The Floral Bandit, followed by Gurney's Down by the Salley Gardens and Sleep, Rebecca Clarke's June Twilight (another fine song I had not heard before) and The Seal Man, and Frank Bridge's wonderful Humbert Wolfe setting Journey's End.

We then moved to more recent composers, with songs from the third disc which is due for release next year. First off Peter Dickinson in quite serious mode with Look, stranger and What's in your mind, then John Woolrich's terrific cycle, from 1998, The Unlit Suburbs setting three short, almost aphoristic poems by Matthew Sweeney, and finally two of Madeleine Dring's John Betjeman settings, Upper Lambourne and The Song of a Nightclub Proprietress, this latter perhaps one of my favourite songs ever.

Future projects include plans to record previously unpublished songs of Gustav Holst, in association with the Holst Society, and to record the complete songs of Thomas Pitfield (1903-1999), in conjunction with the Pitfield Trust. There are also plans for a study day at the University of Surrey

The evening also saw the launch of a supporters group, The TABS Collective.

Full details from The Art of British Song website and Nathan Williamson's website.

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