London Madrigal Singers

Bushes and Briars

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This recording represents the other side of -- and perfect complement to -- A.L. Lloyd's and Ewan MacColl's authentically rough-hewn folk song recordings. Lloyd collaborated on The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs with composer Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958), and this CD contains superb recordings of 16 of Vaughan Williams' finest arrangements of English folk songs for unaccompanied mixed choir. For many years during the '70s, this was also one of the best-selling folk collections in a classical idiom ever released. The singing by the unaccompanied choir is impeccable throughout, and often very spirited in spite of its dignified execution, as on "Ward, The Pirate" and "Ca' the Yowes" (which builds in intensity across five minutes). Other songs, such as "An Acre of Land" and "Early in the Spring," are delightfully exuberant, playful, and even lusty; and others, such as "The Unquiet Grave," are possessed of such subdued, sublime beauty that they defy easy explanation, including "The Unquiet Grave." Some of these songs will be familiar from their use in various movies (Far from the Madding Crowd, etc.) and the repertories of English folk-rock groups such as Steeleye Span. In addition to Ian Partridge, other soloists on this recording are Geoffrey Shaw, Christopher Keyte, and Susan Longfield. This mid-priced double disc also includes recordings by the London Baccholian Singers performing folk song arrangements by Gustav Holst, Sir Edward Elgar, Sir Arnold Bax, Peter Warlock, and Lord Benjamin Britten. Some of these are also very compelling, and very familiar as instrumentals used in numerous classical pieces, as well as the repertories of various folk groups, though they lack the sheer power of the Vaughan Williams arrangements.