The repertoire on this disc can be considered to have been created almost by chance. After leaving Uppingham School, where he had begun composing, Moeran went to the Royal College of Music in 1913, at the age of almost 19. The following spring he travelled to St. Paul's Cathedral for the performance of a Bach Passion. On arrival, to his dismay, he found a packed Cathedral, and so he opted for the Queen's Hall for a concert of contemporary British music, where the works performed fired young Jack's imagination. His desire to discover more led him to sample further performances, one of which was Vaughan Williams' "Norfolk Rhapsody" based on the composer's own traditional song collecting. The music seemed to breathe the very spirit of the English countryside, and this not only inspired him to buy Cecil Sharp's "Folksongs from Somerset" the very next day, but also to set about making the acquaintance of the tradition itself. After meeting William Mayes, a senior choir member at his father's church in Bacton a few days later, he heard the latter sing "The Dark-eyed Sailor"; this folk melody becoming the first piece that Moeran collected as a boy.
This CD gathers together all the folksongs that Moeran wrote throughout his musical career, and although they number just 26, they encompass all the inimitable aspects of English country life, as well as other folkloristic traditions such as fishing and hunting. Indeed, this collection reflects all that has made England famous for its natural beauty and hardworking people.
All three soloists give heartwarming performances and their singing has that unique timbre which makes English music all so different from other continental styles. Pianist and chorus support sympathetically. This is another fine issue from the British Music Society, in first-rate sound and with superb documentation.
Copyright © 2011, Gerald Fenech.