John Jeffreys (b. 1927) is not one of the most familiar 20th Century English song writers, but he deserves to be considered on a par with much better known composers. He writes in an early 20 th Century style and has a real gift for lyrical writing with long and graceful vocal lines. Most of his songs have gentle, lilting melodies; but others show a sharper edge and a more strident tonal language.
In October 2008, at age 70, Ian Partridge sang the last of 431 public recitals given with his sister Jennifer since devoting himself to full-time professional singing in 1963. This may be timed to mark that occasion. It was originally released in 1997 by Meridian. The Diversions website reports that “this new CD has been made from a completely different and superior master tape and has been digitally remastered to produce the best sound”. Under the name “Northumberland and Beyond” these 24 songs are ordered differently than in 1997, and the sound is improved. Jeffreys has a particular liking for the poetry of William Wilson Gibson, with its evocation of the landscapes and moods of the Borders region of England. The first six songs are settings from Gibson’s Whin , a kind of Northumbrian Shropshire Lad.
Partridge has one of the most instantly recognizable tenor voices of the 20th Century, limpid and sweet, with consummate control and impeccable diction. His sister is a distinguished accompanist and teacher. Together they present an engaging and rewarding program.
Six of these songs are also found on another excellent release by James Gilchrist (J/F 2008) on Divine Art (the parent company of Diversions). Both singers do an exceptional job with these fine songs. Good notes and texts.
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