American Record Guide

Jim Pattison began Dunelm Records in the early 1990s, traveling with portable equipment to record concert performances in the UK. Though his results are not up to current audio standards, they include otherwise unrecorded songs from well known and little known British composers.

Divine Art (Diversions) has reissued four recordings made by Pattison for the English Poetry and Songs Society (EPSS). Though the recording technology is primitive by today standards, the sound is clear and allows a chance to hear a fine array of 20th Century English songs.

“Shropshire Lads’ was recorded in concert at the Art Gallery of the Holburne Museum in Bath, England on June 2, 2006 to mark the 110th anniversary of the publication of AE Housman’s Shropshire Lad. The program includes settings of Housman poems by Benjamin Burrows, Arnold Bax, EJ Moeran, and Arthur Somervell. Some of these songs are available on other recordings. What you probably won’t find anywhere else are the setting by the five finalists in the 2006 EPSS competition: Brian Daubney, Margaret Wegener, Clive Pollard, Calvin Bowman, and Stephen Duro.

The performers are all better than satisfactory. Stephen Foulkes has been a Somerset treasure for many years as a lay-clerk at Bristol Cathedral and a vicar-choral at Wells Cathedral. He has a firm and steady voice and sings with exemplary diction. He sings forcefully most of the time—sometimes more forcefully than necessary. Sometimes it sounds like singing to the back wall of a large auditorium but this was recorded in a much smaller space. Mostly it’s full steam ahead. A little more tenderness and attention to the nuances of text would be welcome.

David Bednall is another Somerset treasure. A former sub-organist at Wells, he is now one of England’s finest composers.

Despite its technical limitations, this series will appeal to lovers of 20th Century English song, particularly if they are interested in worthy songs that have fallen by the wayside and are unlikely to be available elsewhere.

Notes, texts, translations.

—Robert A Moore