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.

“Songs of Dorset” was recorded in concert at the Holbourne Museum on March 10, 2002 to commemorate the bicentenary of Dorset poet William Barnes and presents settings of poems of Barnes and Thomas Hardy by Holst, Carey, Somervell, Finzi, and Vaughan Williams. Like “Shropshire Lads” it includes the five best songs from the 2001 EPSS competition by Daubney, Roger Lord (2), Alison Edgar, and Judith Bailey.

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. Colin Hunt, a Bath pianist, supplied fine accompaniment in the Dorset volume.

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

Notes, texts, translations.

—Robert A Moore