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.

“The Great War” was recorded in October 1993 and November 2004 to commemorate the centenary of the birth of Wilfred Owen, but it includes only one setting of Owen’s important war poetry. It contains works by major composers (Ivor Gurney, Geraint Lewis, and John Ireland) and the seven finalists in the EPSS competition of 2004 (Geoffrey Kimpton, Wegener, John R. Williamson (2), Duncan Reid, Dennis Wickens, and Elaine Hugh-Jones). The program begins and ends with audience sing-along.

The recorded sound is mediocre and hollow, especially in the four Ireland songs recorded earliest.

The performers are all better than satisfactory. Jeremy Huw Williams is a more subtle singer with effectively nuanced phrasing. He is accompanied steadily by Nigel Foster in some challenging songs.

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