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SIG 128
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SIG 128

Songs of Innocence

The Classical Shop
release date: July 2008

Originally recorded in 2008

Artists:

James Bowman

counter tenor

Andrew Plant

piano

Andrew Swait

treble

Venue:

Cheltenham College, Cheltenham



Producer:

Adrian Peacock



Engineer:

David Hinitt


Mike Hatch



Record Label
Signum

Genre:

Vocal & Song


Piano

Total Time - 61:31
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JOHN JACOB NILES

arr. Benjamin Britten
1 

I wonder as I wander

4:09
   
 

TRADITIONAL

Negro spiritual
2 

In the mornin'

2:11
   
 

BENJAMIN BRITTEN

3 

Diaphenia

1:56
4 

The Owl

1:27
5 

Witches' Song

0:43
6 

Chamber Music V

1:23
7 

The Rainbow

2:21
8 

The Oxen

2:43
   
 

TRADITIONAL

arr. Benjamin Britten
9 

Little Sir William

2:53
   
 

MICHAEL BERKELEY

10 

Cradle Song

1:41
   
 

PETER WARLOCK

11 

The bayly berith the bell away

2:32
   
 

WILLIAM BOYCE

arr. Elizabeth Poston
12 

Tell me, lovely shepherd

3:08
   
 

FLANDERS & SWANN

arr. Andrew Plant
13 

The Slow Train

3:48
   
 

TRADITIONAL

arr. Benjamin Britten
14 

Ca' the yowes

3:37
   
 

GEORGE FRIDERIC HANDEL

arr. Maurice Jacobson
15 

Silent worship

1:49
   
 

CHARLES WOOD

16 

Who is Silvia?

1:45
   
 

TRADITIONAL

arr. Andrew Plant
17 

Caleno custure me

2:10
   
 

RALPH VAUGHAN WILLIAMS

18 

Dirge for Fidele

3:34
   
 

ROGER QUILTER

19 

Summer Sunset

1:57
   
 

CHARLES IVES

20 

Slow March

1:37
   
 

CHARLES DIDBIN

realised by Benjamin Britten
21 

Tom Bowling

4:54
   
 

JOHN JEFFREYS

22 

Matthew, Mark, Luke and John

1:16
   
 

MALCOLM WILLIAMSON

23 

My bed is a boat

3:01
   
 

SAMUEL BARBER

24 

Sure on this shining night

2:27
   
 

MALCOLM WILLIAMSON

25 

Sweet and low

2:29


The initial impetus for Songs of Innocence came from Andrew Swait who was extremely keen to investigate repertoire rarely sung by a treble; indeed, several of the songs featured are world premiere recordings.

After rehearsals with Andrew Plant in the summer of 2007, Andrew Swait’s immense enthusiasm for Britten’s unpublished student works was soon evident and is as evident in this fresh recording a year on. A wonderful collaboration of English and American 20th century song.
A chorister of Cheltenham College and former chorister of the Abbey School Tewkesbury, Andrew Swait (b.1994) has already enjoyed an extremely successful solo career, performing as principal soloist on Light of the World (SIGCD068) in 2005 and appearing as a soloist with choirs around Britain and Europe.

"...There is a beauty about both the voices that almost deifies description. And, of course, Andrew Plant makes a sensitive accompanist.

Finally, there is nothing sentimental about this CD: this is not some choir-robed starlet singing popular tear-jerkers – this is well written and well presented music at its best. The bottom line is that the title well sums up the entire project – these are ‘Songs of innocence’."

John France

MusicWeb.co.uk - September 2008

"With a single important exception, the songs recorded here represent a charming cross-section of (comparatively) familiar, (mostly) sentimental and (mostly) English song. From Boyce and Handel, via Dibdin and various folk-songs, to Warlock, Quilter, Vaughn Williams and others, this is a road much travelled – and there is plenty of room for one more traveller, especially if he possesses the sweetly angelic voice of the treble Andrew Swait. This disc is largely a showcase for his beautiful modulated tones, impeccable diction and sheer musicality – not to mention what seems like an adventurous taste in repertoire, though no doubt there was assistance from outside sources, including the two collaborators of the disc, James Bowman and Andrew Plant.

There is room for a spiritual, and for a Flanders and Swann number (though nothing can approach the original: here, Slow Train lacks humour and even a bit of charm), and for some settings from America (Charles Ives burying the family dog) and Australia (two nice Williamson songs). Much of what we hear is reflective and even languorous, and I began to wish for something a little more dramatic from time to time. I think the only living composers represented are John Jeffreys, 80 last year, about whom I know embarrassingly little, and Michael Berkeley, represented by an early (1976) Christmas carol which he later arranged for choir.

There are eight pages of comprehensive, maybe even over-detailed notes by the pianist, as well as a page by Swait himself, in which he mentions his admiration for Bowman. The latter’s participation in the proceedings is in fact relatively limited. The recording was made in a warmly resonant room at Cheltenham College, and is first-rate in quality. The younger singer’s website at www.andrewswait.co.uk/ reveals that he is already a veteran.

Now to the exception mentioned at the outset. Grouped together near the start of the disc are six original songs by Britten (also included are several Britten arrangements). Two of them, duets, are published: The Oxen (1967), an absolutely mature and characteristically responsive setting of a profound Hardy poem, and The Rainbow (1932), a lovely and simple setting of word by Walter de la Mare, another favourite Britten poet. Preceding these four songs which appear to be unpublished and un-recorded, an which date from Britten’s schooldays. They may even be unperformed until now, which makes these recordings world premières. The pianist here is Exhibitions Curator at The Red House in Aldeburgh, and presumably with blessing of the Britten Estate has disinterred these early pieces for a singer not much younger then Britten was when he wrote them.

The earliest would seem to be Witches’ Song (1929) to the words by Ben Jonson; then from the same year come The Owl (Tennyson) and Diaphenia (Henry Constable). Lastly from 1930 there is Chamber Music (V). This sets the same poem, Goldenhair by James Joyce, that Britten’s teacher Frank Bridge had used some years earlier. All four have an affecting naïveté, all are neat and trim, none is particularly memorable or perhaps even significant. Swait turns the first two nicely, while Bowman sings the Jonson and Joyce settings, and inevitably his long association with the composer lends an extra dimension to one’s listening. It is good to have them available, from (in case of Andrew Swait) a singer of such evident talent and promise."

Piers Burton-Page
 

International Record Review - July/August 2008

"The voice of experience meets the youth in this album contrasting the voices of countertenor Bowman and the boy chorister Swait.

Swait’s voice is clear, bright, and tuned with innate precision, ringing with carefree but studious childhood. Appealingly, he focuses on the mechanics of his singing, maintaining a childish ignorance of the full tragedy of Britten’s Little Sir William. Bowman is the uncle, worldly and artistic, duetting with restraint and phrasing with a characteristic elegance and expressivity that Swait duly and sensibly mimics. The pianist Andrew Plant accompanies with sensitivity."    ***

Rick Jones

The Times - 12-18 July 2007



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