England in Song

A few weeks ago, on May 30, 2012, we posted a story The Milwaukee Symphony Goes British in a concert Victoria attended.  Here’s another musical blog (though without a note) about British song.

“There’ll Always Be an England” is the title of an article in Opera News magazine, a publication of the Metropolitan Opera Guild.  Hilary Finch, Music Critic of The Times of London writes about the enduring delights of British song. The article is here.

Janet Baker, acclaimed British mezzo
Ms. Finch asks, “So what is it about the English soul, as expressed in English song, that has such a powerful pull worldwide, and generation after generation?”  For her answers, I direct you to the article, which I guarantee you will enjoy.
Music is always synonymous with Britain to me, whether it be the folk songs or the country dances we learned in school, many of which were transferred across the Atlantic almost unchanged, or the modern classics of Benjamin Britten or Ralph Vaughan Williams.  Jane Austen lovers know the music well, from the copies of songs Jane herself wrote out, now to be seen at the Jane Austen Museum at Chawton Cottage…

…to the lively soundtracks of the many versions of her stories.  There are also many CDs of music from her time for the fortepiano and other instruments.

For a selection of Austen-related books on and CDs of  her music, try the JaneAusten Books website, here.

The Sunday New York Times Arts Section on July 8, 2012, carried an article (here) about the centennial of the birth of Kathleen Ferrier, an acclaimed contralto from Lancashire, who died in 1953 at the early age of 41, but left an enduring legacy in her recordings. There are several YouTube versions of Ferrier singing. She often sang English folk music as well as Bach, Handel, and Mahler.

Kathleen Ferrier  (1912-1953)

One amusing tidbit from the Hilary Finch article is her nod to the British penchant for nonsense verse.  I could not agree more.  The lines of Edward Lear (The Owl and the Pussycat) and Lewis Carroll (Alice’s Adventures) are every bit as deserving of a tune as the dialect-laden lines of Robert Burns or the elegant works of Shakespeare or Byron.

Piano on Display at Jane Austen House Museum
 (not hers, but very similar)
And dare I write of English music without mentioning everyone’s favorites, the Boys from Liverpool?  British pop music is famous worldwide.
And starting this month in London, another season of The Proms; their website is here.
So, sing out, everyone!

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