Calen-O: Songs from the North of Ireland

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COMPOSERS: Trimble; Harty; Ferguson; Wood
LABELS: Delphian DCD
ALBUM TITLE: Calen-O: Songs from the North of Ireland
WORKS: Songs from the North of Ireland
PERFORMER: Carolyn Dobbin (mezzo-soprano); Iain Burnside (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 34187

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Northern Irish mezzo-soprano Carolyn Dobbin has set herself the task of collecting and performing art song from her homeland, and here – aided and abetted by one of the most enthusiastically knowledgeable of today’s accompanists – presents a first selection on disc. 

The result will provide a happy hour of listening for fans of British music from the late-Victorian era through to the mid-20th century. Almost all of it is likely to be new to listeners – 13 of the 23 tracks are apparently first recordings. 

The earliest composer is Charles Wood (1866-1926), best remembered for his church music, but here revealed as a fine song-writer in a style owing much to Brahms. Arguably the most significant figure is composer/ conductor Hamilton Harty (1879-1941), whose examples are technically skilled and wide-ranging; but the folk-song arrangements by Howard Ferguson (1908-99) – one of them giving the disc its title – are adept creations, while the three attractive items by Joan Trimble (1915-2000) leave one wanting more, especially in performances as good as these. 

With her rich palette of tone and colour, Dobbin knows how to communicate text and music while Iain Burnside’s accompaniments are beautifully managed. Both voice and piano are finely captured and well balanced. 

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George Hall