Ancient songs from a small island: Folksongs from Guernsey

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COMPOSERS: Ancient songs from a small island: Folksongs from Guernsey
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Les travailleurs de la mer
WORKS: find works
PERFORMER: Clara Sanabras, Paul Hillier, The Harp Consort, Andrew Lawrence King
CATALOGUE NO: HMU 907330
Andrew Lawrence-King may have been born on Guernsey, but not even the verve and professionalism of The Harp Consort can transcend the limitations of these folksongs, lavishly packaged for the 800th anniversary of the islands’ allegiance to the English Crown. The melodies are lacklustre, with accompaniment necessarily improvised. Storytelling tension built through strophic repetition collapses because the climax is generally banal. Sparseness of musical texture, stranded in an arid acoustic, heightens the monotony.

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A redeeming feature is the bracing delivery of the Consort, which responds to the lyrics’ naivety with cheeky antics, such as imitating the screeches of witches. Paul Hillier labours mightily to inhabit his characters, but the force with which he spits out his Guernsey dialogue betrays uneasiness with the language and a need to compensate for slim dramatic material. A native of Normandy, Clara Sanabras avoids working her text, but her scooping to add a folksy flavour palls. Small songs from an ancient island. Berta Joncus