Various: Hymns, Popular songs

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ALBUM TITLE: Collection: The Singer
WORKS: Hymns, Popular songs
PERFORMER: Lesley Garrett (soprano), etc
Once upon a time there was a gifted opera singer… But The Singer, Lesley Garrett tells us in the breathless essay that accompanies this disc, ‘is a different album’. Too true. Under the eye of a new musical guru Tolga Kashif (‘I was immediately struck by his unquestioning confidence in this miracle that is music’), Garrett has finally ‘crossed over’ from the opera. But to where?


Lennon and McCartney’s ‘Let it be’ and ‘Fields of Gold’ from Sting are mixed and mismatched with Vaughan Williams’s ‘The Sky above the Roof’ and ‘Love went A-Riding’ by Frank Bridge (‘From what ancient clay are these songs fashioned?’) with the two senior composers suitably improved for a new age by specially orchestrated arrangements. Silly old fuddy-duddies for not knowing about keyboards and multitracking. And anyway, what composer wouldn’t give his eye teeth for rebecs, psalteriums and uilleann and Northumbrian pipes?


Is it all sounding a bit arty? (Garrett: ‘I have no idea where music comes from.’) Worry not: you can always hum along with ‘Jerusalem’, just like Lesley’s angelic chorus does, or shed a tear for the transience of human life in ‘Abide with me’. (‘When I sing, all I know is that I’m a vessel, a conduit for something much, much greater than any of us know.’) First a distant echo of the Last Post and then the violins sob us into the soloist. And what do you know, when the choir takes up the third verse our Lesley sings a breathy descant. Truth to tell it might be ‘Jerusalem’, ‘Scarborough Fair’ or ‘Greensleeves’, because every track here is overproduced and musically misunderstood. (‘This album is about… the primitive longings that come from the inner earth and sustain one from one life to the next.’) First the concept album, next the musical? So whatever happened to the witty light soprano who once sang at the opera? Christopher Cook