Various: Victorian and Edwardian sporting songs

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COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: Just Accord
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Play the Game
WORKS: Victorian and Edwardian sporting songs
PERFORMER: Ian Partridge (tenor), Peter Savidge (baritone), Jennifer Partridge (piano); The Song and Supper Club/Andrew Phillips
CATALOGUE NO: JUSCD 001 (distr. 01737 371631; info@justaccordmusic.fsnet.co.uk)
In the days when multi-million-pound transfers and Man United merchandise were unheard of and sport was just jolly good fun, people wrote sporting songs far more refined than ‘’Ere we go, ’Ere we go, ’Ere we go’. Seventeen of them, each about a different sport, are featured on this unusual and amusing disc. Cycling, mountaineering, billiards, rugger, rowing, boxing – the Victorians and Edwardians, with their new-found increased leisure time and prosperity, were at them all. Tireless research by the disc’s executive producer, Philip Machin, has resulted in a 32-page illustrated booklet with information on every sport, every composer and every lyricist that makes a fascinating social document. And the songs? Well, don’t expect great musical or poetic merit, and you won’t be disappointed. Most are strophic in form; and in some, such as ‘I won her heart at billiards’, the prospect of yet another verse becomes a little trying.

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But the performances are admirable. The Partridges and Savidge carefully shade their style according to the origins of each song – the more maudlin numbers such as ‘Won’t you come over and play croquet’ are afforded suitable portamento – while the upper-crust numbers like ‘Rugger Song’ are crisper and more direct. The men of The Song and Supper Club give slick and professional performances of the unaccompanied glees. Janet Banks