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Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
responses, apologies. I hold posts to 300 words* having found less is better than more.
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Wednesday, 16 May 2012

The Bard embroidered

Do musical settings of Shakespeare risk gilding the lily  (or the gingerbread, if that's your preferred cliché)? In one instance at least it's the other way round; surely Finzi's tune for It Was A Lover And His Lass is dragged down by the words. The four verses contain one good line - How that life was but a flower - with the rest encumbered by hey-nonny and ding-a-ding.

Here's an unnamed, no-frills soprano doing her best after being parachuted into a GRAIN SILO. And what about that piano made exclusively from Heinz baked beans tins? They at least deserve A for effort; the sound recordist deserves the treatment accorded to Hamlet's father.

What YouTube takes away, it may also bestow in large measure, and Finzi's reputation gets an out-of-this-world propulsion with this magnificent, definitive version of Fear No More The Heat O' The Sun (Cymbeline) sung by peerless BRYN TERFEL accompanied by Malcolm Martineau. I tell you, boyo, Wales is just down the road from where I live and listening to this inclined me to rush over the border and embrace everyone individually. That voice is beef stroganoff, followed by Christmas pudding, followed by half a stone of bleu d'Auvergne. Rich? It could pay off Greece's debt.

Finally another singer who really deserves the over-used adjective "beloved", jazz-singer CLEO LAINE (pictured) who is eight years older than me. Like Janet Baker she got a damehood not least for the fact that she was Grammy-nominated in three categories: jazz, pop and classical. Here she is singing Our Revels Now Are Ended (The Tempest), arranged by someone or something called Cantabile, and which brings tears to my eyes.

So was the lily or the gingerbread gilded? I was only joking. Most of the time Shakespeare's lyrics can up a composer's game.


  1. I wonder about Shakepeare's lyrics and while respecting your (joking?)disapproval can't help liking the nonsense element. Hey-nonny, ding-a-ding and the lot. I remember having to defend Full fathom five thy Father lies...and other songs in The Tempest against accusations of nonsense from a fellow pupil. It seems to me that nearly always the songs have a dramatic role even when they seem to lack grip. What I would like to know is what they would have sounded like when performed in Shakepeare's times. I somehow suspect contemporary approximations.

    Cleo Laine's versions of the songs must be far from the original tunes but strike me as having a truth all of their own, which The Bard would have liked. Our Revels Now are Ended brings tears to my eyes with or without Cleo Laine.

  2. Plutarch: I fear I wasn't joking. In fact It Was a Lover... is not attached specifically to any one play as far as I can see and was intended to stand alone. Thus it can't be said to be propelling a plot. In this WS is his own worst enemy. When he can come up with such lines as bedeck Fear No More... or (my particular favourite) Youth's A Stuff Will Not Endure he opens himself to charges of fustian when he hey-nonnies.

    I recommend you Google the lyrics of It Was a Lover... There are four verses and the visual effect alone of all that nonsense is quite wearying.

  3. Glad to find you, via Box Elder...I too am a classical music lover and lifelong choir singer (high church Anglican, I'm afraid) so I'll be back. Appreciated your comments on Lucy's Basque posts, and smiled when you said you love the word "Roncesvalles."

  4. Beth: You'll be more than welcome and I promise to put a tight rein on the disbelieving part of my frontal lobes. In fact this blog (as opposed to my previous one Works Well) emphasises the continuing paradox of labelling myself an atheist while stacking my shelves with the Mass in B minor, Wachet Auf, Ein Fest' Burg, Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time, the German Requiem, the Missa Papae Marcelli, Elijah, etc, etc. Because it isn't just the notes that get to me but often the words as well.

    Further in the spirit of welcome let me admit to a juvenile temptation towards High Anglicanism (If it was good enough for Eliot...) which was only ditched when le Grand Seigneur took away my effortless treble voice and left me rasping. There's a sonnet about choir practice kicking about somewhere in TD which might provide you with a moment of gratitude to your Creator in that you didn't have to pass through the breaking-voice sadness.