This disc was recorded back in 1992 to mark the 70th birthday of John Amis, singer, whistler, chronicler, raconteur, friend and associate of the great and the good, and much else besides.
His colleagues rallied round and a number can be heard in the disc, providing fingers and larynxes, and the whole 72 minute recital was recorded by the BBC Transcription Service, and released by Nimbus. It’s been in print ever since.
The main work is Poulenc’s Babar the Elephant, recited very charmingly by Amis, and featuring one of his chums, pianist Leslie Howard. But we also have a programmatic nicety in the shape of Alan Ridout’s Ferdinand, a clever piece written for speaker and violinist – here the excellent Levon Chilingirian. Amis puts on a ‘Western Mediterranean’ accent and Chilingirian plays, when required, with resinous drama. It’s a very enjoyable piece – and genuinely amusingly done. I prefer it to the Poulenc. It’s also a lot shorter.
Thwaites’s Gardener’s Song is a cute piece, whilst Malcolm Arnold’s contribution is rather Satie-like. Donald Swann’s Joseph Wonders possess real sly, lyrical charm, and his Tolkien setting has accustomed warmth – it’s funny too.
I’m sure, when the time comes, we’ll remember John Amis for all sorts of reasons, but meanwhile this disc shows us his love of music-making and friends, and his unstuffy, life-affirming spirit in all its many forms.
Jonathan Woolf , Musicweb-international.com