Songs of Thomas Hardy's Wessex
"Excellent performances ... an essential reminder of the beauty of the lyrical ballad in the English tradition" Rock
Of all the great English novelists, Thomas Hardy was probably the most fond of music, especially the tunes he heard played by local people in his Dorset youth. Many of his books made many refrences to these traditional folk songs and tunes that he loved and knew. Under the Greenwood Tree, subtitled The Mellstock Quire, was first published in 1871, though the story is set a generation earlier. One of the novel’s recurring themes is the replacement of the Mellstock church band’s violins and singers in the gallery with an organist. From around 1801 Hardy’s father and grandfather played stringed instruments in the church band at Stinsford (called ‘Mellstock’ in the novels). Recorded in 1995, Songs of Thomas Hardy’s Wessex is a collection of popular English folk songs performed by The Mellstock Band, a unique ensemble that combines singing and music on authentic instruments with interesting arrangements. As well as performing popular themed costume shows, they play for dances, present workshops and provide rural sounds for all kinds of public and private events. Many of the songs on this entertaining CD are from the collector H.E.D Hammond, who collected traditional songs in Dorset in the early 20th century, frequently from from people of Hardy’s generation. Varied in style and texture, they include The Foggy Dew, The Spotted Cow, the jolly Barley Mow, the tragic Prentice Boy, haunting Break o’ the Day, the beautiful Sheepshearing Song, jaunty Tailor’s Breeches, The Downhills of Life, and The Banks of Allan Water.
John Pitt, new-classics.co.uk