The Celtic Songbook

ABC Classics 481 1981

Music of the Celts has always had a huge following, and this disc of 18 songs will find a large audience. Timeless melodies from Ireland, Scotland and Wales are performed by some of the leading musicians in Australia currently.

The Celtic SongbookSingers David Hobson, Teddy Tahu Rhodes, Sarah Calderwood, Annalisa Kerrigan, Paul McMahon, Timothy Reynolds, Nollaig Casey, and Craig Newman, are accompanied by orchestras (Tasmanian Symphony, Australian Brandenburg, Melbourne Symphony and Sinfonia Australis), chamber or folk groups (Sunas, Carisma), as well as choirs (Cantillation, Brandenburg Choir, Choir of Trinity College – University of Melbourne).

There is a plethora of instrumentalists recorded here from Genevieve Lacey (recorder), James Crabb (classical accordion), Genevieve Lang & Mary Dourmany (harps), Paul Jarman, Lynnelle Moran (tin whistles), to Chris Duncan (fiddle), who all help in giving the arrangements an authenticity.

Those interested in Celtic music, or folk music in general, will love the selections: The Mountains of Mourne, Wild Mountain Thyme, As He Moved Through the Fair, Suo Gan, Do You Love an Apple?, Loch Lomond, My Lagan Love, The Cliffs of Dooneen, Bovaglie’s Plaid, The Last Rose of Summer, Danny Boy, All Through the Night and Fhir an Bhata.

The vocal and instrumental artistry shines through in every track. There is a genuine affinity that comes across with each performance. This is one of the best collections of Celtic music on offer. It does fall into that category of relaxation and evocative music, with its abundance of melancholic and sometimes haunting ballads, slow instrumental passages, and lack of energetic gigs. But, it is reflective music, which is so perfect for the soul.

From Broadway to La Scala

Greta Bradman, David Hobson, Lisa McCune, Teddy Tahu Rhodes
ABC 482 3700

Audiences applaud such compilations when four well-known (“popular”) singers are brought together, and a national tour is mounted, making the release of a disc of arias, duets and ensembles, an assured top-seller.

From Broadway to La ScalaMusical theatre selections are from The Sound of Music, The Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, West Side Story, South Pacific, Oklahoma and Carousel. From opera, we hear excerpts from The Barber of Seville, The Pearl Fishers, Carmen, and The Elixir of Love.

Best by far is the aria Largo Al Factotum, from The Barber of Seville with the splendidly grand and rich voice of Teddy Tahu Rhodes. As well, his Toreador’s Song from Carmen is another expose of fine vocal artistry.

He joins the lighter tenor voice of David Hobson in the wondrous Act 1 duet Au Fond Du Temple Saint, from The Pearl Fishers, in which the vocal ensemble is very satisfying.

Rossini’s Una Voce Poco Fa displays the widely acclaimed new voice on the operatic stage, Greta Bradman with all her richness in the low register and an ease and lightness in the upper realms. It is easy to see why Maestro Richard Bonynge, who in this recording conducts the English Chamber Orchestra, is championing Ms Bradman.

Lisa McCune gives so much joy in My Favourite Things from The Sound of Music. It is a sheer delight, as is her solo from Oklahoma, Oh What a Beautiful Morning.

The finest ensemble piece is You’ll Never Walk Alone from Carousel, even with these unequal voices at times. Individually, these voices have their own uniqueness and capacity to enthrall listeners, and I have no doubt that in concert or stage production, their performances would be enticing.

The harmonic setting of the duet, The Music of the Night, was somewhat odd, making one question why it was added at all. This is by far not the greatest rendition of this well-known song from musical theatre.

A similar curiosity arose with the opening track Hallelujah, an unusual take on this classic pop song by Leonard Cohen. Its first two verses were strangely conceived, but it settled and built effectively in McCune’s verse, and whilst Rhodes’s verse was good in itself, it was poorly mixed with the other voices. How does Cohen’s Hallelujah fit the Broadway to La Scala theme? A: Only with a stretch of the imagination.

Similarly, the inclusion of Nella Fantasia (a version of Gabriel’s Oboe with words) from the film, The Mission, seems again at odds, however, David Hobson’s solo here is perhaps his best, accompanied by the stunning voices of Cantillation.

A variety of orchestras (English Chamber Orchestra, Sinfonia Australis, but primarily the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra) gave this quartet of singers an authentic backdrop to enhance their performances further.