Tredegar Town Band
Ian Porthouse conductor
Chapel Choir of the Royal Hospital Chelsea
ALBION RECORDS ALBCD053
Serenade is due for release on 12 October 2022, the 150th birthday of Ralph Vaughan Williams. Here are 19 tracks, some of them, though by no means all, from minor works, presented as new gifts for the composer’s birthday. Many are special arrangements, in particular those for organ.
Several of the many performers on the CD are already well known as distinguished promoters of the composer’s music. The pieces represent the many areas of his musical inspiration: choral and orchestral music, folksong and hymn tunes, even Christmas.
The title of the CD comes from the second item, an arrangement for organ solo by David Briggs of the Serenade to Music, originally for sixteen vocal soloists and orchestra, dedicated to and first conducted by Sir Henry Wood. While the organ arrangement misses out on the uniquely delicate and transparent sound of the original, created by solo violin and harp, it does capture to perfection (on the awesome Truro Cathedral organ) the undeniably spectacular nature of the work.
It is followed by three folksong arrangements sung by three uniquely fine proponents of English art song, all accompanied by William Vann. I was particularly dazzled by the bright freshness of She’s Like the Swallow sung by Mary Bevan.
The well-known hymn, For All the Saints was absolutely delightful, in particular the two unaccompanied harmonised choral verses and the final soprano descant.
It is followed by an improvisation played by David Briggs very like what the French call a Sortie.
Organist Charles Matthews plays the piano with Lynn Arnold in the four movements of Suite for Four Hands on One Pianoforte, and then Charles plays three organ arrangements including the Welsh hymn tune Aberystwyth.
Trumpet players from the Tredegar Brass Band punctuated the performances with what Vaughan Williams liked to call ‘Flourishes’ rather than fanfares, then the whole band plays Paul Hindmarsh’s arrangement of Two Herefordshire Carols.
The Chapel Choir of the Royal Hospital Chelsea conducted by William Vann conclude the concert with Dives and Lazarus and finally God be with you till we meet again.
Happy Birthday R. V. W.
Review by Alan Cooper