Everyone knows Country Gardens (based on an English Morris dance) and probably Molly on the Shore , Shepherd’s Hey , Mock Morris and Handel in the Strand . Their popularity has tended to overshadow the rest of Grainger’s prolific and varied output and though he would never be put on a pedestal to join the pantheon of immortals, he is unorthodox, original and deserves better than to be dismissed by the more snooty arbiters of musical taste. There is a tendency to overlook real craftsmanship when it is put to (sometimes) frivolous use.
Considering they had recently been duped into thinking that a Martian landing was underway by an Orson Welles radio play, you wonder quite what Americans made of Leopold Stokowski’s alternative future for sound recording, as mapped out in his 1943 book Music for All of Us . “The first step is to make music [sound] exactly like the original,” he wrote. Nothing controversial there.
A new web-site has been set up by the singer’s son, Jonathan Crown, and edited by the music-critic Michael White. And there she is: Jennifer Vyvyan, dates, career, photographs, voice. It’s a rather attenuated version of the voice that comes from the computer screen, but it’s unmistakably hers. She’s there all right, and I, to whom this is still all something of a miracle, can report the wonder of it.
There’s something compelling about hidden places, and of all the recording venues in the UK, Potton Hall in Suffolk has to be one of the more difficult venues to find. As you head east and the countryside flattens out, the sky expands, its colours taking on a more dramatic hue – an apocalyptic pre-snowfall red and bronze on this particular February afternoon.
On the one hand, the growing practise of broadcasting choral services on the internet feels like a quantum leap – an unlikely marriage of technology and tradition. On the other, it can look like a return to basics, a short-circuiting of the 20th-century recording phenomenon: cathedral and collegiate choirs were never designed to make edited records – they were designed to sing services.
When I read this year’s Proms Guide and noticed that an ‘extra’ Last Night of The Proms had been laid on in tribute to Henry Wood – essentially a re-run of the 1910 Last Night with a few trimmings – I thought, thanks Auntie, but who exactly was Henry Wood?