William Blake poems set to music


This video from Britain says about itself:

Mike Westbrook ‘Glad Day’ – London Song, Let the Slave

Glad Day – settings of the poetry of William Blake by Mike Westbrook.

Texts arranged by Adrian Mitchell and Kate Westbrook.

Two extracts – ‘London Song’ and ‘Let the Slave’ (incorporating ‘The Price of Experience’) – from the Westbrook/Blake masterpiece ‘Glad Day’.

Concert presented by the Simon Community, a charity for the homeless, at London’s St Giles-in-the-Fields on February 8th, 2014.

Mike Westbrook: piano, speech
Kate Westbrook: voice
Phil Minton: voice
Karen Street: accordion
Billy Thompson: violin
Steve Berry: bass
with the Queldryk Choral Ensemble directed by Paul Ayres.

By Karl Dallas in Britain:

Music: Glad Day Live: The Poetry Of William Blake

Wednesday 26th February 2014

Gloriously glad day for William Blake

Glad Day Live: The Poetry Of William Blake

(Westbrook Records, £12)

5 Stars

That innovative and many-faceted British composer and musician Mike Westbrook – someone who shouldn’t be shoehorned into the limitation of being seen as just a jazzman – has been setting the poems of William Blake to music for nearly 50 years.

Some of these settings were originally commissioned by the National Theatre for the 1971 production of Adrian Mitchell‘s Tyger and the Blake. [These] settings, sung by Kate Westbrook and Phil Minton, were an integral part of the repertoire of the Mike Westbrook Brass Band from its formation in 1973.

Bright As Fire, a programme entirely devoted to Blake’s poetry, was first performed in 1980 and toured widely since throughout Britain, Europe, New York and Australia.

This truly marvellous revisiting of 10 of Blake’s verses was recorded by a small band consisting of four musicians and two vocalists, with a wonderful choral part conducted by Paul Ayres.

Westbrook has always supplemented his own musical brilliance with remarkable musicians, and this recording is no exception, from the gypsy violin of Billy Thompson to the accordion of Karen Street, who sounds like a bal-musette on acid.

Former trumpeter turned vocalist Phil Minton and Westbrook’s wife Kate, who’ve worked with him for the past half-century, are on top form here.

But the most powerful track is Westbrook’s recitation of The Price Of Experience as the choir echoes Minton’s earlier declaration that “everything that lives is holy.”

Most of the DVD tracks are duplicated on the CD where the mix, to my battered ears, sounded clearer than the video versions, although two of the CD tracks are of entirely different performances.

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