Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century popular music provides a unique prism through which to view how our present structures have evolved. Scarborough Fayre-Traditional Tunes from the British Isles and the New World is a cleverly programmed cycle of songs and song types common in Britain and America before and after American independence. It is enlightenment, for example, to learn the celtic roots of bluegrass music. And just how close the two sound alike. The celtic tradition looms large in this collection as well it should. The Ireland-Scotland diptytic is the fertile motherland to saints, musicians, poets, storytellers and philosophers. These are traditions much closer to our own American ideals that than of Western Europe.
This program is splendidly executed by Apollo's Fire (The Cleveland Baroque Orchestra) the period instrument band lead by Harpsichordist Jean Sorrell. With the Boston Baroque and the Handel and Haydn Society, Apollo's Fire is a premiere American period instrument/performance orchestra. This choice of repertoire shows that Sorrell does not shrink from interpreting non-serious music (a fact also demonstrated in their release of seasonal selections, Noels & Carols from the Olde World (Koch International Classics).
The present set begins with a fiddle real from Scotland "Tullochgorum - Miss Dundas' Reel. It is fast paced, very much a dance. Compared with the traditional Ohio ballad, "St Claire's Defeat, the listener can here the expansion in the music as it traveled across the Atlantic. Confined by tradition and land in the old country, the music percolates to a high simmer before streaching out over the expanse of the Ohio Valley. Perhaps this is an oversimplification, but it is a workable one at that.
This music is largely fiddle-based with some manner of continuo playing providing the harmonic and rhythmic tethering. "Scarborough Fayre (anon. Barry MS., c.1580), it is worth noting to the 1960's leftovers like this writer, was not composed by Paul Simon, but 500 years before. This ballad is purely rendered here by vocalist Sandra Simon and the group's flautist. Sorrell provides tasteful continuo at the harpsichord.
On "Morning Dew, the flute takes the place of fiddle, scuttling across the aural Irish landscape in a way that is part of America's collective unconscious. "Farewell & Adieu (after 'Farewell to the Spanish Ladies,' 17th-century English sea-shanty) is the basis for the drinking song so well cast in Steven Spielberg's Jaws It is sung with great gusto by Sandra Simon. And that closes this satisfying release of the less-taken path in classical music. I recommend this release to all who want music that smiles, frowns, laughs, and cries in a musical language we can all understand.
Track Listing: Tullochgorum - Miss Dundas' Reel (traditional Scottish/Cape Breton); St Claire's Defeat (traditional Ohio ballad); Far Away (after Peter Jung) - Cambleton Snows (after T.K. Kelly); Cawdor Fair (Strathspey by Mr. Campbell of Budyet) - Over the Isles to America (traditional reel); Jockey Loves his Moggie Dearly (anon., Pills to Purge Melancholy, 1719); The Flowres of the Forest (anon. Skene MS., c.1620) - Flowre Rownde (Sorrell); Scarborough Fayre (anon. Barry MS., c.1580); Down Yon Bank (anon., Skene MS., 1620); Scotch Cap (John Playford, The English Dancing Master, 1651); Garfield's Blackberry Blossom - Poplar Bluff (traditional American); Lumps of Pudding (anon., Pills to Purge Melancholy, 1719); Morning Dew - George White's Favourite (traditional Irish reels); Farewell & Adieu (after "Farewell to the Spanish Ladies", 17th-century English sea-shanty).