Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Harold Darke: Brother James Air

I remember being at a choir practice in a place called Stepps – a suburb of Glasgow. We were rehearsing Maunder’s Olivet to Calvary. I recall the choirmaster, a certain Mr Jimmy Allen announcing to the assembled choristers that Harold Darke had just died. This was 1976. That Sunday I made a brave attempt at playing Darke’s Meditation on Brother James’s Air as an introductory voluntary to the morning service at St. Andrew’s Church. I know that I faked parts of it and probably cut out one or two ‘difficult’ passages. But the tune was clear. So it is interesting to hear the original (?) strings version on this disc. Brother James’s Air is a charming work – almost improvisatory in character and is effectively scored for strings. It is one of those works that one cannot help wondering why it has not been picked up by Classic FM. It would make a welcome change to the ubiquitous Lark Ascending or Fantasia on Greensleeves. Strangely this work is often programmed as ‘wedding music:' to my ears it has a ‘valedictory’ feel that does not – typically - coincide with the mood of marriage.

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