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SHOW OF HANDS - Centenary: Words And Music Of The Great War

SHOW OF HANDS - Centenary: Words And Music Of The Great War
Mighty Village Records 3784840

Marking the centenary of the First World War, this two CD project comprises poetry readings over subtle snatches of arranged period music and other rearrangements of songs and music of the era with some original material also inspired by the theme.

Disc 1 presents 22 pieces of poetry movingly read by Jim Carter and Imelda Staunton over minimal, discreetly mood matched and pitched, period pieces played (and occasionally sung) by the SoH trio and an array of guests including Jackie Oates, Jim Causley, Andy Cutting, Paul Downes, Philip Henry, Rex Preston and producer/player Mark Tucker.

Familiar pieces by ‘War Poets’ Owen, Sassoon, Rosenberg, Blunden etc starkly evoke the blast and barrage of those ‘demented shells’ and the resultant sear, shriek and sludge. Other works cover the patriotic call to enlist, the concurrent uneasy sense of precipice and foreboding and, ultimately, desperate glory and folly, including poignant female lamentations on lost love, notably Katherine Tynan’s deeply touching A Girl’s Song. With deft skill, the often now uncomfortably jaunty jingoism of the ‘music hall’ genre has been scaled down and suitably reset, so as sympathetically to serve the solemnity and pathos of the deeply arresting poesy.

Disc 2 has several stirring new and reworked Knightley songs, characteristically catchy and rich in melodic musicality - The Gamekeeper, Coming Home (with Miranda Sykes’ vocals segueing beautifully into Bonny Light Horseman), The Blue Cockade (recorded live) and Requiem. These are set alongside further reinterpretations of period music and poetry, involving the whole guest roster, including an anthemic musical setting for A.E.Housman’s The Lads In Their Hundreds and a very fine, chorally enriched, song The Padre by Chris Hoban.

Creatively crafted with immense skill and sensitivity, rich in range and mood, this is a memorable piece of work of enduring experiential, emotional and educational value.

Kevin T. Ward

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This album was reviewed in Issue 105 of The Living Tradition magazine.