Monday, 28 August 2017

Album Review: The Hired Man (2007 UK Tour Cast)

"Hear our thrilling and willing awakening"

It is no secret that Howard Goodall's score for The Hired Man is one I consider to be one of the most beautiful in all of British musical theatre, and so any opportunity to see the show - from orchestral concerts to fringe productions - is one I'll gladly take. This cast recordings errs very much towards the latter, taken from New Perspective's chamber-musical interpretation which cast just eight people.

Richard Reeday's musical direction sees the orchestrations similarly refined down to piano, trumpet and violin and so it offers something of a rough-and-ready approach which has both merits and demerits. A limited ensemble means that the choral power of tracks like 'Song of the Hired Man' don't carry quite the heft that the vision of a community as one demands to meet the scope of Goodall's work.

At the same time, there's an intimacy here that is hard to beat. I don't think I've heard a more musically affecting version of the devastating 'No Choir of Angels', Richard Colvin and Claire Sundin packing their vocals with all the emotional ache of lives lived on the edge of despair and from from 2.40 onwards, tumbling piano arpeggios and soaring brass lines matching the complexity of all these feelings.

This album is also special for containing the first recording of 'Day Follows Day', a new song inserted into the show by Goodall and lovely it is too, reprising the themes that become so familiar even just on first listen. 'Fade Away' remains my melody-related highlight, almost always guaranteed to make me cry and 'If I Could' is another triumph of restraint over bombast. Gorgeous work.

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