Roderic Dunnett of The Independent, to satisfy my curiosity, has kindly sent the unedited text of the review he sent to the newspaper. Actually, the editors did not much abridge it, as you will see below. ˜jim
 
The original
what Roderick writ

 
Rutland Boughton: Bethlehem.
St John’s Church, Glastonbury,
Saturday 8 January
from Roderic Dunnett


 
Rutland Boughton is one of the great missing names of British music. Were it not for Hyperion — best of all record labels — and Michael Hurd’s biography, few would encounter either the music or the endearing, infuriating personal shenanigans of this Aylesbury grocer’s son (1878–1960) admired by Elgar and befriended by Vaughan Williams.

Thanks to Hyperion’s Ted Perry, not just Boughton’s faery masterpiece The Immortal Hour — whose 1920s success equalled The Lion King’s — but his flute and oboe concertos plus several quartets have been immortalised on CD. BBC Classics added the “Deirdre” and “Celtic” symphonies. While Alkestis, The Queen of Cornwall or The Lily Maid cry out for a recording, Bethlehem has received a tasty Hyperion treatment (CDA 66690) from the City of London Sinfonia, Holst Singers, Helen Field, Alan Opie and Richard van Allan.

In Glastonbury and nearby Street, Boughton held court and did pioneering community work in a post-Peter Pan era. Somerset, like Boughton’s own Forest of Dean, was home to poorer communities. Clarks Shoes, which boosted Street’s economy when Cyrus Clark started tanning sheepskins in 1825 and showed a Victorian philanthropy akin to Rowntrees or Cadburys. Here Boughton pioneered his Arthurian tetralogy which, like Josef Holbrooke’s The Cauldron of Anwyn, strove to celticise the spirit of Wagner’s Ring. Boughton virtually annexed the village into sharing in his festive cultural efforts. Like other thinking spirits of the Pankhurst era, he was both communist and idealist. Workers’ Education meant something. Free love was all. Boughton (usually) took folk with him. It was Aldeburgh before its time.

Bethlehem, a breathtakingly beautiful 90-minute “choral drama” adapted from the Coventry Mystery plays (ENO ought to stage it, really well) is a classic. It was premiered in 1915, and in 1926 — amid the General Strike — was set in a miners’ community, evoking Jerry Springer-like outrage. With the same blissful naivete as a 14th-century Drapers’ Guild cart-staging, Boughton depicts the Annunciation, Mary and Joseph, humorous Magi, Herod’s machinations, and the birth of a Virgilian new age. Given the New Age paraphernalia in most shops on Glastonbury’s modern High Street, this revival by Avalon Music at St John’s Church had a touching aptness.

William J. Wych’s simplistic production looked appropriate too, mirroring Boughton’s community aspirations. Arguably the chorus needed a kick; the conductor, Brendan Sadler, needed less lethargy, yet held things together perfectly steadily. Youngish local instrumentalists (flute, clarinets, strings, horns) played like kings.

Sebastian Field’s countertenor Gabriel was ravishing; Leslie Skidmore’s older Joseph ringingly noble; three tirralilling shepherds a hoot; while three curiously redubbed Wise Men (Philip Lancaster’s fine-toned Merlin, John McLean’s Nubar and especially Alex Clissold-Jones’s passionate tenor for Nubar) made Act II thrill. Amid parallels with Britten’s Noye’s Fludde and Church Parables, Katie Murphy’s sweetly youthful Virgin Mary succumbed to a homespun miking system Boughton might have made a beeline for in 1915. But tenor Andrew Gardiner’s petulant Herod beamed forth; baritone David Butt Philip (Calchas the herald) knocked the rest for six.

Gorgeous music. Gorgeous occasion.

RODERIC DUNNETT

As it appeared in the paper
on Tuesday 12 January

 
CLASSICAL
City of London Sinfonia / Holst Singers:
Bethlehem
St John’s Church
Glastonbury

 
RUTLAND BOUGHTON is one of the great missing names of British music. Were it not for Hyperion – best of all record labels – and Michael Hurd’s biography, few would encounter either the music or the endearing, infuriating personal shenanigans of this Aylesbury grocer’s son (1878–1960) admired by Elgar and befriended by Vaughan Williams.

   Thanks to Hyperion’s Ted Perry, not just Boughton‘ s fairy masterpiece The Immortal Hour – whose 1920s success equalled The Lion King’s – but his flute and oboe concertos, plus several quartets, have been immortalised on CD. BBC Classics added the Deirdre and Celtic symphonies. And while Alkestis, The Queen of Cornwall or The Lily Maid cry out for a recording, Bethlehem has received a tasty Hyperion treatment (CDA 66690) from the City of London Sinfonia, Holst Singers, Helen Field, Alan Opie and Richard van Allan.

   In Glastonbury and nearby Street, Boughton held court and did pioneering community work in a post-Peter-Pan era. Here Boughton pioneered his Arthurian tetralogy, which, like Josef Holbrooke’s The Cauldron of Anwyn, strove to Celticise the spirit of Wagner’s Ring. Boughton virtually annexed the village into sharing in his festive cultural efforts. Like other thinking spirits of the Pankhurst era, he was both Communist and idealist.

   Bethlehem, a breathtakingly beautiful 90-minute “choral drama” adapted from the Coventry mystery plays – ENO ought to stage it, really well – is a classic. It was premiered in 1915, and in 1926 – amid the General Strike – was set in a miners’ community, evoking Jerry-Springer-like outrage. With the same blissful naivety as a 14th-century drapers’ guild cart-staging, Boughton depicts The Annunciation, Mary and Joseph, humorous Magi, Herod’s machinations and the birth of a Virgilian new age.

   Given the New Age paraphernalia in most shops on Glastonbury’s modern High Street, this revival by Avalon Music at St John’s Church had a touching aptness.

   William J Wych’s simplistic production looked appropriate too, mirroring Boughton’s community aspirations. Arguably, the chorus needed a kick; the conductor, Brendan Sadler, needed less lethargy, yet held things together perfectly steadily. Youngish local instrumentalists played like kings. Sebastian Field’s countertenor Gabriel was ravishing; Leslie Skidmore’s older Joseph ringingly noble, three shepherds a hoot; while three curiously redubbed Wise Men made Act II thrill. And Katie Murphy’s sweetly youthful Virgin Mary succumbed to a homespun miking system Boughton might have made a beeline for in 1915. But tenor Andrew Gardiner’s petulant Herod beamed forth; baritone David Butt Philip (Calchas) knocked the rest for six. Gorgeous music; gorgeous occasion.

   RODERIC DUNNETT