On “Souling”, her new Christmas music collection, Allison Crowe delivers an a cappella reading of “In the Bleak Midwinter” – a song also heard, and quite differently, on her classic “Tidings” album.
Words from poet Christina G. Rossetti (1830 – 1894) are set to a tune by Gustav Holst (1874-1934), composed in a cottage in the village of Cranham, county Gloucestershire, England. In modern times, on both of Canada’s coasts, in Newfoundland and British Columbia, Allison Crowe arranges, performs and records this beautiful song of the season.
Allison Crowe’s gorgeous voice brings tidings of comfort and joy with “Souling” – her 11th full album release.
The artist, one of our greatest living musicians, singer-songwriters and performers, has always created authentic music.
With this newest song set her voice is heard wholly a cappella.
The songs themselves have a purity of expression – a 21st century take on music of faith and spirit – sounds and themes aired by carollers and soulers of old.
The genesis of “Souling” is found in the bond Allison Crowe’s formed with the creative family at Theatre Newfoundland and Labrador. Founded in 1979, this professional theatre company presents a dynamic and diverse repertoire of plays and maintains, as well, a strong commitment to youth theatre in the Atlantic Canada community.
For these past three Summers TNL’s engaged Crowe as Musical Director of “Newfoundland Vinyl” - a perennial favourite at the annual Gros Morne Theatre Festival. Following another hit season at GMTF, in late August of this year TNL Artistic Associate SaraH McDonald invited the Corner Brook, NL-based musician to serve the same role with a vibrant production of “A Christmas Carol”.
The Adaptation of this classic Charles Dickens story by playwright Jeff Pitcher, TNL’s Artistic Director, excited Crowe’s musical imagination – as did the desire of McDonald, the play’s Director, to incorporate songs in the style of Victorian Era carollers.
So inspired, Allison Crowe immersed herself in curating the music for the abundantly-talented, multi-aged, choir of singers who performed in “A Christmas Carol” at the Corner Brook Arts and Culture Centre from November 27th – 30th, 2014.
This artistic process of selection and arrangement led to her recording solo versions of those songs that will receive another distinct breath of life from the TNL vocal ensemble.
(In parallel fashion, the first season’s run of “Newfoundland Vinyl” brought forth Allison Crowe’s album of the same name – one of 2013’s top recordings. Culture blog Muruch praised it as a “lovely, vintage collection of traditional Irish and Canadian folk ballads, lively sea chanteys and drinking songs, parlour songs and country tunes” possessing “unique charm” and “the timeless beauty of a classic folk album”.)
In 2003, (and expanded in 2004), Allison Crowe released Tidings – an album of singular interpretations - “River” (Joni Mitchell), “Hallelujah” (Leonard Cohen), “In My Life” (The Beatles) and more from the secular canon – alongside such favourite traditional carols as “Silent Night”, “The First Noel”, and “O Holy Night”. Tidings has proven to be a modern classic – “music for the season and all time”.
This time out, as befits TNL’s telling of “A Christmas Carol”, Allison Crowe gives pure voice to the sacred songbook. “Souling” is:
I Saw Three Ships
That Night in Bethlehem (Don Oíche úd i mBeithil)
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
The Wexford Carol
The Holly and the Ivy
In the Bleak Midwinter (Cranham)
Ding Dong Merrily on High
Once in Royal David’s City