OP0662. MERRIE ENGLAND (Edward German), recorded 1959-60, w. Michael Collins Cond. The Williams Singers; William MacAlpine, June Bronhill, Peter Glossop, Leslie Fyson, Monica Sinclair, Patricia Kern, Howell Glynne, Neil Howlett, Eric Wilson-Hyde, etc. (England) 2-EMI Classics For Pleasure CFP 4710, w.Brochure. Very long out-of-print, Final Copy! - 0077776277820
“The 1960s and 1970s saw an interesting bunch of lightweight operettas and musicals performed at Sadler's Wells to professional standards and MERRIE ENGLAND was amongst them. EMI then took the initiative to bring the stage performers into the studio for a series of recordings of MERRY WIDOW, ORPHEUS IN THE UNDERWORLD, TOM JONES and others. The performing team headed by June Bronhill, William McAlpine and later Thomas Round made sure that the recordings would be a success. This is one of the early Sadler's Wells works (1960).
Edward German wrote MERRIE ENGLAND after working on the score of THE EMERALD ISLE following Sullivan's premature death. He gained a lot of practical knowledge from Sullivan's sketches and style of orchestration and put this into practice with MERRIE ENGLAND the first of his large scale works for the stage. The show was produced at the Savoy Theatre where it played to packed houses. The rustic romanticism of a Tudor story that introduced Queen Elizabeth I, Sir Walter Raleigh and the Earl of Essex won the hearts of the Edwardians of London. German chose the librettist, Basil Hood, who had written two successful works for Sullivan, THE ROSE OF PERSIA and THE EMERALD ISLE, on which, of course, German had been working. German was given much scope to provide colourful music, where pomp and ceremony could be interwoven with ballads and romantic arias.
An overture, full of olde English charm, runs straight into the first Act opening chorus, a bright and sprightly number that welcomes the village's May Queen.
A captivating patter song, one of three in the operetta, ‘I do Counsel’ is well-sung with clear diction by Howard Glynne and shows off German's skill as an operetta writer. The quintet, ‘Love is meant to make us glad’ exudes rustic English charm and the voices are well balanced….
One of the all-time favourites of the period is undoubtedly ‘Yeomen of England’. It was made additionally famous by Peter Dawson in the ’thirties and most recently at Queen Elizabeth II's Jubilee celebrations at Buckingham Palace, London in 2002. The marching rhythm linked to trumpet fanfares and elegant vocal tune is most stirring and is German at his best.
The Entrance of the Queen is given another stirring march tune that could have given inspiration to early Elgar or Coates. In contrast, the ballad that follows, ‘O Peaceful England’ is a dreamy number for Monica Sinclair as Queen Elizabeth I where the character is unusually portrayed with heavy romanticism. Sinclair sings the number with appropriate dignity.
Act II opens richly - full of rhythmic vitality. An unaccompanied chorus follows that is later used as a reprise before breaking into a delightful Rustic Dance. German will be long remembered for this number along with his ‘Nell Gwyn’ and ‘Henry VIII’ dances. Characteristic of the excellent score are the tripping measures and soft woodwind with flute/piccolo trills that enhance a Tudor ambience.
The recording is of good fidelity and the chorus do full justice to the work. Very adequate notes (in English only) give some background and a brief track-related synopsis is provided for each number.”
- Raymond Walker, musicweb-international