Maypoles to Mistletoe 2 "The Seasons of the Year "







MAYPOLES TO MISTLETOE: THE SEASONS OF THE YEAR – Martyn Wyndham-Read & Company (Wynding Road Music WR011)

 A double dose of heaven this quarter, with two different CDs featuring the estimable Martyn Wyndham-Read. On this one, Martyn’s role is more that of a guiding-hand and presiding presence, but he still gets to perform on eight of the 22 selections. A touring show bearing the Maypoles To Mistletoe title has been performed for forty years, in different venues throughout the country, and by now has become almost a venerable institution!

Basically, the concept loosely involves the portrayal of the turning year through music, dance, song and spoken word, thus affording an almost limitless scope for creative programming and plenty of opportunity for the continual refinement, updating and refreshing of repertoire. And so it proves on this, the third recorded incarnation of the show (the original-cast recording came out on vinyl in 1975, with a Mk2 version appearing on CD in 1998), which presents an inspirational and enterprising sequence that contains plenty of fresh and serendipitous discoveries to balance the more well-known items, all of which are performed with exactly the right measure of joyful conviction and a real sense of enjoyment from the assembled cast in their communication of the show’s time-honoured, timeless themes.

The “assembled cast” includes The Maypole Band, amongst whose complement of musicians we find Martyn’s regular No Man’s Band collaborators Iris Bishop and Gary Holder, along with singers Carolyn Robson and Mike Nicholson who take the lion’s share of the songs (after Martyn’s own contributions, that is). The latter inevitably provide the show with its standout numbers: Mike turns in a superb account of Graeme Miles’ Green Banks Of Grain and a charismatic rendition of Ripe And Bearded Barley, while Carolyn’s contributions comprise the Irish traditional Gartan Mother’s Lullaby and Mike O’Connor’s brilliant pan-seasonal tapestry Summon Up The Sun. Martyn gives us the latter’s writer’s Best Of Autumn and Colin Gates’ evocative The Fields Lie Silent as well as the traditional Seasons Of The Year, all matchlessly rendered in glorious bel canto. Two other singers – Dick Streeter and Sue Mills – provide mainly chorus harmonies, but Dick comes into his own with a cameo lead on his own song Chuck ’Em On The Fire, which has fun depicting the traditions of Sussex Bonfire Societies. As usual, the lively and entirely relevant continuity narration is provided by Jim Farr, and the various interpolated dances provide suitable good cheer when they occur, including a performance by the Broadwood Morris Men.

Once again, the company has done the Maypoles To Mistletoe concept proud, and one suspects there’s more than sufficient mileage therein for another forty years.

David Kidman