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Songs of cricket

The London Quartet
Download only
Label: Signum Classics
Recording details: February 2011
Air Studios, United Kingdom
Produced by Nigel Short
Engineered by Jake Jackson & Chris Barrett
Release date: July 2011
Total duration: 68 minutes 59 seconds

Cantabile (also known as ‘The London Quartet’) have been wowing audiences across the world since the 1980s with their shows that blend performance flair, comic timing and a deep passion for high-quality vocal music.

This album is an eclectic tribute to the very British obsession that is cricket, bringing together works from the turn of the century (school songs from Harrow and Eton) to the present day (Jiggery Pokery from the 2009 Ivor Novello nominated album The Duckworth-Lewis Method)—as well as from the well-known (Roy Harper’s When an Old Cricketer Leaves the Crease) to the obscure (The Summer Game, from Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s little-known musical Cricket, commissioned for the Queen’s 60th Birthday). Featuring guest performances from the likes of Richard Stilgoe, Rory Bremner and Tim Rice, this album should prove a must-buy for cricket- and music-fans alike.


'An absolute riot for cricket fans, this is quite extraordinary collection of cricket music, including a Village Rondo for piano by Matthew Holst, great-grandfather of Gustav, believe it or not' (Choral Guide)» More

Cricket Theme Medley: Composer and pianist Alexander L’Estrange’s stunning Cricket Theme Medley incorporates five numbers, four of which are indelibly associated with cricket’s media coverage. The Channel 9 cricket signature tune based on Brian Bennett’s theme from ‘Bluey’, a detective show in Australia, is followed by BBC Test Match Special’s equivalent, Soul Limbo, the invention of one of the first racially integrated Memphis rock groups, Booker T. and the M.G.’s. Next comes the official song of the 2011 World Cup, De Ghuma Ke! (‘Strike it Hard!’), composed by Shankar Mahadevan, Ehsaan Noorani and Loy Mendonsa with lyrics by Manoj Yadav, and then the reggae-styled Dreadlock Holiday, 10cc’s last hit from Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman, where the sub-title ‘I don’t like cricket’ is a misleading preface to a love of the game. Mambo No 5, a jive dance song by Pérez Prado and popularised by Lou Bega, which is Channel 4’s cricket theme, leads into a reprise of the opening to bring the medley to a close.

The Cricketers of Hambledon celebrates one of cricket’s nursery slopes. Although the game was played earlier in other places, it is Hambledon in Hampshire where the legendary figures immortalised by innkeeper’s son, John Nyren, in ‘The Cricketers of My Time’, form part of its historical tapestry. Eton and Oxford-educated song-writer Peter Warlock, pseudonym for Philip Heseltine, and poet, journalist and wine merchant Bruce Blunt, leaders of the bohemian Eynsford set, collaborated on the ballad which was written at the instigation of ‘The London Mercury’ as a protest against the encroachment of football into the cricket season. On New Year’s Day, 1929, a match between the Hampshire Eskimos and the Broadhalfpenny Brigands was arranged on the elevated and windy Down. Later in the day, the local hunt cavorted across the pitch and dropped into the famous Bat and Ball Inn only to find the cricketers had drunk it dry. Full of bibulous gusto and enjoyable bombast, the song was originally scored for brass band and heard in that form at the end of the game. Warlock, who had a predilection for riding naked on his motorbike, was apparently not present—it was too cold.

Schools Song Medley: For some there will be memories of mucky white flannels and sweaty jock-straps on the playing fields of some of England’s prestigious academic institutions. Much moral fibre, unashamed allegiance and exaltation in evidence as provided by a plethora of music masters and associates: Uppingham, Harrow, Banstead, Sedburgh and Eton to the fore, don’t you know!

The Summer Game—from Cricket (Hearts and Wickets): An extract from Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s largely unknown mini-musical. Commissioned by H.R.H. Prince Edward for Her Majesty The Queen’s 60th Birthday, the world première took place on 18th June, 1986 at Windsor Castle in a private performance for the Royal Family. The cast included Ian Charleson, Sarah Payne, Alvin Stardust, Ian Savident, George Harris and Prince Edward himself…and nonpareil Tim Rice notwithstanding himself, also said a few words…he thinks…?

Lillian Thomson: In the Ashes series of 1974/75, the pair of fearsome Australian fast bowlers, Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson blasted asunder England’s batting. Some consolation was forthcoming in this highly original and amusing take on the mayhem by Richard Stilgoe, who performs it here…

The Radnage Cricket Song: From Horace Harman’s book ‘Buckinghamshire Dialect’ produced in 1929, in which one learns that ‘cays in the cayus’ meant ‘cows in the cowhouse’. No such interpretation is needed in the cricket song, except perhaps for ‘hop, hop, hop’ which refers to underarm bowling. Radnage is a remote village in the Chiltern Hills, not far from the Oxfordshire border and the song, later arranged by Madeleine Campbell, is one of the earliest recorded.

Four Jolly Bowlers: During the 1970s and early 1980s an annual series of verse and music programmes especially designed to fill the intervals of Test Matches was heard on BBC Radio 3. All the programmes were presented by John Arlott, with readings from Robin Holmes and Valentine Dyall and all the music was provided by the Yetties. The Yetties—Bonny Sartin, Mac McCulloch and Pete Shutler, three sons of Yetminster in Dorset—were natural exponents of the folk tradition and complemented perfectly John’s lyrics which reflected his insight into the mindset of cricketers lauded and local. As producer of the programmes and on behalf of the BBC, I commissioned a number of songs, including this one. Eventually, they formed the basis of an LP and cassette recording which was issued by Charisma Records in 1984.

The Rules of Cricket—A Psalm Chant: With the unwitting assistance of that notable 19th-century hymn-writer, The Rev. William Henry Havergal, one-time Hon. Canon of Worcester Cathedral, who was born at the time MCC first asserted their authority as custodians of the laws of the game, The London Quartet supply a helpful 21st-century addenda for the benefit of confused converts in unlikely territories.

You’ve got to be a cricket hero (to get along with the beautiful girls): Cambridge theology and philosophy graduate, Eliza Lumley, who memorably gave Radiohead the cocktail jazz treatment, gives a delightfully cool rendition of a foxtrot song that was originally written about American football. The work of Al Sherman, Buddy Fields and Al Lewis proved sufficiently captivating to be adapted by Fred Tupper and Cliff Nichols for Australian cricket. Inserting the names of 16 leading players of the day—we’re talking 1930s—with the photos of a few of them on the cover of the sheet music, guaranteed a sure-fire hit. The message of the song is clear: score well at the crease, get noticed and…well…you’ll score well at…

Jiggery Pokery: A catchy number from Duckworth-Lewis’s (not the method-mathematicians!) Thomas Walsh and Neil Hannon, about a single delivery that revived the fading art of leg-spin. On the 3rd June, 1993, Shane Warne bowled his first ball in a Test match against England. Facing the ball was Mike Gatting, renowned for his ability against spin. Steven Lynch picked up the story in ‘Cricinfo Magazine’: ‘as the ball looped down, it seemed to be headed harmlessly down the leg side. The ball drifted even further down the leg side and then it hit the turf. It fizzed back across Gatting—no mean feat—and clipped the top of the off stump…truly the Ball of the Century.’

The Village Rondo for the Pianoforte: Arranged and played by West End MD/pianist Chris Hatt, this sparkling Rondo was composed by Matthias Holst between 1812 and 1815 and sold for the princely sum of 2s 6d. The front cover depicts a charming rural scene with musicians and dancers in front of a tent and children playing cricket with two stump wickets beside a pub. It is thought to be the first ever visual link between cricket and music. Holst, part German, part Swedish, later inserted ‘von’ before his surname, borrowed illegally from one of his cousins who had been knighted for diplomacy. He lived first in Riga and emigrated to London in 1807. Holst died in 1854 and is buried in Highgate Cemetery. He was the great grandfather of Gustav Holst, composer of The Planets.

Eton and Winchester: A Song of the Eton & Winchester Match: The essential spirit of cricket as promoted in R.T. Warner’s lyrics: ‘let chivalry not victory sound loudest in our ears’ and ‘elevens ever friends!’ leaves no room for much modern practice on and off the field. The accompanying music by Frederick Septimus Kelly has a similar contemporary feel: late Victorian/early Edwardian and based on sound harmonic principles à la Parry and Stanford, the vitality and movement is never allowed to flag. Besides being a brilliant pianist and promising composer, Kelly was an outstanding oarsman. The fourth son of an Irish father and Australian mother and educated at Sydney Grammar School, Eton and Balliol College, Oxford, he took part in the 1903 Boat Race. A winner of the Diamond Sculls in a record time that stood for three decades, he was also one of the Leander Crew that won the Grand Challenge Cup at Henley for three successive years from 1903 and a gold medallist for Great Britain in the Eights at the 1908 Olympics. A close friend of poet Rupert Brooke, Kelly also died tragically in the First World War. Having survived Gallipoli though wounded twice and been awarded the DSC, 35-year-old Kelly was killed when rushing a German machine post during the Battle of the Somme.

I made a hundred in the backyard at Mum’s: Australia’s multi-award winning Country/ Folk singer/songwriter Greg Champion is to boot a guitarist, radio personality and athlete. Here he captures the beginnings of every lad’s fantasy. Alright, it was only in Mum’s backyard and his own folks’ bowling wasn’t too testing, but it is a start. Soon or perhaps one day, it could be at the WACA or the MCG, or even at Lord’s…

Australian Cricket Medley: Two songs mentioning Bradman, another in which he was co-writer, a further ditty urging a kangaroo to keep its tail aloft—as if it needed to be told—and an infectious, bouncy closing number to maintain Australia’s triumphalist tone in this musical jaunt down under.

The Barmy Army: Richard Stilgoe’s stirring anthem salutes those loyal and unquenchable followers of the national team, whose cacophonous chants continue to crush opposition supporters even—or should it be, especially?—when England manage to regularly snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. But after retaining the Ashes, that’s all going to change isn’t it…?

That’s not cricket—from At Home Abroad: A 1935 Broadway musical revue starring Beatrice Lillie, Eleanor Powell and Ethel Waters. Music and lyrics came from that redoubtable pair, Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz, with direction from Thomas Mitchell and Vincente Minnelli, who was making his first outing on the Broadway stage. There were a number of exotic locations represented on this musical holiday cruise, as well as the more mundane. A London store was the setting for Eleanor Powell to have fun with At Home Abroad, an idiomatic summation of the manners and mores of the British.

Cricket Tea Towel: The Ins and Outs of Cricket: The London Quartet’s recognition of Estonian sacred music composer Arvo Pärt’s minimalist style, in this appealing demi-semi-drone which was put together at a stopover in Sandpoint, Idaho, on February 2nd, 2007. The towel—still available—was manufactured to explain to foreigners the fundamental comings and goings on the field of play. Game for a laugh…

Andy Flower Duet: ‘The Flower Duet’ from Act 1 of Lakmé by Léo Delibes, has, in its time, been purloined by a Dutch hip hop group, the makers of a Korean drama and for a film where two women are swimming naked under a glass-bottom boat in a piranha-infested lake. In this version, the roles of the daughter of a Brahman priest and her servant, normally sung by two sopranos, are taken by one soprano and a fella with a falsetto voice. And the tenor—or should it be counter-tenor?—of the libretto has been slanted rather cleverly by Mr. Stilgoe to warn of the potential perils that lie in wait for any England cricket manager…

Jerusalem: Once more into the breach, dear friends—foreign fields and all that, eh? Wait a minute. Hold on! Richard Stilgoe is still here. Bowling leg-spin and doosras, don’t you know? Dirty tricks. Altered the lyrics. Still. Rather splendid. What?

When an old cricketer leaves the crease: In essence, the cricket song. Composed by Roy Harper and released in 1975 with a haunting melody, simple uncluttered guitar accompaniment and comforting brass band cushion. The ‘Geoff ’and ‘John’ in the lyrics are Messrs. Boycott and Snow to whom the song is dedicated. Harper has related how inspiration came from two people: ‘my grandfather Frank Harper (who) allegedly once turned out for Lancs 2nd XI, but his mother made him give it up because there was no money in it. Thereafter, he played in the Lancashire League and had a successful career in cotton’. And the other? ‘While listening to ‘Test Match Special’ on the radio one day, I heard John Arlott waxing lyrical about the time when every old cricketer must leave the crease…and a song was born on the spot. To both of these people I owe a deep gratitude’.

‘Stop it, Aggers!’: An unexpected bonus. The inimitable Rory Bremner mimicking the imitable…

David Allen © 2011

If I may be allowed a personal note. Over the years Cantabile—The London Quartet—and I have worked together many times, in broadcasts and in concerts, particularly cricket concerts. Of the latter, the repertoire therein is mostly the repertoire herein. One led to the other. To have had an association with such talented performers whose music gives continual delight, has been a great privilege and enrichment. I only hope all those who listen to this CD, which has been superbly produced by Nigel Short, will derive as much pleasure and enjoyment from it as it deserves.

David Allen © 2011

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