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There are some successful tracks. Amongst the songs, Shenandoah works well, despite the added reverberation and multi-tracking, perhaps because it shows the purity of Botkin's voice rather well. Edelweiss is done pretty straight and is good, if you like the song! But perhaps the best items are the instrumental adaptations, the extract from Michael Nyman's score for The Piano, the Largo from Vivaldi's Guitar Concerto in D [listen -- track 13, 0:00-0:47] and Bach's Air on a G string. In all of these, Botkin uses her voice instrumentally, and the general effect is of a synthesized instrumental sound that is quite acceptable.

As you may have gathered, I did not like this disc. Partly because I got a profound sense of a talent squandered. I can't help feeling that if Sara Botkin recorded most of these items in a natural acoustic with harp and flute accompaniment, the results would have been ravishing. This is the sort of mixed programme which can only be brought off with superb musicianship and strong commitment. As for the multi-tracking, once was probably enough, after that the novelty wears off. Botkin seems to be rather over-fond of the sound of her voice singing 'bass', but it's not something that I would want to live with.

Before I finish, I must say a word about Botkin's collaborators. Flautist Jennifer Conner plays discreetly and efficiently on one or two tracks. But harpist Anne-Marguerite Michaud has a significant role to play on many of the tracks and she shows off her musicianship beautifully. I would like to hear more of Ms Michaud on a more conventional album.

You probably either love this album or hate it, so please don't just take my word. Listen to the samples before you buy.

Copyright © 24 May 2006 Robert Hugill, London UK


Sara Botkin - The Spirit's Quartet - Songs of love, nature, music and faith

6 49241 83639 1 Stereo FIRST RELEASE 60' 2005 Sara Botkin

Sara Botkin, voice (multi-tracked) and piano; Anne-Marguerite Michaud, harp; Jennifer Conner, flute and piccolo; Elizabeth Nevola, flute

The water is wide (American folk song, arr Luigi Zaninelli); Healey Willan: Rise up, my love, my fair one; Tchaikovsky, adapted Sammy Fain and Jack Lawrence, arr Botkin: Once upon a dream; Gustav Holst, arr Botkin: I Vow to Thee, My Country; Francesco Sartori: Quando sono solo ('Time to Say Goodbye');

Shenandoah (American folk song, arr Botkin); Richard Rodgers: Edelweiss (The Sound of Music, words by Oscar Hammerstein II); Orlando Gibbons: The Silver Swan; Handel: Ombra mai fù (Serse); J S Bach arr Katherine K Davis: Sheep may safely graze (Cantata 208);

Barber: Agnus Dei; Michael Nyman arr Botkin: The heart asks pleasure first: The Promise/The Sacrifice (The Piano); Vivaldi arr Botkin: Largo (Guitar Concerto in D); J S Bach arr Botkin: Air on the G string (Orchestral Suite No 3); Purcell: Sound the trumpet;

Mendelssohn: Lift thine eyes to the mountains (Elijah); Irving Berlin arr Botkin: Count your blessings instead of sheep (White Christmas); Duruflé: Ubi caritas (Quatre motets sur des thèmes grégoriens); Harold Friedell: Draw us in the Spirit's tether; John Rutter: God be in my head


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