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A Generous Earful

Peter Dawson favourites from Gregory Yurisch and the Tasmanian Symphony -
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'... in this repertoire they hardly miss a trick.'

The Floral Dance and other Peter Dawson favourites. © 2000 Melba Concerts Association Inc

In the lead up to four Adelaide Town Hall concerts (19th 22nd 24th and 26th September, 1931) by Australian bass-baritone Peter Dawson and Russian piano virtuoso Mark Hambourg; Dawson was billed as the 'World's greatest gramophone personality'. The advertisement continued: 'There is probably no living artist who can sing a robust song, a song of the sea or open air -- a song of life, like Peter Dawson ... He has been acclaimed with extraordinary success throughout the English-speaking world, and is universally recognized as the finest baritone ballad singer of the day.'

Melba's 'Dawson tribute' disc is a buoyant, up-beat, nostalgic concert; echoing parlour singalongs, whilst evoking Devon, Zummerset, Plymouth, Jerusalem (The Holy City), old Burma (Myanmar), Ol' father Thames, and diverse nameless British byways.

The lyrics tell of rovers, wanderers, vagabonds, gypsies, 'gay' bachelors and a 'gay' drum major (from days when gay translated as 'lively', 'joyous', or 'bright'), Kerry dancers, Phil the fluter, soldiers of the King, a Burma (Myanmar) girl a setting by the old Moulmein Pagoda, (Sir Francis) Drake '... dreaming all the time o' Plymouth Hoe' [listen -- track 15, 0:51-1:39], plus assorted love-smitten swains and lasses.

Two final tracks are from large-scale works; Gounod's Faust ('Even bravest hearts') and Elgar's Caractacus ('O my warriors').

The young Adelaide-born, bass-baritone Peter Dawson (1882-1961) journeyed to London to study voice production and oratorio performance with Sir Charles Santley (1834-1922). In the early days a Russian specialist worked on extending his upper range; the resulting compass was from E flat in the bass to a high A or A flat.

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Copyright © 9 February 2008 Howard Smith, Masterton, New Zealand


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