Coope, Boyes and Simpson

RICHARD PARR King's Lynn Arts Centre (King's Lynn Festival)


King's Lynn Arts Centre (King's Lynn Festival)

One of the joys of the festival is that the programme can produce an event which turns out to be a gem of an evening.

Such was the case here with this talented trio of unaccompanied a cappella singers who are keeping alive the great English folk singing tradition.

Their performance showed that even with today's hi-tech recording equipment, the naked human voice still remains one of the most expressive instruments to be found.

Not only was their programme presented in a delightfully informal style, but it was also extremely informative as we were told stories behind many of the songs in the collections of composers, Ralph Vaughan-Williams, Percy Grainger and Butterworth.

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Their harmonies are a joy to the ear and together, Barry Coope, Jim Boyes and Lester Simspon produce a rich distinctive sound bringing to life the lyrics of the wonderful folk songs from a bygone age.

Among the songs collected by Vaughan-Williams was one tale of Captain Ward and the ship Royal Rainbow on the high seas from the old North End fishing quarter - a stone's throw from the theatre.

But it was perhaps the group's performance of the both moving and poignant songs from the Passchendaele Suite which was for many a highlight of the evening. Sombre in mood, certainly, but they conveyed a strong message of the futility of war and supreme sacrifice.

They included a song about the famous Christmas Day truce on the Somme in the first world war when English and German soldiers played football on no man's land. This was given its first performance in Ypres Cathedral in December 1998.

This performance will long remain in the memories of the disappointingly small number of people in the audience fortunate enough to have experienced it.

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