Today’s piece is what happens when I go looking for the version of ‘I saw a maiden’ that we sing in my work Christmas choir and find every other setting of that carol, ever, but not the one I’m looking for.
I haven’t heard this one before, but it’s staying in my head. The recording is from 1948, and the singers are Isobel Baillie, Gladys Ripley, John McHugh and Harold Williams. The style of singing is one I think of as slightly old-fashioned (I think they teach singers to use less vibrato these days? There is certainly something characteristic about the vocal style that sounds to me like an older generation.
My great-grandmother was a singer of this generation (I have a photo of her dressed as Cherubino – the one in the header of this blog, in fact – which suggests that her vocal range was similar to mine), and sang on the radio in Austria in, I think, the 1930s. I don’t think I ever heard her sing, but I’m constantly fascinated by the idea of another semi-professional singer in the family. I can’t help wondering if she sounded a bit like Isobel Baillie…
Perhaps it’s the elusive family history aspect, but this is another piece that appeals to me for the sense of history and continuity over time. I love the feel of these old recordings, and of course the words themselves are far older, and date to the middle ages.