Spired and emotional: the Oxford Lieder Festival 2020

On paper, the Oxford Lieder festival (wholly online this year, for contagious reasons) ended about a month ago. But not for me. Right up to the last minute, I’ve been extracting the maximum value I possibly can from my catch-up pass, viewing as many concerts as possible before the on-demand video archive finally vanishes from…

Mystery lays: Stef Conner, ‘Riddle Songs’

This startling, life-affirming record somehow manages a feat that has otherwise eluded science so far: time travel. Stef Conner has composed a suite of songs that demonstrate how, through the arts, the past is all there, all at once, running parallel to our present. What are its secrets? A bit of background (although Conner’s liner…

Window to the inner world: Heather Leigh, ‘Glory Days’

Heather Leigh’s previous release, ‘Throne’, was one of my favourite albums of 2018. Picking up the record unawares, you might expect country rock – Leigh sings, and her chief instrument is pedal steel guitar – but that would be a mistake. On first listen, you might wonder just what it is you’ve let yourself in…

Body and soul: Anakronos, ‘The Red Book of Ossory’

This brilliant suite of songs practises its own apparent witchcraft, seducing you more or less straightaway with its beauty – which doesn’t fade after repeated listens. But as the debut album from Anakronos grows more familiar, it reveals and revels in layer after layer of sinister chills and thought-provoking arrangements and effects. Anakronos are a…

Mezzo-soprano Kathryn Rudge and Irish composer Sir Hamilton Harty

Sir Hamilton Harty, composer of many songs of the Edwardian era, has the sort of name you would associate with the character from a Woodhouse novel. He was however a serious musician of Irish extraction from County Down. In 1901 he left Dublin, where he was church organist, and headed to London. Though virtually unknown…