SONGS FROM A SHROPSHIRE LAD
Edinburgh Festival Fringe: theSpace @ Niddry St
Sam Hird (baritone) and Sam Johnson (piano) perform George Butterworth's Songs from A Shropshire Lad – the songs that provide the poignant musical themes used in Pick Me Up Theatre's Private Peaceful at the Edinburgh Fringe 2017.
The online Edinburgh magazine the Southside Advertiser said the songs were beautifully sung and were perfectly matched to Private Peaceful, the words having extra poignancy for audiences who had just seen the play based on Michael Morpurgo's novel.
Blogger Charlotte Coster said Hird's "rich baritone voice added extra emotion to all these already emotive poems".
She wrote: "It was a short, heart-wrenching performance which, in addition to the rollercoaster of Private Peaceful, left you feeling slightly emotionally drained. In the best way. Just what you want from theatre really."
Butterworth was killed on the Somme in August 1916 – his death a huge loss to British music.
The songs are settings of poems from A.E.Housman's A Shropshire Lad, a book that was hugely popular with the young men who went off to war on the Western Front.
Teenage soldiers huddled in the trenches could identify with the poems' themes of love and loss, youth and death, the passing of time, and the distance from home and places of past happiness.
Like Michael Morpurgo's Private Peaceful, the poems of A Shropshire Lad – and Butterworth's sublime settings – speak powerfully to young people ... and to adults who remember the emotional turmoil of adolescence.
WH Auden said: "I don't know how it is with the young today but to my generation no other English poet seemed so perfectly to express the sensibility of a male adolescent."
Many British composers were inspired to set the poems of A Shropshire Lad to music but none came close to the achievement of George Butterworth, whose songs perfectly match the simple lyricism and tragic beauty of Housman's verses.
Butterworth's songs appear simple and effortless to the ear – but, as one early critic wrote in 1916, they require a performer with soul who is able to do more than just sing beautifully.
Sam Hird is one of those rare talents who combines great acting and interpretive skills with a magnificent singing voice that belies his youth.
His vocal repertoire includes opera, art song and musical theatre. Previous roles have included Jack in Into The Woods, Anthony in Sweeney Todd, the Balladeer/Lee Harvey Oswald in Assassins, Jean Valjean in Pick Me Up's acclaimed youth production of Les Miserables, and Scripps in The History Boys.
Three years ago he appeared with the Globe Young Players in John Marston’s The Malcontent, playing the bawd Maquerelle, in the inaugural season of the indoor Sam Wanamaker Theatre at Shakespeare’s Globe in London.
The 25-minute concert of Songs From A Shropshire Lad is at 6pm on 21st to 26th August, after performances of Private Peaceful at the same venue, the Space @ Niddry St, just off the Royal Mile. Buy tickets from the Fringe Box Office.
George Stagnell's "remarkable" one-man performance of Private Peaceful is at 9.55am 14th to 19th August and 4.35pm from 21st to 26th August.
21-26 August 2017
CAST & CREATIVE