[80] Peter Bellamy – The Transports

17 Oct

This true tale of an opera, performed in traditional English folk style, is a surprising treat, full of melodies both lively and haunting, as well as powerful and timeless storytelling.

Peter Bellamy and Friends

Peter Bellamy and Friends

The plot – a two young people convicted in 1787 of petty crimes and sentenced to be transported to Australia – turns out to have been a shrewd choice for a gathering of Folk performers and still has relevance in today’s climate of debate over wealth inequality.

The Transports opens with an overture which is worth the price of admission all on its own, period instruments expertly sketching out every theme that follows over the next hour or so.  When Bellamy joins in on the opening ballad it is almost jarring, though I am quickly engaged by the story unfolding, beginning with unflinching look at poverty that is “Us Poor Fellows”.

The overture does a truly wonderful job of paving the way for the melodies to follow, so that the themes already have an air of familiarity when they are heard in full for the first time, but I am not sure that I have ever heard anything quite like this.

Here is a modern folk take on the old folk form, falling neatly into neither.  The tunes are endlessly unexpected, the orchestral arrangements have a stark simplicity and the singers, while not always having the most impressive instruments, each find a tone and pitch that fully embodies the character they play.

The result is somehow mesmerizing.

While the whole flows along quite effortlessly at times, there are a number of interludes which stand out. June Tabor’s rendition of “The Leaves In The Woodland” could almost have a life as a folk standard, and the a capella duet, “Sweet Loving Sunset” is simply beautiful, but it is the haunting and powerful exploration of the nature of freedom, “I Once Was In Service”, which has stayed with me for weeks.

Once more Tom Moon is highlighting a piece that would never, ever have come to my attention without his list, for which once more I am grateful.

Next Week:  Belle and Sebastian – If You’re Feeling Sinister

Owned before blogging? No. (9 of 80 = 11%)
Heard before blogging? No. (12 of 80 = 15%)
Recommend? Yes. (65 of 80 = 81%)

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