Introducing The Food of Love Project, a compilation album featuring some of the great names of folk music performing a rich variety of versions of songs either referenced or performed in the plays of William Shakespeare. The album was curated and commissioned by Sebastian Reynolds of PinDrop and Tom McDonnell of TMD Media, to mark the Oxford Shakespeare Jubilee, a festival programme of events exploring Shakespeare’s incredible legacy.
The festival features a Food of Love Project concert, with some of the artists featured on the album performing live. The concert is touring to London and Stratford, see dates and performer line ups on the next page. Its depth reflects the curatorial strength of the record, a record that has a unified vision and cohesive narrative thread, due to an intuitive understanding of the artists’ creative practises on the part of the curators.
“If music be the food of love, play on” – Twelfth Night, Act 1, Scene 1
The album is a treasure trove of varied interpretations and extrapolations of Shakespearean period songs. Opening with the orchestral drone folk chorus created by Dead Rat Orchestra with their version of Bonnie Sweet Robin is to the Greenwood Gone, as referenced in Hamlet, the album gets off to suitably grandiose start. Steam-punk inventor/musician Thomas Truax reimagines classic English ballad Greensleeves in a typically cosmic, surrealist light, and Oxfordian folk-pop band Stornoway rework old gaelic tune Eibhlín a Riún into a beautiful, sonorous nugget of pop gold.
Talking about his performance of Caleno Custure Me, acclaimed Scottish folk troubadour Alasdair Roberts says “of a couple of songs suggested to me in relation to this project, ‘Caleno Custure Me’ (referenced somewhat obliquely in Henry IV Part 2) was the most appealing. I appreciate the mystery of the uncertain etymology of the title/chorus line (although I suppose the most likely explanation is that it’s garbled Irish Gaelic). There’s a beautiful recording of the song by the late Alfred Deller, the great countertenor, who’s a singer I’ve enjoyed listening to a bit over the years. I thought that I would attempt to go ‘historically accurate’ with this new recording of the song, and so I enlisted the services of my good friend and lute player Gordon Ferries.”
Having been commissioned and curated by Seb and Tom, stalwarts of the ever-thriving Oxford music scene, the Oxon crowd is well represented, alongside Stornoway, by local heroes Flights of Helios, Brickwork Lizards and James Bell. The Children of The Midnight Chimes is a unique collaboration between Seb (producer) and Tom (vocals), especially for the album and to perform the Mystery of The Sonnets Project for the festival. Their abstract, drone noise take on Oh Death, Rock Me Asleep is fittingly atmospheric, considering that the poem on which it was based was allegedly written by Anne Boleyn as she awaited her beheading in the Tower of London. The album is completed by a magisterial take on Farewell, Dear Love (Twelfth Night) by Rob St John accompanied by cellist Pete Harvey, a collaborative deconstruction of Peg A Ramsey and Yellow Hose (Twelfth Night) by Nathaniel Mann of Dead Rat Orchestra and folk guitarist Nick Castell, a sophisticated retelling of Go From My Window (Much Ado About Nothing) entitled Strength In A Whisper by Scottish folk singer Kirsty Law and a sprawling, ambient folk adaption of Lawn As White As Driven Snow (A Winter’s Tale) to close the album by singer and experimental musician David Thomas Broughton.
The Food of Love Project album is going to be available at the concerts in April during the festival (see dates below), in advance of full national release in the summer, when there will be further UK tour dates. The album is dedicated to the memory of John Renbourn, who had committed to participate in the project before he passed away in 2015.
The Food of Love Project concerts:
22nd April – SJE Arts – Oxford – Thomas Truax + Dead Rat Orchestra + Nick Castell + Kirsty Law + James Bell + Flights of Helios + Luke Navin + Brickwork Lizards
24th April – St Giles without Cripplegate – London – Alasdair Roberts + Dead Rat Orchestra + Alva + Nick Castell + Thomas Truax + Flights of Helios + Brickwork Lizards + Luke Navin + Kirsty Law + James Bell
28th April – Holy Trinity Church – Stratford – Alasdair Roberts + Brickwork Lizards + Kirsty Law + Alva + Nick Castell + James Bell + Thomas Truax
Photo Credit: Drew Farrell