Watch acclaimed Scottish folk troubadour Alasdair Roberts performing Caleno Custure Me as part of ‘The Food of Love Project,’ a compilation album featuring some of the great names of folk music performing a rich variety 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 2016, a festival programme of events exploring Shakespeare’s incredible legacy.
Talking about his performance of Caleno Custure Me, Alasdair 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.”
The Food of Love Project 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 band Stornoway rework the old Gaelic tune Eibhlín a Riún into a beautiful, sonorous nugget of pop gold.
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. 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 album is dedicated to the memory of John Renbourn, who had committed to participate in the project before he passed away in 2015.
1) Dead Rat Orchestra – Bonnie Sweet Robin is to the Greenwood Gone (trad arr.) – Hamlet
2) Stornoway – Eibhlín a Riún (trad arr Stornoway.) – Coriolanus
3) Flights of Helios – I Loathe That I Did Love (trad arr.) – Hamlet
4) Brickwork Lizards – Fortune My Foe (The Hanging Song) (trad arr.) – The Merry Wives of Windsor
5) James Bell – Tom o’ Bedlam (words trad. Music Moran/Jones) – King Lear
6) Alasdair Roberts and Gordon Ferries – Caleno Custure Me (trad arr.) – Henry IV Part 2
7) Thomas Truax – Greensleeves (trad arr.) – The Merry Wives of Windsor
8) Mann Castell – Peg-a-Ramsey / Yellow Hose (trad arr.) – Twelfth Night
9) Rob St John and Pete Harvey – Farewell, Dear Love (trad arr.) – Twelfth Night
10) The Children of The Midnight Chimes – O Death, Rock Me Asleep (trad arr.) – Henry IV Part 2
11) Kirsty Law – Strength In A Whisper (derived from Go From My Window) – Much Ado About Nothing
12) David Thomas Broughton – Lawn As White As Driven Snow (trad arr.) – A Winter’s Tale
Photo Credit: Pier Corona