Last year, the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death was marked by numerous events across the country celebrating The Bard’s legacy. One such event was The Food of Love Project concerts which took place in Oxford, London and Stratford featuring performances by the likes of Alasdair Roberts, Kirsty Law, Thomas Truax, Dead Rat Orchestra, Nick Castell, Flights of Helios and more.
Now, we can finally hear The Food of Love Project in all its glory with the full and remarkable lineup.
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. Steampunk 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 Food of Love Project 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 is dedicated to the memory of John Renbourn, who had committed to participate in the project before he passed away in 2015.
Photo Credit: Pier Corona