The great Englishman and nationalist Vaughan Williams described that his arrangements of these folk songs were ‘treated with love’ – just as Tony Duncan treated all the children in his care – including me (Purcell School, 1984-86). I’m honoured that these short gems were played at his memorial service at Ely Cathedral on 27/11/17.
Among this collection of folk songs beautifully and sparsely scored by Vaughan Williams originally for cello and piano, ‘Van Diemen’s Land’, is a song concerning poaching and transportation to Australia collected both by Vaughan Williams in England and by Percy Grainger in Australia. The detailed lyrics deal with the hardships of the voyage and the homesickness of being taken from family. It is also known as ‘Henry the Poacher’ and has been linked back to actual events in Warwickshire in 1829. The link between the UK and Australia, reflected in the song being collected in both countries, served as a real sonic reminder of the history of emigration, experience of which Tony and I shared. I was proud to provide the music for Tony’s funeral in Adelaide with Josh van Konkelenburg, organ and to provide the Vaughan Williams Artaria recording for performance at his memorial service at Ely Cathedral.
Recording these gorgeous nostalgic arrangements and other tender English chamber music in Adelaide with a superb group of strings, including three ex-Pat English Australian residents, has been a wonderful, nostalgic and uplifting project – supported from concept to final production by Tony Duncan. We are so grateful for his quiet confidence and optimism and we know he would be very proud of the final result.