“‘Enchanted’ is a compact demonstration of powerful folk music traditions from across the world and serves as a lasting tribute to the legacy of the late Danny Spooner.”
Danny Spooner, folk music performer, was a leading figure in the Australian folk music scene until his death in 2017. Since his arrival from England in 1962 Spooner’s performances drew on the folk music traditions of the British Isles, Scandinavia, the Americas and Australia. He was, as Shane Howard said, ‘A living encyclopedia of song.’
Enchanted is a live recording made in 2007 with Mike Kerin, Richard Tognetti and the Australian Chamber Orchestra (ACO), but only recently released.
Enchanted fulfils the ACO brief of a theme-based innovative concert setting of music and performers that are not traditionally placed in such collaborative harmony. In fact, the ACO, under Tognetti’s artistic direction has consistently sought collaborators across all fields of artistic endeavour and excellence.
This recording is a polished, rough, gem of folk music traditions from across the globe given sensitive and complementary accompaniments from the exceptional musicians of the ACO.
The program opens with Three Reels from Mike Kerin with percussion accompaniment. This energetic beginning folds into Call of the Seals, a Hebrides lament. Call and response between Danny Spooner’s expressive voice and the polished melancholy of ACO strings create a haunting sequence that gives the concert it’s emotional core and depth. Tognetti arches over and across with exploratory violin laments of his own, responding to the repetitions of Spooner’s sinuous lines.
The short and intense miner’s song, Byker Hill, highlights the synergy that flows between Spooner and the ACO ensemble. Here more than ever the power of the collaboration between voice and ensemble is realised. Further, this song spotlights another feature of Spooner and many other folk performers, clarity of diction. As a folk singer it is vital that each and every word be understood. The message is almost always in the story being told. In this song every word is clear despite the rapid tempo.
The next song, And When They Dance, accompanied by Spooner’s own concertina or push button accordion and Kerin’s violin obbligato, requires clear diction for the story to be told and understood. This is followed by another slow piece, Hey Rain, composed by Australian Bill Scott. Here Spooner finds a rare emotional depth in simple lines with help from the shimmering strings of the ACO ensemble. The Hungarian Reel is played by Mike Kerin and the ACO. In the French Canadian tradition this is a sparkling centrepiece of Kerin’s skill and grasp of folk fiddling.
Oh, For Me Grog, is another lament that has come from sailors and been adapted by folk music performers and pub singers over the decades. Here, as in all of the other slower pieces in the program, Spooner is at his best with music that cries beyond the centuries to make modern the toils and laments of explorers and sailors. Beneath the solid grounding of Spooner’s voice the ACO slides and smears, enhancing the atmosphere of uncertainty and the sensation of travelling back and forth through time itself.
The recording concludes with the traditional epic song Jack Orion. With Spooner’s clear story telling gift it’s easy to follow the narrative even as the ACO bubbles and pulses with rhymical and obbligato drive beneath the declamatory vocal lines.
Enchanted is a compact demonstration of the power of folk music traditions from across the world. Further, it serves as a lasting tribute to the legacy of Danny Spooner who has been a constant and erudite contributor to the wealth of folk music traditions of Australian culture.