Search - Raymond Murcell, Joseph Philbrick Webster, Isaac Baker Woodbury :: Angels' Visits & Other Vocal Gems of Victorian America

Angels' Visits & Other Vocal Gems of Victorian America
Raymond Murcell, Joseph Philbrick Webster, Isaac Baker Woodbury
Angels' Visits & Other Vocal Gems of Victorian America
Genres: Special Interest, Pop, Classical
  •  Track Listings (13) - Disc #1


Larger Image
Listen to Samples

CD Details


CD Reviews

Of great historical interest
F. Behrens | Keene, NH USA | 05/17/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)

"After the Civil War, this country had what could be interpreted only as a massive guilt trauma if we go by the kind of songs that became very popular in the years after 1865. So many of them dealt with death, that the most excellent New World Records people put together a collection of such works, called the set "
A voice teacher and early music fan
George Peabody | Planet Earth | 12/26/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)


This album is a selection of American songs and hymns published mostly during the 1860's and '70s that deal generally with death, heaven and angels. Death and its associated aspects were major subject matter in fiction, poetry, art, and music during much of the nineteenth century, especially - though by no means exculsively - in Victorian England and Amercia. It was indeed a prominent theme in the high art of nineteenth century Romanticism, with its love for the tragic and the supernatural.

Thus, these are songs that remind us of our own mortality, or place our human lives in a grander scheme of things, or contrast the secular and the divine. These do not always have an overtly sacred theme. There are some songs that use children as a theme, perhaps celebrating the love of parents for children or touching on infant death, or using the innocence of children to teach adults a moral lesson as in one of the songs on this disc: 'Put my little shoes away', that tells of a little boy who as death approaches, seizes the opportunity to give his parents a lesson in unselfishness and the value of recycling by asking his parents to hang on to his little shoes because they will fit his baby brother when he's bigger.

The importance of a moral tone to the American and British conventional middle class in the 19th century was a powerful incitement for the rejection of a moral dimension by many modernists of the 20th century, especially when the production of art for common emjoyment pandered to the marketplace with personal insincerety or a lack of artistic truthfulness.

WHERE THEN DO WE FIND SONGS IN MORE RECENT DECADES THAT ARE CLOSELY ALIGNED TO THOSE OF THE 19TH CENTURY PARLOR? The answer is, in COUNTRY MUSIC. For example, many of the early songs of Dolly Parton, are close to the Victorian culture. "Coat of Many colors" teaches a moral lesson about motherly love and the riches of the imagination. "Jolene" can be seen as an updated 'jilt' song. "Joly's Afraid of the Dark" is a close cousin to the Victorian song "Close the Shutters, Willie's Dead". And so it goes!

There are 13 songs on this disc all sung extremely well performed by the soloists: Kathleen Battle (two songs only), Rose Taylor (five songs), Raymond Murcell (four songs); there are other soloists, but those seem to be the headliners. Actually most of the songs are combinations of the soloists and there are several choruses by the 'Harmoneion Singers'. They are a mixed group with a very solid sound, clear and precise diction and good balance of parts. The pianist, who has a lot of playing and does it well, is Lawrence Skrobacs, who also plays harmonium. It is all put together by Neely Bruce. The arrangements are clever and interesting, and although I was not familiar with many of the songs, there are few very old 'chestnuts' that I have heard somewhere in my long deep dark past and they would be: Sweet By and By, Rock of Ages and I Love to Tell the Story.

This is the kind of recording that historically is good to know about and if I were teaching a college class about the Victorian Era either musically or from another aspect, I would definitely have this is my library. AND IF YOU ARE A COUNTRY MUSIC FAN OF THE OLD SCHOOL, YOU MIGHT ENJOY THIS RECORDING!

It is accompanied by an excellent booklet explaining the era, each song, and includes the complete text of all the songs. It was put together in 1977; think how early this was in Kathleen Battle's sparkling career."
An Album of inutterable beauty, grandeur, bathos and charm
Waxwing Slayne | 03/21/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"We all snicker about 19th century sentimentality, but there's no way to patronize this amazing collection of songs, especially in these grandly serious and respectful performances. There's tremendous variety here, but on the whole, listening to these songs is like gazing into a majestic post-Hudson River School landscape of breathtaking grandeur and detail. The Harmoneion Singers are sensational as usual, displaying the tenderest attention to every nuance of emotion. The songs range from charming miniatures like "We are Happy Now Dear Mother," to rousing, marchlike hymns, such as "You Must Be a Lover of the Lord." My favorite is "Shall we Know Each Other?" which triggers celestial visions, and is darned catchy to boot. Ladies and gentlemen, THIS is the 19th century."