Bird Songs at Eventide
These songs, lovingly selected by Robert White and myself from hundreds of others, share an 'Edwardian' identity - dating from the late Victorian years when Edward VII was waiting in the wings, to the decade or so following his death, when the wings themselves were a memory, having been destroyed in The Great War.
The songs come from a tradition where emotions were not trivialized, and so could be sung about without shame or embarrassment. Although the tears admittedly had some sugar mixed with the salt, they could be freely shed until the adolescent 1920s made crying unfashionable. This change of fashion was not without some justification though; it was difficult to create tragic fiction when in wardrobes across the land there hung the fading clothes of millions of men casualties not of changing fashion but of their owners' bodies lifeless in the fields of Flanders, stained by the dye of mud and blood.
There is a profound nostalgia and a deep-rooted conservatism in this repertoire. "That is no country for young men"! The young leave home, whereas these songs call us home, to take shelter from the storms of change, and to take refuge from the thundering race of Time. The nostalgia is a longing, too, for a lost cultural home, decaying with Edward VII, destroyed with George VI.
We cannot make fun of these songs when we perform them or listen to them. The slightest cynical smile or amused, knowing glance will destroy their magic completely. They are shy of the modem age. Rather we have to enter their world with respect and affection - a gentler world which our century has, in a sense, left behind. If we do this, a great surprise can occur. We may discover that this world, with its poignant, searing emotions, is not so alien after all, but is, in a strange way, our home.