June Tabor,
Rosa Mundi
(Green Linnet, 2001)

Is there any flower that has as many interpretations as the rose? Used variously as a sign of love, friendship, even to represent the Virgin Mary, the rose has been associated with love and lovers -- and celebrated in song -- from ancient times. As her personal tribute to the rose (and by extension, love), on her CD Rosa Mundi, June Tabor has collected 11 rose-related songs.

Tabor's glorious, deep voice is mesmerizing, keeping me listening to this CD, even through "Barbry Ellen," a song I detest. The accompaniments are simple, mainly piano, though with some violin, viola and cello. This is a quiet, mellow CD, despite the sometimes tempestuous nature of its subject.

The selected songs are from various historical periods. "Roses of Picardy," the opening song, was written in 1916 and was very popular with soldiers in World War I. The bouncy "Belle Rose," is a traditional tune sung in tongue-twisting French. "Rhosyn wyn" or "Winterrose" is a 15th-century German carol (sung in German) in which the Virgin appears as a rose in winter. "The Rose is White, The Rose is Red/Dargason" is a fun piece that sets Valentine rhymes to a round dance. And everyone will remember Robert Burns's poem "O my luve's like a red red rose" from English classes. He gets the nod here, with his poem set to the tune "Major Graham."

If, like me, you have heard of June Tabor but never heard any of her music, then get thee to the music store and get a copy of Rosa Mundi, which you'll find to be an excellent introduction. I predict you'll also be entranced.

[ by Laurie Thayer ]
Rambles: 11 October 2002

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