Bonny at morn (Folksong Arrangements, Volume 6 no.5 (England)) – folksong arrangement (Northumberland) for high voice and guitar (ca October 1958, Britten aged 44)
Dedication not known
Audio clip (with thanks to Hyperion)
Bonnie at morn (Lorna Anderson (soprano), Craig Ogden (guitar))
Background and Critical Reception
Britten arranged this folksong on two occasions – once as part of the sixth volume of folksong arrangements with guitar, made for Peter Pears and Julian Bream, and then again in 1976 as part of eight folksong arrangements with harp accompaniment, for Pears and Osian Ellis.
There are subtle differences between the two settings of the song, which is taken from W G Whittaker’s North Country Folksongs.
There is a soft centre to Bonny at Morn, a quiet melancholy which the guitar establishes in its introduction and which ultimately spreads to the melody itself.
The melody is a curious one, with wide intervals that give it an unwieldy trajectory, which I would imagine is tricky to sing. It is certainly tricky to follow, but the nostalgic and slightly sorrowful feeling is one that remains long after this surprisingly affecting song has finished.
Philip Langridge (tenor), Carlos Bonell (guitar) (Naxos)
Lorna Anderson (soprano), Craig Ogden (guitar) (Hyperion)
Ian Partridge (tenor), Jukka Savijoki (guitar) (Ondine)
The guitar version of Bonny at Morn is a curious omission from Decca’s set of the complete Britten works, for they include only the version with harp. This song, however, does exist in several other versions.
Philip Langridge gets to its essence in partnership with Carlos Bonell, as does Ian Partridge with Jukka Savijoki. Lorna Anderson’s brighter tone works well too with Craig Ogden.
Philip Langridge and Carlos Bonell can be heard here, while Ian Partridge and Jukka Savijoki can be found here, part of their very interesting Ondine disc of Britten and Berkeley music for voice and guitar.
Also written in 1958: Chuck Berry – Johnny B. Goode
Next up: Tom Bowling