Listening to Britten – Lemady

Norfolk Hedgerow by Edward Seago, courtesy of Portland Gallery, London

Lemady (Eight Folksong Arrangements / 3) – folksong arrangement for high voice and harp (April – June 1976, Britten aged 62)

Dedication Not known
Text Traditional
Language English
Duration 1’30”

Audio clips

The first part of the Hyperion recording by Jamie MacDougall and Bryn Lewis can be heard at their website

Background and Critical Reception

The third of Britten’s eight folksong settings for tenor and harp is drawn from the Journal of the folk song society, volume 19, published in June 1915.

Lewis Foreman, writing the booklet notes for Hyperion’s release of the complete folksong settings, goes into further detail: ‘Lemady was sung by Robert Beadle at Stoup Brow, Whitby, Yorkshire, in September 1911, the music noted by Clive Carey, the words by Mary Neal.’


This is a much more positive setting than the first two in Britten’s last set of arrangements, and it enjoys the blissful freedom that walking in the fields and meadows can bring.

The harp part is wonderful here, dressing the tune with swirls and pointed melodic comments, all the while circling around the purest C major.

Recordings used

Philip Langridge (tenor), Osian Ellis (harp) (Naxos)
Jamie MacDougall (tenor), Bryn Lewis (harp) (Hyperion)

Jamie MacDougall and Bryn Lewis get right to the heart of the bright midsummer colours in this song, with some lovely harp playing. Osian Ellis, too, plays beautifully, with a sparkling run to the finish. Philip Langridge is the rapturous subject.


Langridge and Ellis can be heard on Spotify here

Also written in 1976: Geoffrey Burgon – Requiem

Next up: Bonny at morn

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