A periodical series of reflections on recorded and unrecorded works by Charles Villiers Stanford
by Christopher Howell
21. Lullabies and Hush Songs
One classical composer of all has become indelibly associated in the public mind with the lullaby – Stanford’s hero Brahms. On an LP issued in 1965, the great Spanish soprano Victoria de los Angeles included two lullabies: the inevitable Brahms Wiegenlied and an Irish Lullaby arranged by Stanford. A second arranger was also named, Douglas Gamley, and you have to listen carefully to detect traces of Stanford’s work under the thick pile of Gamley’s orchestral carpet. More than this would have been needed before people started talking about “the Stanford Lullaby” in the same way as they talk about “the Brahms Lullaby”. And if they ever did, a knowledgeable Stanfordian might ask, which Stanford lullaby might it be? Prolific as ever, Stanford wrote twenty-two pieces, original or arrangements, vocal or instrumental, entitled Lullaby or some such associated name as Cradle Song or the typically Irish Hush Song. In 1965, you would have been sticking your neck out if you suggested that a singer in search of a lullaby that was beautiful without being hackneyed should look at Stanford. His lot has improved since then and, with a mixture of commercial recordings, You Tube discoveries and off-air retrievals, most of the pieces I discuss below can be heard in some form or other.