Thursday February 21, 2013

KEENE, N.H.

Melodies for the Sarlight Hours -- I have reviewed about half of the 195 CDs that make up the fabulous The Golden Age of Light Music Series on the Guild label. Now that one of the loveliest of them all, "Melodies for the Starlight Hours" has arrived this side of the Atlantic, all I can do is list some of the 25 selections found on this disc.

Since the organization is by theme, we have moon songs ("Orchids in the Moonlight," "Moonlight Becomes You," "Moon over Miami"), night songs ("I Could Have Danced all Night," "How Beautiful is the Night," "During One Night"), as well as direct references to nighttime ("When Day is Done," "Midnight Tango," "Cocktails by Candlelight"). Some titles just seem to fit, if you stretch things ("Lonely Room," "A Tender Mood," "Melody for Lovers").

Among the conductors are Laurie Johnson, Percy Faith, Andre Kostelanetz, Morton Gould and David Rose. Only five of the tracks are in stereo, and the running time is a generous 78 minutes. Grab this one for casual listening and for quiet gatherings.

Strike the Harp -- Yes, although it is too late for Christmas 2012 and far too early for Christmas 2013, I still cannot delay in telling my readers about the latest CD from my favorite vocal group, The Revels. It is titled "Strike the Harp: An Irish Christmas Revels" and its contents are most impressive.

The last two tracks were made while the players were improvising between takes and having a lot of fun. This spontaneous feel is found in many of the other 21 selections, which include "The Wexford Carol," "The Rocky Road to Dublin," "Dance to Your Daddy," and others sung in Irish such as "Banchnoic Eireann o" (The fair hills of Ireland).

Fear not -- the lyrics are given in the booklet with English translation. It will be easy to spot that many of the songs have nothing to do with the season at all.

Alas, the only fault I can find is that the selections in English, especially when sung by the full chorus, are pretty incomprehensible. So those printed lyrics will prove necessary. An interesting case arises in the children’s chorus’ "There’s a Big Ship Sailing" with its refrain of "allee alle-O." As it is sung on an earlier Revels CD, "Blow, ye Winds in the Morning," it has nothing to do with the season and the words are quite clear. Here, the words are blurred and the song is forced into a seasonal one by the inclusion of a vocalise from "Angels We Have Heard on High."

But the good feeling and the power behind many of the selections are well worth the hearing. So buy a few copies now and save them for next December as fabulous stocking stuffers.

Garrow’s Law -- Acorn Media has reissued all three seasons of "Garrow’s Law" in a boxed collection of three two-DVD sets, each disc holding two episodes. I have in the past reviewed each season as it appeared.

This series is a sad case of a wonderful idea weakened by a romantic plot that mirrors that of "Poldark," displaying a total lack of originality on the part of the writers.

Under the tutelage of Mr. Southouse (Alun Armstrong), William Garrow (Andrew Buchan) fights a seemingly hopeless battle to improve the rights of the accused in an English courtroom. This is what makes the first season very interesting. But he soon falls in love with Lady Sarah (Lyndsey Marshal) and incurs the jealousy of the powerful Sir Arthur (Rupert Graves). Then the interesting scenes in court are upstaged by a Poldark-redux plot that is uninteresting and not even well acted.

Played by Michael Culkin, Judge Buller is a clichéd character at first but slowly begins to admire Garrow’s tenacity. The villains are pure Bad Guys, which is all the plot requires.

Far too many of the 716 minutes of playing time are melodramatic soap and utterly predictable. So by all means, watch Season 1; but be cautious about what follows, unless melodrama is to your taste.

Frank Behrens reports on classical and Broadway music as well as recordings of books and plays for the Arts & Entertainment section.