British Contralto Carmen Hill - Peel: Go Down to Kew in Lilac Time





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Published on Mar 5, 2012

Recorded 1923

Found at The AHRC Research Centre for the History and Analysis of Recorded Music (CHARM) was established on 1 April 2004, supported by a 5-year grant of just under £1m from the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

British contralto Carmen Hill (1883-?)

The Record of Singing by Michael Scott (Holmes & Meier Publishers, Inc. - 1979)

We need to look no further than one of her many records to find an eloquent advocate for the inclusion of Carmen Hill (1883---) in these pages. Born in Aberdeen, Scotland, she came to London to study with Frederick King at the Royal Academy of Music. Her first important engagement was as a supporting artist to Emma Albani on one of the diva's, as it seemed, endless tours in search of solvency after the ravages her fortune sustained as a result of the financial adventures of her husband. Hill ventured on stage only once, in Beecham's season of opera-comique at His Majesty's Theatre in 1910, as the Dewman in Hansel and Gretel with Maggie Teye and Ruth Vincent. Thereafter she was busy with various activities ; as a soloist in oratorio and choral works, with Lieder recitals and ballad concerts -- she was a regular artist at the Chappell series over many years -- and she was often heard in arias and songs at the Promenade concerts. She 'sang the part of the Angel (in the Dream of Gerontius) with great charm' in cities throughout Great Britain. In Dublin she appeared in a programme of Irish music with Agnes Nicholls, Ben Davies and Robert Radford. She joined Percy Grainger in an evening of folk music, to which he added a few numbers of his own composition to help strengthen the diet. As a ballad singer she was in great demand, introducing some particularly treasured items, including several by Dorothy Forster; like Eleanor Jones-Hudson she often programmed that great favorite 'Rose in the Bud', but in this they were both trumped by Clara Butt. In journeys around the country she 'futher established her claims as a Lieder singer of high rank'. Ezra Pound heard her sing Mignon's 'Connais-tu le pays?' 'in French, quite good French for an English singer. She sang with clear enunciation and delicacy'. At the Grosvenor Room of the Great Eastern Hotel in 1923, in an after-dinner recital she included songs by Hugo Wolf, Brahms, Hart and Peel; could British rail provide such classy far today? When Hubert Bath's 'Look at the Clock' was introduced at a Queen's Hall Choral Society concert, she was one of the 'excellent' soloists; it was conducted by Leoni, the composer of L'Oracolo. For a special charity affair at the Albert Hall in 1919 she matched her tones with Edna Thornton, Ethel Hook and Clara Butt in an all-contralto programme; the four came together for Liza Lehmann's 'Birth of the Flowers'.

Though she appeared at the Albert Hall, Carmen Hill's voice was the sort better suited to smaller, more modest auditoriums, for she had off to perfection the fine art of modulating her tones so as to give an appropriate intimacy to the light music she so often sang. The limpid production, correctly blended and equalized registers, the range and especially soft and mellow tone remind us of Julia Culp. For all that Eric Coates's 'Green Hill o' Somerset' and 'Fairy Tales of Ireland' are much the same song, in either the utter simplicity of Hill's singing is telling. The works of Mme. Guy d'Hardelot are an acquired taste, and there will be some for whom 'Roses of Forgiveness' is too strong to stomach. Those, however, who enjoy a little nostalgia will appreciate the perfect manners, unsentimental delivery and eloquence with which Hill puts the piece in its best light.

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