Buxton Orr: Songs

When Nicky Spence was first shown the score to ‘The Boy in the Train’, the last of Buxton Orr’s Songs of a Childhood, he was transported to the late 1980s – his own childhood in Scotland. ‘Something about Buxton’s sense of humour, excitement and honesty resonated with me,’ Spence says, ‘and fed my desire to discover more about his work. On contacting his widow, I was led to a treasure trove of unrecorded works for voice.’ Sometimes thrillingly complex and always beautiful, and given character and verve by Orr’s delightful setting of the Scots language, this rich body of work has finally found a worthy modern-day advocate. In his sensitive and intelligent curating of this programme, Spence has brought together artists from Delphian’s roster – pianist Iain Burnside and members of the Edinburgh Quartet enjoy themselves in music that is firmly ‘home ground’.

"There’s no denying the virtuoso deftness of Orr’s settings for voice and solo double-bass (about the most technically difficult medium any composer could opt for)...and the performances here are consistently fine; tenor Nicky Spence has a lot of words to get through, does so with nicely pointed fluency, and conjures a pretty decent Scots accent also."

"Performances are first-rate. Tenor Nicky Spence sings with unstinting eloquence and receives characteristically immaculate support from Iain Burnside. The other instrumental contributions are also of the highest quality. Everyone involved with this rewarding release can be very proud of their efforts."

"Orr’s music has heavy tints of Britten, but has its own quirky colour and, sometimes, a harder edge...[it is] can have a brittle and rather relentless quality, but it is humanised by Spence’s emotional honesty and warmth of expression."

"Nicky Spence is the first singer to record a full disc of his songs and it’s a revelation. Imagine a gentler, quirkier Britten with dabblings in 12-tone technique and old Scots poems set to generous vocal lines and off-piste instrumentation...Spence himself sounds terrific throughout – nimble, direct, deftly playful and expressive with the text."

"The diversity of his art songs is quite astonishing...Beautifully captured at Crear in Argyll by Delphian's Paul Baxter...a superb showcase for Buxton Orr."

"Spence is perfect for this repertoire: his communicative zeal and light, bright tenor matched by Burnside and his colleagues’ witty, dynamic playing. Listeners unfamiliar with Orr should start with this fine release from a most enterprising label."

"Nicky Spence, has an attractive lyric voice. He is also sensitive to the different demands of the various songs. There are small accompanying ensembles; the pianist (Iain Burnside) and the clarinetist (Jordan Black) are especially good."

"This is an important disc, all the songs except for the Lear setting, are receiving their first recordings and we must be grateful to Nicky Spence and Delphian for bringing this rich music to life. But this is not dutiful excursion into the archive but a series of richly vibrant songs in strongly characterful and subtle performances from Spence, Burnside and the other musicians. Highly recommended."


Producer: Paul Baxter
Release Date: 17 February 2017
Catalogue No: DCD34175
Total playing time: 1:12:36

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