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WILLIAM KIMBER "Absolutely Classic: The Music Of William Kimber" English Folk Dance and Song Society EFDSSCD03

This "enhanced CD" celebrates the music and continuing influence of William Kimber (dancer, teacher and musician) of whose dancing Alfred Littleton wrote in The Musical Times in March 1911: "his grace and movements are absolutely classic". ( So much for that phrase being modern-day parlance!)

First encountered by Cecil Sharp on Boxing Day 1899 when playing for the Headington Quarry Morris Dancers, Kimber was a vigorous anglo-concertina player who happened also to have an excellent sense of rhythm. During the next 60 years, he was to become a central figure in the ensuing Morris revival, illustrating Sharp's lectures and inspiring generations of dancers and musicians.

This CD contains some twenty recordings of his playing (which I believe represents virtually all of his total recorded output, though the booklet doesn't say), as well as two of his singing and seven of his talks. Three of the dance tunes were released on CD by Topic in their 'Voice Of The People' series last year, but the majority of the other recordings are currently either unavailable or hitherto unreleased. Two of the tunes Kimber played - 'Country Gardens' and 'Shepherds' Hey' - were immortalised (and "spoiled", Kimber rather typically thought!) by Percy Grainger. You don't expect digital hi-fi sound, of course, but equally you shouldn't be disappointed by these performances. The talks, taken in conjunction with the exhaustive notes in the accompanying booklets (which also contain extensive technical and discographical information), provide priceless snippets of local and social (as well as musical) history. Also included on the CD are just a couple of illustrations of Kimber's musical legacy - tunes played by John Kirkpatrick and (the current HQMD musician) John Graham.

Renewed interest in Kimber's playing was generated by players like Alistair Anderson in the concertina revival of the 70s, and you can hear how Kimber's brisk, light and springy style, full of life yet with ample grace and poise, has influenced Kirkpatrick in particular.

The "enhanced" part of the CD (which, however, my browser steadfastly refuses to access beyond the Welcome page) contains photos (most of which already appear in the booklet though, I understand), film clips, and a couple more music transcriptions (which escaped the booklet). All told, though, even without the "enhanced" part I couldn't access, this is a very worthwhile release, well presented and packaged, and a fine tribute to the man - and the tradition - it usefully celebrates.

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 36 of The Living Tradition magazine.