THOMAS ALLEN & SHIELA ARMSTRONG - SONGS OF NORTHUMBRIA SIR BOBBY ROBSON - ANOTHER (K)NIGHT TO REMEMBER Paul Gascoigne, Alan Shearer, Sir Alex Ferguson, Roy Hodgson, Billy Mitchell, Jim Rosenthal, Mark Knopfler, Joe McElderry, Andre Villas-Boas, Alan Pardew, Steve Harper, Shola Ameobi, Stuart Pearce, Alastair McGowan, Russell Watson, Ruby Turner, Brendan Healy, Faryl Smith, Paul Smith, Ben Ottewell, The Unthanks, The Cornshed Sisters, Scarlet Street.

THOMAS ALLEN & SHIELA ARMSTRONG - SONGS OF NORTHUMBRIA SUNDAY FOR SAMMY 2012 Tim Healy, Kevin Whately, Chris Fairbank, Denise Welch, Brendan Healy, Charlie Hardwick, Chelsea Halfpenny and many more.
Various Artists

THOMAS ALLEN & SHIELA ARMSTRONG - SONGS OF NORTHUMBRIA BIG RIVER BIG SONGS - Featuring Sting, Jimmy Nail, Mark Knopfler, Joe McElderry, Jill Halfpenny, Lindisfarne, Claire Rutter and many more.
Various Artists

THOMAS ALLEN & SHIELA ARMSTRONG - SONGS OF NORTHUMBRIA Passin' the Folks Alang the Road! George Ridley & the Blaydon Races
Craig Conway
Geoff Wonfor
Graeme Danby


OUT NOW ON DVD... Passin' the Folks Alang the Road! George Ridley & the Blaydon Races. A new film by Geoff Wonfor starring Craig Conway as Geordie Ridley.
OUT NOW ON CD... Gannin' to Blaydon Races! - The Songs of George Ridley. Arranged & produced by Vic Gammon.
OUT NOW... Gannin' to Blaydon Races! - The life and times of George Ridley. A new book by Dave Harker.
Double CD now available.
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SUNDAY FOR SAMMY 2012. I have enjoyed the dvds that I have brought from you not only this week - Sunday For Sammy 2012 which I received this morning and have watched and enjoyed tonight but also previous Sunday for Sammy dvds in 2008 and 2006 as well as Big River, Big Songs - The Tyne And The Tall Ships 2005 - I have enjoyed them all and may It continue hence why I have now ordered Sunday for Sammy 2004 and 2010. Shelley B
SUNDAY FOR SAMMY 2012. I have just finished watching it, really enjoyed it. Hats off to Tim and his colleagues. Andrew P
SUNDAY FOR SAMMY 2012. Many thanks for sending me the Sunday for Sammy DVD so quickly. This is a highly entertaining, amusing and well produced DVD. In addition, the three fantastic songs performed by the excellent Joe McElderry make it essential viewing for his many fans. Jo O
Alex Glasgow - Northern Drift & Joe Lives My CD of Northern Drift and Joe Lives! arrived this morning - many thanks for the speedy service, it's much appreciated. Many years ago I had a LP version of Joe Lives! and really enjoyed John Woodvine's performance. Sadly, somewhere along the way in various house moves and de-clutterings it went astray and I thought it was gone for good. I had not been able to find a new copy in any format anywhere. But just the other day I was prompted to do a new Google search for John Woodvine and Joe Lives! and found your firm and all your marvellous material, and there it was, hence my order. I am very pleased to have a fresh new copy of Joe Lives! It's playing now as I type this message. I'm trying not to sing along too loud... As an expat-Geordie I'll be coming back for more of your recordings. Best regards Alan T
Big River, Big Songs - The Tyne DVD's received today. Have just spent the most amazing time watching, singing, crying, laughing. best few quid ever spent. Bought the other one for my Mothers 84th birthday present which is a couple of days after Christmas. Just hope she has enjoyed it as much as me. Sure she will. Thanks Catherine H
Big River, Big Songs - The Tyne Watched the DVD last night, it was the best entertainment we have seen for years; it beats the modern stuff by miles. Thank you. Alan E
Big River, Big Songs - The Tyne Received it, love it, as two Northerners living in the Midlands for 46 years, it brought tears to our eyes. Thanks again. Jean D
Big River, Big Songs - The Tyne Thank you so much for the DVD and for posting it so promptly. I watched it last night and was enthralled with it, the photography is super and the singing is absolutely great. Thank you again. Jill B
The Owen Brannigan Story DVD Sir, 79years, ex-geordie, ex GP, may I say how much I enjoyed your DVD about Owen Brannigan. The accompanist interviewed was superb. But why no mention of Ernest Lush? Their "Friday Night" recitals were superb. Clever, witty, superbly professional, etc. Regards, James B


Shiela Armstrong
David Haslam
DVD - £15.00 (MWMDVD88)   

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With the Northumbria Concert Orchestra & Chorus conducted by David Haslam:

The Cullercoats Fish Lass
The Cliffs Of Old Tynemouth
The Trimdon Grange Explosion
Water Of Tyne
Blow The Wind I Ho
Cushie Butterfield
The Keel Row
Children's Song
Rap Her To Bank
It Was One Summer's Morning
The Oak And The Ash
The Hexhamshire Lass
Lavender's Blue
Cat Gut Jim
The Sandgate Lassie's Lament
Ee Aye Aa Cud Hew
The Poacher's Call
Died Of Love
Jowl, Jowl
The Row Between The Cages
The Coal Owner And The Pitman's Wife
The Lambton Worm
Newcastle Overture
Wor Geordie
The Blaydon Races

The DVD features Sir Thomas Allen & Sheila Armstrong in concert at Durham Cathedral in 1993 to celebrate it's 900th Anniversary. Songs arranged and conducted by David Haslam with the Northumbria Concert Orchestra include: 'Blaydon Races', 'Water of Tyne', 'The Lambton Worm', 'Cushie Butterfield', 'The Keel Row', 'The Cullercoats Fish Lass' and 'Lavenders Blue'.


Ian Lace - 09/11/2009
'Thumbs up please and Recording of the Month status':

[Eric Robson (interviewing Sir Thomas Allen: ...Some snooty folk might think this music is beneath them?...]

'... they want their heads's really full of wonderful material...Brahms and Schubert and Mahler set folk songs...and these Border ballads and collier songs and everything else here ... are as good as anything that exists anywhere in the world of music...'
- Sir Thomas Allen

'I grew up with these songs...they're a rich part of our heritage. They tell of all sorts of things: of tragedy (explosions in the mines), of hardship and poverty and yet there is such humour... we used to sing songs like Cushie Butterfield and The Lambton Worm as we slapped paper on the walls... I've grown up with it all, it's all deep within me... [The songs are about] such wonderful colourful characters like the earthy and rather coarse Cullercoats Fish Lass'
- Sheila Armstrong

This programme was, for me, the highlight of the 1993 Christmas TV schedules here in the UK. It was soon released in VHS format and I must have almost worn out the tape. Recently a DVD version was reissued and is the basis of this review.

First of all for non-UK readers I should explain that Northumbria is the North-eastern most county of England bordering with Scotland to its North. I will confess to a strong personal interest in this programme for I, too, am a North-countryman albeit born in Cumberland over the Pennines to the West of Northumbria. I remember very well singing many of these songs in my childhood; songs like: The Keel Row, The Ash Grove and Lavender Blue. I suspect, too, that with the large scale diasporas from the British Isles over the last two centuries many of these songs could now be known world-wide.

The programme begins with David Hallam's Newcastle Overture underscoring film of the Northumbrian countryside: pictures of the area's coastline, its hills and crags, its castles and the City of Newcastle itself. There are frequent aerial views taken at speed and sometimes employing dizzyingly steep angles that can be quite disconcerting. The Overture's music is often stirring and dramatic and it includes snatches of the folk songs we are to hear later plus the unmistakable influence of Vaughan Williams. The pictures end with views of Durham Cathedral where this concert was staged to mark the 900th anniversary, in 1993, when this performance was recorded, of the laying of the Cathedral's foundation stone.

Sheila Armstrong, a miner's daughter, was born in Ashington, Northumberland. A renowned international opera singer, with a career spanning some 30 years, she chose this concert as a last major performance before she retired. Sir Thomas Allen, another local man, was born in Seaham Harbour down from Sunderland in neighbouring County Durham.

The songs are strongly rhythmic and melodic. They span a wide variety of experiences and emotions, hardship and sorrow, love and loss; and include some larger than life characters like Cushie Butterfield (...She's a big lass and a bonny lass, And she likes her beer...), Cat Gut Jim (...the fiddler, a man of great renown...) and Wor Geordie who lost his Penka. Some verses of many of these songs are sung behind harsh monochrome photos of austere streets, bleak industrial landscapes, pictures of hardy, resilient folk, small vulnerable-looking fishing vessels and desolate shorelines.

'The Trimdon Grange Explosion' is a heartfelt song, full of pathos about the tragedy following an explosion at the mine, 'God protect each lonely widow, and raise each drooping head, Be a father to the orphans, never let them cry for bread.' Its music is deeply affecting; it must be a strong man who can resist tears standing in his eyes. 'The Cliffs of Old Tynemouth' (T'was there with my Alan I walked hand in hand ...sweet were the echoes of the dark cliffs above, But oh! sweeter his voice as he murmured his love...) is another lovely song; unforgettable and tenderly romantic. Here mention must be made of conductor David Haslam's skillful, colourful arrangements; sensitive to the character of these folk songs, each a pearl.

The concert and the rehearsals leading up to it are featured. Sheila Armstrong points out that the songs are demanding of her range requiring her to reach high and low extremes while both she and Sir Thomas realize the difficult acoustics of the Cathedral tend to obscure their diction. But the overall impression is of a celebration of great joy and happiness - and don't the soloists enjoy themselves; really letting themselves go and animating such songs as the recognized anthem of the area The Blaydon Races, that ends the concert.

A rare treat, a joy to treasure for all the reasons above. Not only my Recording of the Month but also my Recording of the Year.
Ian Lace - 09/11/2009