The Sir Arthur Sullivan
Sesquicentenial Commemorative Issues
Volumes 1 and 2

Symposium 1123
Symposium 1123

Volume 1

This compilation, issued in association with the Sir Arthur Sullivan Society to commemorate the sesquicentenial of the composer's birth, contains twenty-five selections of a variety of Sullivan's vocal music, all of it recorded in the years 1902-1924. The liner notes say that, in the period 1898-1951, over 4000 individual records of Sullivan's music were made, at least forty percent of which were not of the familiar operas, showing that the composer's popularity was far more broadly-based than most people realize.

The selections are listed below:

"Orpheus with his lute" (Dora Labette)
The Prodigal Son: "How many hired servants" (Evan Williams)
"The Sailor's Grave" (Ben Davies)
"Mary Morison" (John Harrison)
"Thou'rt passing hence my brother" (Charles Santley)
The Sorcerer: "My name is John Wellington Wells" (Walter Passmore)
Henry VIII: King Henry's Song (Andrew Black)
"I would I were a king" (Robert Radford)
The Pirates of Penzance: "I am a pirate king" (Richard Temple)
The Pirates of Penzance: "Poor wand'ring one" (Isabel Jay)
The Martyr of Antioch: "Come Margarita, come" (Edward Lloyd)
Iolanthe: "None shall part us" (Henry Lytton and Louie Henri)
Iolanthe: The sentry's Song (Harry Dearth)
The Mikado: The Mikado's Song (Harold Williams)
The Golden Legend: "The night is calm" (Carrie Tubb)
The Golden Legend: "Virgin who lovest" (Edna Thornton)
The Yeomen of the Guard: "Were I thy bride" (Eleanor Jones-Hudson)
The Gondoliers: "Kind sir, you cannot have the heart" (Violet Essex)
The Gondoliers: "Take a pair of sparkling eyes" (John Coates)
The Gondoliers: The Duchess's Song (Carrie Herwin)
Ivanhoe: "Ho! Jolly Jenkin" (David Bispham)
Ivanhoe: "Woo thou thy snowflake" (Peter Dawson)
Ivanhoe: "Lord of our chosen race" (Edith Evans)
The Rose of Persia: Drinking Song (Walter Glynne)
The Rose of Persia: "Small street Arab" (Charles Workman)
Issue History
1992 Symposium CD 1123

Sir Arthur Sullivan, Volume 2

Symposium 1206
Symposium 1206

This compilation, though issued four years after Volume 1, is still labeled a "sesquicentenial commemorative issue." The disc features the recordings of just two performers — Walter Passmore and C. H. Workman, the two most important patter baritones of the post-Grossmith era. Both men learned their roles directly under Gilbert's direction, thus lending a unique authenticity to the recordings they made. In several cases, we have the opportunity to hear how the same song was performed by both men.

Overall, it is Passmore who comes off better here—he seems far more relaxed and musically sophisticated—however, this impression could also be an artifact of the recording technology, as the transfers of the Passmore material seem much more immediate, with less hiss and a more "alive" sound. However, both sets of transfers give an excellent idea of what these two important artists sounded like.

Walter Passmore as the Lord Chancellor
Walter Passmore as the Lord Chancellor

Bruce Miller disagrees with my assessment of these artists:

I must disgaree with your evaluation of musical sophistication, Passmore vs. Workman. Passmore was more of a character-oriented performer, but it is clear to me from listening to both sets of recordings that Workman is a more polished and finished musician.

The rushed quality on some of the Workman tracks is mostly due, I think, to the smaller disc diameter and the resultant need to adopt faster tempi to make everything fit. Workman's voice is superior to most of the patter singers we've heard, and his "Tit Willow" cadenza, which is flawlessly executed, requires a control and technique which Passmore obviously does not possess. Passmore also tends to speak through many passages rather than sing them and this is a further example of his relative lack of musical sophistication.

The full programme is listed below. (Note: The four last Passmore tracks are taken from the 1907 Odeon Mikado complete recording.)

Walter Passmore
"My name is John Wellington Wells" (The Sorcerer)
"When I was a lad" (H.M.S. Pinafore)
"When a felon's not engaged" (The Pirates of Penzance)
"Am I alone?" / "If you're anxious for to shine" (Patience)
"When I go out of door," with Robert Howe (Patience)
"When you're lying awake" (Iolanthe)
"The flowers that bloom in the spring" (The Mikado)
"I have a song to sing, O," with Hilda Francis (The Yeomen of the Guard)
"Who fired that shot?" / "Like a ghost," with Robert Howe and Morgan Kingston (Yeomen)
"I stole the prince" (The Gondoliers)
"As someday it may happen (The Mikado)
"I am so proud," with Harry Thornton and Harry Dearth (The Mikado)
"Here's a how-de-do," with Elsa Sinclair and Walter Hyde (The Mikado)
"There is beauty in the bellow," with Ada Florence (The Mikado)
C. H. Workman
"My name is John Wellington Wells" (The Sorcerer)
"When I was a lad" (H.M.S. Pinafore)
"I am the very model of a modern Major-General" (The Pirates of Penzance)
"Softly sighing to the river" (The Pirates of Penzance)
"The law is the true embodiment" (Iolanthe)
"When I went to the bar" (Iolanthe)
"When you're lying awake" (Iolanthe)
"On a tree by a river" (The Mikado)
"I have a song to sing, O," with Elsie Spain (The Yeomen of the Guard)
"In enterprise of martial kind" (The Gondoliers)
"First you're born" (Utopia, Limited)
"The small street-Arab" (The Rose of Persia)
Issue History
1996 Symposium CD 1206