Thomas Round: The Lost Chord (1998)

CD Cover
"78s 2 CD" GS03

The organ in the Church of St. James the Great, Barrow-in-Furness, was transferred there in 1868 from its original home, the Chapel Royal at St. James's Palace in London. It had been built there in 1837 for King William IV, and was thus the organ that the young Arthur Sullivan played during his tenure as a Chapel Royal chorister in the 1850s.

When Thomas Round, who lives near the church, discovered the organ's background, he came to the aid of an urgently-needed restoration project by making this recording for the church's benefit. Since "The Lost Chord" runs only a few minutes, Round added a number of other recordings from his archives, and a few more recent items, to fill out the programme to 45 minutes. It was issued initially on cassette and is now available on CD from 78s 2 CD.

The contents are as follows:

  • "A Piece of Musical History" (narr. Round).
  • "The Lost Chord" (Margaret Davies, organ)
  • "A Wand'ring Minstrel" (The Mikado)
  • "Thou Hast the Power" (The Sorcerer)
  • "For Love Alone" (The Sorcerer)
  • "Free from his Fetters Grim" (The Yeomen of the Guard)
  • "Take a Pair of Sparkling Eyes" (The Gondoliers)
  • "The Bells of Christmas" (Martin Shaw)
  • "No Candle was there and no Fire" (Liza Lehman)
  • "O Night Divine" (W. J. Marsh)
  • "Christmas Chimes" (Bernard Hamblen)
  • "So Sweet and Small" (Anon.)
  • "The Heavenly Child" (Bernard Hamblen)
  • "O Holy Night" (Adolphe Adam)
  • "The Mystic Star" (Bernard Hamblen)
  • "The Holy City" (Stephen Adams)

It is ironic that the Christmas songs on the CD may be a more appealing draw than the G&S material. The latter, I suspect, has been heard to better advantage on other occasions, but most of the Christmas songs go well beyond the usual holiday fare. Round sings them with idiomatic charm, but perhaps they are not sufficiently differentiated to sustain interest.

The song that gives the recording its title, "The Lost Chord," receives here a competent interpretation. Round, after fifty-two years singing professionally, may be a little over-parted at the climaxes, but it is still a treasure well worth having.

The other G&S songs are a mixed bag. The two songs from The Sorcerer, curiously presented in the wrong order, have only piano accompaniment. They were previously issued on the recording, "Thomas Round Sings Songs You Love." Round never recorded the opera anywhere else, so as a document of how he would have interpreted the role of Alexis, they are worthwhile.

The remaining three songs come from the 1969 recording Gilbert and Sullivan For All, which Round made in 1969 with Donald Adams and several other former D'Oyly Carte colleagues. All have full orchestra (and, for "A Wandering Minstrel," chorus). Of this group, I liked "Free from his Fetters Grim" the best—a superbly nuanced rendition.

Most irritatingly, the recording gives no indication of when any of the selections were recorded. The only artist credited, aside from Round, is the organist for "The Lost Chord." The orchestra(s), conductor(s), chorus, and various pianists are unnamed. Ten of the selections are marked "vintage," which seems to me a misuse of the term.

I suspect that most listeners will have their reservations about this recording, but any lapses are forgivable when one considers that $5.25 of the $11.95 purchase price goes to the St. James the Great Restoration Appeal. Lockwood himself donated fifty copies to the church last summer. It certainly would make a great Christmas present for a G&S fan.

Issue History
1998 [Private Issue] Cassette [unnumbered]
1999 78s 2 CD CD GS03