Robbie Sherratt comes from north Staffordshire, as his repertoire readily testifies. In fact, the music of his home region is part of the rationale of this record. He has studied at the Sibelius Academy and is just completing his final year at university. He first encountered folk music in the now closed George Hotel in Buxton, aged nine – I’m sure there’s a great story there – and Provenance is, unsurprisingly, his debut album.
There are a few more points to clarify. Firstly, Robbie is a classical violin player even though his chosen instrument has five strings so his supporting instruments include oboe, cello and bassoon. His borrowing from Havergal Brian and the final piece, ‘Compliments To Doruk Bilek’, which is more modern classical than anything, confirm his true nature. Secondly, if you’re accustomed to hearing traditional fiddle played in a Scottish or Irish style, you’re going to hear something new.
The opening track, ‘Hole In The Ceiling’ is one of Robbie’s own compositions written in his Newcastle digs on a rainy day. The opening pizzicato section cleverly mimics the rhythm of raindrops collecting in a bowl and the theme he composes recurs later in the piece. Next comes ‘Potters Hay’; two tunes by the late Sean Heeley who was a major influence on Robbie in those early days. Third up is ‘Havergal’, again written by Robbie and incorporating the theme from Havergal Brian’s Gothic Symphony and if you wonder why, Brian came from a working class Potteries family and, like many 20th century composers, borrowed from traditional music. A perfect role model, wouldn’t you say?
There are two songs in the set. Robbie has a decent baritone voice and a delivery that might be described as leisurely but he doesn’t seem very confident in it and mixes himself low with the accompaniment often overwriting the words. That seems a shame and I do think it’s something he should develop but you can’t do everything at once.
Robbie’s own composing skills come to the fore again with a set of variations on ‘The Staffordshire Hornpipe’ and the adaptation of parts of Psalm 119 into a polska and a waltz for ‘Chapel In The Wilderness’, a nod to the west gallery tradition, and I’m left thinking ‘will classical music’s loss be folk music’s gain?’. Or will it be the other way round?
Artist’s website: www.robbiesherratt.com
This isn’t on Provenance but who could resist ‘Duelling Banjos’ played on fiddle and trombone?