No Masters NMCD30

The first collaboration between the Children’s Laureate and founder (with wife Clare) of the charity Farms For City Children and Coope Boyes and Simpson was Private Peaceful, a recording and stage production of the author reading from his award-winning anti-war story interspersed with appropriate songs from the country’s finest harmony trio.  For this latest joint enterprise Michael Morpurgo is assisted by additional readers Simon Reade, Paul Chequer, Andrew Bridgmont, Alexander Campbell and Stephanie Street, whilst CBS are augmented by Fi Fraser, Jo Freya and Georgina Boyes.  It’s the tale of the shepherd boy who (reasoned Morpurgo from his twenty-five years of farm work) must have been left behind to tend the flock when his older companions received Gabriel’s summons to greet the newborn Prince of Peace but, courtesy of the kindly archangel, managed to see the Christ-child after all.

I listen to this in mid-December and, whether or not you happen to accept the literal truth of the New Testament, it’s an uplifting experience - the ideal antidote to the musical dross, which traditionally assaults the ears during Advent.  Morpurgo’s tale, which is a fitting complement to the account in St Matthew‘s Gospel, is enhanced by a sensitively-chosen selection of carols taken substantially from the South Yorkshire/Derbyshire tradition for which CBS and friends are deservedly well-known; for this project, however, the net is cast as far as Hertfordshire (In Bethlehem City), Staffordshire (While Shepherds Were Watching) and Cornwall (Nowell & Nowell).  Anyone who has heard their previous Christmas offerings will appreciate that comment on the performances would be superfluous; CBS, whether as a trio or with FFB, are always flawless.

At a time when the so-called ‘holy land’ is defiled by conflict and violence, we have never been in greater need of this fine interpretation of Morpurgo’s gentle fable.

Dave Tuxford

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This album was reviewed in Issue 82 of The Living Tradition magazine.