Published with permission from Poppy and ABC Radio
Saturday 27 April 2019 11:30AM (view full episode)
In the 1970s, the soprano Poppy Holden was a vital – not to say unique – part of Europe’s musical avant-garde. Singing for the likes of György Ligeti and Bruno Maderna, she could hit notes just below a dog whistle. Oliver Knussen composed his second symphony for her voice, but after the first performances in 1970 and 71, was obliged to rewrite it: no one else could sing that high. These days, based in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Poppy Holden teaches singing, conducts walking tours of the Northumbrian countryside and writes and lectures about Border Ballads: that genre of dark, sad, mysterious songs from just north of the Scottish/English border. This is the subject of our conversation on The Music Show, as Poppy talks about ballads such as ‘Willie’s Rare’, ‘The Unquiet Grave’ and she recites from ‘Thomas the Rhymer’, an account of a 13th century seer and adventurer and his journey to the land of the elves.
Poppy Holden’s new books are Border Ballads from Ettrick & Yarrow and Thomas the Rhymer.
Track title: Willie’s Rare
Artist: Jean Redpath
Album: Jean Redpath Live!
Publisher: Jean Redpath Records
Cat. no.: B01FMPT5US
Track titles: Love’s Ecstasy & Scintilla
Album: Bruno Maderna’s Satyricon
Artist: NOS Radio Orchestra, Hilversum
Cat. no.: STR 10061
Track title: Twa Brothers
Artist: Sheila Stewart
Album: From the Heart of the Tradition
Publisher: Topic Records
Cat. no.: TSCD515
Research Andrew Ford
Producer Ellie Parnell