Vintage recordings of Merrie England
Following the success of the production given at the Savoy in 1902, popular selections from the opera were recorded, although not all were taken immediately after the show had closed. Many of these songs were reissued on The Art of the Savoyard in 1973 and 1982.
Henry Lytton played the Earl of Essex and his songs were the earliest of these recordings.
* Recorded in London by the Gramophone & Typewriter Co., (later named: The Gramophone Co., 'H.M.V.') in May 1902. ('Wolfson' has c. March)
Mat. no.: 1908 "The Yeomen of England" G&T GC2 - 2654 (10'') (Piano acc. by Landon Ronald)
Lytton performs the song without the chorus. On the refrain, he sings "And Spaniards and Dutchmen and Frenchmen and such men/ As foeman may curse them/ The Yeomen [or Bowmen depending on the verse] of England", words which were altered following the Great War.
* Recorded in London by the Gramophone & Typewriter Company in June 1902.
Mat. no.: 4672 "Imagination" G&T 2 - 2125 (7'')
Lytton performs the song with piano accompaniment and omits the second verse. In the third verse, he sings different words again: "To those about to marry/Don't imagine you are doves/ Who can build a house for nothing/ And be happy in their loves". These words do not appear in the libretto or the vocal score. It is worth mentioning that this song was one of Passmore's in the production and not Lytton's.
Robert Evett, who played the first Sir Walter Raleigh, recorded only one song from the opera, "The English Rose".
Recorded in London by Odeon Records in c. June 1906.
Mat. no.: LX - 1350 "The English Rose" Od 44189 (10¾")
Finally, Walter Passmore as Walter Wilkins, recorded three songs from the opera.
* Recorded in London by Columbia Records in c. October 1912
Mat. no.: 6315 "King Neptune Sat on His Lonely Throne" (with Chorus) Col 371 (12'') ('Wolfson' lists as "Fish Song") Passmore performs the song with a small chorus and a wind-brass ensemble. At the mid-point of the second verse ["Is it odd that the god/ Told the salmon and the cod/ To publish this decree"], he asks the chorus to "let me sing it alone this time" and gets audibly annoyed when the chorus comes in, and continues to be annoyed while trying to name other fish he left out (such as the sardine).
* Recorded in London by Columbia Records in c. July 1913 ; (not issued until 1915 according to 'Wolfson')
Mat. no.: 28585 - 1- 2 "The Big Brass Band" (with Robert Howe) Col 2521 (10'') A third verse is performed by Passmore, possibly an encore verse written for the original production. It begins "In May or Juen, I sigh for a tune".
Mat. no.: 28588 - 1 "Perhaps You Don't Imagine" Col 2521 (10'') ('Wolfson' lists as "Imagination") Passmore performs "Imagination" in its entirety with a wind-brass ensemble. In the third verse, he changes the meaning of the opening line: "To those about to marry, don't! (pause) Imagine you are doves"
1. Reissued on "The Art of the Savoyard": Volume I — 'Pearl' Pavilion Records — 1973 Mono LP GEM 118-120
2. Reissued on "The Art of Henry Lytton" — 'Pearl' Pavilion Records — 1982 Mono LP GEM 197
3. Reissued on "The Art of the Savoyard" — 'Pearl' Pavilion Records — 1993 CD GEMM CD 9991
The above information on the original cast recordings was chiefly compiled from Brian Rust's London Musical Shows on Record 1897 - 1976, [Gramophone; London : 1977]. Variations noted in John Wolfson's The Savoyards on Record and The Art of the Savoyard compilations are as indicated.
Contributed by Robert Morrison