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Music Review

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My Land's Shore
(Studio Cast Recording)


Music and Lyrics: Christopher J Orton
Book and Lyrics: Robert Gould
Performed by: Jonathan Williams, Killian Donnelly, Kelly-Anne Gower, Andy Hockley, Alexis James, Sarah Lark, Kit Orton, Rhiannon Sarah Porter and Gareth Richards
SimG Records
RRP: £13.99
5 065001 707094
Available 06 February 2012

I always worry when something is compared to a well-known show, or successful artiste. 'Scotland's Frank Sinatra' or 'The UK's Answer to Fame' never instill confidence that it's going to be a pleasant experience, so when I received a recording that has been referred to as 'A Welsh Les Mis', I wasn't hopeful. Just shows how wrong you can be.

My Land's Shore is a billed as 'A Passionate New Musical for Wales', and is a tale of conflict, social injustice, moral dilemmas, guilt, love and heartbreak, with music & lyrics by Christopher J Orton and book & lyrics by Robert Gould. I've not come across Orton before (to my knowledge), whilst I've been extremely impressed with Bob Gould's work in the past (see my previous review of SimG's Joe Sterling release). Orton has written several scores for musicals such as This Time Next Week and Dracula, although I'm guessing that this massive work has taken much of his time of late. My Land's Shore was workshopped in London in 2005, and following a major re-write, was presented in concert format in Cardiff in 2007. Another re-write followed, and this recording is the result.

The show is based on a true story. In the aftermath of the Merthyr Rising of 1831, Richard Lewis (aka Dic Penderyn), an ordinary man of conviction and integrity carried along by the wheels of history in extraordinary times, became the first martyr of the Welsh working class.

Without a doubt, this is one of the striking recordings I've been asked to review for a long time. It's clear to see why comparisons are being made to Les Miserables - it's certainly epic. The orchestration and writing are full, no piano-and-keyboards scoring here - it sounds just as huge as anything I've heard. Great textures, great scoring (even on the ballads), all of which adds to a great listen. Recording values are top quality, as is the packaging.

The musical numbers progress the story nicely, and are, without exception, performed with passion and believability. The cast is made up of current and future West End stars - and it's great to see one of my favourites, Sarah Lark, on there. Others I'm less familiar with, but Rhiannon Sarah Porter is certainly one to watch. It's very hard to pick out songs on this recording, as it really works best as a complete work, but I have to mention 'Love On The Edge Of Our Tears'. I really don't think I've heard a more perfectly crafted ballad, which is performed with emotion and power - it equals anything I've previously heard from any of the mainstream musical theatre composers.

All in all, one of the strongest new musical recordings I've heard in many years.


Ian Gude

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