Halfway Down The Stairs
How Sweet to Be a Cloud
The More It Snows
A. A. Milne's much-loved verses and stories about his son, Christopher Robin and his teddy bear, Winnie-the-Pooh, first appeared in the mid-1920s in a quartet of slim volumes: When We Were Very Young, Winnie-the-Pooh, Now We Are Six and The House at Pooh Corner. Memorably accompanied by delightful drawings from illustrator E. H. Shepard, the books quickly achieved huge popularity in Britain and the U.S.A. and, today – almost a hundred years on – are now known and adored in translation all over the world.
What is less well-known is that the popular composer of light music, Harold Fraser-Simson (best known for the stage show, The Maid of the Mountains), wrote enchanting settings for many of Milne’s funny and clever rhymes and all of Winnie-the-Pooh’s idiosyncratic ‘Hums’ that are such an important part of Pooh’s character and feature in almost every one of his adventures. A few of these songs have survived as childhood favourites (’They’re Changing Guard at Buckingham Palace’ and ‘Hush, Hush, Whisper Who Dares’) but the majority of the songs have been largely forgotten.
This recording, by baritone Grant Doyle and pianist John Kember, brings together for the very first time in one collection all 67 of Harold Fraser-Simson's beautifully crafted settings for A. A. Milne’s verses.
These charming songs, along with Pooh's nonsense ‘Hums’, capture the innocence of childhood and evoke an idyll of England at peace in the fragile years immediately following the First World War. Their very timelessness makes them deserving of a new audience of listeners of all ages.
The recordings are available on a double CD, published by EM Records as EMRCD 083.
The songs travel deep into the quirky world of childhood but are all friendly and warm-hearted matched by Fraser-Simpson's simple yet lively music performed with honesty of spirit by Grant Doyle and John Kember.Alan Cooper, British Music Society, 2023
...Fraser-Simpson is always at the service of the words, each song is a delightfully crafted yet simple and effective presentation of the words.The performances from Grant Doyle and John Kember are exemplary ... (Doyle) has the right sense of style in that he does not try to do much with the music, letting it simply shape the words.... to dip into the set is a complete delight and pick any moment and you get music redolent of that particular period.Robert Hugill, Planet Hugull, the online classical music magazine, 2023
...this is a clear labour of love, and as a library reference will remain unique, for no one is ever going to duplicate it. Eleven of the songs are premiere recordings and disc 2 ends with a performance of The King's Breakfast (19'11") with a quartet of flute (the versatile Doyle), violin, cello and horn. It is narrated by Brian Sibley, who also provides the excellent booklet and photographs.All involved should be applauded for allowing a new generation to hear these enchanting period pieces.Jeremy Nicholas, Gramophone, October 2023
The songs have two essential qualities. They fit Milne's poetry perfectly, and are completely unpretentious. One must understand these qualities to put the songs forward naturally, and these artists reach the high bar without effort. Grant Doyle does not condescend or make any of the songs childlike. He brings out the cleverness of the texts and the skill with which Fraser-Simson set them. His characterizations are apt, and he finds the right vocal quality for each song, especially those in the lower register. Accompaniment is sometimes quite subtle and sometimes complex. John Kember, a worthy partner, plays an equal part in establishing the Milne atmosphere. A complete delight.William Kreindler, MusicWeb International, 2023