New Classics

Composer, singer, teacher and conductor Betty Roe was born in London in 1930, the daughter of a fishmonger father and bookkeeper mother. Betty Roe learned piano from the age of six and began writing music and arrangements in her teens. She continued studying piano, cello and singing at the Royal Academy of Music after World War II, and studied composition with Lennox Berkeley. In the 1950s she became involved with a drama group where she began writing for musicals and also worked as a sessions singer.

She was Director of Music at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art from 1968–78 and founded Thames Publishing with her husband, John Bishop. This remarkable woman has composed six operas as well as orchestral works and light music for theatre and cabaret, but her first love is art-song of which she has produced over 300 examples. Her style is eclectic, ranging from the serious to the comical, displaying a wonderful wit as well as a firm grasp of vocal writing and a way of providing music that seems totally at one with the texts. At the age of 87, she remains a major force in the music world, awarded an MBE in 2011 for services to classical music and composition.

The Silver Hound and other songs features a program of works composed over the last 30 years and is a delight. Highlights include The Silver Hound, written in 1990 to mark the composer’s 60th birthday, I Know A Hill, the lovely In This Lone Open Glade, the witty Diva’s Lament, Three Hardy Conversations, and The Life That I Have (words by Second World War cryptographer Leo Marks). The performers include top English soloists Sarah Leonard and Anne Marie Sheridan (sopranos), Robin Tritschler (tenor) and Stephen Varcoe (baritone) with Nigel Foster, English Song accompanist extraordinaire (todays Gerald Moore) at the piano. Sometimes obbligato French horn (Daniel Beer the composers grandson), recorder (Emma Murphy) or violin (Madeleine Mitchell) add to the texture. These excellent premiere recording were produced in co-operation with the Betty Roe Society.

—John Pitt