Jimmy LEE
The Empty Room
The Ballerina [6.08]
The Empty Room [7.45]
Home for Christmas [5.20]
Journey’s End [5.48]
Guards Chapel Orchestra/Major Craig Hallatt (arranger)
rec. Guards Chapel, Wellington Barracks, London, 2016
JIMMY LEE JL105 [25.18]

Jimmy Lee is a new name to me, but he is well-known in folk music circles, and, on the evidence of this CD, someone with an interesting musical voice. An unsettled background (taken into care at four, ten homes and eleven schools) led to enlistment in the Royal Navy. His reputation rests largely on his work as a folk-singer and composer, but this is his first CD for conventional classical forces. The works on it were premiered at the Conway Hall in London on July 12th 2016. The orchestra was the one on this disc, a relatively new organization. Despite the military connections, this is an orchestra, not a military band.

The music in these four short pieces is instantly attractive, with some lush string melodies and good tunes and interesting touches. Orchestrations are imaginative. The Ballerina refers to the ballerina on a music box, dancing aimlessly and sadly. The Empty Room is based on a vision or dream of the composer’s grandfather’s house, with photographs of various family members killed in the two world wars. There is a sense of loss and gratitude, but there are also angry moments. Home for Christmas is based on childhood memories, a mixture of nostalgia and celebration. The final piece, Journey’s End is, as the title implies, about a return from a long voyage to a place of peace and harmony.

The music perhaps should be seen as in the tradition of British light orchestral music, as attractive mood pieces, with clarity, nothing to offend and much to please. Performances are attractive.

Overall, then, this is very enjoyable but not an essential purchase. The particular problem is the very short running time, even by popular standards. As the CD retails at mid-price, this could concern potential buyers.

Michael Wilkinson