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Sailing to Byzantium

By Christine Tobin

RNCM Concert Hall, 21 October 2012

Some dozen poems by Yeats, set to music and sung by Christine Tobin, who is accompanied by four fantastic musicians: that’s it, in a nutshell.

To enjoy the concert best, I found, you really needed to foreground the music, to get into it on its own terms and not be too precious about the words or their celebrated author’s intentions.  If you did that it all flowed and even swung, whereas in the first song the music seemed a kind of add-on, a superfluous background.  For it goes without saying, surely, that Yeats’ words as poetry have their own music and require no overlay.

The advice therefore is to focus on the music, rather than be overly concerned with the words of the poem that inspired it, and that way you’ll be assured, what with Tobin’s soulful vocals and a slue of virtuoso improvisations from the likes of guitarist Phil Robson, cellist Kate Shortt, pianist Liam Noble and double bassist Dave Whitford, of an enjoyable, edifying experience.