J Philips - Melodys of Earth and Sky | NMC Recordings NMCD271

J Philips - Melodys of Earth and Sky


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Label: NMC Recordings

Cat No: NMCD271

Format: CD

Number of Discs: 1

Release Date: 11th March 2022



Toby Jones (reader)
Kate Romano (clarinets)
Ionel Manciu (violin)


Philips, Julian

Melodys of Earth and Sky


Toby Jones (reader)
Kate Romano (clarinets)
Ionel Manciu (violin)


BAFTA Award-winning actor Toby Jones (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Girl) reanimates the nineteenth-century poet John Clare through his poems and prose, paired with nine creative transcriptions from Clare's book of fiddle tunes – conceived for clarinet and violin by Julian Philips.

John Clare straddled both words and music in his creative outpouring. Alongside his vivid depictions of rural life, Clare was also a prolific fiddle player and avid collector of folksongs, ballads and dances. He sought to capture an oral tradition by ‘plucking out’ tunes on his violin during his travels.

This project was initially intended for a bicentenary celebration of Clare's Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery (April 2020), led by Clare scholar Professor Simon Kövesi, Toby Jones and clarinettist and producer Kate Romano.

The Melodys have a sense of shared, communal experience – of melancholy (The Gardengate), innocence (Young Huzzar), foreboding (The Storm), restlessness (Morgiana), inebriation (Polka), a wedding (I’ll be married on Sunday), sorrow (Black Ey’d Susan), intrigue (Morgan Rattler), and exuberant joy (Hornpipes).

The stripped-back instrumentation of Kate Romano’s clarinet and Ionel Manciu’s violin creates an intimate, domestic atmosphere reflecting the authenticity of Clare’s fascination with these fiddle-tunes. The choice is further reinforced by the delight Kate Romano found in playing through Bartok's 44 duos for two violins during lockdown with her daughter Livvy on violin. The two ran through early drafts of the Melodys over Zoom and the work is affectionately dedicated to them both.

Simon Kövesi worked with Julian Philips to assign texts to each Melody, before both words and music were recorded together “allowing for a natural and organic synergy between spoken word and instrumental music” (Julian Philips/Simon Kövesi).

A project close to Toby Jones’s heart, he says, “My father Freddie Jones was a fervent reciter of Clare's poetry. He played Clare more than once and identified with the struggle and ardour of the poet's extraordinary journey. This recording has enabled me to extend that road a little further.”

“A desire to explore the creative synergy between words and music represents perhaps the most fundamental impulse of human creativity.” – Julian Philips/Simon Kövesi

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