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The Sheba Sound CD cover

Tracks from this CD have been listened to more than half a million times on the internet, so it’s obviously appealing to a lot of people!

How about owning, or giving, the real thing? As well as two CDs of music, there are details of the players, the music, the composers, and the arrangers.

(Click underlined movements to hear MP3 format sound clips.)
The Sheba Sound on tour in Germany, c1979
(L to R) Alastair Ross, Deirdre Dundas-Grant, Catherine Smith, Deirdre Lind
CD 1, Kaleidoscope - Rocked Baroque to Folk Music
Bach, arr. Langford, Gigue; Hefti, arr. Langford, The Odd Couple; Müller, Zwei Freunde - Polka de Concert; Bull, arr. Lester, The King's Hunt; Traditional Arabic Song, arr. Langford, On the Palm Tree; Boyce, Allegro from Sonata no 10 in E minor; Ashlyn, The Bassoon Song; Anon, arr. Lester, Can Shee Forgive?; Two Beatles songs, arr. Hymas, Here Comes the Sun, Obladi Oblada; Purcell, arr. Dods, Chaconne & Sinfonie; Runswick, Hawkeye; Byrd, arr. Lester, The Earl of Salisbury's Pavane; Henry VIII arr. Richardson, Greensleeves; Langford, Folk Song Suite; Couperin, arr. Langford, Les Baricades Mistérieuses; Langford, The Carnival of Venice

CD 2, Reflections - Baroque and Contemporary Works
Georg Friedrich Handel, Arrival of the Queen of Sheba; Giuseppe San Martini, Trio Sonata no 5 in G; David Matthews, Toccatas and Pastorals Op 13; François Couperin, Suite L'espagnole; Elizabeth Maconchy, Trittico; Michelangelo Jerace, Sinfonia no 2 in E minor; Jean-Michel Damase, Suite pour Quatre

Total Time: 115:34

The 24-page CD booklet has a 6,000 word programme note in English containing the interview below,
plus a detailed track-by-track description, including interviews with Gordon Langford about his arrangements
and David Matthews about Toccatas and Pastorals. There are many photographs.

Note: These are two CDs for the price of one

Jeremy Polmear talks to Catherine Smith about The Sheba Sound:

photo of (L to R) Sandra Mackay (oboe d'amore) and Catherine Smith (oboe) The Sheba Sound was founded in 1975 by Catherine Smith, and ran for an impressive 22 years. I asked her how it came about. "I was a freelance oboist working in London, and, to be honest, I felt that life was getting a bit repetitive. I needed a challenge, I needed to break out of the orchestral rut. I love making experiments, and exploring new areas of life.

"My starting point for the new group was two oboes, bassoon and harpsichord to play trio sonatas. I approached the oboist Deirdre Lind and the bassoonist Deirdre Dundas-Grant because they had both played in the BBC Concert Orchestra, and therefore had experience in playing all kinds of music. Neil Black [a prominent London oboist] suggested I contact the harpsichordist Harold Lester, who not only played early music with Alfred Deller, but contemporary music with Cathy Berberian and the London Sinfonietta. Our horizons were limitless. The name of the group reflects this - 'Sheba', in reference to the best-known baroque piece for two oboes, 'The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba' by Handel, - and 'Sound', being the kind of name you wouldn't use in strictly classical circles. All future members of the group shared this eclectic experience of musical styles. I am particularly grateful to the first members, who made financial sacrifices until we had established ourselves.

"As I wanted the group to be unique in every respect, I decided that we would play, if possible, unpublished Baroque music, so I spent hours and hours in libraries looking for interesting scores. Harold Lester brought his extensive knowledge of early harpsichord music, and arranged some of it; and I also wanted a more jazzy arranger. Brian Kay of the King's Singers suggested Gordon Langford, who had written beautifully for them; he wrote a Folk Song Suite for us [Kaleidoscope CD, tracks 15 -19], the first of many arrangements. Our subsequent commissions were not only contemporary serious music, but also jazz and rock.

"I decided that our presentation was very important. Our dresses were glamourous, shot silk, in bright reds, and the men had cummerbunds to match. Each work was introduced by a member of the group, which was unusual at that time. We commissioned special music stands from the furniture department of the Royal College of Art, and draped the funiture on the platform in red velvet.

"We played all over the UK, in concert halls, at music clubs and festivals, and we did regular London concerts at the Wigmore Hall. One was recorded, and is the source of several tracks on these CDs. We often worked with well-known actors such as Gabriel Woolf [The Bassoon Song, Kaleidoscope CD, track 7], Derek Jacobi, Nicolas Parsons and Spike Milligan, on whose TV programmes we appeared. We did lots of Children's Concerts too, at which the greatest success was a special story, 'The Key to the Zoo', written by humourist Miles Kington, with music by Stephen Oliver. In the story we each became an animal character, with an appropriate hat.

"We toured abroad too, especially in Germany, Italy and Arabia. In Italy they preferred to have a singer with the group, and we took people such as the contralto Margaret Cable and the tenor Christopher Underwood. We also played in Holland, and on TV in Flanders. We broadcast in the UK too - on the BBC music channel Radio 3, but I was also on the talk channel Radio 4, on 'Woman's Hour'. At the time I had three children under eight as well as my career - quite a new thing back in 1975 - and this created quite a lot of interest among the listeners, who then wanted to know what our music sounded like. This led to the BBC financing a recording, many of whose tracks appear here."

The Sheba Sound at the Albert Memorial, London.
(L to R) Catherine Smith, Deirdre Lind, Alastair Ross, Deirdre Dundas-Grant
Press Comment

"Great entertainment. It can be played as a background to a meal or household chores yet with so many assertive blandishments that you will be glad to interrupt and listen or to be happy to listen in breaks in conversation. The single-width set is most thoroughly annotated and there are plenty of evocative photos as well.

"This revival was a thoughtful and cleverly considered and executed project; typical of all Oboe Classics’ releases. A winner and not just for cross-over children of the seventies and eighties. It’s a natural for Christmas or any other season and a better than pleasant diversion after you have surfeited on Pettersson symphonies, Bax tone poems or Schoenberg quartets." Rob Barnett, MusicWeb International

"The Sheba Sound has brought music to places as far away as Oman, with impeccable performing standards. Catherine Smith, who created the ensemble, has earned the accolade of these recordings from Oboe Classics... The baroque works are played with a pleasing absence of 'authentic' mannerisms projected by beautiful oboe, bassoon and harpsichord playing." Edwin Roxburgh, Double Reed News (UK)

Listener Comment

"I heard Handel's Queen of Sheba track on Classic fm [a UK classical music station]. Excellent music." Nigel Gardner, UK

"Thank you, all CDs arrived very promptly. Enjoying the Baroque Spirit as I fumble the keyboard, but you've got a job on to beat the Sheba Sound. A real high point." Jon Reed, UK

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