Save the Children is a double album of holiday songs sung by the international casts of a number of successful musical theatre productions, including Cats, Chess, Les Miserables, and The Phantom of the Opera.
Sarah Brightman appears on two tracks (just one prominently) and isn’t listed as any part of the companies, so a simple YouTube search (or a click on the clip below) should get fans what they’re after.
Those looking at the album as a whole will get what they pay for, pretty much. Most festive favourites are present, from “Silver Bells” to a rendition of “Ave Maria” delivered by Elaine Page. There are six symphony orchestras participating and the discs were recorded in London at Abbey Road, New York at RCA Studios and Sydney at Studio 301. Norman Newell produces.
The project is in total support of the Save the Children foundation, which was first established in 1919 in the United Kingdom by British social reformer and bizarre name owner Eglantyne Jebb. Her sister, Dorothy Buxton, was also instrumental in starting the foundation. It came about as a response to starvation in Germany and Austria during the German blockade in the First World War.
Brightman’s appearance on Save the Children is on “In the Bleak Midwinter,” a piece that features the Wren Orchestra with Martin Yates as conductor. It’s a John Rutter arrangement.
The song is quite beautiful, with Brightman’s high notes ringing clear as Christmas bells on an uninviting morning. It’s a sweeping number and she spends most of it in her upper registry, which really draws out the subtle vibrato. The orchestra delivers delicate backing and the song seems suitable for Christmas mass.
Brightman’s holds are also worth noting, especially as the piece winds to a feathery close. She draws her voice back pleasantly and fades with the cushioning strings.
The carol is based on a poem by English devotional poet Christina Rossetti. Her “Goblin Market” long-form poem is probably her most famous work next to “In the Bleak Midwinter.” Gustav Holst was the first one responsible for placing the poem into carol format, although English organist Harold Darke’s rendition is probably more famous.
Brightman also appears briefly on the title track, the last song on the double disc recording. This is one of those corny Christmas songs, not unlike Bob Geldof’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” calamity. These are the sorts of songs that drive most people nuts, but it’s worth noting because our heroine appears among the mass of voices.
Save the Children is only worth purchasing if you dig the idea of theatre stars singing Christmas music – and who doesn’t? It’s a lame recording, but “In the Bleak Midwinter” is a decent song and Brightman’s voice fits it well. Oh, and Catherine Zeta-Jones is part of the 42nd Street London company, so there’s that.