This collection of short pieces, composed and performed by Oxford resident Beatrix Forbes, is an extraordinarily vivid recreation of the sights, sounds and history of Oxfordshire, all carefully crafted and capturing the county in a variety of moods. If you heard this without knowing its title, it would probably still conjure up images of Oxfordshire for you, from the bicycle bells and the roar of traffic hurrying along Oxford’s High Street, to the iciness of a Woodstock winter.
The first seven tracks focus on Oxford city. An elegant, legato melody evokes the grace and classicism of the Bridge of Sighs, an insistent, scurrying melody captures the activity in the college quadrangles, and you can hear the jingling bells of the Morris dancers in St Giles as they dance a lively jig. The Pink Almond Tree is a charming folk song that recalls a fleeting moment of romance under the blossoming almond tree by the University Church, and is sung with appropriate simplicity by soprano Diana Nash.
Moving beyond the city boundary, the CD follows the bubbling River Windrush, enjoys the birds singing at Port Meadow and visits a towpath inn. In Blenheim Trilogy, drum rolls, bugle calls and cannon fire recall the Battle of Blenheim, while A Woodstock Romance, charmingly sung by local mezzo Rebecca Martin, tells of two lovers who are separated by the winter weather but reunited as the ice thaws.
The CD closes in reflective mood with Time to Leave, a sober piece that builds to a stormy climax, with rain and thunder clearly heard across the piano melody.
An exciting and satisfying CD, Oxford and Beyond deserves a place on the shelves not just of music lovers but of those who love Oxford and its surrounds. It comes complete with a colour pullout booklet, illustrated with photographs by the composer, making this a perfect little package and an ideal Christmas stocking filler.
For more information, visit www.beatrix-forbes.co.uk.
by Nicola Lisle