Sleeve Notes for Cyprus Well by Jim Causley
This album is a collection of Charles Causley poems set to music and sung by me – Jim Causley. I first began setting these wonderful poems to music about seven years ago. I had grown up having them read to me and I have a distant memory of a primary school teacher holding a book in front of me and explaining that I had the same name as its author. I didn’t have any difficulty choosing which ones to set; they jumped out at me quite readily and the tunes flowed swiftly and with ease. The talented musicians who have helped me create this album found that the accompaniments flowed easily to the words and they all tied together with a keen love of Charles’ work. Recording these poems in Cyprus Well and Mount Pleasant was a very moving experience and I think all involved felt his presence throughout. If I have in any way brought new interest to Charles’ work and the continued work of the Charles Causley Trust and the Charles Causley Society then I am overjoyed. Jim Causley South Zeal, Devon - March 2013
Charles Causley was primarily a poet. The influences on his verse were many, and can be traced through the stages of his life. First come his childhood memories; then his years at sea during the Second World War; work as a primary-school teacher, followed by a period of extensive travel. All of these provided valuable content. Causley was a poet of place and people, and descriptions drawn from Cornwall and in particular his home town of Launceston – are prevalent in his work.
One influence dominates his style of poetry: a love of English Folk songs. The tales and ballads which he learned as a child, and the hymns which he sang at church, instilled within him the importance of music and movement in poetry. As a child he learned to play violin and piano, and he supplemented his wages by playing in a local dance band in the 30s. “We were well-paid”, he would later claim, but then with typical self deprecation, added: “we should have been fined”. In fact he was a very competent piano player, and played it throughout his life.
Causley’s verse can be both ancient and modern, but he is best known for traditional ballad-style poems, a fact which sometimes led to accusations of being “old-fashioned” and - criticising with faint praise - “accessible”. Causley didn’t care. Ploughing a lonely poetic furrow suited him just fine. Often, his poems lend themselves to musical arrangements. Unlike many poets who wince at the idea of their poems being set to music, Causley embraced it.
All but one of the tracks here were recorded in Causley’s Launceston home, Cyprus Well, using his piano. The results are exceptional; all the musicians involved were deeply moved by using the study as a recording studio, and Charles would have loved it all. It is comforting to know that the muses which inspired Charles during his fifty years in the house, came back to life for five short days and worked their magic again.
Malcolm Wright, Launceston, Cornwall, March 2013
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