Tony ONeill of Shire Folk
reviews A Day's Work by The cast of A Day's WorkOne of the many successful folk operas written by Mick Ryan, who over the years has gained plaudits and considerable respect as a singer, songwriter and musical playwright. This one has been revived from 1995 and concerns a group of farm workers (including a conscientious objector) going to war on the Western Front in the First War World War.
The cast, Maggie Boyle (now sadly deceased), Heather Bradford, Paul Downes, Pete Morton, Matt Quinn and Greg Russell, are all much admired and highly respected performers in their own right and this shines out in the recording. The overall effect is, not unnaturally considering the subject matter, generally introspective and downbeat, but not depressingly so and is occasionally lifted by a touch of humour or a rousing chorus.
I have never heard this play performed but I have been surprised at just how much of the material is familiar to me. It's an indication of the quality of Mick's songwriting that in the intervening years since the first performance some of the songs have become folk standards 'Sons of the Land' for one and 'The Soldiers Rest' (which I sing as 'The Antelope') another. 'Home Lads Home' (C.F. Smith and music by the sadly missed Sarah Morgan) is also included.
I don't know if Mick is planning to take this play 'on the road' again but, based on this recording, I highly recommend that if you get a chance to see it, go!
I like the presentation, including a booklet in homage to the The Wipers Times with its introduction to the cast and song notes.