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David Kidman of fRoots

reviews Look Out! by White Star Lineup

White Star Lineup is a group of Hampshire based musicians and singers brought together to tell the story of the night when the Titanic struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic and sank. Among the dead were over 500 crew whose home was Southampton, and here its county's folk artists commemorate the event's Centenary. This new folk opera relates the events leading up to the tragedy, and then its aftermath, from the viewpoint of the town and the Titanic's crew ¬including Fred Fleet, the look out who first sighted the iceberg, who lived with the memories and repercussions of the tragedy for the rest of his life.

White Star Lineup has at its nucleus three established and respected local singer songwriters Jeff Henry, Brian Hooper and Barry Wake who share the vocal and guitar leads fairly evenly. The female vocal roles are taken by Ali Campion, Mary Lee and Vicky Couling. The show's instrumental accompaniment falls to the writers themselves, Pete Harris (guitar, banjo, bass, whistle), supplemented where appropriate by violin (Amy Stonehouse) and piano (Vicky Couling).

The songs together form a narrative that after introductory reflections (The Night The Ship Went Down, So Many Tears) paints a lively picture of 1912 Southampton, examines the aspirations of its inhabitants for a brighter future (Jobs For The Boys), then celebrates the arrival in dock of RMS Titanic and its subsequent departure (Cast Off The Lines). The liner's encouraging progress (21 Knots) is followed by tragedy (The Band Played On). The bravery of the women survivors is depicted in Pull Away Girls, following which the remainder of Look Out! deals with the aftermath: the ensuing enquiry (Never Seen The Like Of It Before, White Star), then the plight of the surviving crew and the families of those lost at sea (Southampton Lullaby). The ensuing sequence of songs recounts the personal experiences of Fred Fleet through the post disaster years, after which we're offered two contrasted perspectives for remembrance the official memorial (Tears Of The Angel) and the chokingly simple response of the townspeople themselves (April In Southampton) which are left to resonate in our minds.

Mick Ryan's own folk operas have clearly provided the template for Look Out!, the best of whose songs (Southampton Lullaby, Say The Word, April In Southampton, Just A Girl and Northam's List) all prove both memorable and succinct. The accompanying booklet is supplemented by extra notes and the full song lyrics are available at