Maggie Somerville – Cinderella


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Maggie Somerville’s new album ‘Cinderella’ comprises lesser-known poems of Henry Lawson set to music by Maggie. Instrumentation includes violin, cello, mandolin, harp, piano and harmonica.


Maggie Somerville – Cinderella: Henry Lawson poetry set to music

CD review by Tony Smith

TN162 Mar 24

There is a good chance that most Australians of a certain age have a personal Henry Lawson story.

I had the privilege of playing the poet in his London days in the short drama by Oriel Gray.

No doubt Maggie Somerville’s latest CD will bring out reminiscences galore.

Indeed, Cinderella came out in 2020, ready for the centenary of Lawson’s death in 1922.

Lawson has been well studied by musicians.

Chris Kempster’s book The Songs of Henry Lawson is the standard in the field and there are several CDs.

Interestingly, comparing Somerville’s work with the album focusing on Lawson’s women, Home Sweet Home by Hill End harpist Kim Deacon, shows only a couple of poems overlapping.

The same goes for Rain in the Mountains by Christine Wheeler and Friends.

It is a sign of the depth of Lawson’s story telling that it is still possible to draw out a collection of less frequently covered works.

Somerville has done a fine job here, as she did with Mary Gilmore and John Shaw Neilsen.

The 72 minutes open with a Mary Gilmore: extract from ‘The Dead Poet’ and ‘He’s Gone to England for a Wife’ and closes with ‘The Song and the Sigh’ and an extract from C.J. Dennis, ‘To a Dead Mate’.

Somerville’s selection of poems are not in chronological order but perhaps in the order which maximises the effect of the musical settings, but they are dated.

As well as playing tin whistle and harmonica, Somerville carries the vocals with the help of Annie McCooey and Stephen Whiteside.

Dave Billings plays bass, keyboard, piano, ukulele and glockenspiel and sings.

Sam Lemann plays guitar, mandolin and ukulele, Catherine Leslie violin and viola, Connor Hoy uilleann pipes, David Rowlands flute, Jenny Rowlands cello, Maree Buttler harp, Rob Freebairn harmonica and percussion, A.J. Leonard banjo and Helmut Lopaczuk piano accordion.

Billings of Stick Studios recorded, mixed and mastered the album.

When presenting together so many poems by an acknowledged master, the challenge is to show that the enterprise enhances either our understanding or our access to his works.

Somerville’s collection succeeds in both respects by presenting clear audio versions of poems which even many keen Lawson fans have seen only on the page.

Another challenge is to compose tunes of sufficient variety.

By presenting them collectively on a CD, Somerville makes this task more difficult.

Possibly for this reason, I enjoyed those tracks which add this variety.

These include ‘The Cliffs’ (1903) which Somerville describes as a metaphor for Lawson’s lost life, dreams and self-esteem,

‘The Route March’ (1915), the jaunty ‘When Bertha Comes to Tea’ (1902), ‘There’s a Bunk in the Humpy’ (1892), about which Somerville notes that her rendition differs slightly from Lawson’s words, and ‘Sticking to Bill’ (1903) about prison and the stress on relationships.

Other poems include ‘Cinderella’, ‘The Drover’s Sweetheart’, ‘To Hannah’, ‘Andy’s Return’, ‘When the Ladies Come to the Shearing Shed’, ‘Eurunderee’, ‘The Lilly and the Bee’, ‘The Light on the Wreck’, ‘The Stringy-Bark Tree’, ‘Mary Lemaine’ and ‘To Jim’.

This CD by Maggie Somerville will no doubt introduce Henry Lawson to many people who might otherwise be unfamiliar with his works.


Ed. Maggie Somerville currently has six albums available for sale on the Trad&Now website, four of which have been uploaded to Trad&Now Live! and can be heard from time to time.


Additional information

Weight .200 kg
Dimensions 22 × 16 × .50 cm

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