This CD also includes spoken word tracks featuring Meryl Streep reciting excerpts from "A Midsummer Night's Dream," "King Lear," "The Winter's Tale" and "Sonnet XVIII," all by William Shakespeare. Excerpts from works by Shakespeare ("Romeo and Juliet," "The Tempest," "A Midsummer Night's Dream," "Henry IV" and "The Merchant of Venice") are also incorporated into some of the music tracks.
Personnel: Bill Crofut (vocals, 12-string guitar, banjo); Carver Blanchard (vocals, lute, 12-string bass); Julianne Baird, Benjamin Luxon , Dawn Upshaw , Frederica Von Stade (vocals); Joel Brown, John Guth (guitar); Bill Keith (banjo); Jim Cowdery (mandolin, pennywhistle, recorder); Maggie Holtzberg (fiddle); Susan Follari (viola); Chris Brubeck (piano).
Liner Note Authors: Erika Crofut; Meryl Streep.
Recording information: Honeywind Studio, Weston, CT (1973-1998); Infinite Sound Studios, Alameda, CA (1973-1998); London, England (1973-1998); Mechanics Hall, Worcester, MA (1973-1998); Rutgers Presbyterian Church, New York, NY (1973-1998); Sandisfield, MA (1973-1998); Symphony Hall, Birmingham, England (1973-1998).
Editor: Christopher Brown.
Although Bill Crofut didn't live to see this outstanding CD released, he worked hard to complete work upon it prior to his death from cancer in January 1999. This ambitious project covers a lot of ground, including folk songs, poetry set to music, Bach, and even Shakespeare sonnets set to music or narrated by actress Meryl Streep. The guest list of performers joining him are just as diverse. Although Crofut was a talented banjo player and singer, he deserves to be better known for his considerable gifts as a composer and arranger. Edward Lear's "The Table and the Chair" and "In Just" by e. e. cummings are two fine examples of his setting poems to music; Crofut is joined by bassist Chris Brubeck on the first piece, while Brubeck moves to piano and classical singer Dawn Upshaw and guitarist Joel Brown are added for the superb "In Just," which Crofut originally set to music and first recorded in the 1960s after a successful audition to obtain permission from the poet's widow. Together they work magic with the unusual flow of this well known poem. A T-shirt with a Shaker alphabet that incorporated names of animals inspired Crofut's entertaining miniature "Alligator Hedgehog." Upshaw is hilarious as the young girl in "Mr. Bear," with Chris Brubeck's charming piano accompaniment. The old folk song "The Fox," recorded by Burl Ives and a host of others previously, incorporates both the American and English versions with a call and response between Crofut and Ben Luxon, who was previously a soloist with the Munich Bach Choir; the singers are accompanied by pennywhistle, bass, and guitar in a spirited performance. Frederica von Stade is accompanied by Chris Brubeck on piano for a fine rendition of the old Shaker hymn "Simple Gifts." While Crofut isn't present as a player or singer on every track, his presence is clearly felt. The final sessions were conducted in his living room during the final stages of his illness, when he was far too weak to perform. Profits from the sale of this highly recommended CD benefit the Simple Gifts for Children Fund, which supports children's causes of all kinds. ~ Ken Dryden