'A Million Little Diamonds' is a 12-minute musical treasure that highlights the collaborative brilliance of soprano Amy Carson and pianist Nicola Rose, bringing Anthony Cæsar’s, until now unrecorded, song cycle to life. Composed 70 years ago as a present for his newborn niece, this collection of eight enchanting settings of poems taken from a 1908 publication of ‘A Treasury of Verse for Little Children’ takes listeners on a retrospective journey into the themes of childhood, nature, animals and weather, exuding a delightful sense of simplicity and a heartfelt connection to a bygone era.
The heart of 'A Million Little Diamonds' lies in its exploration of themes that resonate with the child within us all. The chosen poems evoke a sense of nostalgia and a return to the simpler joys of life, with the recurring theme of simplicity reflected deftly by the strophic (verse-chorus) structure, syllabic text setting and nursery rhyme-esque harmonies and short melodic phrases.
Do not be put off by this though, because the album's charm is, in fact, found in its unpretentiousness, with unashamedly appealing melodies that tug at the heartstrings, irrespective of the age of the listener. Recorded at St Paul's Church House in Staverton, Wiltshire, and produced and mastered by the team at Convivium Records, the album benefits from a naturally evocative recording venue and a team with invaluable experience in bringing unique projects such as this to life.
A first highlight for me was 'No.2, The Four Winds', a captivating piece that highlights Anthony Cæsar's ability to create musical soundscape that mirrors the whimsy of nature. Amy Carson's soprano voice shines as it weaves a beautiful tapestry through the elements of each season, and the piano accompaniment by Nicola Rose sways like a gentle breeze in summer, and marches determinedly through winter, adding to the almost ‘musique descriptive’ nature of the piece.
'No.4, I Would Like You For A Comrade' is a poignant yet humorous piece that allows Amy Carson's vocal command to shine; clear diction is essential in this piece as it is all about the text, and every word is sung with delightful clarity. The first stanza expresses a child’s longing for a more anthropomorphic friendship with an amiable young calf, wishing they could dance and sing together. The second stanza poses the calf’s reply, clear that she too desires that the little girl were more physically like her, yet this time from a zoomorphic perspective, wishing the little girl could share her barley meal and butt her with little horns. Carson's expressive soprano voice conveys the emotions with warmth and sincerity, while Nicola Rose's delicate piano accompaniment provides the perfect backdrop, allowing Carson's voice to take centre stage.
The final, and longest piece on the album, 'No.8, Evening Song', is a slight change of tone, moving towards themes of introspection, tranquility and love. Cæsar creates a relaxing, contemplative atmosphere with slow, lullaby-like legato melodies, setting the stage for Carson to convey a sense of the peace, safety and reassurance a child feels in their mother’s arms with distinct vulnerability. Rose’s delicate, graceful piano accompaniment enhances the soothing essence of a loved child’s evening experience.
In 'A Million Little Diamonds', Amy Carson and Nicola Rose have brought life and warmth to Cæsar’s beautiful exploration of the simplicity, innocence, and joy of a child’s life. This album is a testament to the mastery of their individual and collective crafts, and a wonderful example of the perfect balance between childlike contentment and the sophistication that comes from adult experience.
The album is available to buy in digital or CD format from Convivium Records.