Buxton Orr (1924-1997) studied medicine until he changed careers in the 1950s and began studying music composition with Benjamin Frankel. Some of his earliest compositions were film scores, and he also wrote songs, chamber music, operas, and musical theater pieces. Recently, Orr’s widow gave tenor Nicky Spence access to several of her husband’s songs that had never before been recorded. The result was the new album Buxton Orr: Songs.
The music on this new album pays homage to both Orr’s medical training and his pride in his Scottish heritage. The album features Orr’s settings of poems by several Scottish poets, including James Elroy Flecker, William Dunbar and Edward Lear. Many of the poems incorporate traditional Scottish dialects, giving the whole album a distinctly Scottish flavor.
The centerpiece of the album, “Ten Types of Hospital Visitors,” hearkens back to Orr’s earlier medical studies. The poem by Charles Causley wittily describes the tropes of those who visit the sick.
The album features tenor Nicky Spence of the National Opera Studio, lauded as “one of the finest young singers of his generation.” Spence is joined by pianist Iain Burnside, clarinettist Jordan Black, bassist Nikita Naumov and members of the Edinburgh Quartet.