gonzoThe trail that led to this somewhat obscure recording is a complicated one. I was re-reading Colin Wilson’s 1964 book on music Brandy of the Damned when this list of English songwriters stopped me in my tracks. “…such fine minor composers as Ivor Gurney, Gerald Finzi, Herbert Howells and T W Southam.”  Who? The only other clue is in the footnote, which cites a Jupiter recording by the classical tenor Wilfred Brown as containing “Southam’s lovely setting of a Durrell poem, Nemea.” Searching the web reveals that the composer in question was a friend of Laurence Durrell called Wallace Southam, and references to a handful of settings of poems by Durrell, Auden, Charles Causley, Michael Baldwin, Christina Rossetti and Thomas Hood.  No other biographical information seems to be available.  However, there are a few recordings on YouTube, most of them jazz settings sung by Belle Gonzalez. Born in the 1930s in Italy she was the daughter of an opera singer from the Philippines. She performed in cabaret, accompanying herself on piano and guitar, and as singer-songwriter released the album Belle in 1972. Of the Southam songs the Rossetti setting “When I am dead, my dearest”” from a 1965 album called Poets Set in Jazz (also on the Jupiter label) is my favourite.  But I’m still looking for more details of Wallace Southam, and will update here if I found out more.

Update 1: review of Poets Set in Jazz from The Musical Times, August 1965
Update 2: Laurence Durrell’s notes towards a musical Ulysses Come Back
Update 3: Wallace Southam – Songs of a Sunday Composer

Update 4: Belle Gonzalez pays tribute to Southam here