Paul McLaney is one of our busiest singer-songwriters, both solo and fronting bands like Gramsci and The Impending Adorations.

More recently, as music director for Auckland's Pop-up Globe, he's been contributing songs and incidental music for its popular Shakespeare productions. Last year, some of his music reached an audience beyond the theatre when RNZ National recorded his presentation of Play On: A Musical Imagining of the Great Soliloquies.

It was a beguiling 26 minutes ending with the sweet-voiced Maisey Rika singing Sonnet 18, Shall I compare thee to a summer's day, in te reo, accompanied by a string quartet.

This new CD of McLaney's music is less adventurous, publicising material from the company's 2017 productions. Its 24 minutes comprise songs, an inconsequential warm-up of an overture and a rather clumsy instrumental jam.


Those who know the tunes usually associated with the Willow Song from Othello and It was a Lover and His Lass from As You Like It, will find McLaney's settings rather ordinary. Victoria Girling-Butcher's delivery of them is breezy enough but little else.

McLaney's band casts a Celtic hue over proceedings with fiddles, pipes and flutes, especially in Sigh no More which provides a pretty enough coda to proceedings.

Elsewhere, I have more serious misgivings. Why is Non Nobis rendered as a drab sing-along when, in Henry V, it's a celebration of victory? Similarly, Pardon, Goddess of the Night from As You Like It is a rather pedestrian guitar ballad with strange liberties taken with the original text.

Paul McLaney is a man of ambition. He tells us that his driving impulse in writing this music was to create something timeless, with melodies that might last in thought and serve the lyrics. Maybe next time ...

What: Under the Greenwood Tree: Songs from the Pop-up Globe Auckland Season 2017 (Pop-up Globe)
Rating: 3/5
Verdict: Disappointing Kiwi take on the songs of the Bard