ALISON COTTON - ENGELCHEN

ALISON COTTON - ENGELCHEN

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Released: 15/03/24

Engelchen literally translates as ‘little angels’. What’s more, for many in the febrile, dangerous era of the 1930s in Nazi-occupied Europe, as they wrote letters to arrange their paths out of danger as refugees, these were Ida and Louise Cook.

Ida and Louise spent much of their early years in Sunderland, and in adulthood lived in a suburb of London with their parents. They were enormous fans of opera, and led relatively quiet and unfussy lives. Yet secretly these resourceful and eccentric women were using their musical obsessions as a means to help dozens of refugees escape with their lives.

Their secretive heroics now almost beggar belief, and when Alison Cotton, herself from Sunderland, first discovered their story, she couldn’t understand why it wasn’t more widely known. Furthermore, she was inspired by their courage, fortitude and derring-do to compose Engelchen, a musical tribute to the duo’s lives and work, now a full-length release by Rocket Recordings.

Throughout, this story is relayed by Alison, whether acapella or by means of richly emotive string arrangements, with a deftness of touch, sensitivity and intensity that matches the feverish nature of the experiences and the unforgiving environs in which they took place. Engelchen is a transporting work whose spirit is situated in a very specific time and place,

Nonetheless, the story of Ida and Louise Cook is more than merely an inspirational tribute to two mavericks who beat the odds in an unforgettable feat of altruism. It’s a celebration of the human spirit, one that reflects a universality in its narrative which transcends the boundaries of history and impacts very urgently on our daily lives. Whatever attempts may be made to tell this story, it’s hard to imagine one that resonates deeper than Engelchen.