Postcard from Budapest, Robert Severin’s debut album, explores the legacy of his Hungarian heritage and its connections to his home, Scotland. Robert’s parents met in Scotland, as refugees from the Hungarian uprising, in December 1956, marrying just three weeks later. They moved to London where Robert was born. His father’s love of music made a significant impact on Robert as a child. He pursued a career in special education, throughout which his promotion of music in his schools was constant. Since his early 20s, Robert has been writing his own songs and performing them solo, and in duos and groups, in the UK and overseas. His songwriting has covered a range of rock, pop, and folk.
In 2017, Robert attended two residential songwriting courses. The first was tutored by Sir Ray Davies, the second by Boo Hewerdine and Findlay Napier. On the second course, Robert met Innes Watson, an acclaimed Scottish multi-instrumentalist. During one of the workshops, Robert presented his song, Red Shades of Blue, to the other participants. Innes suggested that it would suit a string arrangement by his quartet, Innotet. This inspired Robert to realise a long held ambition to produce an album of original work.
Robert and Innotet recorded four songs together in May and December 2018 at GloWorm Recording in Glasgow, engineered by Andrea Gobbi. Red Shades of Blue was inspired by a postcard from the 1930s that Robert found in a second hand bookshop in Budapest. It features as the opening track of the album, followed by songs that draw upon events and individuals that link the histories of Hungary and Scotland.
Robert’s songs have been described as “touching” and “deeply moving” by relatives of the women he has researched and written about. He felt compelled to share their examples of compassion, altruism, heroism, and unwavering humanity in the face of unspeakable inhumanity. Robert relates these biographical snapshots in both narrative and lyrical forms brought to life by his affecting melodies. He has also included songs about his own family in this collection. Robert’s compositions, complemented by Innes Watson’s elegant and captivating string arrangements, have drawn comparisons to the music of Nick Drake, Leonard Cohen and The Beatles, among others.
The first song to be released was Star in My Shadow, which is about Jane Haining. She was a Scot who worked as a matron at the Church of Scotland Mission School in Budapest from 1932 to 1944. She was arrested by the Gestapo, deported, and murdered in Auschwitz. The recording features Innotet, with backing vocals by multiple award-winning Scottish violinist and singer, Seonaid Aitken. Robert performed this song in Jane Haining’s home village of Dunscore at an event that was attended by her niece and nephew. The Holocaust Memorial Centre in Budapest held a major exhibition about Jane Haining in 2017-18. Robert has been invited to perform his album there for its Hungarian debut.
Postcard from Budapest will released through Birnam CD in February 2020.