Dorothy Ann (Dolly) Collins, composer, arranger and gardener; born

March 6, 1933, died September 22, 1995

THE appearance of Shirley and Dolly Collins on EMI's Harvest label 25

years ago caused consternation among the youthful cognoscenti. What were

these two rather matronly figures, who looked for all the world as if

they had just stepped off a farm in a Thomas Hardy novel and who played

and sang ancient folk songs, doing mixing with the long-haired,

testosterone-driven heroes of ''underground'' music?

The answers, with hindsight, can only be an admirably eclectic stance

by EMI (Harvest also was home to the weird and intermittently wonderful,

Third Ear Band), and equally admirable vision. Listening now to the

Collins sisters' second album for the label, Love, Death and the Lady,

one finds it rewarding, fresh, and yet timeless, which I suspect is more

than can be said for its Harvest contemporaries such as Deep Purple's

Concerto for Group & Orchestra.

The Collins collaborations not only perplexed the heavy rockers, they

divided the easily rattled folk scene, half of whom questioned the

legitimacy of having piano, pipe organ, and a small early-music group

accompanying Shirley's pure traditional singing; the other half voted

Love, Death & the Lady Melody Maker Folk Album of the Year.

Shirley Collins had already sparked controversy by recording, in 1965,

the now highly collectable Folk Roots, New Routes, wherein guitar-legend

Davy Graham spun blues, modern jazz, and what we now call world music

influences around her very English singing, and would go on to record

the classic folk/rock album, No Roses.

While her younger sister built a reputation as one of England's finest

traditional singers (albeit a maverick), Dolly was building her

expertise in classical music.

It was Shirley's then-husband, Austin John Marshall, who suggested

that Dolly arrange some of Shirley's songs. The combination of voice and

a replica seventeenth-century flute organ on their first album together,

1967's Sweet Primroses, was striking, with Dolly's rustic-baroque

arrangements showing an understanding of traditional music that found

her later compared with Vaughan Williams.

The following year Dolly was commissioned by Radio 1 to compose a folk

song suite, Anthems in Eden, written for a six-piece early music consort

directed by David Munrow, and featuring Shirley's singing.

Harvest signed them and the sisters began a period of intense touring

all over Europe. The attractions of travelling and concerts eventually

palled for Dolly, though, and she decided to make her living from her

other love, gardening.

She did, however, remain active in music, orchestrating Peter

Bellamy's acclaimed ballad opera The Transports in 1977.