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Elizabethan Christmas Anthems


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Although Richard Wistreich and John Potter have serious academic track records (as Dean of Research and Enterprise at the Royal Northen College of Music, and Reader Emeritus at the University of York, respectively) their music has tended to take them out of the mainstream (and sometimes into trouble). The Red Byrd philosophy evolved at the time of their first release on the ill-fated Factory ... Read more in Amazon's Red Byrd Store

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Product details

  • Orchestra: Red Byrd, Rose Consort of Viols
  • Composer: Orlando Gibbons, William Byrd, Thomas Tomkins, Martin Peerson
  • Audio CD (31 Dec 1993)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Amon Ra
  • ASIN: B000027PRK
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 107,418 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Product Description

This disc from Red Byrd and the Rose Consort of Viols intends to re-create the sort of domestic music-making that might have taken place in the early 17th century. It was recorded, in 1989, in the domestic situation of Forde Abbey in Dorset. The texts of the songs and anthems tell the Christmas story, and instrumental pieces have been interspersed amongst the vocal numbers. A number of Red Byrd's recordings from this period experiment with period pronunciation of the text.. On this disc the singers of Red Byrd adopt, with varying degrees of success, a rather West Country 'mummerset' accent, perhaps inspired by the location of the recording venue. This is most pronounced in the opening item, This is the Record of John, where the tenor soloist on this track John Potter's accent, combined with the rather flowing tempo, means that this interpretation is worlds away from the slow reverence of a church performance, and that is presumably what was intended. Whilst you may not always like the decisions taken by the performers, the results are nothing if not refreshing. Tomkins's Sing unto God, sets verses from Psalm 68 in quite a dramatic style. The solo bass part - presumably Richard Wistreich - is quite wide-ranging and challenges Wistreich at both ends of his range. Amongst these verse anthems are distributed a number of lovely consort songs such as the anonymous Sweet was the song the virgin sung and Byrd's Lullaby. Their texts reflect the general theme of the disc. The instrumental numbers are less directly relevant, but provide a lovely contrast to the vocal items especially when given in lively and appealing performances as here.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Julian Hughes TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 26 April 2014
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I have several CDs featuring Red Byrd and The Rose Consort of Viols and absolutely love their vitality and excellence and the refreshing interpretations. On this CD the performances are suitably matched by a superbly vivid recording. A CD that is not just for Christmas (to coin a phrase).
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By Stephen Midgley TOP 500 REVIEWER on 22 Dec 2014
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This programme of Elizabethan verse anthems and viol consort pieces was recorded in 1989, but still sounds just as fresh and spirited as it did then. The title is a bit misleading, because most of the music is only vaguely related to Christmas if at all, but don't be put off because the choice of pieces is splendid and the performances, by the Red Byrd vocal ensemble and the Rose Consort of Viols, are exquisite.

The verse anthems are from Byrd, Tomkins, Amner, Bull and Gibbons; the instrumental works are by Byrd, Holborne and Gibbons. One oddity is that the singers of Red Byrd adopt a distinctive pronunciation of the kind we would nowadays call West Country, very noticeable indeed as soon as tenor John Potter opens his mouth to sing the first item, Orlando Gibbons' beautiful 'This is the Record of John'. It is argued in the booklet notes that this would have been normal practice at the time when such anthems were performed in a domestic setting, but I'm not entirely convinced. After all, don't most singers adopt a standard 'middle-class' pronunciation in classical and in much other vocal music? There's no trace of Susan Boyle's broad West Lothian accent when she opens up with 'I dreamed a dream', for example, and you wouldn't find many people to suggest that there should be. Still, Red Byrd's approach here makes a refreshing change from the standard-issue posh pronunciation generally applied to music of the Elizabethan era, and there's no denying that the results here are powerful and expressive.

Other fine things here include John Amner's 'O Ye Little Flock' and John Bull's 'The Starre Anthem', neither of which I have heard elsewhere.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 1 review
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Exquisite Elizabethan voices and viols 22 Dec 2014
By Stephen Midgley - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
This programme of Elizabethan verse anthems and viol consort pieces was recorded in 1989, but still sounds just as fresh and spirited as it did then. The title is a bit misleading, because most of the music is only vaguely related to Christmas if at all, but don't be put off because the choice of pieces is splendid and the performances, by the Red Byrd vocal ensemble and the Rose Consort of Viols, are exquisite.

The verse anthems are from Byrd, Tomkins, Amner, Bull and Gibbons; the instrumental works are by Byrd, Holborne and Gibbons. One oddity is that the singers of Red Byrd adopt a distinctive pronunciation of the kind we would nowadays call West Country, very noticeable indeed as soon as tenor John Potter opens his mouth to sing the first item, Orlando Gibbons' beautiful 'This is the Record of John'. It is argued in the booklet notes that this would have been normal practice at the time when such anthems were performed in a domestic setting, but I'm not entirely convinced. After all, don't most singers adopt a standard 'middle-class' pronunciation in classical and in much other vocal music? There's no trace of Susan Boyle's broad West Lothian accent when she opens up with 'I dreamed a dream', for example, and you wouldn't find many people to suggest that there should be. Still, Red Byrd's approach here makes a refreshing change from the standard-issue posh pronunciation generally applied to music of the Elizabethan era, and there's no denying that the results here are powerful and expressive.

Other fine things here include John Amner's 'O Ye Little Flock' and John Bull's 'The Starre Anthem', neither of which I have heard elsewhere. The anthems are interspersed with viol consort pieces, of which Byrd's Fantasy 2 in 1 is a beautiful reminder of the exquisite subtlety and intricacy of the composer's consort writing. So is the 5-part 'Browning' Fantasy, with its gorgeously interwoven 'The Leaves be Greene' theme. The graceful, deeply touching melodies of Anthony Holborne are exemplified in his Pavan and Galliard, again beautifully played here by the Rose Consort of Viols.

The youthful 1989 group photo and list of performers reveal some names which have since distinguished themselves in the field of early music, including Charles Daniels, Caroline Trevor and Emily Van Evera. Booklet notes are excellent, but there are no texts provided. Enthusiasts of Elizabethan music may well want to snap this up while there are still copies available but, if so, watch out for how much you pay. Some copies are being offered for excessive prices at the time of writing, whereas there are still normally-priced examples to be found, both new and used, under other US Amazon listings as well as on French, German and UK sites.
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