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.