The New York Pro Musica Antiqua, founded in 1952 by Noah Greenberg, gave many Americans their first taste of medieval and Renaissance music, both vocal and instrumental. Their work introduced a public generally ignorant of any composers who lived prior to Baroque to the sound of sackbutts (sp?!), rebecs, krumhorns, lutes, viol da gambas, and other staples of music-making between 1200 and 1700. Their recording of the 12th century liturgical drama, The Play of Daniel, was groundbreaking, their later LPs of Elizabethan madrigals and court music were a joy to the ear. In the Pro Musica's early days, they were fortunate to have on board the countertenor Russell Oberlin, a graduate of Juilliard, whose voice, bell-like and true in both the upper and lower registers, was devoid of the shrillness often heard in falsetto.
Mr. Oberlin is one of the fine vocalists in this early recording, and it is unfortunate that the quality of the transfer from LP to disc leaves something to be desired. The medieval christmas "carols," sung for the most part a cappella, are a pleasing combination of lively and quietly meditative songs, and it is easy to see how the Pro Musica served as a model for the many early-music groups that emerged between the 1970s and the present day. This disc is a must for the serious collector, or student of medieval music, and, even with the uneven sound quality, we can appreciate the excellence of the performers.