The time of the Crusades spanned several centuries, from the time Pope Urban II called upon Christendom to fight for Jerusalem until the thirteenth century (this does not include the numerous minor, unnumbered crusades, sometimes against other Christians). The Crusades became for many in the Middle Ages a romantic ideal; the appeal for those who would join the Crusades was two-fold, both riches in this world and salvation in the next.
In this collection, the texts of the songs are primarily contemporary with the Crusades, although a few come from later troubadour and folk songs. Some songs here directly relate to the Crusades in content (for example, Pax in nomine Domini!), whereas others are songs contemporary with and popular among the Crusaders, but have no direct relation to the Crusades. 'Ja nus hons pris' is one such song, which has origins attributed to one of the most famous of the Crusaders, Richard the Lionhearted.
One of the problems with music from this time period is that very little written material exists. What music notation there is often is reminiscent of Gregorian chant - there are markers for pitch, but nothing for rhythmic values, melodies, etc. Similarly, the types of instruments are often not listed for particular songs, so it becomes educated guesswork as to the instruments used - lutes, rebec, wind instruments, percussion, etc.
The performances here are wonderful and full. The Early Music Consort of London recorded this first for vinyl in 1970; this CD is a reissue, well engineered. David Munrow was the director as well as performer on recorder, fluet, shawm, crumhorn and bagpipes. Munrow's talents are well suited to this kind of medieval music. Among the other performers are soprano Christina Clarke, counter tenors James Bowman and Charles Brett, tenor Nigel Rogers and baritone Geoffrey Shaw. Musicians include Eleanor Sloan on treble rebec, Oliver Brookes on bass rebec, James Tyler on lute and citole, Gillian Reid on the bells, Christopher Hogwood on harp, organ, nakers and tabor, and James Blades on nakers and tabor.
This recording is superb, a great addition to an early music library, and a joy to have as a CD - I had the vinyl of this, but over time it warped in storage, and I was very sad to have lost such a brilliant collection of music. Here it is again, restored and full of power and life.