Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Buy through MusicWeb for £12.00 postage paid World-wide.

Musicweb Purchase button


Elizabethan Christmas Anthems
Red Byrd; The Rose Consort of Viols
rec. Forde Abbey, November, 1989. DDD.
Booklet with notes but no texts.
AMON RA CD-SAR46 [59:23]

Experience Classicsonline


Orlando GIBBONS (1583-1625) Verse Anthem: This is the Record of John [3:39]
William BYRD (1542-1623) Christe qui lux es (instrumental setting) [1:19]
Thomas TOMKINS (1572-1676) Verse Anthem: Sing Unto God [6:07]
Martin PEERSON (1580-1650) Upon my Lap [4:31]
William BYRD Fantasy 2 in 1 (à5) [5:52]
John AMNER (d.1641) Verse Anthem: O Ye Little Flock [5:45]
William BYRD Fantasy Browning [4:16]
Anthony HOLBORNE (d.1602) Consort Song: Sweet was the Song the Virgin Sung [2:09]
Pavan The Cradle; Galliard Lullabie [5:10]

William BYRD Consort Song Lullaby [5;19]
Orlando GIBBONS In Nomine [4:53]
Verse Anthem: See, see, the Word is Incarnate [5:41]

I’ll get my one grumble about this very enjoyable CD out of the way at once. As on their other recordings of Gibbons (Naxos 8.550603) and his contemporaries, Red Byrd insist on attempting to reproduce Elizabethan pronunciation, which comes over as a kind of Mummerset dialect with a touch of Dick van Dyke’s attempts at cockney in Mary Poppins. I wish they wouldn’t do it: it partly spoils my enjoyment of their otherwise excellent singing and there is no firm evidence as to how Elizabethan English sounded. My sweet little biby particular spoils an excellent performance of Byrd’s Cradle Song (track 11).

We know much more about the pronunciation of Chaucer and Langland than we do about that of the language 200 years nearer to our own time; there just isn’t enough evidence how fast the vowel change that transformed the pure medieval vowels into the impure, diphthongised, modern versions took place.

Strictly speaking, too, John Amner’s O Ye Little Flock (published in 1614) is a Jacobean, rather than an Elizabethan piece, but to have omitted it would have deprived us of some imaginative and attractive music, almost a miniature version of the medieval Shepherds’ Play.

This is the Record of John is Gibbons’s best-known anthem – rightly so, in my opinion; it’s a little masterpiece and it makes a fine opening to the CD. It’s also in the right place in the time line, since the words come from the Gospel for the Fourth and last Sunday in Advent; therefore it rightly precedes the Christmas theme proper. Apart from my grumble about the pronunciation – take this as read from now on – it receives an excellent performance here, much more domestic in scale than classic recording by the likes of King’s College Choir and Winchester Cathedral Choir (the latter with other music by Gibbons on Hyperion Helios CDH55228). I’m surprised that Jeremy Summerly didn’t include it on his otherwise very recommendable Naxos CD of Gibbons’s Anthems and Services (8.553130 – another small-scale set of performances), but those looking to expand their knowledge of the music of Gibbons would be well advised to begin with the two Naxos CDs which I have mentioned, supplemented perhaps by the Helios disc – the basis of a sound collection for very little outlay.

The Amon Ra CD is well worth buying for this and the other Gibbons works alone. See, see, the Word is Incarnate (track 13) is included on the Summerly recording – a more ‘rounded’ version, but not necessarily to be preferred to this lively Red Byrd account, which brings the CD to an enjoyable conclusion.

Byrd’s fellow recusants would have recognised the underlying theme of his instrumental Christe, qui lux es et dies, a morning hymn from the Roman Breviary. Like all the instrumental pieces – and, indeed, the accompaniments of the sung items – it’s well performed by the Rose Consort, exponents of authentic performance without tears, though certainly not without commitment.

Of the other instrumental items here, Byrd’s Fantasy Browning was based on a popular tune, Thomas Ravenscroft’s Browning madame; Gibbons’s In Nomine is explained in my comments below on the booklet of notes, and the two pieces by Holborne are in two popular dance forms of the day, the stately pavan or pavane and the galliard. If you find them attractive enough to want to explore Holborne’s music more thoroughly, as well you may, other dances from his 1599 collection are available on a most recommendable super-budget CD on the Regis label (RRC1076, with selections from Prætorius’s Terpsichore).

The Verse Anthem was a peculiarly Anglican development; like the Full Anthem it was developed to supply the need for vocal music at the end of Mattins and Evensong, to replace the antiphon or anthem of the Virgin Mary which had previously been sung at the end of Compline. Though it was not until the revision of 1662 that the Book of Common Prayer inserted the famous rubric ‘In Quires and places where they sing, here followeth the Anthem’, the practice had developed quite early in Elizabeth I’s reign.

I’ve already praised the performances of the anthems by Gibbons which begin and end the programme; that of Tomkins’s Sing unto God is equally fine and the music almost – but not quite – in the same league as that of Gibbons.

John Bull’s The Starre Anthem is slightly unusual in that it is based on the Collect for the Epiphany: "O God, who by the guiding of a star dist manifest thy only-begotten Son to the Gentiles: Mercifully grant that we, which know thee now by faith, may after this life have the fruition of thy glorious Godhead; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen." It’s also the sole example here of the Full Anthem, i.e. sung by the full choir.

The final vocal form represented here is the Consort Song, for solo voice and instruments. Byrd’s Lullaby (track 12) is beautifully sung by Caroline Trevor (alto) and his Sweet was the Song (track 8) equally well by Kate Eckersley (soprano). Both pieces provide excellent examples of Byrd’s genius, developed from that of his mentor Tallis, for pouring old wine into new bottles without souring the wine or breaking the bottle – the sentiments of the pre-reformation carol updated for Elizabeth’s essentially conservative reformation.

Though there are no texts, Red Byrd’s pronunciation paradoxically mostly makes the diction very clear. For those who want them, however, most of the texts are available on the web. Otherwise, the booklet contains some very helpful notes, explaining, for example, how Gibbons’s In Nomine belongs to a peculiarly English instrumental genre, derived from the words In nomine Domini in Taverner’s setting of the Benedictus of his Mass Gloria tibi Trinitas. Don’t worry if you find it hard to spot the tune here – part of the fun of this form was to disguise the original so thoroughly that only the scholarly could find it; the new piece had to be capable of entertaining on its own, which is certainly the case here.

The combination of vocal and instrumental music makes for a varied programme; all the performances are highly enjoyable – the performers actually sound as if they are enjoying their contributions – the recording and presentation are more than adequate and the whole CD is fun. So what are you waiting for?

Brian Wilson

Johan van Veen has also listened to this disc:

At the time this programme was originally recorded the repertoire was not completely unknown, but certainly not as often performed as it is today. But that doesn't mean this disc hasn't something interesting to offer. Today it is the way this repertoire is performed which makes it still worthwhile to listen to.

The most interesting aspect of the performance is the pronunciation of English. It is assumed this is the way English was spoken in the Elizabethan era. Over the years I have heard many recordings of music from this time, but only very seldom I have noticed the use of this kind of pronunciation. It was used by the ensemble Boston Camerata in a recording of songs by John Dowland, and one reviewer criticised that they were singing with an American accent. That is because the 'American r' is one of the more striking aspects of this pronunciation. It certainly doesn't sound like Standard English, but I find it very fascinating to hear this repertoire in this kind of performance, so different from the way it is sung by established English vocal ensembles.

The core of this disc is a number of verse anthems, sacred pieces in which sections for solo voice and tutti sections are alternating. These were sung in church, with organ accompaniment, but they also found their way to private homes, where they were performed as part of private worship. There the accompaniment was a consort of viols instead of the organ.

It is not only the pronunciation which is different, the interpretation as a whole is a bit more dramatic and stronger in (dynamic) contrasts than usual. The voices of the ensemble blend very well, and the individual singers give good performances of the solo sections.

In addition to the anthems a couple of consort songs are performed. This genre could be either sacred or secular, but there isn't always a strict separation between the two. The most famous song is William Byrd's 'Lullaby', sung by Caroline Trevor. The anonymous 'Sweet was the song the virgin sang' is also a lullaby; this beautiful piece is sung by Kate Eckersly.

The instrumental parts in these consort songs is played by the Rose Consort of Viols, which also plays some consort pieces. Although most of them have little or nothing to do with Christmas, they certainly fit well into the programme. The pavan and galliard by Anthony Holborne are most suitable as their titles indicate. Their character is well served by the fine sense of rhythm the Rose Consort displays.

Almost 20 years after this disc was first released these performances have lost nothing of their appeal. In a way it is a bit embarrassing that some of the aspects of the performance practice of this recording have had no real effect. But, apart from the particularities of the interpretation, this is just fine music in splendid performances. The only minus of this production is the lack of the lyrics in the booklet.

Johan van Veen




Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All APR reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount




Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Pat and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Return to Review Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.