Plum Pudding – A Christmas celebration in words and song
The Songs:
Trad arr. Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958) Wassail Song (arr.1919)
Tomas Luis da VICTORIA (1548-1611) O Magnum Mysterium (1572)
William BYRD (c.1543-1623) This Day Christ Was Born (1611)
Kenneth LEIGHTON (1929-1988) Lully, Lullay (1956)
Rhian SAMUEL (b. 1944) Jolly Was the Shepherd (?)
Max REGER (1873-1916) Virgin Mary’s Slumber Song (arr. Peter Broadbent) (1912)
Peter CORNELIUS (1824-1874) The Three Kings (1856) (arr. Ivor Atkins)
Samuel BARBER (1910-1981) Twelfth Night (setting of Laurie Lee’s poem) (1968)
Francisco GUERRERO (1528-1599) Virgen Sancta (1589)
Trad arr. Andrew CARTER (b. 1939) Esta Noche (This Night)
Trad The Holly and the Ivy (?) arr. Walford Davies (1869-1941)
Trad Welsh Deck the Hall (?) (arr. Peter Broadbent )
Trad The Twelve Days of Christmas (arr. Andrew Carter) (b.1939)
Franz Xaver GRUBER (1787-1863) Silent Night (1818)
The Readings:
John Clare: December
From The Wakefield Plays: God’s Speech
Anon: I Sing of a Maiden
T.S. Eliot: The Journey of the Magi
Laurie Lee: Christmas in Seville (excerpt)
Dylan Thomas: Memories of Christmas
E.V. Lucas: Christmas Decorations
John Julius Norwich: The Twelve Days of Christmas
Cpt. R.J. Armes: Christmas Truce (A Letter)
Leonard Clark: Singing in the Streets
Felicity Lott (soprano); Gabriel Woolf (narrator)
Joyful Company of Singers/Peter Broadbent
rec. 30 November 2002, Champs Hill, Sussex, England
This unusual and very welcome Christmas collection, mixing music and readings, is a sheer delight.
The polished multi-part singing of Peter Broadbent’s Joyful Company of Singers is justly celebrated and surely needs little comment from me. This album includes, as can be seen from the listing above, a dozen or more Christmas carols and songs delivered with refinement and, where appropriate, gusto and humour. Felicity Lott’s lovely soprano voice rings over and blends with their voices in a number of tracks. The music ranges from Tudor times – Byrd’s bell-like rhythms of This Day Christ Was born and the rapture of Victoria’s O Magnum Mysterium to the modern sound complete with the acceptable and telling dissonances of Rhian Samuel’s Jolly Was that Shepherd.
Gabriel Woolf’s readings add immeasurably to this celebration. All the readings are apposite. There’s John Clare’s golden portrait of a traditional country Christmas delivered in dialect. In Northern Country argot Woolf delivers God’s Speech from The Wakefield Plays, rendering it all the more direct and sincere. One of the most affecting readings though is that of Captain R.J. Armes’s letter from the mud and horrors of the Great War trenches describing how, for one blessed Christmas Day, enemies became friends. Humour is not forgotten: Dylan Thomas remembers, or tries to remember his childhood Christmases. E.V. Lucas relates how ladies squabbled over their church decorations and hilariously, how the recipient of the presents delivered over the Twelve Days of Christmas first entranced the recipient, then bemused, then annoyed, then angered and finally made him threaten the bestower with legal action.
Towards the end of the programme songs and readings are judiciously and very effectively mixed together.
Alas I have to carp a little about the standard of the booklet text: there are no track timings nor total timings and there is no room in its 8-pages for the texts of the songs.
One of the best Christmas albums I have ever heard. Not to be missed.

Ian Lace
One of the best Christmas albums I have ever heard. Not to be missed.