Christmas Music Through the Ages
rec. 1973-1995, various locations
SAYDISC CDSDL437 [78:38 + 77:34]

For many years, I have treasured a Saydisc CD called ‘Enchanted Carols’ – it is a compulsory element of Christmas Day in our house, and often played in the period running up to the day itself. The beauty of that disc is in its presentation of well-loved carols in different guises – handbells, brass band, street piano - the whole thing book-ended by a joyous peal of church bells. Some of the tracks from that CD appear on this new and glorious compilation, Christmas Music Through the Ages, together with items collected from ten other Saydisc recordings. The two CDs are packed to the gunnels with wonderful things, and, apart from anything else represent outstanding value, with each disc close to eighty minutes of music.

The programme is organised chronologically, though not in a conspicuous way. CD 1 contains music which ranges from the 6th century to the 19th century, in a wide variety of media: chants such as Dominus Dixit (track 7) performed by the combined monks and nuns of two great West country abbeys; folk carols sung by various artists including the wonderful Maddy Prior (worth the price of the disc on her own); choral masterpieces such as Victoria’s great O magnum mysterium; and the evocative tones of musical boxes and handbells, so redolent of the Christmas season. All players and singers, following the example of Maddy Prior, have found a delightful balance between high performing standards and a certain earthy directness. The contributions of bass Richard Wistreich are particularly memorable for their beauty and simplicity of expression.

On CD 2, we are on more familiar territory, at least with the melodies themselves, which are either broadly ‘traditional’ or from the past two centuries. So we have The Boar’s Head Carol lustily delivered by Sneak’s Noyse (lovely name, great group); As with gladness men of old, touchingly heartfelt from the Sun Life Stanshawe Band; A Virgin most pure, fresh as a daisy from Dartington Hall handbells and choir; Ar gyfer heddiw’r bore (On this day in the morning) from Cardiff Polyphonic Choir, and many more. If I were to pick just one track that opened my ears more than any other, it would be Julie Murphy’s magical version of the Breton carol Kanomp nouel (We sing Noel) complete with Breton bagpipes – haunting, timeless.

This is a priceless collection; although it has obvious relevance at this time of year, there is enough musical quality and interest to keep you going the whole year round.
Gwyn Parry-Jones
CD 1
Christe redemptor - [3:30]
Gabriel from Heven-King (13th/14th C) [3:07]
Laetabundus (12th C) - [3:1
In Dulci Jubilo (14th C German) [3:00]
Angelus Ad Virginem (14th C) [2:09]
Personent Hodie (14th C German) [2:55]
Dominus Dixit (c15th C) [4:18]
Gaudete (16th C) [1:58]
Joseph Dearest, Joseph Mine (16th C German) [3:53]
William BYRD (c.1539?-1643)
Lullaby [5:18]
Tomás Luis da VICTORIA (1548-1611)
O Magnum Mysterium [4:06]
Sweet Was the Song (Lute Book Lullaby, 16th C) [2:08]
While Shepherds Watched (16th C) [1:45]
Coventry Carol (16th C) [3:25]
Thomas TOMKINS (1572-1656)
Sing Unto God [6:07]
Es Ist Ein Ros Entsprungen (17th C German) [2:09]
The Old Year Now Away Is Fled (17th C) [1:50]
Remember O Thou Man (17th C) [2:59]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Bells & Hark! the Herald Angels Sing (19th C) [5:01]
It Came Upon the Midnight Clear (19th C) [3:41]
Anton BRUCKNER (1824-1896)
Virga Jesse
Rejoice and Be Merry (A Gallery Carol, 19th C) [2:05]
Franz Xaver GRUBER (1887-1963)
Silent Night Medley [4:58]
CD 2
Arise, and hail the Sacred Day (19th C)[3:03]
The Boar’s Head (19th C) [1:21]
Hail Happy Morn (19th C) [2:18]
Angels from the Realms of Glory [3:12]
Stille Nacht [2:57]
All hail to the days (19th C) [2:00]
Angels from the Realms of Glory, Away in a Manger, O Little Town of Bethlehem, The First Noel (Medley) [6:25]
As with Gladness Men of Old, To God in the Highest, See Amidst the Winter Snow (Medley) [4:03]
A Virgin Most Pure [2:52]
Oh, Christmas Now Is Drawing Near at Hand [2:05]
Good People All This Christmastime (Wexford Carol) [2:43]
Cold Winter Is Come [2:08]
On Christmas Night All Christians Sing (Sussex Carol) [1:45]
God Rest You Merry Gentlemen [4:34]
Down in Yon Forest [1:46]
The Angel Gabriel [2:54]
Kanomp Nouel [3:36]
Hark the Glad Sound (Dublin Tune) [2:47]
The Holly Bears a Berry (Sans Day Carol) [3:36]
Christ Child's Lullaby [4:12]
Ar Gyfer Heddiw ‘r Bore [1:35]
Calennig [2:31]
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976)
A Hymn to the Virgin [3:33]
Geoffrey BUSH (1920-1998)
I Sing of a Maiden [3:05]
When Jesus Christ Was Four Years Old [1:56]
Come to Bethlehem [2:26]
Edward ARTHUR (1874-1948)
Tua Bethlem Dref [1:59]

Compiled from 11 other Saydisc and Amon Ra albums.

Monks of Prinknash and Nuns of Stanbrook Abbeys; Richard Wistreich (bass), The York Waits, Maddy Prior with The Carnival Band, Sneak’s Noyse, Caroline Trevor (alto), The Rose Consort of Viols, The St. Clement Dane Chorale, Kate Eckersley (soprano), Red Byrd, Tim Laycock (vocal), The Bristol Bach Choir, The Mellstock Band and Choir, Keith Dandridge, Andy Turner (vocals), Sun Life Stanshawe Band, Dartington Hall Handbells and Choir, Cardiff Polyphonic Choir and Orchestra, Julie Murphy with Breton bagpipe, Colin McAllister, Arthur Cormack with Scottish bagpipes, Julie Murphy with Welsh Triple Harp, Bristol Bach Choir

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