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To Drive The Cold Winter Away
Entry of the Minstrels and Waits [1:52]
Festivities in the Tavern [8:05]
A Medieval Holiday [14:42]
Festivities at the Manor [14:51]
To entertain a King [8:20]
St George’s Canzona/John Sothcott
rec. 1975, no locations given
CRD 3319 [48:46]

This recording dates from 1975 and it does rather show its age – everything about the issue is slightly dated. However, the music is rousing and enjoyable, and I personally I am able to overlook this. Others, however, may not be able to do so! The disc cover and the booklet notes show the age as much as the actual recording – a very basic cover with rather outdated fonts and that looks put together on a home computer.

While the notes are lacking depth and clarity – and, to be honest, there’s not really a huge amount about what we’re hearing on the disc – there is a list of instruments featured on the recording, all of which were “researched and constructed” by the group’s director, John Sothcott and Francis Grubb, who wrote the booklet note and plays the recorder, gittern, rebec, medieval fiddle and percussion on the disc. We also have Ray Attfield as voice, percussion and bells, John Grubb on citole, gittern, lute and percussion, Derek Harrison is the counter-tenor and plays rebec, Rosemary Harrison and Mary Sothcott are the sopranos, John Lawes plays recorders, crumhorn and percussion, Michael Oxenham is on the cornette, recorders, pipe and tabor, crumhorn, curtal and percussion, John White also plays the rebec, Leila Ward plays recorders, crumhorn and shawm, while John Sothcott performs on recorders, rauschpfeife, citole, rebecs and vielles as well as directing. One notices from the list of names that – unless there are a lot of coincidences – this appears to quite a family-orientated group!

The performances themselves are good – rough and ready (intonations can waver at points, for example), but then, rough and ready is the style of the music and the nature of the instruments. The music itself is drawn from various dances, songs and carols that have down to us from the twelfth to seventeenth centuries, as well as some melodies from Playford’s The English Dancing Master, the odd bit of a Dowland, and dances from Praetorius’s Terpsichore. These tunes and dances the group weave into different sections, as imagined that they might have been played for example at the tavern, at the manor, or at the King’s court.

It’s not a disc to sit down and listen through to in attentive silence, but it makes for pleasant listening whilst writing the Christmas cards, or doing something else festive and undemanding.
Em Marshall-Luck



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