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The Naxos Book of Carols -
appreciated by KEITH BRAMICH

'A delightful and magnificent stocking-filler!'

The Naxos Book of Carols - an Advent Sequence in Music. Tonus Peregrinus - Antony Pitts. © 2003 Naxos Rights International Ltd

'Bl**dy carols!', a conductor friend of mine exclaimed on the phone recently, referring not to the tireless Christmas muzak accompanying our shopping expeditions from October to December, but to his own rehearsals. In the UK, at least, it's a time where, whatever one's occupation, it becomes difficult to escape the yuletide sales machine. At M&V we've managed largely to hold back the onset of Santa until forced to let go a couple of days ago, thanks to Alice McVeigh and then Gordon Rumson, so now it's time to let rip with a carol CD review!

A new release from Naxos [listen -- track 1, 0:02-0:46], targeted at the classy end of the annual end-of-year spending spree, drops the usual carbon-copy Naxos cover design, adopting instead a gold-on-black presentation and a classiness which permeates the whole package: the brilliant idea, the new arrangements of traditional tunes (one for each of the twenty four days of Advent), heavenly performances by the eight singers of Tonus Peregrinus, and the accompanying dedicated website with downloadable scores (in association with Faber Music).

Four groups of carols -- The Hope, The Message, The Baby and The King of Kings focus on different parts of the story of the birth of Christ, breathing new life into traditional settings. For example, taking the boredom out of endless verses repeatedly sung to the same tune, Pitts, in the opening O come, o come, Emmanuel, sends his performers on a two thousand year journey through Western harmony as the eight verses unfold [listen -- track 1, 4:20-5:06].

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Copyright © 14 December 2003 Keith Bramich, London UK


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