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The booklet sleeve describes the arrangements as 'treading a fine line between familiarity and novelty'. Just occasionally (well, much of the time, actually!) there's a kind of Oxbridge self-indulgence [listen -- track 16, 3:43-4:57] which sounds almost as if the arranger and performers are cocking a snook at the grand Christmas tradition. I'm not complaining -- just commenting on the fact that real creative musicians can't help but comment both from and on their own time, and that it's impossible not to have fun in the process! Some carols, such as Ding! dong! merrily on high escape relatively unscathed, but others, such as Hark! the herald angels sing receive adventurous and sometimes surprising new descants [listen -- track 12, 1:46-2:43]!

The arrangements are all by Antony Pitts, commissioned specially by Naxos for the CD, and are sometimes jazzy and often contemporary in feel. Two of the tracks contain not arrangements, but brand new carols: O quickly come and the final track, Hail to the Lord's Annointed [listen -- track 24, 4:21-5:35]. This is a setting of James Montgomery (after Psalm 72), which ends on the word 'love' and a soaring soprano final high D that could almost be a Messiaenic ondes martenot. In its various musical forms, that priceless two-thousand-year-old message doesn't get any clearer than this!

This scholarly yet sublimely joyful recording is dedicated to the world's victims of persecution and to those who can't worship or sing freely, and will make a delightful and magnificent stocking-filler!

Copyright © 14 December 2003 Keith Bramich, London UK


The Naxos Book of Carols

8.557330 DDD Stereo NEW RELEASE 78'59" 2003 Naxos Rights International Ltd

Tonus Peregrinus: Joanna Forbes, soprano; Rebecca Hickey, soprano; Kathryn Oswald, alto; Alexander L'Estrange, countertenor; Richard Eteson, tenor; Alexander Hickey, tenor; Francis Brett, bass; Simon Grant, bass; Nicholas Chalmers, organ; Antony Pitts, director

Part 1, The Hope: O come, o come, Emmanuel (13th century?); Of the Father's heart begotten (Piae Cantiones 1582); A Pitts: O quickly come; Verbum Patris umanatur, O, O (13th century?); T Olivers, M Madan: Lo! He comes; Part 2, The Message: The holly and the ivy (collected C J Sharp and A Pitts); Praetorius?: Lo, there a Rose is blooming; Alleluya - a new work (English 15th century); J Tabourot: Ding! dong! merrily on high; C Tye, G Kirbye: While shepherds watched; O Gibbons: The Song of Angels; Mendelssohn: Hark! the herald angels sing; Part 3, The Baby: F X Gruber: Silent night; W J Kirkpatrick: Away in a manger; Baby Jesus,hush! now sleep (Czech traditional); J M Pitts: O little town of Bethlehem; Jesu, the very thought is sweet (17th century, figured J S Bach); O come, all ye faithful (collected? by J F Wade); Part 4, The King of Kings: Personent hodie (Piae Cantiones 1582); M Praetorius, J S Bach, J Stainer: In dulci jubilo; Good King Wenceslas (Piae Cantiones 1582); J H Hopkins: We three kings of Orient are; I saw three ships come sailing in (English traditional); A Pitts: Hail to the Lord's Anointed. All arrangements and realisations by Antony Pitts




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