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Fluid Phrasing

A Christmas concert
by the vocal ensemble Aitone
reviewed by MIKE WHEELER


Aitone (pronounced 'eye tonna') is a nine-strong vocal ensemble, founded just over a year ago, whose repertoire takes in mediaeval and Renaissance music and the 18th-century West Gallery tradition. It takes its name from the Anglo-Saxon settlement which became the town of Long Eaton (Derbyshire, UK) where it is based.

The group's great strength is the huge depth of scholarship and know-how brought to researching the music sung and to building programmes. It was evident in this splendidly assembled Christmas concert [St Laurence's Church, Long Eaton, Derbyshire, UK, 16 December 2006], which included several items that even dedicated early music enthusiasts might not have known. It was good, for instance, to hear unfamiliar tunes for While Shepherds Watched and Hark the Herald Angels Sing -- among the hundreds of regional tunes which were unfortunately sidelined by the Victorians.

Aitone was at its best in the fluid phrasing of the opening item, Hodie Cantandus est Nobis Puer ('Today our singing is of a child'), a 9th/10th-century chant from the Swiss monastery of St Gallen, and in capturing the rhythmic flexibility of the 15th-century carol Nowell: Tydinges Trew.

It does, though, need to take matters of vocal technique firmly in hand. Voice projection, blend and tuning all require attention, and it should not shy away from adopting a more robust tone where appropriate. Serious work on these matters now, while the group is still settling down, will pay off and will enable it to realise its potential as a huge asset to the region's artistic life.

Copyright © 22 December 2006 Mike Wheeler, Derby UK



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