Music for Troubled Times: The English Civil War and Siege of York – Choral Works by Byrd, Lawes, Hutchinson, Tomkins, Child, Wilson, Jeffreys and Locke

Reviewed on Wed 27 Sep, 2017

Focusing on the Siege of York in 1644 and based around the York psalms of William Lawes, it finds the city’s Ebor Singers in characteristically crisp form.

A country divided, politics in turmoil, religious intolerance on the rise… Nearly four centuries after the English Civil War, England seems barely changed underneath its fragile veneer of modernity. Which lends this fascinating compendium of brittle and beautiful songs from the period a bittersweet topicality. Focusing on the Siege of York in 1644 and based around the York psalms of William Lawes, it finds the city’s Ebor Singers in characteristically crisp form, delivering vocally blended, well-proportioned accounts of contemporary commentary on the turbulent times (George Jeffrey’s How wretched is the state) alongside songs that offer succour and release from the enveloping terror. Of those, Lawes’ setting of Psalm 100, John Wilson’s My God, my king, incline thine ear and Matthew Locke’s How doth the city sit solitary (with David Pipe’s delicate organ accompaniment) are richly realised. Paul Gameson directs with understated poise and provides informative booklet notes. Recorded sound – in York’s National Centre for Early Music – is crystalline.
–Michael Quinn