A Cavalier Christmas – Songs and instrumentals by William Byrd, Richard Dering, Orlando Gibbons, Alessandro Grandi, George Jeffreys, John Jenkins, Henry Lawes, William Lawes and Martin Peerson

Reviewed on Wed 20 Dec, 2017

This intelligent and rewarding assemblage of seasonal songs suggests Christmas was a more earnest affair as Puritanism asserted itself to scorn elaborate revels.

This intelligent and rewarding assemblage of seasonal songs finds the Ebor Singers returning to the turbulent years of the English Civil War following their intriguing debut, Music for Troubled Times (reviewed 27 September 2017). It suggests Christmas was a more earnest affair as Puritanism asserted itself to scorn elaborate revels. What elements of High Church celebration that survived did so in muted fashion – as here in William Byrd’s under-stated Behold I bring you glad tidings – or were replaced by the sober propagandist hue of John Jenkins’ instrumental Newark Siege (here curiously incomplete, the Aire overlooked). Byrd’s six-part ‘New-year’s carol’ O God, that guides the cheerful sun has a closeted lustre of its own, the contained effusiveness of settings of Hark, shepherd swains by Henry Lawes and George Jeffreys betraying their royal associations. Paul Gameson coaxes fine singing and some admirable solo contributions from his Ebor ensemble, with the Chelys Consort of Viols providing discrete accompaniment throughout.
–Michael Quinn