Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Blue Heron - Christmas in Medieval England

"We want to make a CD of 15th-century music of Advent and Christmas, and seek funding for recording three imminent concerts." That's how Blue Heron described their Kickstarter campaign. They exceeded their modest goal of $7,500, and so that recording is now available for all to enjoy.

And I'm glad it is. The program is a collection of seasonal sacred music that would have been performed around 1440. Some of the selections should be familiar to classical and early music aficionados; Ther is no rose of swych vertue; Nowel, nowel, nowel, Nowel syng we both al and som, and the finale, Nova, nova! Ave fit ex Eva.

In this recording Blue Heron has a loose ensemble blend I find attractive. It gives the music a little bit of a rough edge that somehow makes it sound more authentic. Especially beautiful is the Angelus ad virginem for voice and medieval harp. Soloist Daniela Tosic sings with a warm, clear tone that tells the story simply and reverently.

I'm sure this recording has the best takes from among the three concerts, but even so -- the audience is particularly well-behaved for a live performance. There simply aren't any audience sounds at all until the final burst of applause. And that means there's nothing to distract the ear. The mics are well-placed, capturing the ensemble with just enough ambiance to give us a sense of space.

I have several medieval Christmas albums in my collection -- and as much as I like some of them, Blue Heron's is a real standout. Hooray for Kickstarter.

Christmas in Medieval England
Blue Heron; Scott Metcalfe, director
BHCD 1006

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