This week we highlight a special new release by the Psallite Women’s Choir of London in a program of English medieval and Renaissance carols. Entitled Ceremonyes of Carolles, this recording marks the choir’s debut on the CRD label. Juxtaposed alongside the early carols is Benjamin Britten’s Ceremony of Carols, originally composed for high voices and harp.
The ensemble, made up of primarily keen amateurs, was formed in the early 1990s by a group of friends who wanted to get together and sing medieval music. Currently directed by American early flautist Nancy Hadden, the choir now boasts an expanded repertoire and size of membership.
The music from the early part of the choir’s recording was compiled by its director Nancy Hadden, who put together texts with the original music where it still exists. For the rest, she matched lyrics with appropriate music from contemporary English carols and songs, as well as dances from Ireland, Scotland, and France; her method resembled the practice of the times from where the lyrics originate.
The lyrics to the carols heard in the program were, in fact, an inspiration for Benjamin Britten when he composed the Ceremony of Carols in 1942. It was by chance that he was in America during the last years of World War II where he found a book of medieval English poetry. Composed specifically for high voices and harp, the work has a distinctive English flavor.
Our new release this keeps us in the Middle Ages, but travels from England to Spain with the ensemble Brio, which has recorded a program of Sephardic music on the Dorian/Sono Luminus label entitled “Romance.”
Here’s a video of Brio performing the song “Ma viele” (Gauthier de Coincy, 13th Century):