The Phantom Tollbooth

Christmas Carols & Motets
Artist: Tallis Scholars
Label: Gimell, 1986
Time 15 tracks / 57:00 minutes

Tired of listening to those same old carols every year? Ready for something new? Or maybe I should say old? The Tallis Scholars are one of the leading  a cappella groups of Renaissance medieval sacred music. Since most their music is medieval polyphony, they have female voices doing the higher parts usually reserved for young boys. This album presents three traditional ways of celebrating Christmas in music:  medieval carols, renaissance motets praising the Virgin Mary, and German chorales. These medieval pieces are all sung in their original forms.

The album opens with four medieval carols, three versions of the "Coventry Carol," (which include Byrd's famous "Lullaby"), and then four versions of "Ave Maria," including versions by my favorite renaissance composers Josquin des Prés and Tomás Luis de Victoria. These are in chronological order. The first arrangement is fairly simple; the last version is for a double chorus. These are followed by some traditional German chorale melodies. The songs all have a formal, simple, contemplative and yet ethereal feel.

Why not stoke the fireplace, and sit back and relax with this album? It's a great way to contemplate the true meaning of the season.

Shari Lloyd (10/12/98)