- What Tidings Bringest Thou?
- Now Make We Merthe, carol (English)
- Tibi laus, tibi gloria
The Trinity Carol Roll, dating from the 15th century, the earliest extant manuscript of English polyphonic carols, includes the text and music of 13 carols. The British vocal consort Alamire, led by its founder David Skinner, sings all the pieces as well as five other carols on this fine album on the ensemble's own label, Obsidian. Andrew Lawrence-King playing gothic harp and psaltery, Michaël Grébil playing plectrum lute, and Pamela Thorby playing recorder and gemshorn deftly accompany the singers. These are not the carols most people would gather around the piano to sing at the holidays, and not all are even carols with Christmas themes. It's immediately evident from the melodies and harmonies that this is ancient music; it's not hard to believe that it's over half a millennium old. One of the most famous pieces from the Trinity Carol Roll is the title track, "Deo gracias Anglia!," also known as the Agincourt Carol, written to celebrate Henry V's victory over the French in 1415, and it receives a rowdy, exhilarating performance. Others carols, such as "There is no rose of swych vertu" and "Nova, nova," are also likely to be familiar to fans of music of this period, but some of the pieces are rarities. The distant roots of the music are evident throughout and some tracks have a bracing rawness, but some, like "Lullay, lullay," are gently serene. The performers sing and play with great zest and all of the performances are top-notch. The voices are clean, pure, and strong, and the delivery is unmannered. The colorful accompaniment is varied and spirited. Obsidian's sound is clear and clean with a warm, close presence. Overall it's recorded at a louder level than most classical CDs, which may require some volume adjustment.