The Skylark Vocal Ensemble ( http://www.skylarkensemble.org ) has added to its list of recordings, Winter’s Night, its inaugural album for the Christmas season. It is a gorgeously sung CD that contains a mix of Early and High Renaissance choral music side by side with 20th century sacred music by Hugo Distler, Herbert Howells, Pierre Villette, John Taverner, Reginald Jacques, Georges Dupuy de Meris, Peter Warlock and Elizabeth Poston.
The nearly fifty minutes of music of this perfectly engineered (by Andrew Carballeira) CD fly by, even after repeated hearings, and the well written notes by the group’s Artistic Director, Matthew Guard help guide the listener through the eighteen featured compositions.
The group is divided into four three-member sections. It is a small chamber ensemble but its sound is substantial at all dynamic levels, pure and unified, conservative in its use of the vibrato-less vocal production most often used and abused in the singing of Early Music, and yet its dozen voices are dead-on pitch, vibrant in timbre, and as proficient in the Latin of the Allegri, Nanino, Mouton and Plainchant samples, as they are in the German, French and English language selections.
The sopranos all do very fine ensemble and solo work, as evidenced by Sarah Moyer in two French-language hymns in praise of the Virgin Mother, and Jessica Petrus in the closing number by Elizabeth Poston. Mezzo-soprano delivers a lovely solo in Es ist ein Ros ensprungen.
An entire CD of this kind of music could grow tiresome in lesser hands, but track after track the hard-working artists of the Skylark Vocal Ensemble keep the listener immersed in their rich sound and musicality. both perfect for music ideally suited to a winter’s night.
Rafael de Acha