Tonight, in London, the Hilliard Ensemble will give their final scheduled performance before they retire. Since their founding in the 1970s, the Hilliard Ensemble have been vanguards of the early music movement and remained a powerful force throughout their 40-year history. At the end of October, the Hilliard Ensemble released their final album, Transeamus. The album (which was recorded in 2012) is a collection of English carols and motets from the 15th century and a stunningly appropriate cap to an amazing set of recordings. David James, countertenor of the group, summed up the essence of this recording’s context within the Hilliard Ensemble’s catalog:
The Hilliard Ensemble’s first ever recording contained music from the court of King Henry VIII and so it seemed appropriate for our final recording to return to our roots…
We all know about the Christmas Creep: that phenomenon of Christmas celebrations inching earlier and earlier into the year. There’s something a little unsettling about seeing Christmas decorations in the aisles of stores before Halloween. What happened to the halcyon days of waiting until Thanksgiving? This year New York Polyphony, the acclaimed vocal quartet, decided to contribute to the Christmas Creep by releasing their newest album, Sing Thee Nowell, in early September—and I couldn’t be more delighted.
I’ve been following New York Polyphony for several years now, and I’ve always been impressed with their work. This album however, is excellent even by their already high standards. Sing The Nowell is a wonderful blend of old and new Christmas carols. In typical fashion for New York Polyphony, their recording features standards like Victoria’s “O Magnum Mysterium” and “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” and works by contemporary composers such as Andrew Smith and Richard Bennett—whose Five Carols are excellently performed. But the real gems of this recording are Verdelot’s “Gabriel Archangelus” and several compositions and arrangements by members of the quartet.