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Rites, revels, and rebels

06 December 2013


TAMSIN LEWIS has edited Old Christmas Returned: Christmas music and song from 16th and 17th century Britain (Passamezzo Editions from Rondo Publishing, £15.99 (CT Bookshop £14.40); 979-0-708067-59-7), which is a follow-up to her collection To Shorten Winter's Sadness.

This time she includes 13 sacred carols; six items for "Christmas Revelry"; a handful of carols for St Stephen's Day, St John's Day,

Innocents' Day, and Twelfth Day; three New Year items; metrical versions of the Nunc Dimittis by Gibbons and Kirbye for Candlemas; and a set of ballads about the suppression of Christmas and the spirit of generosity during the Interregnum, and their restoration, in the 17th century.

There is a strong folk-music thread, and much about roast beef, plum pudding, and ale. Many of the pieces are very stark and plain in style, although text underlay could trip singers up. Some of the pieces have (unspecified) instrumental parts. More complicated items include Reges Tharsis et insulae by William Byrd, for Twelfth Day, and John Attey's "Sweet Was The Song The Virgin Sung". GP

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