A Medieval Christmas: Hodie Christus Natus Est (Today Christ Is Born) by The Boston Camerata draws on a wide variety of sources. Mingling liturgical Latin with French, English, Italian, and Iberian vernaculars. These magnificent songs, hymns, and processionals show the multitude of ways in which the Birth of Christ was celebrated in medieval times.
The trio of female singers is accompanied by harp, fiddle, bells, and wind instruments. Together they touchingly evoke all the tenderness, hope, and joy of medieval Christmas songs.
The roots of this recording go back to 1974-75, when the Boston Camerata and its director (now Director Emeritus) Joel Cohen performed in concert and then recorded a new production entitled A Medieval Christmas. That vinyl LP quickly became a best seller, confirming Camerata’s status as a leading ensemble in the early music world.
In the years following, the program remained in Camerata’s repertoire. The ensemble toured extensively in North America and Europe, including one particular appearance at a festival in the Languedoc. There, Camerata’s present director, Anne Azéma, then a student and aspiring professional, first succumbed as an audience member to the charm of the repertoire, and in particular of the Aquitanian polyphonic pieces! Later, as a Camerata singer, she performed this program many times. Over the course of the years, it has been re-imagined, augmented, and re-evaluated.
On this album we bring you an updated version of A Medieval Christmas. Quite different in many ways from the 1970s production. But, with its pluri-disciplinarity and diversity of sources, it is still close to the original in its underlying spirit.
Three female voices and two instrumentalists, each with many years of experience performing medieval music, all at the peak of their art, place themselves at the service of these works. This five-person group has recently presented in concert the current, revised program on the East and West coasts of the United-States, and in Canada.
Merry Christmas from The Boston Camerata, Anne Azéma, harmonia mundi and NativeDSD!
The Boston Camerata
Anne Azéma – Voice, Hurdy-Gurdy, Bells, Direction
Camila Parias – Voice
Deborah Rentz-Moore – Voice
Christa Patton – Harp, Winds
Shira Kammen – Vielle, Rebec, Harp
Total time: 00:58:03
|Original Recording Format|
St Ignatius of Loyola Church, 28 Commonwealth Avenue, Chestnut Hill, Boston, MA during July 2021
|Release Date||December 20, 2021|
As diverse as it is rich, the musical inspiration between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries in Western Europe highlights the high interpretative quality of this reduced formation of the Boston Camerata led by Anne Azéma.
It is in a reduced form of three female voices and a few instruments (harp, hurdy-gurdy, bells and wind instruments), that the Boston Camerata offers a sensitive and enthusiastic interpretation, moving as well as endearing, far from any academicism that could distort the works offered, and slow down listening to the listener. It enjoys excellent recording in Saint Ignatius de Loyola Church in Boston, where voices and instruments blend together in an ideal balance.
Sensitive and enthusiastic…free from any trace of academicism…spiritual serenity. The [Camerata] ensemble is full of grace, extraordinarily eloquent.
The [Camerata] ensemble takes you to a place of hope, redemption, and everlasting peace…Simply beautiful, and not just for Christmas.
A most delightful album whose program is a wide variety of styles and texts. It is one of the reasons why this recording is interesting and captivating. At the end I was thinking: “Please, ma’am, can I have some more?”
That is also due to the performances. The singing and playing is excellent. The excerpts from the miracle play Sponsus are among the highlights and make curious for the entire piece.
Obviously, the vocal part of this recording is the most important, but I would like to express my admiration for the instrumental contributions as well. How flamboyant the English dance under the hands of Shira Kammen comes off!
This album makes for great company during the last weeks of the year.
The Best of 2021 Holiday Music
A trio of female singers accompanied by hurdy gurdy, harp, rebec, and bells present a diverse program of medieval Christmas music in English, Latin, Italian, Iberian, and French.
Plainsong hymns, responses, carols, and dances, all by anonymous sources, are performed with impeccable sound, blend, and tuning and an impressive variety of approaches. Some of the music is intoned as chant while other pieces are metricized.
This repertoire would not have appeared together in a single performance, especially given the blend of sacred and secular pieces, but A Medieval Christmas: Hodie Christus natus est (Today Christ Is Born) is a rich program that displays historically informed performance at its very finest.
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